2nd Lieutenant John Melville Scott Shelton

Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, 1st Perak Battalion. Serving with the 135th Regt. of the Royal Artillery.
Died 14th February 1942.

John was the son of the Rev. Shelton of St. Michaels, (died April 1946). He had four sisters, Mary Elizabeth Beaufoy, born 1904 and Norah Patricia Eileen, 1905, and two other sisters.

From www.malayanvolunteersgroup.org.uk: “Federated Malay States Volunteer Forces.  A “Compulsory Service (Volunteer Force) Ordinance 1940” was passed in June 1940 in Singapore and almost immediately thereafter in FMS and Johore, Kedah and Kelantan, covering ages 19 – 55, in a potentially large sweep of nationalities. An Ordinance immediately following it was for “Volunteer Training”, empowering widespread call-up for training purposes. But on 2nd July 1940, the Governor Sir Shenton, responsible to Secretary of State for the Colonies, (and who had been ordered to maintain high output earnings for the dollar-short UK), used his powers to proclaim that the Compulsory Ordinance would apply only to every male British subject and British protected person. He reduced the age range to 18 – 41.  In practice, only Europeans were called up.  At the surrender of Singapore there were more than 18,000 Volunteers in the armed forces, most of who were imprisoned as military personnel, although some were imprisoned as civilians along with many non-native women and children who had not been able to escape from Singapore.

Shelton was born in 1911 at Ampthill, Bedfordshire. He went to Malaya in 1930, and according to the 1935 & 1940 Directories he was an Assistant Planter, at the Tapah Estate, Perak. His wife Anne was evacuated to Hanworth, Middlesex. He was killed after being captured in Singapore. According to the diary of Ronnie McArthur, of the 2nd FMSVF / Argylls, he was bayoneted after being captured while wearing a civilian shirt.”

He was killed the day before the surrender of Singapore, when fighting was hand to hand through the streets, when most units split up, and stragglers with no supplies. He is listed on the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.

Before 1939, the Kranji area was a military camp and at the time of the Japanese invasion of Malaya, it was the site of a large ammunition magazine. On 8 February 1942, the Japanese crossed the Johore Straits in strength, landing at the mouth of the Kranji River within two miles of the place where the war cemetery now stands. On the evening of 9 February, they launched an attack between the river and the causeway. During the next few days fierce fighting ensued, in many cases hand to hand, until their greatly superior numbers and air strength necessitated a withdrawal.  After the fall of the island, the Japanese established a prisoner of war camp at Kranji and eventually a hospital was organised nearby at Woodlands. After the reoccupation of Singapore, the small cemetery started by the prisoners at Kranji was developed into a permanent war cemetery by the Army Graves Service when it became evident that a larger cemetery at Changi could not remain undisturbed. Changi had been the site of the main prisoner of war camp in Singapore and a large hospital had been set up there by the Australian Infantry Force. In 1946, the graves were moved from Changi to Kranji, as were those from the Buona Vista prisoner of war camp. Many other graves from all parts of the island were transferred to Kranji together with all Second World War graves from Saigon Military Cemetery in French Indo-China (now Vietnam), another site where permanent maintenance could not be assured. The Commission later brought in graves of both World Wars from Bidadari Christian Cemetery, Singapore, where again permanent maintenance was not possible. There are now 4,461 Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War buried or commemorated at Kranji War Cemetery. More than 850 of the burials are unidentified. Commonwealth War Graves Commission

His name was not originally carved on the Woburn Sands War Memorial in 1947, as there was confusion as to whether the Federated Malay States could be classed as H.M. Forces.

Woburn Reporter, 18th November, 1952: “Arising out of the reading of the names of Service men from the War Memorial at the Remembrance Sunday service, a member asked why the name of John Shelton (son of the late Rev. J Shelton Vicar of Woburn Sands) was omitted.  Mrs H. M. Hunt pointed out that Mr Shelton was not a member of H. M. Forces at the time of his death.  That information was corroborated by other members, and it was decided that his name could not be added to those on the war memorial.”

Woburn Reporter, 19th January, 1954: “Council Discuss Omission of Name from Woburn Sands Memorial Omission of the name of Mr. John Shelton, a son of the late Rev. John Shelton, who was Vicar of Woburn Sands for 33 years, from the list of Woburn Sands men who lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces during the 1939-1945 War, on a War Memorial tablet, was discussed by Woburn Sands Parish Council at their meeting on 11th January. The question was raised in a letter from Mrs. E. W. Marchant who gave reasons why the name should be included, and the Council decided that the name should be added, as it was not on any other War Memorial. In her letter, Mrs. Marchant stated that she would like justice done to Mr. Shelton’s memory. She pointed out that though he was not living at Woburn Sands at the time of his death, he was born in the village and went to Malaya. To prove that he was a member of the Armed Forces. Mrs. Marchant enclosed a letter from the War Office which stated that Lieut. J. Shelton was in the Malay Federated States Forces, and at the time of his death was serving in 135th Regt. Royal Artillery. Mr. Shelton died in February, 1942. Mr. G. Wesley proposed that the name should be added, and Mr. J. A. Pursell seconded. Mrs. H. M. Hunt (Secretary of the Committee in charge of the Welcome Home Fund, out of which the tablet was provided), did not agree with the proposal. It was contrary to the Committee’s decision that names of men living at Woburn Sands within six months of the outbreak of war in 1939 should be included. Still His Home During a discussion it was pointed out that though the late Mr. J. Shelton had left the village before March 1939, it could still be regarded as his home. Referring to information contained in the letter from War Office, Mr. Wesley said that new information had now come to light, which the Welcome Home Fund Committee had not known when they decided to provides the tablet. Mr. J. A. Pursell said that when the subject was discussed at a meeting of the Parish Council in 1952, there was considerable doubt that Mr. Shelton was serving in the Armed Forces at the time of his death. Mrs. Hunt said that she had made known the decision of the Committee, but if it was going to please somebody to have the name added, it should be done. It was agreed to ask Mrs. Marchant if Mr. Shelton’s name was on any other War (Memorial, such as any place where he was married and might have lived for a time. If not, his name should be put on the tablet on Woburn Sands War Memorial.”

Woburn Reporter, February, 1954: “Since the last meeting, arrangements had been made for the name of the late Lieut. J. Shelton to be placed on the tablet on the War Memorial containing the names of serving men who lost their lives in the last war.  Reporting this, the Clerk (Mr J Purcell) stated that Mrs E W Marchant had offered to pay the cost of the work. Members expressed appreciation of Mrs Marchant’s offer and confirmed the Clerk’s action.”



Page last updated Jan. 2019.