Continued from Repatriation
Jean - >Ron, after speaking with my Mother at the weekend I now know that the ship my Dad came home on was not the Dilwarra (you were right Ron), but the BOISSEVAIN. Mum is not sure where the name Dilwarra came from but believes that it may have been the ship that her cousin sailed on. He went out to Singapore immediately after capitulation.
Mum has given me a bundle of letters that my Dad wrote after he was released. The first was written in Rangoon and described how he had flown, for the first time in his life, from Bankok to Burma. They give a lot of information including the date and time that the troops embarked and the date and time that the Boissevain sailed for home. I can fairly accurately track the journey home and have the dates that they were in Rangoon, Colombo and Port Said.
The first letters are a bit confusing and I would be grateful if anyone could shed any light. The address on the envelope of the first letter is Recovered POW Mail Centre, Bombay, India Command. Also, I have a telegram home which also gives that address and says "Arrived safely India". However, it is dated Rangoon 10th Sept. He definitely sailed from Rangoon and a later letter expresses his disappointment that they were not going to be allowed off ship when they reached India. I guess that it's always possible that they weren't told where they were going and when they arrived at Bombay, India Command, the assumption may have been that they were actually in India. I would be glad of any clarification that anyone can offer.
The rest of his letters are clear. He talks about the rousing welcome that the ships got as they entered Colombo Harbour, the visits from the Red Cross, ATS, WRNS and WAAFS, the sea crossings, the rations, Egypt and all manner of things that occupied the men and their minds on the crossing. All very interesting. The Boissevain docked at Liverpool on 11th October.
I would be interested in the other ships that were used as troop carriers and also the order of their return home. I believe that the Boissevain was amongst the first 3 back but, so far, that is all I know.
Ron - Had a quick look as we are on our way out, try:
There is a little on the ship.
I will try to find a picture later.
Janet - >Jean, I don't know if you recall an earlier email I sent but everyone of my dads telegrams said " arrived India safely " although they were from Rangoon, Bombay and Columbo, My dad said a few years ago " we called it all India, including Ceylon and Burma ", he also recalled the raptuous reception they got on the Orduna in Columbo and especially from the Tamil workers at the docks, he loved the Tamil people for their kind hearts and their suffering under the Japanese which he said was worse than any of the POW's.
Jean - >Janet, thank you. Yes that helps and it does make sense. In one of his letters Dad said that he was sailing on the Orduna. There is no mention of why there was a change in plans but the next letter said that he was sailing on the Boissevain. Do you know the date the Orduna sailed?
>Ron, thanks. I have been trying to find anything on the ship but so far not a lot of luck. This is helpful.
Janet - >Jean, I have the telegrams here, there is also a printed card dated 8/9/45 with spaces to fill in your own details saying:
I am now free and in safe hands.
I hope to be with you soon.
My Address is:
Recovered P.W. Mail Centre,
Date..8.9.45 Signed JACK XX
The telegrams are from Rangoon 10 Sep, and Columbo 15 Sep
The others are Liverpool dated 19 Oct to say he had arrived safely and the next one dated 20 Oct that says
"Cardiff 15.35 - Jack"
I believe however he may have got to Liverpool very early a.m 19th october, or even on thr 18th.
They received the most fantastic welcome at Liverpool, little boats going out up the Mersey to escort them in and all sounding their horns, if he saw anyhting like that on tele to his dying day he got emmotional as I am now, and a big boat ( Mersey Ferry I beleive ) with all the people waiving and cheering them and the local children all waiting on the quayside and waveing flags and shaking their hands - I guess they were some of the first lot into the Pool and it was a lovely thing for the parents to send them down there.
Also he said lots of locals just there to meet them and welcome them home.
The ship they came home on was the ORDUNA, which was used as a trooper untill 1951.
Bless their hearts, I am choked up again, Must go,
Janet - Just reading the first note my dad sent my Mum written on Jap paper written in pencil and sent in a homemade envelope !
It is dated 30th Aug ( day before his 30th birthday ) and headed in his own handwriting Pratchi Camp, Siam.
Does anyone know where Pratchi was ?
>Jean just found an aerogram dated Saturday 6th Oct saying they had left Columbo and were making a 'steady pace'.
Janet - >Jean, Sorry Jean no I don't, but do have 2 areograms from Rangoon dated 14th & 17th sept saying they had been to the swimming baths and also been to the pitcures to see a wonderfull 'technicolour' film called ' Batheing Beauties' with Red Skelton and Esther Williams ? followed by Walt Disney's Donald Duck and a news film showing Churchill and Stalin in Berlin in June or July.
He says that this morning 14 9. 45 he and his mate had been to say prayers in a Pagoda, he said how wonderfull the Pagoda was and the workmanship was exquisite, and gold leaf everywhere, with cut glass and coloured glass, he took ages describing it to her, as though he really enjoyed seeing it and praying to the ultimate being, which ever religion it was !
In one letter he says that army lorries were careering all over the road blowing their horns at the native bullock carts and their drivers who carried on their own sweet way much as they had done for hundreds of years, irrespective of Churchill, Roosevelt or Hirohito !
Keith - Hi Team, For Pratchi, read Prachuap Khiri Khan, on the Thai or Siam side of the Isthmus of Kra, it also served as the main hospital camp for POWs like my father who worked on the Mergui Road. The road itself ran from Mergui in Burma, to Pratchi in Siam. POWs were flown from there to Rangoon (And all the trumpets by Donald Smith)after the surrender.
Those of you COFEPOW members would have read in the latest newsletter an appeal from a lady, Dorothy Webb Davies, about her father Rhys Webb. I am still trying to find out more details for Dorothy as we have been in touch, but her father passed away at this camp, and he too, like my dad, was on the Mergui Road. Hope this helps
Janet - >Keith, you marvell !
Dad was with Hardie at the time of the Japanese Surrneder but shortly after had a relapse of Malaria and the 'reigers'(?), he was in dock for a "day or so", which accounts for him writing from Pratchia.
10th September from Rangoon, he writes he is still in the reception Hospital ( where the matron from Hell was in charge ) and he says he has a job to sleep cos of the bed and sheets being so nice! he goes on to say that for a" few" months including Dec44, Jan, Feb & Mar 45, he never even had a tent to sleep under and when it rained at night he folded the blanket up and sat on it to keep it dry. He says they were working in Tavoy, Burma cutting a road for the Nips, he says " I was the only Englishman and worked with a nice Eurasian lad( Anglo-Indian ) and about 50 Dutchmen from the Dutch East Indies, he says "but we never came to any harm as we were well and truely used to roughing it by then.", he says there were about 1500 men on the whole job but that little part of the 'job' was cutting the rock out , So Keith yes that is definately Budd Smith, he mentions March and Jack Smith died March 45 not long for they finished.
These letters are very difficult to read as the pencil is very faded, but if you use the right light you can see reasonably. They hold a wealth of information on their time at Rangoon and calling into Columbo, but the nearer home they got the more they turned to family life and how they would settle down and have a family life together.
In one he describes being in action for about 5 weeks in Singapore, but says it was OK and they still managed to have a good time into the bargain! and in another he tells my Mum to tell his youngest brother he is not to try to get leave especially from Europe just to come and see him, however my Uncle did, he got 7 days somehow and had bought my dad a leather 'jerkin' because he feared he would be very cold back home, My other Uncle his big brother , still staioned in Egypt with the RAF knew somehow what vessel he was on and got leave and went down meet the ship coming in at Port Toufiq (?) and they let them have a few of hours together on the boat ( I believe, or he may have disembarked), he said some of the others were very envious and he felt sorry for them but he loved his brothers and never forgot all their efforts to see him.
He also reports he had been working in the galley again on the Orduna cutting meat etc and that if he wasn't married he would have stayed in the Army and gone back to India as he loved the weather and the country there ! ( however that soon went west when he stepped of the gangplank at L'Pool)
In one letter he talks of the Indian troops that were flown in, that they didn't look like the other Indian troops and they called them Gurkas!
They aso show a sense of humour that I was unaware of, telling my Mum that the women carried everything on their heads and did all the work while the men sat around and talked, and concludes with ' so watch out when I get back ', but then goes on to assure her that he will always provide for her and
that she will never have to work and being a wife and mother was the greatest job and he knew how fantasic she was at both.
I will try to collate some of this stuff and share it.
Ron - >Jean, Haven't had a lot of joy with the Boissevain, Dutch 14,000 tons
BOISSEVAIN passenger 14134/1937 in 1930s, '38 & '39 (1968 scrapped)
Info from a page on mines:
Australian Mine Type
This type was delivered to the Dutch Indies in 1941 or 1942, and used in the defence of Ambon. Not exactly is known how much the Dutch received in total, but the passengership Boissevain departed Melbourne in January 1942 with about 300 mines of this type on board. There were originally 2000 ordered in October 1941. In Ambon, they caused the destruction of a Japanese minesweeper, with two others damaged. A Japanese merchant vessel was possibly also hit by one of these mines.
A guest of the Japanese in the Dutch Indies
My father, who suddenly appeared in our camp, was also interned in that same prison and witnessed the execution of the Japanese. The remaining captives were told: "today the Japanese, tomorrow you", but thanks to our former enemies that tomorrow never came! Our family got split in these chaotic times but was reunited and "repatriated" to the Netherlands in January 1946 on board the MS Boissevain, a Dutch passenger ship, refitted for the use as troop transport ship: large decks with vertical poles and three hammocks above each other between them.
Sorry no picture
Stuart - >Janet, My wife (a nurse) tell me Reigers = Rigors = acute shivering and sweating, the bodies mechanism to reduce temperature, which can be
extreme in the case of malaria.
Janet - >Stuart, thank you and your wife, that makes sense doesn't it.
All the best, Janet
Keith - > Janet, It does. I must have been about 7 or 8, when my mum asked me to take dad a cuppa. He was in bed, not very well. My dad was rarely in bed not very well. Anyway, I took him his tea, and when I walked in the room he has under the bedclothes, in summer, shivering. I put the cup on the bedside cabinet, touched his shoulder, and told him I had a cup of tea for him. He rolled over to face me, and said "who are you?"
My mum had realised what she had asked me to do, and came upstairs, and ushered me out of the room. It was much later, when I was older, and spoke to my dad about this, he told me he suffered from cerebral malaria, it attacks the brain. He had a couple of attacks after that, but longer term, the damage had been done.
The one thing he was proud of, was being a blood donor, and the fact they could not use his blood in the UK, because of what it contained after his years in the camps. However he told us that some hospital of tropical medicines was using his blood to treat those from overseas, and his blood was used to save the life of a little Chinese girl who had been knocked down by a car.
That was my dad, and yes, I remember the rigors.
Janet - >Keith, my Goodness, what a story. An awfull thing for a child to see, but the fact he helped save a little girls life, I have no doubt that if like my dad he would say it was worth doing his time !
Just like you say, dad wasn't ill often, but this has jerked memories about him having a "Bad Cold" and the shaking and sweating, jee I wish I had known, these colds were only once every two or three years, but he was so ill, however , silly old sod wouldn't stay off work and took these days as holidays ! just to prove he wasn't an invalid I guess, cussid old B, but that is what got them through eh ?
Bless their hearts.
Christof - does anyone know where prisoners were taken after their release from the prison camps.
information i have is that my late father amos lawton (RNF's) went to saigon. other people tell me they were taken to australia.
Ron - My father was in French Indo-China and was flown to Rangoon to be shipped home.
Rangoon seems to have been the major port for home, that is where most were checked over in hospital.
I have been told on a few occasions now that POWs were given an option of where they wanted to go, Britain or Australia.
Keith - >Chris, sorry for not responding on the RNFs, I will let you have what info I have found later.
What you ask is a very broad question as I am sure you know. Ron said his Dad was flown to Rangoon to complete the journey home by sea. It would appear from what I have read, POWs on the Railway and the Mergui Road were moved to Prachuap Khiri Khan, and flown to Rangoon, again home by sea, I think. Some may have flown over the hump to India. I think those in Java and the D.E.I. came home via Singapore, as did those in the Singapore Camps. I am sure those that had next of kin in Japan, Hong Kong, Formosa, Rabaul, and the many other areas will be able to answer your question directly.
Finding the ship your father came home on is another story, Ron and I have been a short way down this road, but I will need to do some digging.
George - >Chris: Twelve American repatriates traveled the entire distance from Pakan Baroe, Sumatra to New York by air. The route was to Singapore, then Saigon, Bangkok, Rangoon, Calcutta, Agra, Karachi, Bahrain, Cairo, Tunis, Casablanca, Azores, and Newfoundland. The flights as far as Karachi were by United States Army Air Force planes. From Karachi, however, I was in a Trans World Airways passenger plane. The cost to the United States government was $1,244; I still have my copy of the ticket!
We were all hospitalized in Calcutta and released when we were deemed fit to travel. In my case, I left Pakan Baroe on September 19 and arrived in New York on October 6.
Christof - >George, ive got some interesting info id like to share. ive just acquired copies of 'the Barwick tapes', these are audio tapes of life as a fepow narrated by HERBIE BARWICK. anyway on the tapes (4hrs long) mr barwick mentions my late father who was in the rnf's. he talks of them in the cholera death camps and how he and my father had to burn the bodies of those poor soles and how the bodies moved and groaned during their cremation. this must have been horrific to witness.also recalled by mr barwick is the time my father (amos lawton) removed maggots from a wound he had on his posterior. he goes on to say that many of those who survived were indeed sent to saigon at some point. any more info on these tapes just give me a call