Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Motor Launches 'Osprey' and 'Mary Rose'

On the evening of February 13th, Captain George Mulock was ordered to report to Fort Canning, where he was informed that his tenure as Extended Defences Officer was complete, because within hours there would be no colony to defend. Although unwilling to abandon the colony, Mulock had important work to carry out and his knowledge of naval and military intelligence, including the MAGIC/ULTRA machines made him a potential Japanese target.

He was ordered to requisition the Osprey, a motor launch, and convey key Australian diplomatic personnel to safety. The Osprey was designed to seat ten persons, but when the party arrived it numbered nearly forty. At the party’s head Australian Commissioner Vivian G Bowden CBE, and his staff. Bowden had refused to leave, but on Percival’s urging he finally decided to leave. However, in the early hours of February 14th the group was confronted by a mob of Australian deserters armed with Tommy-guns and hand grenades.

The party, led by Captain Mulock, eventually was able to make their way onto the Osprey, but because of the large number of persons aboard, transferred to the motor launch Mary Rose, anchored in the middle of Keppel Harbour. The Mary Rose, a forty-foot motor launch would fittingly be probably the last ship out of the colony. According to Richard Gough’s The Escape from Singapore’ the launch was skippered by an elderly RN officer ordered to take it through the Banka Straits to Pulembang in Sumatra. The launch carried some 38 passengers including Mr Vivian Gordon Bowden (Australian Commissioner to Singapore), Mr A.N. Wootton (Commercial Secretary) Mr J.P. Queen (Political Secretary), Lt. Colonel John Dalley (Commanding Officer, SOE 101st Special Training School), Captain C. Corry, Wayne of Special Branch and a Policeman.

Captain Mulock’s main priority was the safe passage of key personnel, however at his side also lay a secondary and more important duty. Boarding the Osprey and later the Mary Rose, Mulock carried a large case carrying a vital component of the Allied war effort. Mulock had received orders from Admiral Spooner, to take the top-secret de-coding machine, used to decipher and re-assemble Japanese naval ciphers, and throw it into the harbour once clear of the colony. It was vital that this piece of technology not fall into Japanese hands less they discover that the Allies had been able to decipher the so-called ‘Emperor’s Codes’ for some considerable time.

From his new headquarters at the Ford Motor Factory on Bukit Timah Road, General Yamashita warned the Japanese Navy and Air Force to comb the seas around Singapore for a possible Expeditionary force. A large naval force anchored at the head of the Banka Straits was now positioned directly in front of the ships carrying evacuees. General Percival would write “I regret to have to report that the flotilla of small ships and other light craft which left Singapore on the night of 13-14 February encountered a Japanese naval force in the approaches to the Banka Straits. It was attacked by light naval craft and by aircraft. Many ships and other craft were sunk or disabled and there was considerable loss of life. Others were wounded or were forced ashore and were subsequently captured.”

On 17 February 1942 the Mary Rose was caught in a searchlight by two Japanese patrol vessels that threatened to open fire. In the absence of a white flag, a pair of underpants was hoisted. The craft was escorted to Muntok harbour, Banka Island in the East Indies.

The prisoners were held in a cinema-hall at Muntok where Bowden informed his captors in their own language of his diplomatic status and remonstrated with guards who attempted to remove his personal possessions. Soldiers punched him and took him outside. During the struggle, Captain Mulock, himself only two years younger than Bowden had his nose broken by a rifle butt. A local resident saw 'an elderly white-haired gentleman' forced to dig a shallow grave and stand at its edge before being executed.

This insight was kindly provided by

Mr R B D Hughes
Nephew of Captain George Mulock DSO, RN, FRGS
Head of Extended Defences/Extended Defences Officer for Singapore August 1939-February 1942

Last boat away from the bomb damaged Kung Wo

Yangstze Steamer Wu Chang

Civilian Evacuation list by Michael Pether

Evacuation of Civilians from Singapore December 1941 - February 1942

Michael Pether has complied a list of Ships/Vessels carrying Civilian Evacuees and the dates of departure from Singapore. He has complied this list only for vessels knwon to be carrying civilians and vessels carrying only servicemen have not been included where known. Michael is keen to add names and details where possible and should you have any further information I would be pleased to put you in contact with Michael.

January 1942;

• 16 Jan. “SS. NARKUNDA” with many passengers including a Mrs. Hosking and her children on board. Reached Australia.
• Some time mid-Jan. a British India steamer with probably over 1000 Japanese women and children internees and some allied civilians including a Miss Norah Inge (a missionary). Went to India.
• 23 Jan. – “ISLAM/ISLAMIC” reported to have reached India ( this could be the ship above)
• 30 Jan. “USS WAKEFIELD” with the “WESTPOINT” and “DUCHESS OF BEDFORD” in same convoy which altogether had 4000 passengers. Including a Mrs. McCormac (wife of “You will die in Singapore” author). Went to Tanjong Priok.
• 30 Jan. “SS DUCHESS OF BEDFORD” including Mrs. Pelton and Mrs. Barbara Parnell ( nurse with Malayan auxiliary service MAS in Ipoh)
• 31 Jan. “EMPRESS OF JAPAN “with 1221 evacuees including a Mrs. Dora Gurney plus 3 children, to Tanjong Priok where it left again on 15 Jan.

Some time in either January or February;

• “SS. ANGLO INDIAN” which reached Tanjong Priok on 12 February
• “SS. AUBY” (636 tons) reached Tanjong Priok
• “TIEN KWANG/ TUN KUANG” which had many Government servants on board plus RAF , but was bombed and sunk at Pom Pong Island on 14 Feb along with the “SS KUALA”
• “SS. AQUARIUS”(6094 tons) with 110 passengers but was sunk with possibly only 3 survivors
• “SS. NORAH MOLLER” (4433 tons?) which left with 57 passengers, some were women and children. It was shelled and set on fire. Passengers were rescued by the “HMAS HOBART” and the HMS TENEDOS” ,the latter rescued 28 wounded of whom 6 did not survive the voyage to TP which was reached on possible 4 FEB?
• “SILVER GULL” which was towed from RHIO by the famous Capt Bill Reynolds in his converted Japanese fishing boat (later the “KRAIT”) with women and children (totals vary between 166 and 216people) who were mainly families of Dutch Indonesian garrison soldiers on RHIO; they went to Pom Pong Island and then Rengat
• “MADURA” reported to have later sailed from Batavia (TP) in the last few days of Feb.

February 1942;

• 1 Feb. “ROCHUISSEN” a Dutch cattle boat with no passenger accommodation. Took 200 passengers including 50 Malayan Broadcasting personnel (Enid Innes Ker amongst) and reached Tanjong Priok on 5 Feb.
• 4 Feb. “SEDJATRA” a wooden schooner (30 tons) with 4 civilians on board – later left Tjilitap with 5 civilians and 3 RAF
• 6?? Feb. “SS. CITY OF CANTERBURY” with RAF personnel from 453 sqdn. and women and children
• 7 Feb. “HMS BAN HONG LIONG” (1671 tons) with troops and civilians in company with the “SIN AIK LEE” and reached TP from where it sailed again after two days to an unknown destination
• 8 Feb. “SS. PLANCIUS” which later (15 Feb ) sailed again from Tanjong Priok with 840 evacuees ( principally women and children) from ships that had arrived from Singapore, possibly for South Africa according to some, but more likely to Bombay.
• 8 Feb. “SS. MONARCH” sailed for New Zealand
• ?? Feb. “DOMINION MONARCH” for New Zealand
• 8 Feb. in the evening “FELIX ROUSSEL” (Free French ship) with 110 passengers mainly women and children including Mrs. Marjorie Hudson and Mrs. Dorothy Fawcett.
• 10 Feb. “SS. SILVERLARCH” which reached Java
• 10 Feb. “SS. IPOH” (Straits Shipping Co) left with 200 women and children (many were wives of Survey dept. personnel) plus 300 RAF and reached TP on 14 Feb.
• 10 or 11 or 12 Feb. “BULAN/ BULANG” which arrived TP and then went on to Ceylon
• 11 Feb. “AGAN” (244 tons) with 150 civilians including women and children – it either reached Palembang at midday on 13 Feb. or was sunk with the survivors being picked up by the “TENGORRAH”
• 11 Feb. “GIANG BEE” (1200 tons) a Chinese owned coaster with 200-300 old men, women and children on board. It was sunk by Japanese navy and 200-240 passengers were killed or drowned after getting in lifeboats
• 11 Feb. “PING WO” a pre War Yangste steamer of 200 feet in length and with only a 6 foot draft. Had 200 civilian passengers and ended up towing the destroyer “VENDETTA” all the way to Freemantle where it arrived on 4 March.
• 11 Feb. “KLIAS” which reached Palembang

- the next group of ships probably left in the major convoy of up to 40 vessels which actually departed from Singapore harbour (perhaps in groups according to their speed) early on 12 February ,

• 11 Feb. “SS. JALAVIHAR/ JALIBAHAR” ( 5330 tons) suffered heavy bombing through the Durian straits but passed through TP and finally reached Colombo
• 11 Feb. “SS. JALAKRISHNA” sailed at 1700 hours, possibly clearing the harbour on 12 Feb, in the convoy with the “DELAMORE”, “EMPIRE STAR”,”JALIBAHAR” and “LI SANG”. It was damaged by bombing in the Sunda Straits and via TP reached Colombo. Some reports say it carried no passengers but there was a Mrs. Francis Clarke who, with other evacuees from Singapore later boarded the “PLANCIUS” from TP.
• 11 Feb. “EDANG” left with 11 other vessels to form the slower part of the convoy heading for TP
• 11-12 Feb. “LI SANG” sailed about 1730 hours on 11 Feb (might have actually cleared the Harbour on the 12 Feb.)
• 11-12 Feb. “SS. JALRATNA” (3942 tons) sailed on the night of 11 Feb. and reached Tjilitap from where it left again on 19 Feb.
• 11-12 Feb. “ SS. GORGON’ ( 3533 tons0 a Blue funnel Line ship with 358-380 passengers ( the same convoy as the “DURBAN’, “KEDAH”, “STRONGHOLD”, “EMPIRE STAR” and “YOMA”)and reached TP and later Freemantle, Australia.
• 11-12 Feb. “SS. HONG KHENG” ( 6167 tons) which sailed on the night of 11 feb
• 12 Feb. SS. EMPIRE STAR” with 2000 RAF ground crew and service families, it reached Batavia (i.e. TP) on 15 Feb and then sailed on to Freemantle.
• 12 Feb. at daybreak, “HMS. SCOTT HARLEY” with 170 women and 30 men on board including,
o Michael Ashe
o Roland Braddell
o Miss Linda Brash
o Mrs. Annie L Clark ( wife of Norman Clark engineer Govt. Rice Mills)
o Mrs. Elliott / Mrs. Sharpe – Elliott ( a canteen worker with MAS whose husband was a engineer at the Naval Docks)
o Mrs. W.F. Joyce Fitzpatrick ( husband with Singapore Cold Storage)
o Eliza Martin / Mrs. Eric Martin
o Mrs. Enid Miller
o Mr. & Mrs. Pery
o Nessie Rhodes / Mrs. “Dusty” Rhodes of KL
o Winifred Sinclair
o Dr. J. W. Scarff, his wife, two daughters (Elizabeth and Jopin) and 2 boys
o Joan Winchester / Mrs. V. A. Winchester (wife of a vet and whose brother in law was a doctor)
o A Russian mother and daughter (the latter had a hairdressing shop in Raffles Hotel, Singapore)
o The Secretary to the Governor of Singapore – she is described as about 35 years and 16 stone.
o A naval policeman
o Plus possibly a Mr. Potts, Melvin Thompson, Mrs. Duke, and Mrs. Ray “..of the Municipality” and one child
- most of the “SCOTT HARLEY” European passengers on shipped from Batavia on 21 Feb. to Bombay on the “PLANCIUS”. Some then went on to Australia on the “JOHAN DE WITT”. For a full story of the “SCOTT HARLEY” see the item on the COFEPOW website.
• 12 Feb. “SS. REDANG” (531 tons) of the Thai Navigation Co. with 89 passengers including 6 women and 3 children. It was shelled in the Berhala Straits and sunk – some 30 passengers including 4 women and 2 children got away by boat but were captured by the Japanese.
• 12 Feb. “SING WO” a Yangste river boat (2500 tons) left with 230 passengers including Rohan Rivet who authored “Behind Bamboo” ,it was bombed and ran aground at Muntok where passengers were taken prisoner.
• 13 Feb. “FANLING” a motor launch with 47 passengers which was sunk with only 4 survivors in the Banka Straits
• 13 Feb. “HMS CHANG TEH” sunk in the Durian Straits
• 13 Feb. “SS. KUALA” (at the same time as the “MATA HARI and the “VYNER BROOK” mentioned below) with about 500 people on board including a large group of nurses who had been ordered to leave Singapore. It was sunk on 14 Feb at anchor off Pom Pong Island. The following were on board,
o Nurse Brenda Macduff (who today lives in NZ)
o Nurse Jean Smith
o Nurse Edith wood
o Nurse Olive MacFarlane (killed whilst the ship was at anchor in Singapore)
o Nurse “Paddy” Corke (killed in the bombing at Pom Pong Island)
o Nurse MacPherson (who left Pom Pong Island on the “TANJONG PINANG” which was sunk on the way to Sumatra with almost total loss of life)
o Matron Margot Turner
o Nurse Paddy Clarke
o Nursing Sister Marjorie de Malmanche
o Mary Cooper (Irish)
o Mrs. Doughty
o Miss Doughty
o Jenny Doughty (27 years who lost her leg in the bombing and died later in Padang)
o Dr. Elsie Crowe (Singapore Obstetrician)
o Dr. Marjory Lyon (Johore Government Obstetrician and Surgeon)
o Mrs. Madden
o Olga Neubronner
o Mr. Bruce – Smith (a NZer)
o Group Capt. Nunn and his wife (later died in the sinking of the “ROSENBOOM”)
o Mr. G. T. O’Grady a Public works engineer
• 13 Feb. “SS. SING KHENG SENG” of the Straits Shipping Co with 45 crew from the “EMPRESS OF ASIA” and unknown others.
• 13 Feb. “MATA HARI” with 320 passengers including a large group of nurses. It was captured by the Japanese in the Banka Straits and taken into Muntok harbour. Passengers included Nurse Phyllis Briggs who lives today in the UK.
• 13 Feb. “SS. VYNER BROOK” with 200 evacuees, mainly civilians and nurses. Attacked and sunk in the Banka Straits with heavy loss of life. A large group of the nurses were later murdered by the Japanese on a beach with only Vivian Bullwinkle surviving..
• 13 Feb. HONG KWANG” later abandoned in Java on 9 March
• 13 Feb. a small coaster with 12 British men and a woman named Mary Jenkins
• 13 Feb. in the evening “RELAU” a palm oil tanker of the Straits Shipping Co (75 tons) with 66 passengers. It picked up shipwreck survivors along the way (including 13 from “SCORPION”) but was captured by the Japanese
• 13 Feb. in the evening “BLUMUT” a small craft of the Johore Marine Dept. with 29 passengers. It was captured by the Japanese off Banka around 16-17 Feb.
• 14 Feb. in the early hours, “HMS. KEDAH” a small costal ship of the Straits Shipping Co. with possibly about 750 men, women and children. It reached Batavia. Mrs. Muriel Reilly, a cipher officer to the Governor, was on board.
• 14?? Feb. “SS. BARLINE / BARLANE” with ships named “BARRIER” , BARRICADE” and “FASTNET” – this one may be an inaccurate piece of info .

Monday, 19 March 2007


Edward Marriott writes that in relation to the SS IPOH that an ex POW was interviewed and he is adamant he sailed on the SS IPOH from Singapore to Sumatra. Captain Jannings (IPOH) last report apparently doesnt mention stopping at Sumatra, but mentions the voyage to Batavia.

The memoirs "LIFE OF RILEY", can be found on the Far East Heroes page of the FEPOW FORUM and the relevant section is the chapter Escape from Singapore onwards. The relevant extract is:-

Ahead of Dennis, on Jan 30th, a convoy of small ships had left with troops and equipment heading for Pladjoe and Palembang in Sumatra. Sam was aboard this convoy. I haven’t yet found out if my dad was with him or Dennis.

The next day, still in Singapore, Dennis’ group came across the 100ft “SS.IPOH,” the only vessel moored up at the quayside lying empty and idle. Dennis heard the captain shouting to the men that he had no fuel (coal), no crew and would not be able to put to sea.

The soldiers looked about the quayside and saw heaps of coal ready to be loaded for ships boilers. Within minutes orders were given and men toiled to shovel the coal aboard as fast as possible. A few soldiers jumped aboard and started stoking up the boiler. The troops on the quayside made their way along the decks, but being so many the boat began to list heavily. Immediately the order was given for a more orderly dispersion of weight across the deck and men were sent below as the decks became crowded.

Eventually the New Zealand Steamship Company’s little ship cast off and slowly steamed away from the hell of Singapore. Building up speed she headed towards Sumatra, everyone on board praying that the ship would not turn turtle with so many aboard.

Above them a lone Jap bomber had spotted them and released three bombs. Already patched up from previous damage, Dennis wondered just how much more this craft could take as he held his breath watching the line of bombs heading toward them.

Fortune was smiling on them as the bombs hit the water yards away exploding in a line and showering the huddled troops with water. A lad from Bridgenorth, *Jimmy Green of the 6th HAA, suffered an injury to his leg from shrapnel. Dennis did not know if any other injuries occurred to the rest of the men.

* Eventually, Jimmy would have to have the leg amputated in the P.O.W. camp and Dennis would make him crutches.

The picture of the SS IPOH was provided by Edward and is from an an oil painting kindly sent to him from Alex Norrie. His grandfather owned the painting after serving as an engineer aboard her in the 1920’s.

Another ship that Edward is looking for information on is a ship named the SS DARVEL that left Singapore on the 31st Jan 1942. If anyone has any information about the SS IPOH or can verify this information relating to the IPOH and Sumatra and or information relating to the SS DARVEL I would be happy to pass the information on. Thank you Edward for this contribution!

Monday, 12 March 2007

HMS Scott Harley

Michael Pether from New Zealand shared with me this facinating insight into a story related to the HMS Scott Harley.

There are well documented accounts of some of the ships that fled the chaos of Singapore as the Japanese troops were advancing across that small island in the final days before its surrender - these include the tragic story of the SS 'Vyner Brooke' which left on the night of 12 February and, earlier, the SS 'Empire Star' which had left at dawn on that day with a convoy that is variously described as ranging from six to thirty two vessels.

Other vessels mentioned as being in this convoy are 'Gorgon', 'Yoma', 'Delamore', 'Jalibahar/Jalibar', 'Jalakrishna /Jalikrishna' and 'Li sang/Lee sang'. This convoy was apparently accompanied by the light cruiser HMS 'Durham', HMS 'Stronghold' and possibly the HMS 'Kedah'.

No published accounts, however, seem to record the fact that at dawn that day the Royal Navy requisitioned auxiliary minesweeper HMS 'Scott Harley' (620 tons, built 1913) also departed (possibly with the convoy) and was one of the few ships leaving at that time which successfully reached the safety of Batavia (now Jakarta).

Some authors have estimated that only two or three of the approximately 40 ships (i.e. not including small craft such as junks and launches) that left Singapore during 11 - 13 Feb 1942 actually made it to safety and that only about one in four evacuees/escapees during the last week before the surrender reached sanctuary. Our family's recollections include the statement that eight out of the thirty two in the convoy mentioned above safely made it to Batavia, but this cannot be proven.

On the 'Scott Harley' was my grandmother Annie Clark, a New Zealander in her fifties, who had been living in the Far East (as it was called at the time) for some years with her husband and children. This is also a slice of the story of Annie Clark and her daughter Kathleen who both experienced the war as wives of men in Japanese POW camps.

To make it easier to understand the context of her following account of the harrowing last week before surrender and (with the benefit of knowing the massive loss of life and ships escaping Singapore at this time) the very lucky voyage of the HMS 'Scott Harley' I will include some information on the family she refers to in Singapore at the time.

Annie was a gentle lady who, in the decade leading up to the fall of Singapore, had travelled and lived with her husband as he worked in Siam, Borneo, Shanghai, and by 1940 in Malaya. In 1941 they moved to Singapore where her husband Norman "Nobby" Clark (also a New Zealander) was an engineer in the Government Rice Mills. Nobby was a NZ Artillery veteran of the First World War campaign at Gallipoli. Also in Singapore by 1940 were my father Harold Pether (an Englishman and a manager with C.C. Wakefield & Co. - now known as Castrol Oil), mother Kathleen (who was Annie's daughter) and their baby daughter Maureen. Harold wisely put his wife and daughter on a ship to New Zealand in Dec 1941 when the Japanese invaded Malaya.

In 1940 Nobby and Annie had left behind in Kuala Lumpur their 17 year old son John "Jack" Clark, fresh out of boarding school in New Zealand and in his first job as an Assistant with ICI. Malaya Ltd. In 1941 Jack joined up with the Federated Malay States Volunteer Forces, where he was a Private in the 2nd Selangor Battalion.
Nobby Clark and Harold Pether were to become civilian internees after the fall of Singapore - firstly in Changi and then Sime Road Camp. Jack Clark went missing (some recollections point to him being executed by the Japanese) whilst escaping from Singapore's island fortress of Blakang Mati after the surrender on 15 February 1942. He is remembered on the Singapore War Memorial at Kranji (his last days and the FMSVF are the subject of ongoing research by our family).

Michael has sent me an account of Annie's experience during the last days prior to the fall of Singapore and her evacuation to Batavia on the HMS 'Scott Harley' - from Batavia she spent many weeks on ships to India, Ceylon and Australia, before reaching New Zealand in June 1942.The account was written by Annie and her husband (probably in 1961) - According to Michael it seems they are referring to a diary for much of the content.

If anyone can help Michael with any further information related to this ship or to any of the pople mantioned in this contribution Michael would be pleased to hear from you and I can put you in touch with him. I can also forward further information related to Annie Clark's experience that Michael has shared with me if it would help garner more information.

I am also keen to obtain a photo of the HMS Scott Harley should anyone know where I can find one.