Boat People

Colin419
21st January 2010, 09:46
I recall that back in the mid-late 70's there was a Bank Boat involved in rescuing a stack of vietnamese boat people and it got stuck in Hong Kong for ages.

I remember seeing it on the news (not realising it was a Bank Boat cos I was still at school) and then hearing about it from some J/E's later at sea.

I cannot however remember the name of the boat, but seem to think she may have been renamed as part of a charterparty.

"Rangatira" keeps popping up in my mind, but that was a ferry conversion that we used to visit from college in Glasgow.

Can anyone help?

ted nutt
21st January 2010, 10:28
Morning Colin,three ships involved Sibonga twice,Roachbank and Ruddbank.I was 3rd mate on the Sibonga on the 1st time she picked up boat people.Ted

Colin419
21st January 2010, 10:47
Thanks Ted! That has bugged me for years!

mackem
8th March 2010, 04:26
Can you recall the master who resued those people ?

A few years later I sailed with him and an engineer (quiet chap who was into some serious weight-lifting) who were on the Sibonga (I think) at the time of the resue but sadly, cannot recall their names.

I can remember it was a big story at the time as there was some reluctance from various authorities to accept these unfortunate folks and there was a lot of uncertainty as to where they would end up.

Alan Rawlinson
8th March 2010, 08:44
Can you recall the master who resued those people ?

A few years later I sailed with him and an engineer (quiet chap who was into some serious weight-lifting) who were on the Sibonga (I think) at the time of the resue but sadly, cannot recall their names.

I can remember it was a big story at the time as there was some reluctance from various authorities to accept these unfortunate folks and there was a lot of uncertainty as to where they would end up.


Healey Martin was the Master of Sibonga on the second occasion, and when she lost the charter and was stuck in Hong Kong. He was later on Tench or Pike so guess this is what you refer to...

Apart from the bald facts of the rescue (s), there were and still are a number of human interest stories that arose from that time. Children were named after the ship and after Healey and his wife Mildred. The Vietnam people from Sibonga have their own website, and many have achieved high success in various professions.

Healey was still receiving hate mail for rescuing boat people long after the rescue.

P.S. This period in maritime history caused mixed feelings among the shipping companies, and a great deal of hidden hypocrisy which is the worst kind. I could add a lot more, but suffice it to say, I felt ashamed to be a Master Mariner involved in management at that time.

Ben Masey
8th March 2010, 10:13
Healey Martin was the Master of Sibonga on the second occasion, and when she lost the charter and was stuck in Hong Kong. He was later on Tench or Pike so guess this is what you refer to...

Apart from the bald facts of the rescue (s), there were and still are a number of human interest stories that arose from that time. Children were named after the ship and after Healey and his wife Mildred. The Vietnam people from Sibonga have their own website, and many have achieved high success in various professions.

Healey was still receiving hate mail for rescuing boat people long after the rescue.

P.S. This period in maritime history caused mixed feelings among the shipping companies, and a great deal of hidden hypocrisy which is the worst kind. I could add a lot more, but suffice it to say, I felt ashamed to be a Master Mariner involved in management at that time.

Hi I think it was John Appleby.

Alan Rawlinson
8th March 2010, 12:31
Hi I think it was John Appleby.

Hi Ben,

John Appleby was Roachbank ( I think) - don't know much about his rescue, but he was mate on the Crestbank earlier when I was 2/0.

Healey Martin as mentioned was the Sibonga master, and as he was a friend I heard it all first hand, including some stuff I would'nt like to repeat here.

mackem
8th March 2010, 14:10
Thanks Alan. Yes, it was Healey Martin I sailed with.

I always thought he came across as a thoroughly decent guy who as you say, seemed to take some terrible flak for his humanitarian good deeds.

Let's just say that if any of us were unfortunate enough to be caught in a similar situation to those unfortunate boat people, well you better pray to all the Gods you can think of that a Master Mariner of Healey Martins calibre comes by your way.

Peter B
8th March 2010, 14:57
Please excuse me for intruding, as I have never had any associatiosn with Bank Line. I want to say that it saddens me to learn about the reluctance to rescue these unfortunate people, and even more so to learn that a decent Master, carrying out a seamans duty of honour should receive anything but acknowledgement for doing so.

Danish ships carried out similar rescues off Vietnam on a number of occasions. Maersk ships alone rescued more than 10,000 Vietnamese boat people, of which 3,268 were saved on a single occasion:

Friday 2 May 1975 the M/V Clara Mærsk rescued all aboard the sinking M/V Truong Xuan. Sunday 4 May Clara Mærsk was met by the British frigate HMS Chichester, carrying doctors and medical supplies, including that needed for the urgent operation of an infant. Four seriously ill refugees were transferred to the Chichester by helicopter.
Clara Mærsk arrived at Hong Kong in the evening of May 4, and by 3 am monday morning all refugees were ashore, including three babies, born aboard the Clara Mærsk. One of the babies were later christened Clara.

Personally, I had a single encounter with Vietnamese boat people, while serving on the M/V Marchen Mærsk in the summer of 1983. They were about twenty people in a small wooden fishing boat. They were encountered adrift at midday, in sunny, calm weather. They were out of fuel and almost out of food and water. When learning that if we picked them up, we would have to discharge them in Karachi, Pakistan, they were not happy! They asked if they could have supplies instead, enabling them to proceed to Singapore on their own. We supplied them with food, fresh water, diesel, lanterns, updated maps and a some navigational aids. We also gave their engine a quick service check, and off they went. I sometimes wonder what became of them.

I have no knowledge of any opposition in Denmark against these rescue operations. To the best of my knowledge it was backed by politicians, authorities, ship-owners and the general public. Captain Anton M. Olsen of the Clara Mærsk was awarded the Knights Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II.

Though there is a somewhat mixed attitude towards certain foreigners in Denmark, the relatively huge Vietnamese community seem to be well accepted. They are indeed well integrated in society. Some have become employees of Maersk companies over the years. I know of a few officers and at least one present captain in Maersk Supply Service.

McMorine
8th March 2010, 15:12
Hi Ben,

John Appleby was Roachbank ( I think) - don't know much about his rescue, but he was mate on the Crestbank earlier when I was 2/0.

Healey Martin as mentioned was the Sibonga master, and as he was a friend I heard it all first hand, including some stuff I would'nt like to repeat here.
John Appleby was Skipper on the Birchbank, I sailed with him joining in Rotterdam 30.07.75 and paying off in Dubai 26.02.76 Not involved with any boat people that voyage.

Quiney
8th March 2010, 19:35
The captain on the Ruddbank who picked-up the boat people was C B Davies.
We had them onboard for a month and finally put them ashore in Japan.
The event was 10 years ago last August/September and I was in touch with one of the survivors at the 10 year anniversary.

Alan Rawlinson
9th March 2010, 08:43
Please excuse me for intruding, as I have never had any associatiosn with Bank Line. I want to say that it saddens me to learn about the reluctance to rescue these unfortunate people, and even more so to learn that a decent Master, carrying out a seamans duty of honour should receive anything but acknowledgement for doing so.

Danish ships carried out similar rescues off Vietnam on a number of occasions. Maersk ships alone rescued more than 10,000 Vietnamese boat people, of which 3,268 were saved on a single occasion:

Friday 2 May 1975 the M/V Clara Mærsk rescued all aboard the sinking M/V Truong Xuan. Sunday 4 May Clara Mærsk was met by the British frigate HMS Chichester, carrying doctors and medical supplies, including that needed for the urgent operation of an infant. Four seriously ill refugees were transferred to the Chichester by helicopter.
Clara Mærsk arrived at Hong Kong in the evening of May 4, and by 3 am monday morning all refugees were ashore, including three babies, born aboard the Clara Mærsk. One of the babies were later christened Clara.

Personally, I had a single encounter with Vietnamese boat people, while serving on the M/V Marchen Mærsk in the summer of 1983. They were about twenty people in a small wooden fishing boat. They were encountered adrift at midday, in sunny, calm weather. They were out of fuel and almost out of food and water. When learning that if we picked them up, we would have to discharge them in Karachi, Pakistan, they were not happy! They asked if they could have supplies instead, enabling them to proceed to Singapore on their own. We supplied them with food, fresh water, diesel, lanterns, updated maps and a some navigational aids. We also gave their engine a quick service check, and off they went. I sometimes wonder what became of them.

I have no knowledge of any opposition in Denmark against these rescue operations. To the best of my knowledge it was backed by politicians, authorities, ship-owners and the general public. Captain Anton M. Olsen of the Clara Mærsk was awarded the Knights Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II.

Though there is a somewhat mixed attitude towards certain foreigners in Denmark, the relatively huge Vietnamese community seem to be well accepted. They are indeed well integrated in society. Some have become employees of Maersk companies over the years. I know of a few officers and at least one present captain in Maersk Supply Service.

Many thanks for that interesting, and uplifting contribution - It was quite heartening to read.

The negative and nasty reaction did exist however, and I know of Masters being instructed ( verbally) to do everything to avoid the boats when in that area. Some ships re-routed. The reason was purely commercial and selfish.....

I should add I was not working in the Bankline at that time.

Alistair Macnab
9th March 2010, 18:11
The altruistic attitude of Maersk Line is noted but it should be recalled that the Bank Line "Sibonga" that lost her charter as a result of the boat people rescue was, in fact, on charter at the time to that other Danish company, The East Asiatic Company which in the lmean time has gone the way of al;l other traditional cargo liner companies. Time was when EAC were the darlings of the Danish economy and Moller-Maersk were the parvenues. Time change.
What;s Danish for "Too Big to Fail"?

Peter B
9th March 2010, 18:39
The altruistic attitude of Maersk Line is noted but it should be recalled that the Bank Line "Sibonga" that lost her charter as a result of the boat people rescue was, in fact, on charter at the time to that other Danish company, The East Asiatic Company which in the lmean time has gone the way of al;l other traditional cargo liner companies. Time was when EAC were the darlings of the Danish economy and Moller-Maersk were the parvenues. Time change.
What;s Danish for "Too Big to Fail"?
I was not aware of that part of history (the EAC association with Bank Line). I do know that by 1975, darlings or not, Maersk was a far bigger shipping company than EAC, and appeared to be more up-to-date. EAC seemed to be stuck in their ways and did not really manage to cope with the changing times.
Ironically perhaps, the shipping part of EAC was sold to Maersk in 1992.

Pat bourke
9th March 2010, 18:42
John Appleby was Skipper on the Birchbank, I sailed with him joining in Rotterdam 30.07.75 and paying off in Dubai 26.02.76 Not involved with any boat people that voyage.

John Appleby was Master on the Clydebank when I was R/O, best Old Man I sailed with. Great to see his name mentioned.
Cheers Pat.(Pint)

China hand
9th March 2010, 20:43
Streambank. John Appleby. 1:5:81.
We picked up about 50 boat people. Landed them in Singapore (or better said, put them into a barge at a buoy in Singapore).
Had a whole bunch of kids with them. My wife was knitting silly wool toys and handing them out after the bath and wash frenzy.
Years later here in Nederland she met a young lady in a school who thought she recognized her, asked a few questions, told her she still had her silly toy.
When China and Wife went to John's funeral in Lewes, we stopped into a local by what we thought was John's watering hole, asked if anyone knew where Capt Appleby's funeral was. Landlady said "see all those Vietnamese kids sitting on that wall? That's the place".
John sold his Triumph TR7 for a Daimler Sovereign. You can only get six kids in a TR7, about 15 in a Daimler if you try hard enough.
Crazy, eccentric, wierd, lovely man.(==D)

Peter B
9th March 2010, 23:54
I found the following account by the captain of the Truong Xuan, describing the escape from Vietnam. A quite interesting read:
http://www.khoahoc.net/baivo/damtrungphan/150109-tautruongxuan-englisch.htm

Alan Rawlinson
10th March 2010, 08:07
Streambank. John Appleby. 1:5:81.
We picked up about 50 boat people. Landed them in Singapore (or better said, put them into a barge at a buoy in Singapore).
Had a whole bunch of kids with them. My wife was knitting silly wool toys and handing them out after the bath and wash frenzy.
Years later here in Nederland she met a young lady in a school who thought she recognized her, asked a few questions, told her she still had her silly toy.
When China and Wife went to John's funeral in Lewes, we stopped into a local by what we thought was John's watering hole, asked if anyone knew where Capt Appleby's funeral was. Landlady said "see all those Vietnamese kids sitting on that wall? That's the place".
John sold his Triumph TR7 for a Daimler Sovereign. You can only get six kids in a TR7, about 15 in a Daimler if you try hard enough.
Crazy, eccentric, wierd, lovely man.(==D)

Lovely post....

I also have fond memories of John Appleby from 1959 when we were c/o and 2/0 respectively on the ' Crestbank '. He was keen on cars and driving and frequently hired a car as soon as we berthed in Australia or new Zealand. Also, I can remembering him talking a bit about his butcher's business in Lewes, and how he preferred being in the Bankline roaming the world.

Alistair Macnab
10th March 2010, 15:32
I know this thread is covering the Boat People but since John's name has come up I'd like to add my piece to his memory.
We sailed together on the maiden voyage of the "Laganbank" in 1955 when he was 2M and I was Senior Apprentice. He was madly keen on cars as has been noted, but one tale he loved to tell was the time he was driving his vintage Bentley roadster around Lewes in Sussex he came around a corner and ran slap bang into the backside of an elephant which sat down on the bonnet of the car and had the car been anything other than a pre-war 'tank' it would surely have totalled the car!
Apparently, a circus had been moving from one location to another and that was why the elephant was on the road. John was able to continue his journey but was stopped by a constable further along the way who enquired why the front end of his car was bent. The bold John replied "An elephant sat on it!" and was promptly arrested and tested for alcohol etc!
Always a good story.
He was a good shipmate and as so often happens, our paths never crossed again.

Pat bourke
10th March 2010, 22:01
Hi Alistair,
I sailed with John as I said earlier on Clydebank in 1976. I remember him telling me that story about the elephant. John was like an uncle to me, we got on great and when in the islands we would go ashore together, where I was introduced to his expat friends. Enjoyed many a meal and many a drink with John. Like you our paths never crossed again. He was true Gentleman.
Regards Pat.

Alan Rawlinson
11th March 2010, 09:58
Following the Sibonga rescues, Mildred Martin , wife of Capt. Healey Martin received an award for her humanitarian work as shown below. (Taken from the Bankline Magazine.)

Alan Rawlinson
11th March 2010, 10:03
Lovely post....

I also have fond memories of John Appleby from 1959 when we were c/o and 2/0 respectively on the ' Crestbank '. He was keen on cars and driving and frequently hired a car as soon as we berthed in Australia or new Zealand. Also, I can remembering him talking a bit about his butcher's business in Lewes, and how he preferred being in the Bankline roaming the world.

Spotted the attached obituary in the Bankline Magazine.

Pat bourke
11th March 2010, 13:56
Spotted the attached obituary in the Bankline Magazine.

Am very sad to hear that John has "Crossed over the Bar".
I will remember him affectionately.
Regards Pat.

Alan Rawlinson
12th March 2010, 17:41
Please excuse me for intruding, as I have never had any associatiosn with Bank Line. I want to say that it saddens me to learn about the reluctance to rescue these unfortunate people, and even more so to learn that a decent Master, carrying out a seamans duty of honour should receive anything but acknowledgement for doing so.

Danish ships carried out similar rescues off Vietnam on a number of occasions. Maersk ships alone rescued more than 10,000 Vietnamese boat people, of which 3,268 were saved on a single occasion:

Friday 2 May 1975 the M/V Clara Mærsk rescued all aboard the sinking M/V Truong Xuan. Sunday 4 May Clara Mærsk was met by the British frigate HMS Chichester, carrying doctors and medical supplies, including that needed for the urgent operation of an infant. Four seriously ill refugees were transferred to the Chichester by helicopter.
Clara Mærsk arrived at Hong Kong in the evening of May 4, and by 3 am monday morning all refugees were ashore, including three babies, born aboard the Clara Mærsk. One of the babies were later christened Clara.

Personally, I had a single encounter with Vietnamese boat people, while serving on the M/V Marchen Mærsk in the summer of 1983. They were about twenty people in a small wooden fishing boat. They were encountered adrift at midday, in sunny, calm weather. They were out of fuel and almost out of food and water. When learning that if we picked them up, we would have to discharge them in Karachi, Pakistan, they were not happy! They asked if they could have supplies instead, enabling them to proceed to Singapore on their own. We supplied them with food, fresh water, diesel, lanterns, updated maps and a some navigational aids. We also gave their engine a quick service check, and off they went. I sometimes wonder what became of them.

I have no knowledge of any opposition in Denmark against these rescue operations. To the best of my knowledge it was backed by politicians, authorities, ship-owners and the general public. Captain Anton M. Olsen of the Clara Mærsk was awarded the Knights Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II.

Though there is a somewhat mixed attitude towards certain foreigners in Denmark, the relatively huge Vietnamese community seem to be well accepted. They are indeed well integrated in society. Some have become employees of Maersk companies over the years. I know of a few officers and at least one present captain in Maersk Supply Service.

As a follow up to our exchanges on this thread, I got hold of a copy of a book called '' The Boat people '' which documents some of the rescues, including the '' Sibonga '' and the wider picture of the attitude by the various nations etc towards the reception of ' Boat people '.

One aspect stands out for me - the exploitation by criminal gangs who, like today, were making big money out of people trafficking. Ocean going ships like the '' Huey Fong '' were charted and overloaded with men, women, and children, who all paid dearly in cash and gold for a berth.

Worth a read, if only to get all the angles - made me realise, I am still naive after all these years!

suiman
13th June 2012, 17:29
Hello to you all,

I am a new member and I joined SN to try to find more info for my wife. I am very saddened to hear that John Appleby has passed away so many years ago, we had heard rumours but nothing concrete.

My wife was one of the children he rescued from the South China seas, on the Roachbank. She was hoping to write a book or blog in honour of all those who helped her and her family from her rescue at sea by John Appleby to the couple from the red cross who helped her settle in the UK. We are still in touch with Barbara from the red cross now and visit her as often as we can as her husband Bill passed away a few years ago.

I did some more digging and discovered that Bankline were taken to court for the delay to delivering cargo because they stopped to save a sinking boat because the Taiwanese authority refused them permission to dock because of the refugees.

If there is anyone out there who was on the Roachbank at the time and can help us piece together the whole story we would be very grateful as my wife has very vague memories of being sick on a sinking boat. It would fill the missing parts of her life. If anyone knows where John Appleby is buried we would like to go and pay our respects to him.

Thank you to you all for the above info.

Paul Lanaghan
23rd March 2013, 14:36
I was on the Roachbank as deck apprentice when we picked up the refugees, hell of first trip, but I do hope they (the refugees) and my former shipmates are doing well.

ben27
24th March 2013, 02:35
hi colin419,21.january,2010,18:46.re:boat people.i have been reading this tread.i just want to mention that the merchant seaman who carried out these rescues deserve a mention.i am not going into the politics of boat people.they have contributed a lot to the nation as citizens.well done M.N.ben27

BMSB1
8th October 2013, 19:17
Just joined on here due to so much chat about the Sibonga.
My dad was one of the Vietnamese rescued by the Sibonga at the end of May 1979. Taken to Hong Kong where they had to stay on the ship for a few weeks before being taken to Kai Tak refugee camp and he and family then came to UK.

Any information about the Sibonga would be greatly appreciated as I am trying to piece his story together - memories, cutting from press etc. is creating a fascinating story.
Any pictures, info etc.?

Also - he said that all on the ship had to give their name. We were wondering if there is any record of this list. Any info would be brilliant.
Many thanks

Brian briza
12th May 2014, 00:37
I was on the Roachbank as deck apprentice when we picked up the refugees, hell of first trip, but I do hope they (the refugees) and my former shipmates are doing well.hi I work for one of the refugees in burntwood staffs he and his family was on the roach bank with the captain John Appleby 25 may 1979 to 3 June 1979 . Now he and his family have took English names he is called tom and he owns a Chinese take away because he marries a Chinese woman from lichfield they still get together around the dates they landed to celebrate if you want to him and his family call him on his work land line it comes under Tom,s Chinese take away 5 queen street chasetown ws7 4qq. Hope this helps a little.

O.M.Bugge
13th May 2014, 08:17
I was Master on the Drillship "Fredericksburg" in 1978 - 80. We were first drilling in the Gulf of Thailand and later in the South China Sea, close to the border between Indonesian and Vietnamese EEZ. At peak of the exodus from Southern Vietnam in mid-1979 we picked up over 2,000 refugees during my 28-day hitch. Total during the period we picked up abt. 4,300.
This being an American owned, but Panama flagged vessel we had no "protection" or support, as was the case with Danish and Norwegian ships, among others.
I was instructed by the boss of the Oil company we were working for to stop picking up refugees and to use fire hoses to keep them from coming alongside. I told him that he was welcome to come out and spray down women and children in over crowded and leaking boats. I would even supply him the fire hose, but nobody would help him.
I then received a call from the Indonesian authorities to say that they would no longer accept any refugees we sent in to the camp at Anambas Islands. I replied that we would continue to follow the customs of the sea to rescue people in distress. I fully expected to be fired and declared persona non-grata in Indonesia for my stubbornness, but that did not happen.
We were sitting at anchor and drilling, so there were no escaping the refugee boats, but I watched other ships, incl. some with a distinct blue colour, giving a wide berth to any refugee boat heading our way.