Gordon Stanley Reis (1889 – 1944)

Gordon Stanley Reis150A

Gordon Stanley Reis

Gordon Stanley Reis was born on 25 April 1889 at 49 Mayfield Road, Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Alphonse Louis and Marian (Dugan) Reis.

Gordon had six siblings: Harold, Emile, Albert Victor, Cyril Herbert, Norah Evelyn, and Louis Norman.

They were raised in the Jewish faith and could read Hebrew, but after their father left their mother for another woman, most appear to have abandoned their faith and some adopted that of the majority population, i.e. they became Presbyterian.

Reis-Cran Engagement Aug 1 1921

The Times 1 August 1921

Gordon married Winifred Simpson Cran on 16 December 1921 in Rangoon, Burma.reis_cran_wedding

Gordon died as a civilian prisoner of war on 2 November 1944 at Muntok on Bangka Island off Sumatra, Indonesia.  His prisoner of war diary can be read HERE (<– PDF over 70 pages).

Winifred Cran was born on 3 September 1898 in Blackburn, Lancaster, the daughter of Alexander and Anne (Bennet) Cran. She died on 7 July 1983 in Durban, Natal, South Africa.

Gordon and Winifred Reis belong to Reis Generation Three; their children belong to Reis Generation Four and are:

  1. Sheila Allwynne Cran born on 29 October 1922 at Penang and died on 30 July 2001 at Petersfield, Hampshire;
  2. John Alistair Cran born on 30 October 1926 and died on 13 August 1928 at L’Abri, Avenue de Beaumont, Lausanne, Switzerland.
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At Batu Kawan Estate

Additional Data: Gordon Reis studied Agriculture at Edinburgh University after attending the Royal High School. ReisGordonWinAl450AHe spent one year at Munich (possibly Heidelberg) University studying forestry and he then joined, before World War One, Harrison Crossfields in Sumatra where he ran one of their estates. He remained there throughout World War One.

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Gordon in 1918 signed this photo of himself ‘Your Affectionate son Paddy’

Gordon Reis met his future wife, Winifred Cran, when he returned to Edinburgh from Sumatra after WWI. They both had studied Agriculture at Edinburgh under Professor Robert Wallace through whom they met when he invited them both to Tea one day.

It would appear that they soon after got engaged but Gordon returned to the Far East almost immediately. Winifred then completed her studies at Edinburgh becoming the first woman in Scotland to be awarded a degree in Agriculture. As soon as she graduated she left Scotland, unaccompanied, arriving in Burma in 1921 and marrying Gordon Reis in Rangoon. A year later their daughter was born.

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On the back of this photo of Gordon Reis and his wife Winifred is written “December 26th, 5.15 PM. Tea! all the dogs glad to see us back. They evidently didn’t realise their photos were being taken. Sorry.” I guess this picture was taken in the late 1930’s.

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Winifred is seated in the front. Gordon is in the back seat nearest.

From about 1921 to 1939 Gordon and Winifred lived most of the time on a rubber estate called Batu Kawan on an island of the same name, just off Penang. The plantation was owned by a French company known as SOCFIN, or ‘Societe Financiere des Caoutchoucs’. Gordon also co-owned, with Thomas Menzies, an estate called Sungei Wei in Selangor state just outside Kuala Lumpur on the Malay peninsular.ReisGordonA

In 1939 Gordon Reis fell gravely ill suffering from a gangrenous appendix leading to septicemia followed by pneumonia, a coronary thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism. He spent months in Penang General Hospital after which he took six months leave and in 1940 traveled to New Zealand and Australia with his wife and daughter. In Sydney, they left their daughter behind where she boarded in a hostel for single young ladies and began to train as a beautician; her

Winifred (Cran) Reis)

Winifred (Cran) Reis)

parents having insisted that it was now time for her to begin a career for herself. They returned to Singapore where Gordon Reis joined Cable and Wireless. However the Japanese were already beginning their march south through Burma. Realizing war was imminent Allwynne returned to Singapore. gordon_stanley_reis_graduationThe story is taken up in Gordon Reis’s own diary which he kept after the fall of Singapore and which can be read HERE (<– PDF). This is supposedly the only surviving diary kept by a British male civilian prisoner of the Japanese. His death was from beri beri as a result of malnutrition brought about at the hands of the Japanese. His burial site among the Commonwealth war graves (below).gordon stanley reis grave 150A

A letter sent after the war from John Drysdale, who cared for Gordon in Muntok prison, to Gordon’s brother Harold can be read HERE. Included are a couple of letters between Drysdale and Gordon’s daughter. Gordon is memorialized HERE.

Batu Kawan Estate

Batu Kawan Estate

POSTSCRIPT
Below is a description of a latter day visit (2011) to Muntok prison undertaken by Colin Campbell’s granddaughter, Judy Balcombe. Colin was a fellow prisoner and his grave, just in front of Gordon’s, is shown below.

Colin Campbell's grave

Colin Campbell’s grave

Judy writes: I returned home from the trip to Palembang and Muntok on Friday. Anthony Pratt and I had a busy and productive time. In Palembang, we were helped by a local guide who showed us the Palembang jail and the exact site of the Men’s and Women’s camps (now housing). It was possible to locate these sites by comparing an old map with a modern street map. The shape of the streets was still the same, allowing the camp locations to be identified.

The Tinwinning building opposite the Muntok jail

The Tinwinning building opposite the Muntok jail

In Muntok, we stayed as guests of a local company. The Manager and friends were extremely kind and helpful to us, which helped to compensate for the sad purpose of the journey. We visited the petrol station where we believe the men were buried, on the edge of an old local cemetery which has also extended into housing.

Muntok jail in 2011 where Gordon Reis, Colin Campbell, and other civilians were held prisoner by the Japanese

Muntok jail in 2011 where Gordon Reis, Colin Campbell, and other civilians were held prisoner by the Japanese

There were also some very old grave stones in the gardens of the houses, from 1881 and before. We met with several older residents who verified that our style of graves were here. One man described playing there as a little boy and he indicated the margins of the cemetery.

The Tinwinning building opposite the Muntok jail Muntok jail in 2011 where Gordon Reis, Colin Campbell, and other civilians were held prisoner by the Japanese

The petrol station was built in 1981 and the remains of 25 people found there during its construction were moved to a single grave in the Catholic cemetery at Kampong Menjelang. Someone has built a grave and placed an engraved headstone commemorating these British people who died during the War. The petrol station owner has now died but it is a very kind act that the headstone was engraved and placed there.

The Petramina petrol station which is on the site of the original British civilians graveyard

The Petramina petrol station which is on the site of the original British civilians graveyard

This grave is definitely that of civilians as the residents remember the Dutch military and civilian and British military graves being exhumed in the early 1960’s. At that time, remains were placed in bags with metal name plates and were moved to Bandung cemetery in Java.

The local Christian graveyard. Behind the wall is the petrol station and the original civilians' graveyard

The local Christian graveyard. Behind the wall is the petrol station and the original civilians’ graveyard

We have seen the letters that Shelagh Lea, nee Brown, a camp survivor whose Mother died in the camp, wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, now held in the National Archives in Kew, London. Mrs Lea wrote repeatedly between 1948 – 1968, asking for the graves at Muntok to be maintained or to be made into a memorial. Eventually in 1968, the CWGC concluded it had no responsibility for civilian graves, that any project would be too expensive and would need to be funded locally or by Mrs Lea herself. She was married to a church minister and so did not have the funds to do this.

A new cafe has just been built behind the petrol station and the land behind this is about to have a house built on it. I have asked to be informed if any remains are found there. We visited the jail where our families were housed and died. The building and rooms were very much as described in William McDougall’s book, ‘By Eastern Windows’. Today, the prisoners seem well cared – for today, with a good diet, work training and sports tournaments.

The local Christian graveyard. Behind the wall is the petrol station and the original civilians’ graveyard The Petramina petrol station which is on the site of the original British civilians graveyard

We were taken to meet some very old residents in Muntok. One lady still had a small ring given to her by an Australian nurse in return for food, before she was interned. We also saw a huge rock formation where several hundred residents hid from the Japanese.

The town is still largely unspoilt, a ‘heritage town’ and I was surprised to know the residents have a strong interest in local history, especially from World War 2. A tender has gone out for architects to construct a museum in the Tinwinning building, next to the jail. This will cover the history of Bangka Island, back to the 1600’s, then when the British came in 1812. It was later handed to the Dutch and of course there are the events of the Second World War.

Below is the mass grave of the British civilians who were moved from the original British civilians’ graveyard and placed in the still active Catholic graveyard.English-civilians-grave-Cat

Below is Muntok prison in 1931. Reis and Campbell were housed in the prison complex in the lower left corner.Aerial photo Muntok 1931

Despite the sadness of our visit, the town has a warm and caring feeling, with everyone so kind and helpful and trying to assist us. It was a consolation to know that our families have their resting place in this concerned and friendly town.

The 55 men and 33 women who died in the Muntok internment camp, were buried at a nearby cemetery. For more details read Judy Balcombe’s letter HERE and a further one HERE.

Muntok Cemetery Plan1

(A list of all prisoners held in Sumatra POW camps and prepared by The Malayan Volunteers Group can be read HERE)Muntok Prison Camp Map

The Eighty-eight British and Australian Civilian Internees who died in Muntok Camps are listed below:

 WOMEN   (name/age/date of death)   33 women

  1. Mrs Theresia ‘Resie’ Armstrong, 51, 7 February 1945
  2. Miss Dixie Resie Armstrong, 32, 5 April 1945
  3. Mrs Mary Awmack Battensby, 51, 11 February 1945 (read more HERE)
  4. Mrs Edith Florence Bedell, 65, 19 January 1945 (a little more HERE)
  5. Mrs Mary Elizabeth Brown, 67, 17 January 1945 (Her daughter Shelagh survived and her obituary notice in the Daily Telegraph on 5 December 2005 described some of what happened to them)
  6. Mrs. Edith Evangeline Castle, 50, 19 November 1944
  7. Mrs. Marjorie Hindnaugh Cocke, 53, 5 March 1945  (Moved to Jakarta)
  8. Mrs. Mary Louise Day, 53, 16 December 1944
  9. Mrs. Helen Dixey, 48, 28 February 1945
  10. Mrs. Agnes Gertrude Dominguez, 63, 9 November 1944
  11. Mrs. Marjory Gray, 55, 13 January 1945
  12. Mrs. Murial Gregory, 43, 5 November 1944
  13. Mrs. Rena Rosie Haynes, 49, 10 January 1945
  14. Mrs. Kathleen Mary Hutchings, 46, 12 April 1945
  15. Mrs. Blanche Lucy Jones, 58, 8 December 1944
  16. Miss. Sabine Elizabeth MacKintosh, 57, 27 December 1944
  17. Mrs. Dorothy MacLeod, 59, 1 April 1945
  18. Mrs. Joan May Maddams, 36, 19 December 1944
  19. Mrs. Olga Mary Neubronner, 39, 2 March 1945  (Moved to Jakarta)
  20. Mrs. Evelyn Mary Parr, 38, 11 January 1945
  21. Mrs. Isobel Veronica Pennefather, 48, 15 March 1945
  22. Mrs. Sylvia Plummer, 42, 19 November 1944
  23. Miss. Eva Prouse, 49, 2 February 1945
  24. Mrs. Lillian Rodrigues, 46, 1 January 1945
  25. Mrs. Ruth Russell-Roberts, 36, 20 January 1945
  26. Mrs. Claire Sammy, 52, 18 November 1944  (Moved to Jakarta)
  27. Mrs. Esme Barbara Skinner, 38, 27 March 1945
  28. Mrs. Amy Alexandra Mary Simmons, 30, 26 February 1945
  29. Mrs. Louise Sinnatt, 32, 23 February 1945  (Moved to Jakarta)
  30. Mrs. Emily Elizabeth Smith, 72, 9 November 1944
  31. Mrs. Nellie Ellen Tay, 40, 21 November 1944
  32. Ms. Lottie Regina Wales, 48, 3 January 1945
  33. Mrs. Marion Galloway Langdon Williams, 46, 7 February 1945

MEN  (name/age/date of death) 55 men

  1. Mr. C. H. Adam, 5 October 1944
  2. Mr. Frederick Marshall Adam, 38, 25 January 1945  ARP, Singapore
  3. Mr. John C. H. Aitken, 54, 25 November 1944   LDC
  4. Mr. Charles John Arnold, 70, 9 June 1944   WW1 Pte to 2nd Lt MSVR 1917
  5. Mr. L. R. Blake, 47, 23 February 1945  Sub Lt SS  RNVR  1939 to early 1941
  6. Mr F. V. Boswell, 51, 10 July 1944
  7. Mr. Francis Grainger Brown, 44, 5 November 1944
  8. Mr. Lindsay Burn, 58, 8 November 1944
  9. Mr. Thomas Burns, 50, 22 October 1944
  10. Mr. Gordon Burt O.B.E., 46, 28 January 1945  Formerly Lt/Cpl to Sgt  ISSVF Armoured Cars
  11. Mr. Colin Douglas Campbell, 53, 2 August 1944  MSVR 1915 –
  12. Sir John Bruce Stuart Campbell, 66, 14 October 1943  WW1 Croix de Guerre
  13. Mr. Richard James Potter Clarke, 56, 19 November 1944
  14. Mr. Vernon Rowe Connolly, 49, 17 October 1944
  15. Mr. John Gallagher Dominguez, 65, 11 September 1944
  16. Mr. Kenneth Godfrey Arthur Dohoo, 38, 25 October 1944
  17. Mr. Walter Pattinson Douglas, 55, 23 November 1944
  18. Mr. E. A. M. Dumas, Unknown, 1 December 1944
  19. Mr. Thomas Efford, 59, 24 November 1944
  20. Mr. Michael Francis Enright, 63, 24 January 1945  Chief Motor Mechanic  RVNR WW1
  21. Mr. David Richard Evans, 60, 30 July 1944
  22. Mr. John Samuel Evans, 37, 17 July 1944
  23. Mr. Frederick Fletcher, 70, 9 June 1944
  24. Mr. George Basil Warburton Gray, 62, 12 February 1944
  25. Mr. Cecil Reynold Grixoni, 43, 28 October 1944
  26. Mr. George Henry Hallam, Unknown, 18 July 1944
  27. Mr. Geoffrey Holderness, 45, 28 May 1944
  28. Mr. L. B. G. Jeffrey, 53, 2 May 1944
  29. Mr. Charles Martin Jenkin, 51, 17 November 1944
  30. Mr. Algernon Neville Laybourne, 54, 28 July 1944
  31. Mr. Frederick Lagharne Llewellyn, 48, 13 May 1944
  32. Mr. E. H. M. Manden, Unknown, 23 July 1944
  33. Mr. John McGuffin, 52, 8 March 1945
  34. Mr. Robert Meldrum, 49, 13 December 1944  Sgt 529 JVE to 101 STS
  35. Mr. Jack Stephenson Messenger, 45, 2 November 1944
  36. Mr. Riley Llewellyn Morgan, 24 March 1945
  37. Mr. Robert Wallace Morris, 42, 8 June 1944
  38. Mr. Walter Penrice, 47, 20 July 1944  Major 2SSVF
  39. Mr. Richard Henry Cozens Prior, 61, 15 August 1944
  40. Mr. Donald Frederick Pratt, 37, 1 May 1945  1930’s. Member Johore Volunteer Engineers
  41. Mr. Vincent Bristow Pybus, 11 November 1944
  42. Mr. C. G. Rebel, Unknown, 10 November 1944
  43. Mr. Gordon Stanley Reis, 55, 2 November 1944
  44. Mr G. C. Spandaw, Unknown, 30 May 1944
  45. Mr. James Henry Stanners, 32, 22 January 1945
  46. Mr. Robert Stephenson, 47, 8 April 1945
  47. Mr. Frederick Thompson, 36, 27 November 1944
  48. Mr. Henry Stanley Tisshaw, 56, 24 November 1944
  49. Mr. W. Vorlauf, Unknown, 5 February 1945
  50. Rev. Albert Victor Wardle, 47, 4 January 1945
  51. Mr. Harry Leonard Watson, 31, 2 November 1944
  52. Mr. Hubert Victor Miles Woods, 43, 21 November 1943
  53. Mr. Thomas Kinnear Wilson, 53, 22 November 1944
  54. Mr. Alfred Herbert Wright, 44, 9 February 1945
  55. Mr. Herbert Zimmerman, 43, 11 June 1944
  56. (Mr Vivian Gordon Bowden, 57, Australia’s Official Representative to Singapore, killed by two Japanese guards outside the Muntok cinema, 17 February 1942.)

Tisshaw POW with Reis Probate

A Bibliography of Books by and about the Prisoners at Muntok and Palembang

A memorial of Margaret Dryburgh, Ann Armstrong Livingston, Sabine Elizabeth Mackintosh

 Diary of Charles Samuel held at Padang

THE NEW MUSEUM

Muntok Museum2

Muntok Museum3Muntok Museum 1

[To return to Reis Family Introduction and a list of the entire Reis family click here]