Ronald Cliff

Ronald Cliff was born in Bolton in 1919.

He was the son of James William and Margaret Ellen Cliff of, 39 New Hall Lane, Bolton.

His father, James William Cliff, worked as a surveyor.

Ronald attended Bolton Church Institute from 1930 (1a) to 1935 (V).

After leaving School he worked as an articled clerk for chartered accountants Harper Pilling of 25 Acresfield, Bolton.


Ronald's War

Ronald served as an Aircraftman 1st class with the RAF in the Far East.

2,400 Australian and British POWs who had been captured by Japanese forces at the Battle of Singapore in February 1942 were shipped to North Borneo in order to construct a military airstrip and POW camp at Sandakan, North Borneo (Sabah). As on the Burma Railway the prisoners were forced to work at gunpoint, and were often beaten whilst also receiving very little food or medical attention. After construction was completed the prisoners initially remained at the camp.

From January 1945, with only 1,900 prisoners still alive and Allied landings anticipated shortly, the remaining prisoners were marched westward in three groups into the mountains to the town of Ranau, a distance of approximately 260 kilometres (160 miles). Any who fell out through sickness were killed by the Japanese guards. The third group started on 9 June 1945, consisting of only 75 men. None reached the destination and prisoners remaining at Sandakan were shot or died from starvation. By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped. No British prisoners survived.

It seems likely that Ronald Cliff was among those who died at Sandakan, or at Ranau or en route between them. If the official date is at all accurate, he died towards the end of the existence of Sandakan camp.  Australian troops landed in North Borneo on 10 June 1945 and on 15 August Japanese Emperor Hirohito formally surrendered following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Bolton Journal and Guardian
19 March 1943

In The Hands of Japanese

AC/1 Ronald Cliff (23) RAFVR, whose parents live at 139 New Hall-lane, is a prisoner of war in Borneo. He had been missing 13 months. Before joining the RAF in 1940 he was an articled clerk at Harper Pilling and Co., chartered accountants. He attended the Church Institute.

Bolton Journal and Guardian
23 November 1945

Roll of Honour

CLIFF- On June 9th 1945 in POW camp, Borneo, RONALD (AC1, RAF) aged 25 years, dearly loved and loving younger son of Mr and Mrs J W Cliff, 139 New Hall-lane, Bolton.




Ronald Cliff

Aircraftman 1st Class: 1113486

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Born: Bolton 1919

Died: Borneo 9 June 1945

Link to CWGC Casualty Details

Royal Air Force

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