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. Regrettably the destroyers kept manoeuvring away from the dinghy so this effort failed. The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), Mon 23 Feb 1942, Page 4 - LAST SHIP FROM SINGAPORE You have corrected this article This article has been corrected by You and other Voluntroves This article has been corrected by Voluntroves 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. I decided with Phillips to take the risk especially as my hand required medical attention. It seems that most the officers and crew died either on board as the ship went down or after taking to the sea in the darkness without a boat or raft. 16.1.42 Motor Launch KELANA (R, 88t) - Sunk by aircraft Malaya. The Mary Rose was escorted to Muntok harbour on Bangka Island where her occupants were taken ashore as prisoners of war. Some people missed their allotted ship, others jumped aboard the first they came upon, some tragically lost their places altogether. Ship Passenger Lists (the 1870s through the 1960s) The GG Archives is a Great Resource for Ship Passenger Lists - USA, Canada, Australia, and Other World Ports, from the 1870s - 1960s. It was attacked by light naval craft and by aircraft. Eventually four of the seven lifeboats were destroyed as well as two rafts. Throughout the daylight hours of 13 February Vyner Brooke laid up in the lee of a small jungle-covered island, but she was attacked late in the afternoon by a Japanese aircraft, fortunately with no serious casualties. Wilkinson was described as a well-liked man, keen on physical fitness, who neither smoked nor drank. 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. A group of about 42 who had been on board the Giang Bee (see below) had taken to a lifeboat before the Giang Bee had been shelled and sunk and managed to reach the eastern coast of Sumatra. This section needs expansion. It was assumed that by noon the Poelau Bras would be in range of any nearby Japanese planes. According to the Straits Times of 24.6.45, the death rate for the migratory camp which began in Muntok and moved to Palembang, back to Banka Island and then to Loembok Linggau was astonishingly high: “…55% of the men died and 33% of the women and children.”. Some even fainted. 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). Specifically my interest relates to the evacuation of civilians and military personnel from Keppel harbour where most of the evacuation ships left from in the last days before Singapore capitulated to the Japanese. However, an awful fate awaited many of those that landed on Radji beach. The Mary Rose, a forty-foot motor launch, would fittingly be probably the last ship out of the colony. Lieut A.C. Carston, RNR – Commander, Temp. Despite evasive action, she was crippled by several bombs and within half an hour rolled over and sunk bow first. Thus thousands of men, women, and children were killed before any could reach land. 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. The Mary Rose, a forty-foot motor launch, would fittingly be probably the last ship out of the colony. The destroyers then left with several hundred women, children and men struggling and drowning in the sea. A hostilities only vessel, of dubious offensive value, LI WO as to be used in an action which would have gladdened Nelson’s heart. These survivors were from such ships as the Giang Bee, the Kuala, The Redang, ….. Not long after 2 pm Vyner Brooke was attacked by several Japanese aircraft. 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. 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. After eight days of hardship, lightly dressed in the burning sun, meager water rations, and little food, they reached a small island. Many planters and miners were aboard. 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. ReferencesStand By To Die, A.V. The Vyner BrookeBuilt in 1928, the SS Vyner Brooke was a British-registered cargo vessel of 1,670 tons. We did not dare light a fire in case the smoke would be visible by the enemy. By the way, it was amusing when the officer went to Hancock’s cabin and took over the ship. Approximately 150 survivors eventually made it ashore at Banka Island, after periods of between eight and 65 hours in the water. Superstition was the last thing on anybody's mind. Sunk by aircraft 2 March 1945. January 1942, her stern and after gun were blown right off killing twenty-six with another four missing, presumed dead. 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. 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. However, some of the ships had enough surviving passengers who were picked to form an identifiable group. This description also consists of a list of all the passengers who were on board the Giang Bee and who either survived or who died. The decision to continue on this course of action was not made any easier as they kept coming across the bayoneted bodies of other Allied soldiers and airmen. Many ships and other craft were sunk or disabled and there was considerable loss of life. Water flooded the engine room resulting in the engine stalling. Several of the volunteers could not take the heat and had to give up. Up until the outbreak of war with the Japanese, Vyner Brooke plied the waters between Singapore and Kuching, under the flag of the Sarawak Steamship Company. Lieut. 2. Gradually the raft drifted toward Bangka Island and to their delight they saw a launch traveling in their direction. Billowing smoke and flame the ship sank slowly, going down by the bows, as the men swam for their lives. Four hours later Empire Star sustained three direct hits as six dive-bombers came out of the tropical dawn – fourteen were killed and seventeen badly injured. The ship had been built in Hong Kong in 1938 and incorporated bulletproof armor around its bridge as a result of regular sniper fire on ships plying their trade on the river. I did not even realise that I had been hit in the back by shrapnel in six places. 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. On the evening of 12 February 1942, Vyner Brooke was one the last ships carrying evacuees to leave Singapore. Some other women refused to leave their wounded husbands behind on board the ship and would have lost their lives in the sinking. 42 Collier ZANNIS L CAMBANIS (R, 5317t, 1920) - Mined off Singapore. It was within a hundred and fifty yards of the GB when an RAF or Dutch bomber (Anna Silberman and Gordon Reis in their diaries state there were two bombers) from Sumatra suddenly appeared and began circling overhead; the Japanese destroyers opened fire, the bomber (s) flew off, and the Japanese recalled their launch. When Michael Pether was doing the research for the description above, it became apparent that the vast majority of the women and children who were lost in this awful attack on the “GB” would have been the first people ordered onto the first two lifeboats and would have drowned that night in the sea. This was where it appears that at least half of the women, children and men missing from the “Giang Bee” lost their lives and two survivors recorded in anguish the moment as one of horror – firstly Mr. M. J. V. Miller in his diary (IWM 88/62/1) recalled “…I shall never forget that as long as I live, and the sound of little children calling out for their mothers will be forever in my ears, it was simply heartrending…” and also in the diary of Gordon Reis “…when I got into our lifeboat the screams for help were appalling – mostly women’s voices – obviously from the damaged lifeboats and now struggling in the sea…”. A total of 12 aircraft were divided into three formations for the attack. Good old Admiralty ham. What has transpired I do not know at time of writing but they must have been say 300 miles north of Batavia. 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. Gradually men made their own decisions on what to do next. As they hoisted themselves aboard the life rafts they realized that the Japanese had not yet finished with them when one of their ships steamed through the survivors machine gunning the men in the water and on the rafts. The list of ships below includes ships for which information can be found in the timetables/sailing lists or other publications shown on this website. 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. Sweat poured off us, trickling down our chests and making furrows through the black dust that caked us. Perhaps never before in the long period of recorded history was there anything to compare with it. This resulted in a posthumous Victoria Cross for Wilkinson, and four medals and six mentioned in dispatches to members of the crew. SS Redang. The reason for this tragic loss of life was as a result of a large Japanese naval force which was anchored at the head of the Banka Straits directly in front of the ships carrying evacuees. This convoy was made up of the following ships; British troop ships; Devonshire (11275 GRT, built 1939), Empress of Asia (16909 GRT, built 1913). Three other ships in company were all lost. They contain the names of hundreds of evacuees from Singapore. She was captured by Japanese forces 24 km (15 miles) off Muntok on 15 February at 03:00hrs. [To learn more about Miss Higgs and what happened to the party left behind click HERE]. Early passenger lists were handwritten, but once printing presses became commonplace on many steamships, the ship manifests became a souvenir of the voyage. 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