Bleakley, Robert James

Bleakley, Robert James (Bob)


Straits Settlements Volunteer Force

Died on active service on Monday 9 February 1942 (aged 28)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Singapore Memorial, Singapore (Column 391)

Malayan Civil Service Memorial in St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore

Bleakley family grave headstone in Clandeboye Cemetery, Bangor

Brother of Pilot Officer (Flying Instructor) Deryk Jay Bleakley (No. 145409)


The deaths of Captain Robert James Bleakley and Pilot Officer Deryk Jay Bleakley are commemorated on the Bleakley family grave headstone in Clandeboye Cemetery, Bangor.  Both were born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and they were sons of James and Jane Bleakley (nee Simpson).  James Bleakley was born on 1 June 1883 and Jane Simpson was born on 12 July 1886.  Both James and Jane were born in Darwen, Lancashire and they were married there, in Holy Trinity Church, in 1910.  James Bleakley was a physics lecturer and their son John was born in Manchester on 5 January 1912.  The Bleakley family moved to Colombo in Ceylon where James became Vice-Principal of the Government Teacher-Training College and Jane became Secretary for Trinity College of Music in the East.  Three more children were born in Colombo – Robert James on 25 October 1914, Mabel Joyce on 19 December 1919 and Deryk Jay on 30 May 1923.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, John Bleakley, who had recently qualified as a doctor, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was posted to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.  He had frequent occasion to send injured officers to Seacourt, Princetown Road, Bangor, then a house being run as a convalescent home by its owner, Mrs Kathleen Hadow, for officers after they were discharged from hospital prior to their return to their Units.  After he sustained a motor-cycle injury John Bleakley referred himself to Seacourt where he met Mrs Hadow’s daughter Kathleen Nancy Hadow whom he married on 13 September 1941 in Mountpottinger Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church, Belfast.  John was posted to the south of England and attached to the 53rd Welsh Division.  He landed on the Normandy Beaches on 27 June 1944 and travelled 2,000 miles on to Hamburg and Belsen, arriving there the day after it was liberated.  After being demobilised, Major John Bleakley settled at Seacourt in Bangor where he entered general medical practice.

Seacourt had been the home of Captain James Samuel Davidson who was killed in action on 1 July 1916.  Mrs Kathleen Hadow was Captain Davidson’s younger sister.

Mabel Joyce Bleakley and Wendell Bryan Anderson, a lawyer who was working in the UK Legal Department of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), were married in London on 3 April 1944.  Joyce and their infant son travelled aboard a US troopship to America in 1945, to be joined later by Wendell after his discharge.  They lived in Logan, Utah.  Mabel Joyce Anderson (nee Bleakley) died on 22 December 2012.

James and Jane Bleakley moved from Ceylon to Seacourt in Bangor and, at the age of 76, James died at sea aboard the Loch Ryan on 5 December 1959 on the return journey from a visit to their daughter whom they had not seen for 20 years.  Jane Bleakley died on 29 March 1985 (aged 98) and their son John died on 8 April 1992.

Robert James Bleakley was a classical scholar at Peterhouse, Cambridge, an athlete and a pianist. He joined the Imperial Civil Service with a posting to Malaya for which he was required to learn Arabic and Chinese.  He wrote an English/Chinese primer (dictionary). He was first posted to Singapore then assigned to Kuala Lumpur in Malaya, with periods spent in China where he witnessed at first hand Japanese brutality against the Chinese. During the war, as the Japanese forces were approaching Kuala Lumpur, Bob Bleakley was evacuated to Singapore where he served as a Captain in the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force. When he was leading his men through a rubber plantation outside Singapore on 9 February 1942, he believed that some of them had become separated from the main group and returned to search for them.  He never returned and was later presumed to have been killed or captured by the Japanese forces that had invaded the island the previous day.

Captain Robert James Bleakley (aged 28) was engaged to fellow-student Dorothy Whitehouse but he died before they could be married.  He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial; on the Malayan Civil Service Memorial in St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore and on the Bleakley family grave headstone in Clandeboye Cemetery, Bangor.