We did not dare light a fire in case the smoke would be visible by the enemy. We travelled in the “Empress of Japan”, a large liner requisitioned from The Canadian Pacific Railways 3. We were abandoned at Singapore, still burning and not knowing whether or not we could make it out of there. The last heavily overladen ships left Singapore on February 12 and 13 - which happened to be a Friday. December 1940, ten other ships were also damaged, including another Company ship the Roxburgh Castle. It was quite pleasant and certainly softer than beds I had later. I have set up this site to support my research related to the events and personal stories concerning the fall of Singapore in February 1942. Then about 21.30 pm one destroyer fired six shells into the GB which caught fire, glowed red from stem to stern and sank within a few minutes. The Netherlands-Indies Red Cross in 1943 at the Palembang internment camp compiled a list (with survivors signing as witnesses) of 104 people who were rescued. We could hear gunfire across the Jahore Straits. He invited me to accompany him in his pram-dinghy, a flat-bottomed boat about 12 feet long, bermuda-rigged with bamboo mast and boom, and designed for racing in the sheltered waters of the Straits of Johore. There they were found by the Tapah and about half the party decided to go aboard the Tapah. Sub Lieut. On the evening of 16 February 1942 Mary Rose was illuminated by searchlights from two Japanese patrol vessels in the Muntok Strait beyond the Moesi River, who threatened to open fire on the launch. The Prince of Wales and Repulse and their four escort destroyers leave Singapore to intercept the Japanese landings. Within four days of the surrender Japanese forces that had pressed on into the Netherlands East Indies would be bombing Darwin, and over succeeding days Australians in Timor and Java would also be fighting for their lives. It was apparent we were in for the duration. LI WO had eluded the Japanese once before, having been ordered to sail from Hong Kong just before the Japanese Army overran that colony, and had reached what subsequently proved to be the illusory protection of Fortress Singapore. When bound for Singapore, carrying 1,400 troops, she was torpedoed by the U-402 just north of the Azores, on the 16th. Her passengers and crew were landed the following day. Their initial joy quickly turned to despair as they found that the launch was filled with burned and wounded men and that its crew had already surrendered to the Japanese in order to obtain medical assistance at the hospital at Muntok. Billowing smoke and flame the ship sank slowly, going down by the bows, as the men swam for their lives. These incidentally were removed a few weeks later…” (ASD) . At about 7.30pm Captain Lancaster (it appears after an instruction signalled by the Japanese for the ship to be abandoned) ordered all women and children to take to the lifeboats – 50 or so in each boat – and a strong tidal current soon swept the lifeboats astern of the GB. The captain gave orders to abandon ship. Colonel John Dalley of Dalforce and five of his officers, Lt. He had served with the Blue Funnel line during the Great War and before coming to China in 1922. Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson RNVR, a professional seaman for 30 years, vowed he would see the gunboat HMS LI WO go down fighting. Because of the unrealistically positive official statements by the authorities many families delayed this move and so through December and January evacuations continued at a modest pace ,until panic set in by early February 1942 when it was obvious that the Japanese troops were almost unstoppable. No one ever described the LI WO as beautiful and the superstructure consisted of three levels of cabins which ran from the stern to just short of the bow. Fifteen occupants of the latter boat were brought to Muntok in “HMS Tapah”, seven made their way to Palembang, and five Chinese whose names are not known…” (NIRC).”; In the book “Waiting for the Durian” it is recorded that there were about seventy people in the second lifeboat including stowaways under the floorboards. For more on the Redang please read this PDF file HERE. The Last Ship out of Singapore. It was a ghastly tragedy, a catastrophe beyond measure.”. Some even fainted. All around the rafts and swimmers were dismembered limbs, dead fish and wreckage, drifting with the currents; below, in all probability were sharks and above, at intervals, the winged machines of death. Departure date: 23 January 1942. The result was that on 11 February 1942, when an official directive was issued to clear all ships from Singapore Harbour there ensued several days of absolute chaos at the wharves as thousands of women,children and men struggled to pass the sentries and board launches to take them to the some 46 ships left in the harbour. Two further life boats successfully launched with about 100 people in them combined. We started to bring women and children aboard and the other ships in our group left. Grasshopper which can be read HERE. In a wartime situation at sea it may be understandable they did not stop and pick up survivors, but to leave without even jettisoning flotation devices for the women and children shows a complete lack of human values. Arrival date: 4 February 1942. Down below I found an air raid shelter built entirely of large tins of corned beef, and as I dived in, it was explained that the bomb splinters could slice through the sides of a ship, but could not penetrate the corned beef. Actg. We had to keep the boilers at top pressure, to ensure maximum speed. Allied Powers Arthur Percival (POW) (UK) Gordon Bennett (Australia) Lewis Heath (POW) (UK) Merton Beckwith-Smith (POW) (UK) Empire of Japan Tomoyuki Yamashita Takuma Nishimura Takuro Matsui Renya Mutaguchi On March 6, 1942 at 8.00 PM the Poelau Bras left Wijnkoops Bay bound for Colombo (Sri Lanka). As the first bombs fell on Singapore, after the invasion by the Japanese of northern Malaya on 8 December 1941, civilian families began to evacuate their women and children by ship back to England, India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Some people missed their allotted ship, others jumped aboard the first they came upon, some tragically lost their places altogether. Sellwood.The War Against Japan, Maj.-Gen. S. Woodburn Kirby.London Gazette, 3rd Supplement, 17/12/1946.London Gazette, Supplement, 25/11/1947.Various books covering the fall and evacuation of Singapore. The Poelau Bras only had accommodation for 56 passengers and the chaos on board was therefore great as the total number reached some 500 men, women and children most of whom were Dutch. Poelau Bras AttackedAt around 10.30 am there came over the horizon a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. She had four lifeboats – each could carry 32 people. He made good his promise in a valiant battle off Island that cost him his life. They contain the names of hundreds of evacuees from Singapore. Whilst there appears to have initially been an attempt by the Japanese to handle the surrender of the ship in a somewhat civilised manner, in the final event the Japanese warships showed no humanity or decency when they were in full knowledge that the ship contained civilians and a huge number of women and children. One group came across a life raft which had three more of the crew on board and joined up with them. Just after 1600 hours, as they approached Bangka Island, time ran out for the LI WO and its crew. Renamed Nitirin Maru. Battle of Singapore; Part of the Malayan Campaign of World War II: Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival (right), led by a Japanese officer, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Allied forces in Singapore, on 15 February 1942.It was the … These survivors were from such ships as the Giang Bee, the Kuala, The Redang, ….. It is said that 44 ships carrying evacuees left Singapore between February 12 to 14, 1942 and that of these vessels, all but 4 were bombed and sunk as they passed down the Bangka Straits from Singapore to Java. [To learn more about Miss Higgs and what happened to the party left behind click HERE]. “…In one lifeboat [that successfully launched] 56 persons reached land at Djaboes, Bangka Island, whilst the second lifeboat with 42 persons reached the coast of Sumatra. It was now obvious that if any of the wounded were to survive they would have to surrender, and so they turned back toward Muntok. According to Richard Gough’s ‘The Escape from Singapore’ the launch was skippered by an elderly RN officer (George Mullock) who was ordered to take it through the Banka Straits to Palembang. Four men were killed on board. Naval guards rushed aboard and we learnt we had been brought to Muntok, the main town of Banka Island… we were herded along a pier to a cinema hall and found it crowded with at least 1,000 male survivors from the various ships that got away too late…” (ASD). The highly maneuverable vessel had been handled in a spirited fashion by Wilkinson and came out of each attack with only minor damage, however their limited supply of ammunition was already running low. Through the darkness of the tropical night, they could see the blinking light from Bangka Island’s Muntok lighthouse, sometimes near and sometimes further away as the tides pulled them in and out from the shore. Specifically, Gordon Reis states in his diary “…I think we had a large number of deserters aboard from the Army in particular…”, Ann Silberman recalled her experience of the sinking of the Giang Bee which can be read HERE (<– PDF). The Giang Bee was bombed and suffered damage during the day of 13th February, and in the evening, after a long stand-off with a Japanese destroyer, she was shelled and sunk in the Banka Strait. Ninety thousand British, Australian and Indian troops had been defeated by sixty thousand Japanese. The order to abandon ship was given, however as all internal communications had been cut; a search was made of the ship to ensure that all those who were still alive were aware of the order. (E) H.M. MacGregor, RNR – Second Engineer, Temp. A two page list of all the ships that left Singapore between 13/2 and 15/2 and what happened to each one can be read here. This section needs expansion. Britain surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February, 1942, after a week of fierce, last-ditch fighting. Many ships and other craft were sunk or disabled and there was considerable loss of life. All her Malay crew had been ordered ashore in Singapore before she left, so that the crew consisted of a few Chinese crew members, a handful of RNVR personnel and some passengers who volunteered to be stokers, etc. A hostilities only vessel, of dubious offensive value, LI WO as to be used in an action which would have gladdened Nelson’s heart. When the three remaining lifeboats were only a few hundred yards away from the Poelau Bras, the bow rose straight up and quickly sank on its stern down into the depths of the sea. This page describes the ships that carried those fleeing from Singapore, most of whom who ended up in the camps at Palembang and Muntok. However, some of the ships had enough surviving passengers who were picked to form an identifiable group. At 0220 on Friday the 13th February 1942 LI WO, in company with a number of vessels, sailed from Singapore Harbor for Batavia with a total of 84 men on board. At 1645 hours two battle ensigns blossomed forth and its 4-inch gun fired the first shot of the engagement at a troopship whose decks were crowded with soldiers. Capon, was one of the last vessels to clear the port of Singapore. Although Captain Lancaster, in command of the ship, initially refused to take civilian passengers because he saw the dangers attached to a ship designated as a warship, she was loaded with up to 300 refugees (one survivor, Gordon Reis believed there to be 350 people on board) who were mostly women, children, and the elderly. Because of the continuing machine gun fire from the bombers many on board did do not dare to get into the lifeboats, but rather jumped overboard in panic. The Giang Bee survivors found themselves on a stretch of land where: …. Finally, burnt by the sun, dehydrated and exhausted, some people reached land. Lieut. The navy men were placed at various locations on the ship creating a further 16 machine guns posts. The Japanese were right there. It was during this part of the events that earlier air raid damage was revealed – damaged lowering ropes on one lifeboat parted as it was being lowered into the sea and it spilled its passengers into the darkness of the ocean; the second lifeboat was lowered into the sea but it had been holed by bomb splinters and soon began taking water and sank. The destroyers then left with several hundred women, children and men struggling and drowning in the sea. some three Malays came to us and gave us a few prawns and showed us where we could get water about one mile away … We had the drinking water brought to us and did some cooking mixing the biscuits with condensed milk and water – it was impossible to swallow the biscuits they were so dry and hard. The Empire Star was later torpedoed and sunk on the 23 October 1942, at position 48 14′ N. 26 22′ W. by U615, commanded by Kapitän Leutnant Ralph Kapitzky. Between the islands on the phosphorescent sea floated boats and rafts laden with people; and here and there, upheld by his lifebelt, the lone swimmer was striving to make land. 21 Squadron is ordered to withdraw from Butterworth airfield. Under aerial attack the whole time her departure was marred by much confusion in the port area. Gordon, RNR – Third Engineer, Temp. An example of Michael’s most recent work is that on H.M.S. To their relief they were taken on board and driven to the prisoner of war camp at Muntok. The Tapah was an old British minesweeper and we are fortunate to have five pages of the Captain’s log which gives some details of the ships activities and this can be read HERE. On February 20th we saw smoke in the distance and after some frantic waving it turned out to be a British Minesweeper “HMS Tapah”… A boat was sent to pick us up and it was hoped to take us safely to Batavia… Unfortunately about midnight searchlights played on our ship … and until 2 a.m. we were unaware that we were being escorted by the Japanese Navy. Perhaps never before in the long period of recorded history was there anything to compare with it. (E) W. McCrorie, RNR – Fourth Engineer. Archive List > World > Singapore. She was captured by Japanese forces 24 km (15 miles) off Muntok on 15 February at 03:00hrs. and went aboard the Tapah which was lying about one mile away (written 15.5.42). We also bathed in the dirty seawater during which time I had to keep my hand above water level … We passed the day on iron rations, did two hour watch at night and woke up on Tuesday, 17th February still on this bit of shore. That evening we built a fire and took watch all night as there were ample evidence of wild pig and the natives said tiger and elephants were near. Some of these were obviously water holes of animals as footmarks were around. Michael Pether has recently compiled a description of what happened to some of the smaller ships such as : HMS Fuh Wo ; Yin Ping; RAF Auxiliary ‘Aquarius’ ; SS Hong Tat, and these can be read by following the links. The Mary Rose was escorted to Muntok harbour on Bangka Island where her occupants were taken ashore as prisoners of war. Philip Hogge’s description of his father’s escape from Singapore based on his father’s letters and notes with particular reference to the Mata Hari can be read HERE. RAAF squadrons had been evacuated before the Japanese invaded the island and the remaining RAN warships were ordered to leave. Manchester Guardian, 16 February 1942. apart from one air raid by japanese planes while passing … Among the passengers were the last 65 Australian nurses in Singapore. There had never been enough lifeboats for all those on board, and two of the four lifeboats had been seriously damaged by the day’s bombing. The fall of Singapore in 1942 clearly illustrated the way Japan was to fight in the Far East a combination of speed and savagery that only ended with the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945. Staff from William Jacks & Co. (Malaya) Ltd. and several partners from the Penang law firm Lean & Co. Although she usually only carried 12 passengers, in addition to her 47 crew, Vyner Brooke sailed south with 181 passengers embarked, most of them women and children. Others were pressed into service in their place. What has transpired I do not know at time of writing but they must have been say 300 miles north of Batavia. She turned out to be the Tapah, a small British Auxiliary minesweeper hiding away from Jap air attacks. In the fortnight leading up to the surrender of Singapore some 13,000 civilians and service personnel were either evacuated or left the island in an official capacity. Three other ships in company were all lost. Captain Capon’s boat with 26 crew, six gunners and six passengers was never seen again. When the pilots of the Japanese bombers noticed that the ship was about to go under, they began shooting at the lifeboats that were now filled with the passenger. Although she usually only carried 12 passengers, in addition to her 47 crew, Vyner Brooke sailed south with 181 passengers embarked, most of them women and children. SC. After Muntok the fate of the Tapah is not known. Access to Indian Navy ships. They sat and lay in groups scattered along the sands of North-Western Bangka Island. On February 11th 1942 Britain's General Percival in charge of the defence of Singapore surrendered to Japan's General Yamashita. As the LI WO closed with its target it came under fire from various small caliber weapons which failed to prevent it first setting fire to the transport and then ramming it. (E) F.J. Lumley, RNR – Chief Engineer, Temp. Details of the action are disjointed due to the death of so many of the participants but the main details are clear. 18.3.42 Towards evening a British captured M/L came alongside and we were ordered aboard … We arrived at Muntok jetty where it started to rain …. Ship to Quebec 1841 (two pages) many ships carrying US destined passengers; Ship to Quebec 1842 (two pages) many ships carrying US destined passengers; Ships to New Orleans & Galveston 1847; Cunard Sailings of 1849 - New York, Boston and Halifax ; Arrivals Sept-Oct 1853 with Sickness on Board; Castle Garden 1855 article about the opening as an immigrant depot, New York Daily Times; Ships … They traveled for several days then one evening two men, returning from seeking coconuts, found that a Chinese gang had killed one of their companions and had seriously wounded most of the others. Returning to their raft the gunboat’s crew paddled to the shore and took shelter in the jungle. From 18-20 February 1942 she embarked evacuees from Palembang (Sumatra). One of the destroyers then apparently signalled for the ‘GB’ to be abandoned because they were intending to sink her. As soon as they saw us, they sent a boat ashore with provisions, water, etc. The survivors were landed back in Singapore at about midnight. He also indulged in the pastime of sunbathing, at a time when such ideas were regarded as akin to madness. We eventually landed on a mangrove swamp, no habitation, nothing but brackish water and a beach infested with sandflies. Superstition was the last thing on anybody's mind. Two Japanese destroyers approached the GB at high speed, one of them signalling in incomprehensible Morse code, and stopped within half a mile of the GB when one of them sent a launch towards the GB. THE LI WOLast run SouthJames Ritchie Grant. There were crowds on the ship —a small one of say 1200 tons — mostly survivors from some distress or other, and I got a corner on the deck for sleeping room. Amidst the flames, the heat and noise, the sweaty, labouring bodies shovelled coal as fast as humanly possible, striving for their one chance to escape the Japanese. As the Japanese forced their way across the island, large numbers of poorly-equipped pleasure craft also fled Singapore for Sumatra, however a high proportion failed to survive the crossing. At about 6 p.m. on that day and when about 170 miles south of Singapore Japanese warships suddenly appeared over the horizon and fired a warning shot across the bows (ASD) ; Captain Lancaster (most sensibly in the eyes of this researcher) ordered the White Ensign to be lowered and also that all women and children should show themselves on deck. She was then requisitioned by Britain’s Royal Navy as an armed trader. Tretchikoff wrote: The heat was insufferable. 1942 - Singapore falls to Japan, which renames it Syonan (Light of the South). Weakened, they tried to look for fresh water or split open coconuts to sip the cooling milk through their swollen, blistered lips. Evacuation & Rescue Ships 1942 List created by Arthur Lane ex-FEPOW. Then followed a long uneasy wait that continued as (is the case in the Tropics) dusk quickly turned into the pitch black of night, when the destroyers then trained their searchlights on the GB. Others were wounded or were forced ashore and were subsequently captured.”. Unlike the ships described above, the Poelau Bras set out on February 27, 1942 from the port of Cilacap on the western coast of Java. The number of victims of the bombing and strafing was estimated be about 240 to 300 passengers. In the morning (Wednesday, 18th February) we anchored off Muntok and stayed there all day long. Rob Scott’s dinghy picked up a few survivors and, after five days at sea, finally reached the coast of Sumatra – he was interned and later sent back to Singapore to be interrogated and tortured. 21.1. A total of 12 aircraft were divided into three formations for the attack. Chief Engineer, Temp fitness, who neither smoked nor drank incidentally removed! 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