Janet - Do you have a photo at all of the Orduna, coming back into Liverpool ?
She was used right up untill the late 50's a a troop carrier, also
Ron - Released prisoners sailing home
The ORDUNA was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast in 1913 for the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. She was a 15,507 gross ton ship, length 550.3ft x beam 67.3ft, one funnel, two masts, triple screw and a speed of 14 knots. There was passenger accommodation for 240-1st, 180-2nd and 700-3rd class. Launched on 2nd Oct.1913, she left Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Valparaiso on 19th Feb.1914. She made two voyages on this run and was then chartered to Cunard Line and used on their Liverpool - New York service until 1919. On 1st Apr.1920 she resumed Liverpool - Rio - Montevideo - Valparaiso sailings and on 28th May 1921 commenced Hamburg - Southampton - New York voyages under charter to Royal Mail Steam Packet Co, who purchased her in 1923. Rebuilt in 1926 to oil burning engines, and with accommodation for 234-1st, 186-2nd and 483-3rd class passengers. In 1927 she returned to Pacific Steam Nav. Co and resumed Liverpool - Rio - Montevideo - Valparaiso service. In 1930 she transferred to Liverpool - Panama - Valparaiso sailings, and stayed on this route until 1940. In July 1940 she sailed from Liverpool to Lisbon, repatriating French nationals after the fall of France, and on this voyage, sailed fully illuminated at night under an international safe conduct guarantee. In February 1941 she was requisitioned as a troopship. After the fall of Madagascar, she carried the Vichy French governor and his staff from Tamatave to Durban and on her homeward voyage, carried 500 French naval officers and ratings to the UK to join the Free French forces. On the fall of Abyssinia, she took part of the West African Division from Berbera to Durban where they were transhipped, and later was employed ferrying American troops from Oran to Naples in the final phases of the Italian campaign. In August 1945 she was the commodore ship of the invasion force which was to re-occupy Malaya, and after the surrender of Japan, she carried 1,700 prisoners of war from Rangoon to Liverpool in September. After this she carried out trooping voyages to the East Indies, Indo-China and Japan and in October 1946 carried away the last British troops from French North Africa. She completed her last trooping voyage from Liverpool to Singapore and back in Nov.1950. By then, after 10 years of steady trooping, with little time for refit or proper maintenance and 36 years old, she was in poor shape and of little use as a passenger ship. Therefore in 1951 she was sold for scrap and broken up at Dalmu
CHITRAL: 15,248 grt; 524 x 70; Alex. Stephen & Sons, Glasgow, 1925; Australia service; 320 passengers; sisters: CATHAY and COMORIN; broken up Dalmuir 1953.
Sailed from Rangoon 1st October 1945 carrying Ex-prisoners of the Japanese, passed Gibraltar 17th October and docked at Southampton about the 28th October.
Keith - You've done it to me again, flown to Rangoon, home on the "Orduna", where did that come from?
I have yet to get hold of a full list of ships that sailed for home from Rangoon, I know of a few, but not the full list.
Anything else you are going to surprise me with, when I least expect it?
Janet - My dad got my brother and my Mum a present each at Port Siad when they came through the canal, My Mums was a leather handbag and my brothers was a Doll !, cos they had run out of train sets !
The doll was a raggy doll with a rubber face which eventually perished when I was a kid, and it was stuffed with sawdust, this dolly's name was "Orduna" cos when my Mum & my brother ( 3.5 yrs) met my Dad at Cardiff station he said to my brother Orduna brought daddy safely home to you and Mummy, and Orduna she was.
I have letters he wrote from Rangoon, in one says that the army lorries were blowing there horns and careering all over the road while the natives driving their bullock carts, took no notice and carried on much the same as they had done for hundreds of years ! he loved the moral there somewhere.
They were flown out from captivity to Rangoon on USA loaned Dakotas, crewed by RAF, these Dakotas I know were used to drop supplies into the camp, before liberating forces got there, and he always insisted these aircraft had flown Indian Gurkhas IN and took POW's OUT and did God knows how many trips !
When first at Rangoon they were in a sort of hospital, where, the matron (holding the rank of Capt. ) who looked like she chewed bricks for breakfast, had a go at every man as she came down the ward and then proceeded to give Dad a rollocking for not taking his tablets, the fact was he had taken his , the tablets on the locker were left by the bloke before him, he was pretty jarred off by this and he replied that he had taken his tablets and that they had had enough of the Japanese being b*st*rds they didn't need her to join in too ", she was evidentally flabbergasted, and when I asked him " weren't you afraid of being put on a charge ", he looked at me with such a look( as much as to say "stupid boy PIKE") and then gently said " No, I
couldn't have given a hoot,... put on a charge , by the British Army, I could have taken that after what we'de just done, but I wasn't able to take her being a bitch to all the other poor sods who were too frit to speak up for themselves"
They sailed from Rangoon and called in at Columbo and the Tamils made alot of fuss of them, and they called into Gibraltar I believe but didn't have time to disembark there though.
He and his mate Dick Mester were determined to see Blighty at the first opportunity, and seeing as it was hot and they had slept on deck for the whole of the journey, they gladly both suffered 2 nights of October temperatures, just to say they saw England as soon as poss.
The Orduna docked at Liverpool and as his foot left the gangplank and he stepped onto the quayside he vowed never to leave England again, which he never did untill nearly 80 years old when he returned to Thailand to find the graves of his mates.
He wrote a card from The River Kwai Village Hotel saying he was now "satisfied" he had seen Lloydy's grave, neat and tended and he last remembered tipping him off the blankett, naked into a hole, cos they needed the blankets and the clothes.
He also gave all the gardenign staff tips which apparently is not encouraged and the Head Man compalined, so he gave him one too , and he said he then seemed happy enough.
Whie at the River Kwai village resort, a hotel worker who knew he was a survivor brought his 2 little boys to see him, it broke my Aunts heart ( she travelled with him ) as these little bouys bowed to him and sung him a song, she says she will NEVER forget that moment ( my dad was her favorite brother , she worshipped him as a kid and still worships his memory ).
Dear God, how could they ever start to recover, I think that despite their moods, tantrums and tempers, they all did brilliantly.
Janet - Dad always said the welcome at Liverpool was tremendous, children out with flags etc, and he said a small number of boats blowing their horns etc and a boat, which I believe was probably one of the Mersey Ferries or similar with a welcome home sign on it, he would become chocked up ( as I am now ) whenever he saw a TV coverage of anything nautical like that where the flotilla of little boates boats go out to escort them in, also at Liverpool awaiting them were ex German POW's who helped them with their kit bags, my Dad always laughed cos one of these chaps said words to the effect " here are mate, I'le help you with your bag ", Dad thanked him and said it was OK he was fine, when the bloke laughed and said, " Don't be silly Short Arse, the kit bag is almost as tall as you ", that tickled him and he accepted gratefully !
On the journey home on the Orduna, they had been given "chocolate" and oranges, the oranges were very bitter so no one really ate them except a few boys like my Dad who knew they were good for you however bitter they were, and the Chocolate was so FANTASTIC that rather than eat it, my Dad saved his ( chox & oranges ) all the way to give to my mum and my brother, well he has never been more dissaoppointed in his life cos my brother who was only 3.5 years said they were both "orrible" and wouldn't eat either and even my mother after 6 years of rationing had a job to eat either too, but my grandmother not wasting anything, made orange sponge pudding,orange suet pudding, orange marmalade and god knows what , she then proceeded to grate the chocolate and use it at every conceivable opportunity in cooking !
Something I forgot to say was after they were released form the hospital with the matron from Hell, they were met personally by Lord and Lady Mountbatten and my father always totally worshiped them both after that, he said they were so wonderfull, Lady Mountbatten was in charge of the hospitality and Louis said " Bla Bla Bla( all the things you would expect him to say ) go and see the Missus and she'lle organise some tea", or words very very close.
Do you remember in the late 60's or 70's a TV programme about Lord Mountbatten ? well we had to watch this in Silence and didn't dare breath or blow our noses so he could cherish every word.
My father was really very sad at the way Lord Mountbatten died and my son born on 1st Sept 79 has the 2nd name Louis, as a mark of respect not only to the Lord but to my Father.
George - My repatriation was somewhat different. I came home alone!
Being a merchant seamen and beholden to no authority, and an American at that, I convinced an Aussie Dakota pilot to take me from Pakan Baroe, Sumatra, to Singapore, before anyone else was brought out. There were only twelve Americans at Pakan Baroe, and I cannot recall who came with me. At Singapore, we were befriended by a United States Army Air Force contingent and put up for the night in the Raffles Hotel. Soon, maybe the next day, a four-engined DC-8 took a group, including women and children, to Calcutta via Saigon and Rangoon. At Calcutta I was admitted to a U. S. Army hospital, where the first medical personnel I had seen began an evaluation. I hadn't even been de-loused! If I needed it!! After about a week of drinking much beer and eating many tuna fish and butter sandwiches, I was released to the care of the United Seamens' Service, a private organization which looked after people such as me. In a very few days, they arranged an Air Force flight across India via Agra (where I had the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal) to Karachi. There, and quite alone, equipped with a Transworld Airlines ticket purchased by the United States Government's War Shipping Administration with a price tag of US$1,244 (I still have the receipt), I embarked on a flight to the west. Much to the confusion of the United States Air Force personnel who I encountered along the way, I was wearing government issue khakis without any rank or insignia.
Also, I had a high priority classification to prevent my being "bumped" off the flight if any high-ranked officers desired to board at some point. We refueled at a number of exotic places: Bahrein, Cairo, Tunis, Casablanca, San Miguel in the Azores, Newfoundland, before going on to New York. The trip encompassed overnight stops at Cairo, Casablanca, and Newfoundland, where I slept in Army Air Force quarters.
Arriving in New York on a Saturday afternoon, the Red Cross took me to the United Seamens' Service hotel in the city from whence I telephoned my home. Later, I went out sightseeing and had dinner in a Chinese restaurant. At that point in my life, that's all I could handle - shrimp nasi goreng!
Fortunately, a wealthy relative was in New York on business matters and was living in the great Waldorf-Astoria hotel. I went to see him early Sunday morning. We had a great day together. On Monday I went to the offices of United States Lines, my employer, to report our story, was given some money to buy a proper uniform, did that, and the following day with the above mentioned relative took the train to Boston where I was met by my family. That was October 11, 1945. Less than three months later, I signed on for a voyage to Liverpool and return in the same position I held in the AMERICAN LEADER, but isn't it interesting this ship's name was BRITAIN VICTORY!!!
John Baxter - Janet's story about the POWs meeting Lady Mountbatten hit a chord with my own father's experiences. He was one of the first if not the first Jap POW met by Lady Mountbatten after the surrender. She asked him whether he wanted to ask anything and, after being a little dumbstruck ( she was the first European woman he had set eyes on for 3 and a half years remember) he replied "Yes, Maam, I wonder whether I'll be home in time for Christmas?"
She said -we'll do what we can for you and all the others". And she was true to her word
The sequel to this story is quite remarkable. My father was still suffering on his return from the effects of various tropical diseases. He was told to recuperate with his parents in Ealing and report back to the Army doc 6 months later. On doing so he was greeted with the immortal phrase "Good God, I thought you'd be dead by now!" Only then did Dad realise that he was still quite ill although he didn't think he was!
As a last resort they sent him to Papworth Hospital which was a TB place in those days. He survived thanks to their regime and settled down in the village after finally being passed as fit to leave the army in 1951 (whereupon they took away his disability pension!). Papworth Hospital always organised an annual Flower Show and around 1956 Lady Mountbatten came to open it. Dad asked the organisers if he could be introduced to her without saying why. So on the day of the fete, the Papworth boss brought her over to Dad and said this man wanted to speak to her. She looked at Dad and said "Weren't you the person who asked me whether he'd be home in time for Christmas?!" For a second time, Dad was lost for words, thinking it remarkable that she had remembered him after 11 years! My father must have made a considerable impression on her just as he has done since for many people when he recounts his experiences, even at the age of 83. After that prognosis by the doctor, it is all the more remarkable how sprighty and physically and mentally fit he is.
Like in some of the other e-mails recently, it took a long time for him to reveal what he had been through and to visit the site of the Jap camp (Kamoo) at Inatsuki again some 50 years later to meet up with one of his civilian captors (with whom he now regularly corresponds) took some doing.
His ingenuity still astounds the family and his magpie nature means that, if you should want a left hand threaded doodle wangler or whatever, my father will usually find one in his shed! If he can't find one he'll try and make it and if he can't make it he'll sure as hell fix the problem in another ingenious way. A remarkable man even if he is my dad and I'm biased!
The story about when, some 35 years later, by sheer coincidence, he actually met the commander of one of the flotilla of submarines that attacked the Ussuri Maru and its convoy when he was en route to Japan and the fact that he saw the Nagasaki bomb go off will have to wait another time!
Janet - >John that is remarkable that your dad had the same thoughts about Edwina Mountbatten as mine, but also that your Dad was from Ealing.
My Dad was in Ealing and joined up at Acton on 4th Sep 39, they was also another bloke, I believe his name was Blackham, whos parents kept a Baby wear and childrens clothes shop in Acton, have you ever heard of him ?
When my Father returned, he my Mum and oldest brother returmned to Ealing and were eventually given a pre fab on the golf links at Southall !
John Baxter - >Janet, I'll ask Dad whether he knew of your father and let you know.
Eddie - I Reckon everyone's repatriation must have been different, depending on each individual's circumstances, and present state of mind at the time, Geoff has a slight problem with this, as being a survivor of countless "Jap style sea cruises" (his words) he had an uncanny knack of "switching off" when aboard a ship and invariably in the past after the first couple of trips knew nothing about them after boarding ship until finding "terra firma." Geoff Knows he was discharged from a hospital in Singapore on 4.10.45 But then remembered nothing until he found himself on parade at Liverpool station on 18.12.45 about to embark on a train To R.A.F Cosford.
At which time he was informed his 12 kitbags had been placed in the guard wagon, Geoff had no Idea where the 12 kitbags had come from let alone knew how he had got there.
The bags were later found to contain numerous cans of fruit, and cigarettes, navy whites, plus a multitude of warm weather clothing, blankets, etc. both army and Navy (he was later informed that all these Items were made available in countless quantities during the trip home he could often be found "just filling another one" in between his bouts of recurring Malaria and constant eating (which accounted for his being 14.5 stone and very bloated at the time, later to be diagnosed as wet Beri beri, due to eating enormous amounts of the wrong type of food in the circumstances. Within 5 days the fluid drained and he was back to 7 stones).
Given the dates and that we know that his ship called at Columbo, Port Said and Gibraltar on return. Does anyone have any clue as to which ship he may have been on?
(Being the Gentleman that he is Geoff assures us that the contents of the kit-bags went to the very best of causes.)
As an aside, On his departure from the UK in 1941 Geoff had been moved from a "reserve" list to ground crew status overnight and with only hours warning found himself on the Empress of Asia sailing south eventually disembarking in Durban, and then on a Coastal steamer Northwards to Cairo. During this time MOD records had not caught up with him and he was posted as AWOL and later as a deserter. So at around the time of his Capture at Tasikmalaya, his family, friends and neighbours were being informed and interrogated as to his whereabouts.
approx. 18 months later a close friend who was in the army and had travelled with Geoff aboard the Empress of Asia, returned to the UK after being injured on the European Front, When he heard of Geoffs being a Deserter he immediately contacted the R.A.F and told them what he knew, Unfortunately records were still not what they should have been and so Geoff was then posted as M.I.A , it having been thought he had gone down with the ship in Singapore Imagine after all he had been through at having doors slammed in his face by people who believed him to be a deserter, especially those who had lost family and friends, and those who merely fainted at the sight of him because after so long being missing they thought he had gone forever. 99% of people he knew were in one of these groups of people,
A few months later he was finally re united with his sister she also fainted (his parents having both died some years earlier) and during his initial meeting with her she received all of his letters to her from the time he was captured to the day he set sail for the UK, POW postcards, the lot.
The following week he also received another kit bag, this time it was his original kit he had left behind on the SS Yoma in Jan 1942 when he and over 200 ground crew had been disembarked in Sumatra to fight a rearguard action as the present establishment of P1 and P2 were evacuated to Java. only to return to Oosthaven and find the Yoma had sailed without them. Unbelievably everything was still intact as packed.
Was it what these men went through or was it just a symptom of that era, that made them what they were, Loving Dads, doting Granddads, stubborn, independent, never forceful and always thoughtful of others, Gentlemen without reproach. "Real Men" as I tell my not so young kids.
Prime Example:-as some of you may Know Geoff had a fair bit of input into the Sumatra Railway Memorial in Staffordshire along with Mr Jack plant and others.
When during the days leading up to the unveiling of the memorial last year Geoff became ill and was not able to travel to it alone and so unfortunately did not attend, when I Questioned as to why he had not said anything to us or asked for our help with transport, etc. his reply was 'I thought you would have better things do 'as if?
Ron - >Eddie, like Geoff my pop could shut things out. He would be in the room but his mind was elsewhere, a pressure valve for the brain, I suppose.
Pop said he would completely shut out the camps, until his death he insisted talking to his dad got him through the war, his dad died before the war in 1936. Creepy isn't it.
They were and are 'Gentlemen', not many are made like that any more.
Jean - >Eddie, If it helps any, my Dad came home by the same route on the Gilwarra. He was home in October 45 so back before yours but the same ship may have made the same journey more than once.
Jean - There has been a lot of talk lately about repatriation and I wondered if you may like to read some words as it happened from someone who was there.
After my Dad died my Mum gave me some papers that he had been holding. In amongst them was a journal that he had kept. One of the pages related to the journey home and was written on board the Gilwarra en route to Liverpool via Colombo and Gib. This is the first time that I have shared his actual words on this site. They touch my heart. Despite the hardship and cruelty that he had suffered there is no self-pity and, I believe, they show a great deal of compassion and spirit.
The journey home.
10am. 11th October approx. 4 hours sail from the shores of England. At least 1200 of our complement of 1772 ex-POWs aboard are walking around like caged tigers. 80% of the men are just a bundle of nerves and eagerly awaiting the moment when this ship docks at Liverpool. Some of the men have not seen their parents or wives for over 8 years and now that only a few hours separate them they find it almost impossible to control themselves and have quite lost all interest in food. One man, in particular, had the sympathy of the entire ship, and here is the reason. When the ship arrived at Colombo this man’s wife sent a telegram to tell him how pleased she was at his return and was waiting patiently for him. When we arrived in Gib. this man’s mother sent another cable to inform him that his wife had died since he had left Colombo. Other chaps received cables at Gib. to tell them that their wives had deserted them. This was heartbreaking to a man who had suffered brutalities and indignities at the hands of our slant eyed Jap brethren. I had seen some of them almost dead from beatings, dysentery and cholera, but they still smiled at you. But when news of their wives treachery reached them, they just couldn’t even speak. God, my heart bled for these poor devils. At every opportunity these chaps had purchased various types of presents to take home and had spent all that they had, and when the news came, all that stuff went overboard to the sharks, who in my opinion deserved it better than these very loose women who should be destroyed.
As usual rumours home started again. This time it is that we are being held up for 12 hours on account of the strike at Liverpool and feeling is very much against the Dockers. The men returning to England are very worried at the state of affairs at home. First they heard was dock strike, bomb repair strike, and one thing that makes men angry is the fact that thousands of British soldiers died so that England could hold her head high among other nations. These soldiers did not die because they wanted medals or monuments, but that we could live in our own. But God it’s hard to think that we have people in England who are showing their appreciation to these men by helping to ruin the country that these men died for. When forced marches of 30, 50, 60 miles were in front of them, when rations just weren’t there, medical supplies inadequate and comrades dying by the 100, these soldiers did not mutter like treacherous rats and go on strike, no, but they all said the same thing, “lets get it over and done with and get back to Gods own country”.
Ron - Thanks for sharing your dads journal entry.
My pop said they also didn't get any mail till Gibraltar, one of the ex-prisoners got news his wife and son had been killed in an air raid a few months after he left Britain, nobody stopped him going over the side.
Janet - >Ron & Jean, the story of the chap going over the side is very sad, a story Dad told was of a Londoner in Singapore, sitting in a chair out on the lawn of this house in Thompson Road, fanning himseld with a peice of paper as the Japanese were bombing and machine gunning , Dad commented to one of the others How could he be so cool, and was told his wife, children, mum & sister had all been lost in a London air raid early in the war ( the house took a direct hit ) and therefore didn't give a hoot.
Dad never knew wether he made it home or not, but I guess probably not, as he had no incentive to battle on.
Janet - >Jean, your Dads journal is wonderful reading, Like you say no self pity, what a lesson to us all.
My Dad also heard the stories of the men whoes wives had remarried,( as the wives were asked to pressume them dead, my mother refused but the army were putting pressure on them so to save their army wives pay I guess.).
He had already worked out a contingencey plan if my mother had too, he always said he would have arrived at her house said "Hello love I'm home get your clean clothes, coat and your handbag and we're off".
However there was no need, my Mum had gone back to her parents in Wales with my brother and met him at Carfiff station in the same clothes and coat as she waived him goodbye in in 1941 when he went back from embarkation leave.
Rumour has it after the hugging kissing etc he piped up with something similar to " sorry I was a bit longer than expected, has your Mum got the kettle on ?" - MEN !
Eddie - Very fascinating and interesting stories, makes it worth while logging on. Like i've already stated it was either the era they lived in or what they went through that made them what they were in later life, hard men, real men but, also real Gentlemen, and brilliant Dads and Granddads (strange but my own not so young one's are 28 & 25yrs but I have no wish, to be a granddad, cant even think about the idea without cringing)
I have just heard of couple of guys who's wives, girlfriends, etc. had merely been informed of the men being KIA or MIA and had then taken up with other people until apparently in early 1944 (believed March or April) a broadcast was made on the Radio (wireless as it was then) giving a list of all the men believed captured in Java, (must have been a long broadcast) First I have heard of this so I'm trying to find out more anyone any idea's where to start?
>Jean, thanks for the info on the Gilwarra, i'm trying to trace the exact sailing dates of that ship but so far drawn a blank but will keep trying.
Janet - Eddie, a friend my father made many years after the war at work , a man called John Roberts has been a fepow and been on the railway but they didn't know each other during that period.
His wife had moved several times during the war owing to being bombed out on about 6 or 7 occassions, and he was also in a state of mental trauma on release and never wrote to her, she never received a notice that he was alive as the powers that be couldn't find her address and he turned up to find her sister who told him she had remaried after being told he was MIA pressumed dead. There is however a little twist at the end that will make you smile.
While John was there, he got in contact and went to see her and their daughter, her sister agreed he could stay with her for a few weeks.
During the time he was with her sister an visiting his daughter every day, his wife receives a letter from the new husband where ever he was stationed, saying sorry, I have now taken up with an old flame I have re - met after many years, GOODBYE.
Like John always said he looked to the heavens and said "Thank you ", they went on to have 3 more children and live together happily for very many years, I know they celebrated their Ruby wedding before he died.
Jean - if it helps, on another page of Dad's journal he says that " Ships Captain still thinks that this ship will dock at Liverpool and will be amongst the first 3 home". Bearing in mind that when he wrote what I posted earlier he timed it at 10am on 11th October and they were just 4 hours out of Liverpool. This may assist if you know how long the journey took in those days or when the first ships left.
Stuart - >Eddie, Umm, probably sourced via Red Cross in Japan, I expect based on the sadly-now-missing BRE Records at Changi "Nelson's Rolls"
Keith - First, hello Jean, good to hear from you, and thank you for your note. You might like to look in the book I returned to see where Peacock sailed from, I think from Rangoon on the "Corfu".
I have not added stories about my father to the exchanges that have taken place, strange as it may seem, because it is still painful, even though dad passed away in 1986, so that explains my silence, for those who are interested.
I recently purchased a book on the Postal History of FEPOWs during W.W.2. By now you are all thinking "how sad, he must get out more!" Not so, stacks of detail regarding Singapore, the Fall of same, Changi, and draws heavily on the David Nelson files, plus it gives a list of repatriation ships that sailed from Singapore.
This is the first of several volumes, and I am going to write to the author regarding my dad, as his father sent him POW postcards which I still have. The first book is put together from such information, so it figures the next one will be. I will ask if he has a list of ships that sailed from Rangoon.
Jean has one, Janet has one, plus I think others included Corfu (Peacock), Ormonde (Pam and John Douglass), Devonshire, a Hospital ship (Donald Smith), so there's a start.
Eddie, I may have lost the plot, but would not Geoff have been repatriated from Singapore rather than Rangoon. Just a thought, but again all I can do is write a letter, and ask the question.
As Captain Oates once said "I may be some time". In the book, it lists the last ship as arriving Liverpool on 16/11/45. I am not sure it was the last ship, as the book is Vol 1, Singapore and Malaya 1942-1945, The Changi Connection. POWs returning home followed for the most part the route of Colombo, through the Suez Canal to Port Said, Gibraltar, and home, mainly Liverpool, but also Southampton. But this is only the ships listed from Singapore, those from Rangoon may have followed another route, but at present I am not too sure.
I have read a few books now on POWs returning home, and a number of instances where the wives had remarried, or been killed during the war, and the effect it had on them. I am trying to remember which books.
Eddie - many thanks for your quick replies and help, Geoff is really to ill to ask too many questions at the moment so i'm just going from his writings of his memoirs to try and fill in a few blanks before we attempt to get them published (An ongoing saga since 1987) Geoff knows he was released from hospital on 04/10/45 at which time his pay book states he was paid £2 the next entries are £2 on 10/10/45 and £2 on18/10/45 all entries were signed by D J Copley so he either sailed immediately he was released and the paymaster returned on the same ship or he did not sail until after 18/10/45 which is unlikely as he says he only switched off on going aboard ship so unless he was drunk as a skunk for a fortnight on 2 quid a week the former seems more likely
Ron - You can add my pops to your list:
CHITRAL: Sailed from Rangoon 1st October 1945 carrying Ex-prisoners of the Japanese, passed Gibraltar 17th October and docked at Southampton about the 28th October.
Jean - I have a couple more names for you. The Empire Pride and the Empire Logan both sailed out of Rangoon. There were a huge number and by the end of October 45 22 had been met by the Middle East Commission at Suez. Many more came during November and December.
I have looked at my Dad's Army Certificate of Service and it lists him as
Home: 4.9.37 - 12.9.38
Malaya: 13.9.38 - 14.2.42
Far East: 17.9.45 - 11.10.45
Home: 12.10.45 - 26.5.46
It would seem that he wasn't considered to be in service while he was in captivity and, although he is listed as being in the Far East until 11th October, I know that he docked in Liverpool on that date. I am not clear of the date that he was released and wonder if the 17th September was the date that he sailed for home.
I'm not sure if any of this is useful but, who knows, every bit of the jigsaw helps.
Thanks for your kind words. If you have anymore information on any of the ships I would be pleased to hear it.
By the way, did you know the story about the Ormonde? One repatriate had written, from memory, a version of Pygmalian. The welfare officer was commandeered to play Eliza Doolittle. The play was in request 6 times so that all on board could see it.
Keith - >Jean, My dad's record from his Army Service Record reads as follows:
Home - 2/1/28 - 5/12/28
Malta - 6/12/28 - 7/5/32
Home - 8/5/32 - 22/2/39
Malaya - 23/2/39 - 15/2/42
Japan (POW) 16/2/42 - 27/10/45
Home - 28/10/45 - 18/5/51
There was no way it took a day to get to Malta in 1928, on a troopship, which may give an indication how the Army termed periods of service.
My father was liberated from the last camp he was in, Takuri in Burma on 26/8/45, that is when his medical records was signed in what is left in his original pay book he kept through the camps.
Note his record states he was a POW until 27/10/45. How he returned home I will never know, but I am trying to find out.
He told me he had came home over the "hump", the "hump" being the Himalayas, so he may have flown part of the way home.
His medical record does not make good reading either:
Thailand - Malaria - 1/43 - 11/44 BT & MT WITH RELAPSES
Ulcers 1/43 - 8/44
Beri beri & Oedana of legs 2/43
The spellings are as in the record, no attempt to correct.
It was signed by a Captain of I believe the Indian Medical Service, but states the camp was in Thailand. I have been advised that it was not, and it was not on the Burma - Siam Railway, but on the Mergui Road.
I will advise all when I get more info on the ships, and thank you for sharing your dad's record.
Janet - >Keith, that is an interesting one isn't it.
I guess all those years ago they never dreamt we would all be sitting here now, looking for answers, I guess they just thought "that;ll do "
Every telegram my Dad send my Mum said the same thing " srrived safely in India - Home soon- love Jack"
When I asked him Why ? he said in those days we called it all India including Burma and Ceylon,
We had never been further than the local seaside" , any way what ealse do you put in a telegram ? although he could tell you Exactly every stop they made coming home, even laying for 3 days just outside the suez canal to let traffic come the other way.
He did however send 2 telegrams that were slightly different " arrived Liverpool safely-home soon-love Jack, and " Cardiff 15:35 ".
He found difficulty in composition but could tell you anything you wanted verbally
Ron - Here are some home bound troop ships.
>Jean can not find a picture or information on the Gilwarra could this possibly be the Dilwara
TAIREA: In 1945 she was used to repatriate Prisoners of war from Hong Kong to India.
DILWARA: She trooped between Singapore - Calcutta - Andaman Islands, and Siam - Penang in 1945. Nov.1960 was bought by the China Navigation Co and renamed KUALA LUMPUR. Refitted, she was used as a pilgrim ship to Jeddah and was eventually scrapped at Taiwan in 1971. [Merchant Fleets by Duncan Haws, vol.11, British India S.N.Co.]
Jean - >Ron, it's possible. I spoke with Mum and she says she has a letter written to her by my Dad when he was on board ship and it has the name in it. I am seeing her this coming weekend and she says that she will have the letter for me to see. I'll let you know after then. I could have miss-heard it. D & G sound very similar over the phone.
Roger - Another ship for your collection: my Dad says he was on the "Orbita" arriving Liverpool in November (I don't have the precise date).
1914 - 1950 from 1921-23 chartered to Royal Mail's UK - New York service, 1923 transferred to Royal Mail ownership, 1926 reverted to PSNC, 1950 scrapped.
He remembers that it passed close enough to Crete for him to watch the mountainous skyline there. I presume it must have sailed from Rangoon, because he too uses the expression 'over the hump,' referring to the journey by Dakota shuttle, over the mountains from Thailand to Burma (presumably a route almost parallel with the infamous railway). He was at Ubon camp at the end of the war. For a long time I thought that too was on the railway (he'd also been at Wampo, Chungkai, Nong Pladuk and Nakom Paton), but after the railway was complete he was in a group sent to do ship / barge unloading just downstream of Bangkok itself, and then to Ubon, which is way out east in Thailand, relatively near the Laos border. The work there was clearance of the ground for an airfield, which was never completed. That camp different from his previous ones in another espect, too: the guards were drawn from the Japanese Navy. A very few years after the war (long before I was born in '53) he did a small watercolour painting of an audience of POWs sitting around the end of one of the atap huts at Ubon, watching other POWs perform a makeshift theatre show. I think I recall my Grandmother saying that it was 'Babes in the Wood'. It hung in her home in Bedhampton, nr. Havant, Hants until I was in my teens, but was then sold, with the rest of the house contents. I should never have let that happen!
Janet - I am extreemly interested that your Dad was on the job clearing the way for an airstrip that was never finished, My Dad insisted that his own Stf Sgt Hughes was killed by the same bomb as Capt Warner ( spelling ? ) I can not find anything that fits on the cwgc site, they were supposed to be clearing and helping build an airstrip on the border when they were killed by allied bombing. But this was hearsay, my Dad wasn't on that job himself.
I have a lovely story about Stf Sgt Hughes, he was quite the gentleman and very fond of socialising with all the officers, the day they were taken prisoner they were all in this large house in Thompson Rd, Singapore. Stf Sgt Hughes was upstairs with the officers playing cards and 'the boys' were playing cards or similar downstairs.
The door opened and a Jap soldier stood there, he came in and handed cigarettes out and asked for the officer in charge. Dad was the only Cpl there at the time and called upstairs to Hughes " Sarg, there's a bloke here who wants to see you ", Hughes shouted " Who is it " and Dad replied that he didn't know his name. With that Hughes came thundering down the stairs, cursing my Dad cos he had got him up from his winning hand, Dad said his face was a picture, and he softly called my father all kinds of things under his breath for having him on !
Does anyone know which camp Dr Robert Hardy was in when the war finished please and where abouts it was in Siam ?
Keith - The last camp Hardie was in was Tamuang, an ex Group 4 camp. It was to this camp the small party arrived, of which your father was I believe a member to tell them the war was over. This party it notes, came in from another camp.
RSM Edkins, 2nd Battalion, North Saffordshire Regiment took the camps surrender.
The camp was at 39km point on the Railway, in Thailand not far from the boarder with Burma, not near Laos, but I would need to look at a map to be sure. The place Roger mentions was a major airbase for the USAF during the Vietman war, and is still used to this day I believe.
Janet - The name Edkins is very familiar, he met him after the war, quite by accident. somwehere or other, I wonder about Hughes and Warner they were deffinately building an airstrip, which is why the allies were bombing it, but where keith I don't know. It would make sense the old man was up near Burma cos they had been in Tavoy with Pitt till March or Arpril. Your'e a gem.
Ron - >Keith, Looking for a picture of the 'Corfu' I came across this at:
Rangoon was a mess - no constant electricity, no mains water but with our electrical knowledge, we soon overcame this at our Head Quarters, a large and imposing house that had once belonged to the 'match king' of Burma (a Burmese Bryant and May mogul).
We had Japanese POWs working for us now, repairing the house and roadways somehow they didn’t seem so fearsome now!
Of course, my travelling days were over and the job was almost desk bound with lots of administration. I bought a bicycle and explored Rangoon and its outskirts, going to the famous Shweddagon Pagoda with its great golden spires and many other places.
Eventually I was repatriated from Rangoon. On the appointed day we steamed up the Irrawaddy river in small launches with all our kit when suddenly she hove in sight of a very small single funnel ship of 12,000 tons, 'The Corfu', but at least this time I had a cabin and she was bound for 'Blighty'.
We were a very mixed bag aboard that ship, some old sweats from the regular peacetime army though most were like me, wartime soldiers. Although, as a Warrant Officer, I now enjoyed the afore-said cabin, I found that the old 'Regular' WO’s who knew the ropes, had ganged up against me already and I was doing Orderly WO every day and had to accompany the Orderly Officer on his rounds dealing with 'any complaints', but it was all experience.
The voyage home was back through the Suez Canal and as we neared home waters, in February, we were issued with battle dress and overcoats to keep us warm. Once again I was seasick and tried to overcome it by walking the heaving deck. As I struggled fore and aft a naval officer approached me and hearing of my bother said, “Go below, to your cabin - the steward will bring you some tea - and stay there, you will soon feel better.” Sure enough, when I did so, things started to improve. When I asked the steward who the officer was, he said, “That was the Captain. He has been at sea for more than twenty years and still has to have a bucket on the bridge”.
We arrived at Southampton early one morning to find it blanketed in snow, it turned out to be one of the coldest winters since the start of the war, no wonder we felt the cold.
As we approached Southampton Water, a message kept coming over the ship's tannoy warning us that anyone found with firearms or other lethal souvenirs would be placed under close arrest and court martialed. So as we slowly sailed on in the very early dawn, many were the splashes as guns, revolvers etc were quietly slipped over the side. No one was prepared to jeopardise their liberty at this hour.
By Ken Rawlinson
Nigel - Peacock - What a pleasant surprise to see "Prisoner on the Kwai" mentioned here. Basil Peacock was my grandfather and spoke often about his time on the Kwai.