S.S. Nankin 1942

S.S. Nankin 1942

      markderby - I'm a historical researcher working on a German-NZ TV co-production on the last voyage of the Australian liner Nankin, captured by the German raider Thor in May 1942, five days out of Fremantle en route to Colombo, and taken to Yokohama.
      I am eager to locate and make contact with any of the more than 300 civilian passengers (incl. many women and children, and several Australians) or 180-odd crew and military personnel on board the Nankin at the time of her capture. Most of these are likely to have been sent to Japanese prison camps such as Zentsuji Camp, Shikoku.

      If you have any advice or contacts in this area, I'd be pleased to learn of them.

      Ron Taylor - Since emailing you last Mark, I came across this web site at:
      I have included below the part on the SS Nankin.

      George, Captain George Duffy, who often contributes to the Message Board, might know more.

      Eastern and Australian Line E&A
      SS Nankin

      The E&A, Line. It was during World War 2 when three ships were destroyed by enemy action, Nankin, Nellore and Tanda the latter two were ripped apart by torpedoes while the third, Nankin, was shelled and captured by a German surface raider "Thor" in the Indian Ocean.

      Nankin sailed from Fremantle on 5th May 1942 with a full cargo, 162 passengers, including 38 women and children and a crew of 180, on May 10th at 2.30pm a plane from the raider "Thor" dived on Nankin, raking the ship with machine gun bullets.

      Nankin turned away from the German raider and tried to make a run for it while returning the other ships shellfire.Despite Nankin's evasive tactics and her own gunfire, the raider soon got her range, with the aircraft playing a spotting role, shells began to explode on Nankin. Shortly after 3.pm Captain Stratford decided to abandon ship to save unnecessary loss of life, particularly among the women and children.

      As the lifeboats pulled away from Nankin the German Raider stopped firing and came up to her at high speed, a repair gang was placed on board, damage was repaired to prevent the ship from sinking, crew and passengers were transferred aboard the Raider. Nankin was then steamed to Japan with a prize crew aboard a valued capture with the cargo aboard.

      On May 14th, the prisoners were placed aboard the German supply ship Regensberg to join other captured POW's. Later some were transferred to another German vessel operating in the area, the Dresden of 11,000 tons. eventually all prisoners arrived in port at Yokohama Japan. The German ship Ramses also arrived in Japan with more prisoners, they were all transferred to Japanese prisoner of war camps, to endure the hardships that the survivors were subjected to at the hands of the Japanese, that only ended with Japan's surrender in 1945.

      Nankin did not survive the war, she and the raider Thor, with a German tanker, blew up during a bunkering operation in Yokohama harbour, said to have been sabotaged by Norwegian seamen at the time.

      Further, the Dresden and Regensberg were on their way from Bordeaux to Yokohama.

      The Dresden leaving Bordeaux on the 15.04.42 and arriving at Yokohama during June 42.
      The Regensberg leaving Bordeaux on the 02.05.42 and arriving on the 07.07.42. at Yokohama
      The Dresden left Yokohama on the 20.08.42 for Bordeaux.
      There is a story on this departure at:


      This describes life on the Dresden as a prisoner.

      The whole story is covered by page:



      Thor - German Raider

      Picture - http://home.t-online.de/home/jgust/thor.jpg

      SOME FACTS ON T/S THOR: Formerly the Santa Cruz, belonging to Oldenburg-Portugiesischen Dampfschiffs-Reederei. Built in 1938, 3862 gt, top speed 17 knots. Thor started her raids in June of 1940, at first captained by Otto Kähler, later by Günther Gumprich, who from 1943 also commanded the Michel, which was sunk by the American submarine Tarpon on Oct. 17-1943.

      GEODUFFY - Because my time as a Japanese prisoner was spent at Java, Singapore, and Sumatra, I know nothing other than what I have read about camps in Japan.

      I do have a tenuous connection with subject vessel, in that the German vessel which brought us to Java, the UCKERMARK, exploded in Yokohama on November 30, 1942.

      From Batavia, the UCKERMARK had proceeded to Singapore where she took on a cargo of gasoline for Japan. After discharging that cargo, about 35 Chinese laborers were engaged in a routine cleaning operation. For some unknown reason the tanker exploded, taking with her the raider THOR which was moored alongside, and also destroying the NANKIN and a Japanese ship.

      I am acquainted with three survivors of that incident, but I find they know little of life in war time Japan. There was not much collaboration and, remember, one of Japan's slogans was "Asia for the Asiatics".

      Ron Taylor - George, having asked you to write a story about the Death Railway in Sumatra I feel humbled, you didn't let on. Your story on the Sumatra Railway was very helpful, thanks.
      It can be found at:
      I have added it to the Rising Sun Research layout and links.


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