MV HAURAKI- A World War Two Story

spongebob
22nd May 2011, 11:41
I have touched on this story three years ago with my post “Bill-A marine engineer” and this prompted other people with knowledge of and personal connections with this event to contact me and offer further information that is now included to make a more complete account.
The story is, never the less far from complete and it is to be hoped that this edition may rouse the attention of others that can add information from the past.
The length requires posting in three parts to stay within the SN site limits and I trust that readers will not find the story too long

Bob

MV HAURAKI - A World War Two Story

As time marches on and memories start to fade, that greatest of wars ever fought, the 1939 to 1945 World War 2, has now reached a stage where most of the soldiers, sailors and airmen that took part in active service are no longer with us and some of their comrades in arms are becoming frail as witnessed by less and less old servicemen at ANZAC Days and similar observance occasions.
The history made by these armed service men and women has, in the main, been well documented by Government record, by war historians, and even by television and film dramas and documentaries that allow all of us, and especially the descendants of these brave people, to source all manner of documentary information about their forebears via so many official and internet sources.
But what about those that served in theatres of that war but in civilian roles?
There were many, such as Allied Merchant Navy personnel, Hospital ship crews and staff, civilian medical support groups, air raid wardens, fire fighters and Ambulance personnel plus many others that served under extreme duress and often under fire as they carried out their activities that were vital to the support of the front lines.
One of the biggest groups in this category was the Merchant Marine of the Allied countries, those men that manned the cargo ships that shipped both war material and sustenance cargos from all around the world to the British Isles
Cargoes of Butter, cheese, meat, wool, fruit and vegetables and other essential primary products from Australia and New Zealand, wheat, munitions, explosives, small arms, aircraft and tanks from Canada and cargos from the United States of machinery, steels, alloys and other raw materials to supplement Britain’s strained supply resources for the manufacture of their squadrons of Spitfires, Lancaster bombers, Churchill tanks, small arms and bombs. All the very weapons of destruction that were sorely needed to defend against the similar armaments of the aggressive German and Japanese foe. The United States both built and manned no less than 2700 Liberty ships with 41 civilian crewmen required to man each vessel
All the crewmen manning cargo ships from all corners of the allied world endured all the hardships of warfare but without any or the most meagre means to retaliate.
While Allied Navies often provided convoy escorts, the merchant ships were mostly sitting ducks for capture, enemy bombing or torpedo attack to the extent that the records show that over 14 million tons of Allied shipping was sunk by U-Boat and other enemy actions representing over 2800 ships and with the loss of over 30,000 lives. Over 5000 seamen were taken prisoner, and some of these men, the crew of the New Zealand Union Steamship Co ship MV Hauraki, are the subject of an account to follow.
But first, more comment about attitudes toward these non-combatant forces during those times.

On the 30th of October 1945 after the war had ended the British House of Commons passed the following resolution;

“That the thanks of this house be accorded to the Officers and Men of the Merchant Navy for the steadfastness with which they maintained our stocks of food and materials, for their services in transporting men and munitions to all the battles over all the seas, and for the gallantry with which, through a civilian service they met and fought against the constant attack of the enemy”

But still the seamen had their pay stopped immediately when their ship was sunk!

Various Allied countries treated these “semi-Combatants” or “Civilian seamen” as being privately employed by the shipping companies and therefore outside of state responsibility when matters of repatriation, rehabilitation and compensation were brought up and in many cases it has been a long and bitter struggle by many war time seamen or their dependents to get any sort of recognition for their efforts and ordeals
The Australian Government’s initial response about Merchant Mariners is highlighted in the attached extract from the book “This war never ends” by Dr. Michael McKernan about the Australian Prime Minister John Curtin’s years during WW2
Quote
“And were merchant seamen on active service? Take William Angus Todd, first officer on MV Hauraki, a ship of the Union Steam Ship Company.
Hauraki left Fremantle on 7 July 1942 en route to Colombo; on war service, was intercepted by ships of the Japanese navy in the Indian Ocean and Bill Todd, with all the other crew, became prisoners of war. Bill Todd died in captivity on 19 April 1944 after nearly two years working from a prison camp in Japan. His name is not on the Roll of Honour. The military-minded men on the Memorial's Board of Trustees in 1967 decided that the Roll would be limited to those who had died 'on or as a result of active service' and that, therefore, there should not even be a plaque at the Australian War Memorial to merchant mariners who had died at war.
Nurses and patients on the hospital ship Centaur, lost off the Queensland coast, would be on the Roll but not the merchant mariners who crewed on the ship.
General Thomas Daly explained that merchant seamen could not be regarded as 'servicemen in the true sense of the word'. They were paid higher wages, he said, by way of 'danger money and penalty rates of one kind or another'. And so they were forever excluded.”
Unquote

It is believed that official attitudes have since been softened by public opinion and some of these anomalies modified but many a bitter pill was taken by many men and women in the intervening period
.
Having provided a brief background to the sacrifices made by the Merchant Marine during World War and to the reluctance of most men that have experienced the horrors to elaborate on their involvement I now highlight fragments of a story, never completely told, about the plight of this one particular New Zealand registered ship and her crew.

For the technically minded details of MV Hauraki are as follows

MV HAURAKI
Registration No 146533
Built 1922 by William Denny and Bros Ltd Dumbarton Scotland
Gross tonnage 7113
Dimensions Length 137.25 metres, Beam 17.74 metres, Draught 9.57 metres
Service speed 12.5 knots
Engine specifications Twin screw oil, 2 x 8 cylinder 4 stroke SA 936 nhp
Engine builder North British Diesel Engineering Works Whitehall
Built for Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Ltd

She was the Union Steam ship Company of New Zealand’s first diesel powered vessel, and was designed primarily for cargo work but with accommodation for twelve passengers.
She worked extensively on the Trans-Pacific run, mostly Melbourne, Sydney to Vancouver via the Pacific Islands during the 1930’s and in 1936 she had the distinction of carrying the first Douglas DC2 as deck cargo from the USA to Melbourne for Holman Airways.
In 1940 after the out break of WW2 she was requisitioned by the British Ministry of War under the command of Captain AW Creese and manned mostly by New Zealanders and Australians, for use on wartime ‘special services’.
Hauraki, laden with war supplies for the Middle East, sailed from Wellington via Sydney, to Fremantle for re-fuelling, then left that port on 4th July 1942 bound for her destination via Colombo.
Eight days out of Fremantle and while in the Indian Ocean she was ambushed by Japanese armed Merchant Cruisers Hokoku Maru and Aikoku Maru and being unarmed and unescorted she was not able to resist being captured.
The ship was forced to sail under armed guard via Japanese occupied ports to Singapore where the passengers and non- essential crew members were placed in camps and prisons such as Changi Jail while the engineers were made to steam the ship up to the Mitsubishi Dockyard in Yokohama Harbour. Yokohama is the sea port for Tokyo and was a very large base for both the Naval and Merchant ships of the Japanese fleets

The Hauraki then had some modifications and repairs done, some to rectify the sabotage damage inflicted on machinery by the NZ crew, before being re-named Hoki Maru and sent to sea on the task of carrying defense materials to the Japan held Pacific theatres.
She lasted about eighteen months at this job until, on February 17th 1944, she was caught at anchor in a lagoon east of Eten Island, then a Japanese stronghold and major airstrip in the Truc group of Melanesian Islands, and an Avenger bomber from the Aircraft Carrier USS ‘Bunker Hill’ hit the port side with an aerial torpedo igniting the cargo of fuel and destroying the ship. Other torpedoes also made their mark as proved by the many gaping holes in her hull when she was found in later years.
She was discovered in the 1980’s sitting upright on a sandy sea bed at a depth of less than 50 metres with her superstructure and hull badly damaged but with much of her cargo of bull dozers, trucks, steam rollers, runway matting, aero engines etc, all items useful for forming and maintaining island air strips, still intact in the holds after more than sixty years on the sea bed

.It is not surprising that the ship is now a well known and patronised Scuba dive site known in diving circles as the ‘Bulldozer Wreck’ and is promoted by Michael McFadyen’s Scuba Diving Company as a perfect dive site.
( www.michaelmcfadyenscuba.info)


This story of the MV Hauraki’s crew is relatively shallow in its information and telling for the very same reticent attitudes that are mentioned and illustrated herein but by using material that has been gleaned from the net, from government files, from the seamen’s personal records and from voluntary verbal offerings from relatives of the ship’s crew I try to tell as much as I am able.
We have a reasonable degree of background details of the experiences of three engineers and one deck officer of the Hauraki plus scant information concerning some of the other crew members and details are below.

Second Engineer R.L Thompson
We know little about ‘Jock’ Thompson, as he was known, apart from the very graphic insight to his life as detailed in this following personal statement which was apparently recorded on his release from capture and although we do know that he continued to serve as an engineer at sea for a period after the war, there is little that we are able to add to this man’s story
His statement which is detailed below without alteration except for minor spelling and punctuation corrections is perhaps the most accurate details available of this whole event as Thompson was with the ship right through the period from initial capture until docking at Hiroshima and was the senior officer on board during the transit time from Singapore to Japan.. He also remained a POW throughout the war until peace was declared

His statement reads as follows

Quote
“At approximately 10 p.m. on the night of 12.7.42 the alarm bells went off and on stepping out of the cabin to proceed to the Engine room I was rather amazed to see the ship in a blaze of light which I soon discovered to be the beams of searchlights from two ships, one on either quarter. Two shots were fired across the bow and we were told to stop, which we did with a lot of trouble owing to the control rods of the Starboard Engine jamming and bending. Everything was ready at a moment’s notice to scuttle the ship should we receive orders from the Bridge that it might be an enemy craft.
Meantime whilst waiting, we repaired the control Rods. It seemed like ages waiting for news from the Bridge and finally the Chief sent a junior up to see what was doing. He came back almost immediately and at his back were Japs armed for immediate action (revolver and good torches slung over their shoulders on cords). It was rather a shock but everyone appeared quite calm. Rounded up, we were all ordered on deck. Thu Purser’s cabin had evidently been searched and the list of crew and firearms on board was in their hands. On the aft end of the bridge deck a Nip stood with hand grenades whilst we were searched. The 2nd Officer Allan McIntyre (the coolest man on the ship) was sent to collect the firearms from the cabins, which he did under the eye of the guard and when walking along the deck to deliver same, deliberately walked to the ship’s side and dropped them over. The Nips were too amazed to speak and after a little talk among themselves let the matter drop.
At this time the Captain and Chief Engineer were being questioned and finally came out telling us that we had to take the vessel to a Port where there was a Prize Court, which meant Japan. No argument they could put could alter the matter. From the time of the stop until we got under way again was a little over two hours which made it shortly after midnight, this making it the 13th of the month, the date the Japs claim as the day of capture. Also they worked on Tokyo Standard Time and we had moved our clocks accordingly. The course was set for Penang and we must have had ten stops, due mostly to our negligence trying to make the trip as slow as possible in case any of our Navy may be around. At night time many Lifebelts, bottles etc, were dropped over the side with messages and our course which was obtained from the NZ able bodied seamen who still steered the ship. During this time the 2nd Officer, Mr. McIntyre, played a wonderful part feigning drunk. The Nips took very little notice of him and in the middle of the night slipped down No.2 Hatch and recovered twelve bags of secret mail which he got to his cabin and during the next two nights finally disposed of it, the Chief on the second night giving him a hand. It was a great bit of work. I hope he is highly commended for his great risk and wonderful work.

We arrived in Penang on the 22.7.42. I suppose a little disappointed at not meeting any of our own Navy but at that time we knew the Navy had its hands full. The second Jap Cruiser kept just ahead of us and was in constant communication. We had on board twenty two Guards, two officers and 1 W.O. who treated us very well but were always very wary. On arrival at Penang two more Senior Jap Officers and a few ratings joined us who also treated us well. Our Captain, Mate, 2nd Mate, Chief Engineer, Purser, Wireless Operator and one or two passengers were taken ashore for questioning and on their return we learned from them that they were threatened quite a lot but managed to get back safely but for future questioning it put us on our guard.
Departing from Penang (which looked really beautiful from the ship) we proceeded to Singapore Naval Base (Selita) arriving on the 2nd August, taking two days for the run as we anchored at night. We anchored right opposite the floating dock which had been sunk (before the British Navy had evacuated) as well as several other ships which we could see alongside of the wharf and really looked good to us. Approximately two days later the 2nd and 3rd Officers with most of the Crew were told to pack up and go to a prison camp. We gave them a great send-off at the time feeling upset at being broken up. A few days later we set off for Japan and when but a few hours out ran ashore on a sand bank. After a lot of engine work we managed to get a lot of Compressor trouble and lost a lot of lube oil. We did not get off the bank until high water and decided to return, arriving back the following morning, anchoring again in the same place. They now decided to discharge the vessel and soon after started discharging into lighters. This continued slowly from day to day. Our Jap Navy Officers and Guards were sent back to their own ship and an Army Police Guard put in their place. We now started a daily routine hoisting cargo gear not forgetting washing down every morning. We had four Chinese and Indian fitters below to lend a hand working on Compressors. When questioned if we had sufficient gear to go to Japan we decided that we were short of Exhaust Valves (though we had many more than sufficient) so they got sent ashore and got two or three cast and machined before we left.

On the 1st October hurried orders came on board for the Captain, Chief, 1st Mate and Senior Wireless Operator to pack up and they were taken across to the Tokyo Maru to go to Japan. This reduced our number left on board to nineteen, myself being the senior officer, and with the departure of the Captain and the Chief I must say I did not feel at all happy with the added responsibility.
My first experience of trouble began when a Chinese Fitter was caught with a tin of tobacco, given to him by one of the juniors. The Chinese was beaten; the rest of us given quite a lecture and for a time we looked like going though it but all went well.
The Guards were changed from time to time and as each part went off took all they could carry of stolen cargo. About the third week in October another Jap Naval party took over, but before any arrangements could be made for sailing a Jap Raider came in (evidently short of men) and they were transferred and back to the Army Police again we went. By now all cargo was discharged. Number three hatch was partly left. Early in November another Jap naval party took over and we were duly lined up to hear the usual penalties which we were now accustomed to hearing at every change. The difference this time being the Captain (Jap) telling us this would be the last time he would address us in English. The following morning at the usual line up we were told to face the East and with the Guards bow to the sun and go through what we understood to be the Nip Morning Prayer. Of course we refused. This certainly made the Japanese CO. very angry and he got the guards to push our heads down. It was done with some vengeance but up we came again and after some talk among ourselves we were finally dismissed. After breakfast I spoke to the Jap Engineer about it and he took the matter to the Captain. Evidently after due consideration he excused us and imposed the saluting of the flag on us, otherwise we would be severely punished. I agreed to it saying that it did not mean a thing to us. We left Singapore on the 18th November having shifted ship from the Naval Base two days before and proceeded to Saigon. The night before we arrived there the look-out (Chinese on deck) saw something on the Port Bow and gave the alarm. The guns were manned and they opened fire discovering a minute later it was another Jap convoy coming from Saigon. We do not know if any damage was done or not. Saigon is a beautiful place to look at and is forty six miles up the river through paddy fields. When loading rice was started I immediately protested about the ship carrying Nip cargo. I got no satisfaction and we had to carry on. The “Hauraki” was moored to buoys on the left bank opposite the wharves where we could see the Australian and British P.O.W.’s working but too far away to make contact. We left Saigon about the 3rd or 4th December with four or five ships in convoy and had a slow and uneventful trip to Taiwan where we arrived about the 13th December. The Harbour had a very narrow entrance and was full up with shipping including three Hospital ships. Departing again on the 15th December we went to a place about one hundred miles up the coast and anchored behind some small islands awaiting another convoy which left about the 18th December. The Jap engineer never let up seeking information regarding the machinery and always making sketches of pipe lines etc. but without results as I warned all hands about it. He was a fairly tough proposition but now he started making me special green tea and serving it up in full Jap ceremonial fashion with the red silk cloth over his hand before passing it over. Not doubt he was a very puzzled man as he had absolutely no data, drawing or otherwise to look at, as we had destroyed everything. There is no doubt in my mind that had he known the job our life would have been a little hell, consequently we made the most of everything. We still retained our cabins but dined aft in the crew’s quarters, mostly tinned sausages and rice at this time. The sausages of course were part of the cargo.
Our next stop was Moji Japan, and our small knot convoy with destroyers who were our escort arrived there on Christmas night, 1942. The Diesel fuel we took on at Singapore was just plain boiler oil. It worked alright in the hot weather but from Taiwan to Japan it just would not flow but after fitting heaters to the filters we managed to get along alright. When the oil trouble started the Jap engineer got the idea it was sabotage and until he saw the result of the heaters things were far from pleasant. I regretted very much that we showed him that much.
On numerous occasions he had I had arguments about the running of the engine room. The engineers on all occasions cooperated wonderfully. The weather in Moji was miserably cold and a miserable place with a strong raw wind blowing. The shipping was very busy. Labour came on board both men and women and quite a lot of the rice was discharged. Off we went again, Osaka being our next stop. One the way over we managed to pump out at least sixty or seventy tons of fuel. On arriving at Singapore we had at least three thousand gallons of lube oil but by now were very short having over done disposing of it, so we added fuel oil and salt water to make up the deficiency. The remainder of the rice was discharged here and military barracks, in sections, loaded. I again protested in no uncertain terms but still of no avail. From Osaka to Tokyo 11.1.43 to 13.1.43 the grinding and wearing of the machinery would have made any respectable engineer weep and we on board breathed a sigh of relief when we were finished with engines. On the way up the boys kept on throwing overboard the spares for generators, fuel pumps and anything or real value to the job and on arrival at Tokyo we were certainly “schooner rigged”. It was the last day of October before they go to turn out of the “Hauraki”. On the 15th January 1943 we were loaded on a truck and dispatched to Yokohama, about twenty miles away.

We drove through thickly populated areas, everyone looking at the prisoners, and arrived at D-1 P.O.W. Camp. Here we were fortunate to meet again the Captain, Chief, Mate and Wireless Operator. After being searched and through the regular speeches and penalties etc. we were allotted our pew to sleep on. What a place to land in. The weather bitterly cold, mud everywhere, the camp hospital full to overflowing, hardly a man fit to speak being so full of the cold. At night time the coughing was terrible. There was no medicine, or in fact anything. Fortunately we had stolen quite a lot from the ship’s medical kit and now we gave it to the Doctor to help him out. For the first three months there was a death every other day and sometimes two. We were issued with working suits and on the 18th January were sent to the Mitsubishi Ship Yard. Up in the morning at 5.a.m., roll call, P.T.s give a hand to draw breakfast and serve it out, and return buckets washed. Immediately, after breakfast, line up, for work parade. The usual thing every morning someone getting beat up for some trifle. We march two miles to work, the guards using their butts or boots to help us on. We were forbidden to talk to Jap workmen under very heavy penalties. Some were caught and on arrival back at camp we would have to watch their punishment. Generally ten or twelve guards taking turn about beating him up, it was sickening. After the beating they were tied up to a post on the parade ground for several hours. I have seen on a morning parade three men getting heavily slugged because they asked to get their boots repaired. At this time roll call at night was our greatest nightmare as we were hungry and dead tired. They generally started at 7.30p.m and very often lasted for hours, many times till midnight.
On one occasion we were kept standing for hours while they demanded that any British, American or any other currency we possessed should be given to them for safe keeping. Amongst our boys they got a large sum, Holland the A.B. handing over 159 pounds, the other ranging from 5 to 30 pounds. A short time afterwards we were informed that the Jap Government had changed over our money to yen, giving us 97 yet per Australian or N.Z. pound and 95 yen for a British pound, also 98 yen for one dollar. We are now endeavoring to recover same. Before going further I might mention we were in a Military POW Camp where we had Americans, Dutch, English, Australian and New Zealanders. The camp strength at the start being about five hundred and fifty which was reduced to just over four hundred and twenty when approximately seventy officers were removed to another Camp and a large number of deaths had occurred.

The first C.O. and Interpreters were nothing but sadists and never a day went by without some unpleasantness or incident. Bashings, standing up for hours, extra drill on return from work to make us accustomed to Japanese orders and then at roll call for hours giving us questions in Japanese for us to answer in Nip and standing at attention all the time with the guards walking around all the time punching anyone who dared to blink an eye. The sickness in the camp included pneumonia, malaria, dysentery, diarrhea, gastric flue, beriberi and many other complaints. Here six weeks after our arrival in camp motorman Hughes died on pneumonia and tuberculosis. Captain Creese went down with pneumonia a few days before Hughes died, but I am pleased to say he fought hard and recovered. Before he recovered Mr. Lindsay, wireless operator, also go pneumonia and for days we did not expect him to be there on our arrival back from work, but he made the distance. The day Lindsay came out of hospital I dropped with an attack of Malaria but after a while recovered. These complaints certainly took it out of us and to crown all whilst convalescent, cleaning camp, were on half rations which amounted to three quarter of a cup of grain and a cup of soup. My dinner today put me in mind of two or three soups in Japan, as today we had green peas – where there – the Nips had the peas and we had the pods boiled up with a little misu paste (Soy Thickening) for our soup. Mostly soups were made of Dykon tops (Radish), turnip tops, sweet potato leaves and anything that looked green whilst at rare intervals a few dykons or sweet potatoes might find their way in. One about four or five occasions we had bread for breakfast. The first time it was absolutely as green as grass with mould, and at other time so hard it was impossible to break it but we ate it for not matter what it was, it was better than being hungry. The Japs said that if it was too mouldy to take it back to the galley to put in the soup. Nothing went back as when we got bread there was no grain. Occasionally we had small portion of fish for tea which on numerous occasions was very high, head, guts, scales, bones, everything was eaten. Occasionally thirty pounds of meat, horse? Or whale? came into the camp for four hundred and twenty prisoners. After the Nips had their cut we were lucky to get ten pounds, which was cut up small and put into the soup. Shortly before we were moved from Yokohama we had a special treat, a bucket of blood poured into the soup with a few green tops chopped up. The blood was obtained from the slaughter house..

At last after the best of twelve months the first C.O. and Interpreter were shifted, and the pressure eased up and the bashings became less frequent. Then the American planes started to appear, as the days went by the alerts became so frequent it was difficult to keep count of them.

The bombing was terrific and the incendiaries most spectacular. The damage was enormous. One night we witnessed fifty square miles of Tokyo burning down, and the 4-B29’s were shot down quite close to our camp. The planes coming out of the darkness into the glare of the burning city looked like ghosts. The Nips were always too interested during the raids when things got too hot to worry us, so we always got a good view of things. At last things became too dangerous around Yokohama and they decided to shift us. Before proceeding further I will add a little more about conditions.
The conditions in the camp were terrible. In the winter time the temperature was from twelve to eighteen degrees below, then the camp was infested with lice and bugs, while in the summer time the temperature was high, there we were absolutely eaten alive by fleas and mosquitoes which came in clouds. To get forty to sixty on your blankets every day was common to all. To start off with we had two grass mats to sleep on but as they were vermin breeders had to dispense with them and sleep on boards. The lavatories were something frightful and were just a living mess of maggots and at times the blow flies came in clouds. We had no mosquito nets to start with. It was impossible to sleep during the mosquito season and it was only after the prisoners were dropping with exhaustion that the arm nets were brought in. There were manyaccidents at the ship yard and mostly caused through negligence of the Japs. On one occasion the staging around a ship carried away and one of the prisoners badly smashed up internally, also a broken leg. It was about two hours laterbefore he was put into a wheeled hand truck and taken back to camp to get his first attention. He died later. This was the regular procedure. The truck was known to the prisoners as the Mitsu-bishi ambulance.
It was the same truck we used for taking firewood back to camp for the galley. Fuel was very scarce and coal, when obtainable, very poor. The camp was split up in sections and our group of 100 with another group of 100 from Osaka shipyard camp were sent to Kamaishi. We left Yokohama Camp on the 12th May 1945 and after a tough ride of thirty two hours by train arrived at Kamaishi at 2.30am on the 14th May 1945. We marched to the camp about half a mile away. The C.O. was an arrogant pig. He lined us up after giving us our quarters and let us know where we stood and finished by saying, “I will give you sleep, but we got no breakfast”. We discovered that the camp had 200 Dutchman in it. There were but four water taps and just enough water for two to run and then only a dribble.

The C.O. and the guards much resembled our first C.O. and his outfit and ruled us with a rod of iron. Not the heavy bashings but for any small offence you lived in the guard house doing odd jobs when you returned from work during the day, half rations and no blankets. We were to work in the steel works and for the best part of the time the work was heavy. Sometime in June the observation planes started to appear, then many others. The trenches in our camp were just started and now speed was needed and not before time. Our food here was a slight increase to the Yokohama camp but the soups just as poisonous. For greens we went to the mountains and gathered wild chrysanthemum leaves, thistles, grass and fern leaves. This was just one of the fatigues we had on our day off which sometimes came along once a fortnight, and sometimes longer in between. On the 14th of July, 1945 the American Fleet decided to pay us a visit and lay about three miles from the mouth of the bay which was approximately four miles deep and heavily shelled the place. About one hundred yards in front of the camp (on the foreshore) was a A.A. Battery, whilst across the bridge at the right of the camp and about three hundred yards away was another A.A. Battery, the steel works directly at the back. Other A.A. Batteries were placed on the hills a little farther up the valley. For two and one half hours they poured in salvos every fifty five seconds. From five to sixteen inch shells rained over us. A sixteen inch shell for the last salvo pierced the top of the tunnel we were sheltering in. It landed almost overhead blowing in the top of the tunnel which crashed down killing over forty Nips and five POW’s. The screams still ring in my ears and the noise was terrific. The Chief Engineer was buried well over the chest and it was well over two hours before we got him out as a dead Dutchman was tangled around his feet. He was badly bruised, two bones broken in the left wrist and minor cuts. I was badly cut about the head and with concussion and I suppose badly shaken up. Back at the camp we learned that one shell had hit the camp at the back in the section where we were accommodated and one American boy had received a compound fracture of the right arm.

The Jap C.O. of the camp had his mother and sister living nearby and both of them lost their lives. He was much quieter after that. We heard from good sources that over three thousand Nips lost their lives. During the next week the small air-born planes made frequent visits trying to eliminate the A.A. Batteries, but did not quite succeed. On the 9th August the Allied Fleet arrived to complete the job. We could hear them shelling a little distance off and had plenty of time to move to a safe shelter but no orders were given. Shortly after, the shelling started again and they really went to market. Being hospital cases were in the hospital trench. The ground trembled all the time. About the end of the first hour the front A.A. Battery got hit and the ammunition dump went up.

· The camp was hit and up in flames it went due to the ammunition dump going up. It burned like a petrol fire being so dry, the flames going right across the parade ground and getting into the trenches at both doors. The situation was desperate and many of the boys dashed out blindly only to receive severe burns and many died later. A few of us lay flat waiting our chance to get out. At last I made in along with two Dutch boys but unfortunately one of them who had a broken collar bone from the first shelling lost his life as he did not have the strength to clear the parade ground. The other boy was very badly burned. We then sheltered on the river bank until it was all over. The whole place was in ruins and the camp nothing but ashes. That night we slept amongst the ruins, the boys who went to work slept wherever they could get. We then got the news that a shell had hit another tunnel near the mouth killing seventeen Dutchman. We lost ten in the fire making twenty seven in the second shelling and a total of thirty two for both shellings. Unfortunately our 5th engineer, Harry Brodie, died of burns a few hours after the fire. He was the fourth one of our crew to die who came to Japan. Todd, the Mate, died of malnutrition on the 19th of April 1945 and Holland, A.B., on the 12th July 1945 of Cancer of the liver.
· The day after the fire we moved to an old gymnasium where there was very little accommodation. Just before we entered the building the small planes came over to bomb the A.A. Battery on the hill. One bomb dropping about amile away. A single stone came through the air and went through the roof killing an American boy. It was three days after the fire before we received any medical attention and many of the boys were in a bad way. The steel works then sent up about six nurses and a Jap Doctor. The nurses were very efficient and the attention certainly relieved us. Two days later many of the burnt patients were found to have maggots crawling all through the burns which took quite a time to pick out. On the 15th Augustat lastsome of the prisoners came in to tell us, who were hospital cases, that there was a peculiar parade of the guards. They evidently first turned East and then turned toward Tokyo bowing etc. and doing things they had never done before. The Chief with an American decided then and there that the war was over and had it confirmed within twenty four hours. Late that afternoon we were all moved to join another camp about twelve and a half miles up the valley to a place called Ohashi. It was made up of Canadians and Dutchmen. The Canadians by the way traveled by the Union Company Ship M.V. “Awatea” from Vancouver to Hong Kong. Here we were billeted in a small theatre which at its limit held just over two hundred, so the other one hundred and fifty had to sleep anywhere they could get.

On the 25th August, just at dinner time, small sea-borne planes appeared and seven hundred and fifty men dashed out to see them. The first one flew over the camp at about fifty feet up dropping a few cigarettes and a note telling us to keep cheerful and thinking I was just a little over-strained I turned away only to find everyone of the boys weeping for joy also. It certainly was a wonderful sight and thinking I was just a little over-strained I turned away only to find everyone of the boys weeping for joy also. It certainly was a wonderful sight. From then on every second day the B-29’s came over and dropped food, clothing, boots and medical supplies. From the time we arrived in Ohashi we received more and better food and with the American food coming in we picked up very quickly. They even dropped flea powder which was a real prize as by running the hand over the badges the fleas would come out, but the powder soon stopped that.

We were evacuated from Japan by the American Red Cross Ship “Rescue” taken to Yokohama and transferred to the British Hospital Ship “Vasna” which we left and flew down to Okinawa, then on to Manila. After thirteen days in Manila we came on to Sydney by the H.M.C. “Formidable”, then by rail to Melbourne and finally to NZ by SS “Andes”.
Since leaving Japan we have had nothing but kindness shown to us and trust that all concerned know”.
“Unquote”


To be continued

spongebob
22nd May 2011, 11:45
MV Hauraki (cont)

Second Officer Allan McIntyre

Allan McIntyre was the second Officer mentioned in Engineer Jock Thompson’s statement detailing his version of the ship’s capture and subsequent events.
Allan was described as the ‘coolest man on board’ as he feigned drunkenness and other attitudes to achieve so much essential espionage during the period at sea while under Japanese control

Allan joined Hauraki in Sydney on 26th May 1942 en-route to Melbourne and Fremantle before sailing on her ill-fated passage toward India and the Middle East. It is noted that a storm in Fremantle damaged a lifeboat and a gangway which delayed the ship’s departure and which may well have sealed their fate of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Allan’s records show that Hauraki had an uneventful passage across the Indian Ocean until approximately 100 km south of Sri Lanka and the intercept occurred at approximately 2230 hrs on July 12th 1942 when the raiders were en route from the Mozambique Channel.
Allan McIntyre served from 26/5/42 – 12/7/42 as second mate before being held by the Japanese as a Prisoner of war in Changi and on gaining his freedom was flown to New Zealand 21/9/45.

There is believed to be a far greater record of Allan McIntyre’s story than currently available to the writer and it is to be hoped that this information will eventually come to light and add to the depth of this history.

Allan McIntyre remained with the Union Steamship Co of NZ after the war and rose to the rank of a Senior Master serving on the Inter-Island Ferries (Rangatira, Hinemoa, Maori).
He was awarded the O.B.E and no doubt his yet unfolded history during the war contributed toward this honour.

Alexander Meredith 8th engineer

Alexander apparently mentioned little to his family about his years in captivity and it is only now that old records, files and diaries now in the hands of his daughter that this man’s part in the episode can be partly told
Alexander Meredith was born in England in 1917 and migrated to Australia with his parents at the age of two and his daughter Lexie Raven of Adelaide outlines her recollections of her father in the following letter to me

Lexie Raven’s own words

Quote

“My father didn’t talk at all about Japan – the only thing I remember was, if we ever left any food on our plate we would be in trouble and told how grateful he would have been if he had that food in Japan.

Dad died at the age of 65, he had driven Mum to the shops and on their return home, noticed that a neighbor across the road was shifting a load of gravel which had been left out on the kerb for a cementing job he had as a home renovator. Dads drove the car into our shed, picked up his wheelbarrow and shovel and said to Mum that he would give Jim a hand. You wouldn’t believe it; they shifted all the gravel and Dad put his shovel in the wheelbarrow and just dropped and was dead.
It was a terrible shock for us all at the time, but I know that he would have been a very frustrated and angry man if he had been incapacitated.

Things were very different for Dad on his return home to Australia compared to the NZ men. It is my understanding that the New Zealanders were give full repatriation benefits and access to medical support when they arrived home.

Dad fought the Australian Government for the whole of my childhood memories and up to about 18 months before he died.
In their bedroom he had a four draw filing cabinet full of correspondence with the Veteran’s Affairs Department trying to prove his case for repatriation and rehabilitation. There were always books and notes laid out on the kitchen table and I had many a fight with my father when he would ask me to interpret my opinion of a legal letter he had received and if it wasn’t what he wanted to hear he would get so angry and I would end up in tears. But I always went back for more.

Unfortunately after Dad’s death Mum moved from our family home into a unit and has destroyed a lot of that paperwork. Since my correspondence with you I have gone through some papers and have found the list that my mother and I made for the Veterans Affairs after he died. We had his employment records from July 46 through to January 1975 so in 29 years he had 46 jobs some of them for only months at a time. (Unfortunately Mum has destroyed all of those tax returns but I had the list) I know Mum used to say she hated Friday’s because she would never know if he was going to come home with or without a job. He actually went back and worked for several of the firms on more than one occasion. Therefore money was always tight. He used to say “The bastards will always have me back”.
In 1976 he gave up work at the age of 58 and went on to unemployment benefits and told the Government Employment office straight that he was going to concentrated on his “case” full time.
He died on Friday the 17th May 1983 which was a long weekend.

On that weekend at 30 years of age I found out for the first time that Dad had been receiving some psychiatric assistance but I think it was mainly funded through his fight with the repatriation people.

I have a copy of a Transmission of Section 64 (1) Appeal to W.P.E.A.T. – which is a SUMMARY OF STATUTORY DETERMINATIONS I did read some of this document years ago but it was fairly painful at the time. I do note that he was rejected for repatriation benefits at that time which was in 1976 and he was described as having an ‘Inadequate Personality’ which absolutely destroyed him.
He would pace up and down the kitchen/dinette continuously.

Of course these days it would be put down as Post Traumatic Stress, but to be described in such words as an ‘inadequate personality’ was just sole destroying for him and for us.

Dad had Tuberculosis of the Hip when he was 7 years old and spent the next 8 years in and out of hospital. They put him in a plaster cast from the tummy down to his knee to freeze his hip. He always had a limp but as he grew older his leg and the knee rotated outward, the spine wasn’t straight and therefore his limp became greater. He always claimed that the malnutrition, beriberi, etc contributed to the deterioration of his leg.

As I sit here tonight and read excerpts of the document which has medical reports from 1945 – 1976 he is suffering from lack of concentration, he gets agitated in small spaces, he has nightmares, he can’t work in confined spaces and suffers from irritability.

As far as his claim went there was also a problem with the fact that he was British Born, came to Australia aged 2 and the fact that the owners of the Hauraki were a NZ Company with the ship being registered in London. His name came up in Parliament House in question time at one stage and he finally won his case for not only himself but his case and another fellow in Western Australia contributed to all Merchant Mariners serving in a war zone being acknowledged.
I will never forget the day he came home with his first pair of specially made boots from the Repatriation as his leg was at that time was 4” shorter than the other. I also remember being surprised at how tall he actually was because I had never seen him stand straight before.

When Dad died I took Mum to Legacy to organise for her to get a Veteran’s Affairs pension, as by this time Dad had been on benefits for about 18 months. Mum was refused and I remember saying to her, “Mum we can fight this” and her reply was “Your Father fought them all his life and I am not going to do the same”.

But I have to tell you the good news, many years later Dad was posthumously award a medal in recognition of his Merchant Navy service, to which I attended and received the Medal on his behalf as Mum was away on a holiday at the time.
Several weeks later after the medal presentation Mum invited a friend of Dad’s who grew up with him as a school boy and worked with Dad in obtaining their apprenticeships at Holden’s in Woodville. Whilst having a cup of coffee Mum was telling Bill about having to have plastic surgery on her nose as a result of skin cancer and was saying about how expensive it was to have had so many operations.

Bill said to Mum – Connie can I ask why you are not receiving a Veterans Affairs pension and why these operations not covered – so mum told him the story.
He said do you mind if I follow this up. Six months later Mum received $20,000.00 they had back paid her the difference in her pension to a war widow’s pension. I couldn’t help but think how my Dad would have been sooo very happy. Mum is now on Veteran Affairs pension and in Australia is receiving what is know as a gold card which entitled her to free medical including specialist as well as physio, chiro, dental etc. We always laugh and call it her Million Dollar card and let me tell you I know that she certainly deserves it with what she lived through.

I still find it difficult to understand why these men never spoke about their treatment as prisoners of war and for Dad to have to go through all those years of turmoil fighting the Repatriation authorities for what he knew was fair and just. Today I think of all these young fellows in Afghanistan, Iraq and Timor etc and just wonder where they will end up, who will support them and what their wives and children will have to endure because of war. “

Unquote

Lexie Raven’s account from the heart would no doubt typify the anguish and traumas that were endured by returned war personnel, both military and civilian, and their families in those years of un-enlightened attitudes of the authorities as her account clearly exposes.

Lexie Raven again, jottings from her father’s notes

Quote

“In this summary I have included notes of my father’s


Treated for five months in Tokyo Prison camp hospital and about seven months in working camps.
In the prison Camp for three years 2 months.
Weight during captivity 8 stone 7 pounds
Treated in Shinigawa for five months with Beriberi
Forced marching to and from shipyard to camp.
Slept on the floor in Yokahama and Kamaishi prison camps.
Our footwear usually consisted of pieces of wood smuggled from the ship yard (Mitsubishi) and a piece of canvas or hessian nailed across the top to make what we called a pair of thongs.
Belted about the head by two guards and the C.O. for cutting up perished rubber hose to mend our shoes and was partly out for a few minutes.
Another occasion was belted for smoking after hours at night.
Often we were made to stand at attention for hours, at roll call, particularly at night for no reason at all and forced marching to and from the ship yard in bitterly cold winters with insufficient food and clothing and foot wear.
Recovered by Americans and British

Return Home US Rescue – American Hospital Ship Vasna spent a week on the Vasna and “The Speaker” a British Air Craft Carrier
Arrived at the Philippines, Manila treated for worms and spent ten days.
In Sydney, was examined at the Repatriation Offices near Central Station and was referred to Randwick, where Beriberi was diagnosed. My legs were swollen and I attended there as an outpatient.
Japanese Commandant was hanged and some of his staff.”
Unquote

DIARY OF ALEXANDER MEREDITH
8th Engineer MV Hauraki
Born in England and migrated to Australia at the age of two.
Date of Birth 24/11/1917
Lived in Rosewater South Australia


Written after his release from POW Camp in Japan and
copied verbatim from a type transcript of my father’s diary.

Lexie Raven

15th September 1945

Today we were addressed by the first free allied officer we have seen for over three years, and his words were more than music to our ears when he said “we are going to take you boys home” from those words and a few more remarks from this American naval officer, loud cheers, laughter and tears were in evidence – myself for instance, not knowing whether to laugh or weep – but was overcome with awe and wanted to see thing get moving.

It was only a matter of minutes when trucks came tearing at top speed from the wharves were they had been unloaded from small craft specially constructed for beachhead landings. We were quickly loaded into these vehicles and driven across the river and smartly assisted into landing barges with a high powered diesel engine and run out to the hospital ship “U.S. RESCUE”. After being run through a quick medical survey, showered, change of clothes, deloused, etc we filed past a British naval officer who took names and addresses, then cabled home for us.

This day was a reunion also as many of the DI boys who had been split up were now all ready on this vessel.

16th September 1945

At 10.00am the pick was raised and we steamed towards Yokahama in convoy and that evening a community concert was held.

17th September 1945

On arrival at Yokahama I sent a letter through the ships Red Cross mail service and before leaving the vessel at 1.00pm I received a toilet kit which was most acceptable. After lunch many Britishers were transferred to British hospital ship “VASNA” – here I go again examined by a doctor and told I was fit to fly if I wished to do so.

The Chief, 2nd and I were set up in officers accommodation. I heard today the rest of the MV Hauraki boys are on the cruiser 5 U.S.N.
Attended a community concert tonight.
Mutton and Chamberlain also on board here Commander Tinker also.
Introduced to Lt. Black of Melbourne.
Ship’s staff marvelous.
Capt. Robertson (DOC) of Sydney on board (patient) Interned San Suju. Heard of Durant, Warner, Andrews, Walsh and Udoh.
Received a South African Red Cross bag.

18th September 1945

Today Commander Tinker, Jock Thompson and I went for a walk to inspect our old camp site which was a mass of ruins. The only thing standing was the boiler. Mitsubishi schools were also razed to the ground with a bulldozer straightening things out a little.
Captain Shaw of Melbourne visited the ship today.

The Padre presented Chief, Jock and I with NZ and South African cigarettes. Wrote two letters – one to Mum and one to John (brother)
Attended the community concert.
The skipper of ship came down and had a word with us and a very nice gentleman he is. Had a drink of K.B. with ship’s Chief Engineer, first one for three years. Captain Bond, Chief Engineer, Second Engineer Stark and Keppie.
Today we were paid five pound sterling (Six Pound five shillings – Australian)

19th September 1945

Had breakfast on board Vasna. Left ship about ten o’clock, particulars taken on wharf by Yanks, and driven to airfield where we received lunch. Just before taking off General MacArthur arrived with his wife. Twenty two POW’s on board plane, including Chief, Thompson, Tinker, Bill Reid, Chamberlain,
Curtis 46 rose to 9,000 ft.

On our way to the airfield we saw part of Mitsubishi, the big machine shop that now remained a skeleton of steel right along side our old mess “shack”.

Posted Mum and John’s letter this morning and the Sister gave us a good send off, by giving us shorts, shirt and pajamas for all, cigarettes and matches for those who required.
Cruiser 5 sailed about 5.00am with 1000 POW’s including remainder of our crew. Captain Creese, Hall, Lindsay etc. We left G. Mutton and Bill Arniel on Vasna. Before leaving ship we had Toheroa soup, relished by Chief and Jock.

This is my first flying experience, as I write this, and I’m just sitting down writing now feeling comfortable as you like. I might mention I had the pleasure of taking a leak when we got up, that was my sentiments to the country we are leaving behind. Have just woken up 5.55- lit a cigarette and found ourselves going through a cloud, rather a funny sensation, but I don’t think it would be so humorous flying in a storm. Weather is very pleasant with scattered clouds and looking back I can see a little bank we just flew through, and thinking back it reminds me of what courage those flying boys had when they came over a bombed Tokyo in a snow storm. It sure must have been a rough trip for them. Had about a two hour nap. Arrived Okinawa at two minutes to 8.00pm Taken to Red Cross truck, doughnuts and coca cola, then motored to tents, put in officer’s tents.

The average speed was approx 180 miles per hour. During this trip rather an eerie feeling came over me just as we sighted Okinawa. I looked forward for the first time to find huge flames, spouting from the exhaust and I thought the engine was afire. I said nothing as I didn’t want to cause a panic among the other “green” passengers so I decided to observe the reactions of the crew and I was convinced in a matter of seconds that it was nothing but exhaust.

The reason why I didn’t wish to cause a panic is I heard and saw the result of one in Kamaishi when the boys began to run around in an air raid and an American Boy was killed by a flying stone coming through the roof.

20th September 1945

Awakened this morning to find John Storey and Major Teesdale from DI, also Colonel Rudolf from Shinigawa, in the next tent.
I believe there are twenty seven hospital tents here - 60,000 troops. Planes are arriving and departing every few seconds and just now it is the busiest airport in the world.

Went to the mess hall this morning, had a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs, bread and butter, oranges and porridge. Visited the canteen this morning – had Coca Cola, received handkerchief and chocolate, cigarettes and toilet gear, also available.

I have never seen so many freighters and warships concentrated in one spot, it was a marvelous sight I saw this morning.

Today I talked to P.O.W.’s from Mukden, from the same camp as Percival Wainwright and Shinton Thomas. They tell me the Russians are a rugged lot, go around shooting up for souvenirs, women, etc. We are living under canvas, as bulldozers, graders and trucks are industriously maneuvering in all directions.

Teesdale, Storey and Rudolf have pushed off at 11 o’clock. This is their third attempt to leave this island, having had to return twice due to engine trouble. Last night we received GI eating utensils and today I found it one of the greatest pleasures of my liberation to use a knife, fork and spoon again.

When the Russians arrived in Mukden they shook hands with one hand and placed a rifle in the other and said, do what you like to Nip staff – hang, shoot or lop their heads off, but the British and American generals wouldn’t allow it.
Whisky was brought into the camp in great quantities and the boys came in riding beautiful black horses.

I have just visited a pre-war Japanese vault, finding a human skull and many other bones scattered here, there and everywhere. The crockery which contained these bones was of Japanese art resembling temples, churches, measuring approx 12” x 15” x 10’. Many two inch dud shells were lying around the vaults. This can easily be explained as a landing took place just about four miles up the coast from here.

4.30pm Major Teesdale has arrived back for the third time. The pilot refused to fly owing to the weather. I believe although the weather here is marvelous, I hear it may be a little boisterous further south. I wandered around to see a crowd of ex-POW’s all queued up and chattering excitedly, so I asked what was going on and was informed that they were US Navy and Marines on their way to GUAM, but the amusing spectacle was the sabers, bayonets and cutlasses of all description taken from the Japs in Manchuria for souvenirs.

This evening I went to an open air show ‘President Woodrow Wilson”, not bad at all. In between reels I would look out over the bay and ships were spread out for miles which made it look like a huge city lit up.

21st September 1945

Was awakened this morning at 3.00am and taken to the airstrip, about six hundred men, but unfortunately two trucks came back with me on one of them. Chief, Jock and Chamberlain got away, so now I’m on my pat Malone. This is the first time since being a POW I haven’t been with one or more of the crew. I arrived back at the camp about 10.00am; feeling very tired so had a nap until 11.30am then had a shower and lunch. After lunch I met Mr. Fetydees and had a good old yarn together. Later went to the movies, good show. I got yarning with three English boys and we decided to run a watch so we wouldn’t miss the planes, two of them stood there on watch and then we were woken at 2.00am. I might mention I had my first cigar today which I enjoyed immensely.

22nd September 1945


Arrived at the airfield of Yontun about 2.30pm where taken on board a B24 and we took off at 6.05am. After a few minutes in the air a strong smell of petrol was very noticeable – anyhow it appeared a cap had come off and we returned to the airstrip, landing at 7.30am. Whilst waiting for transport back to camp I thoroughly inspected the B24. Later a truck arrived (approx one hour) were driven back to operational area where many POW were waiting, so we were given priority over them and were promised the first plane after lunch, but none took off so we not find ourselves in camp again.

Had a nap, shower and supper and feel fully refreshed and ready to go again right now.
Just before supper I heard many detonations just across the road from the camp and after making enquiries as to what was going on, I believe they are still finding Nips in the caves who won’t surrender so they are blasting them out.
Now I can see why we were ordered to sign a document pledging not to relate our experiences or whereabouts until we leave the island. My three mates, namely, Paddy, Jim and Robbie from Mukden Camp are very cheery and good company.

Went to the movies this evening to see “One body too many”, starring Jean Parker and Ida Lupino, not a bad show.


23rd September 1945

Dozens of B24’s were seen, flying in formation last night and landed on this Island, so I expect to take off some time tomorrow. The weather fouled up here this afternoon and it was rumored this morning the weather is bad down south and I’m inclined to believe it as not one POW has left here today.

This evening I strolled along to the movies to see about half of the show which was humorous. One of my English friends gave me a pipe today, dropped from a super fortress in Manchuria, so I intend to treasure it as long as possible.

The supper here tonight was marvelous – green peas, grilled chops, canned pears, bread and butter and coffee.

24th September 1945

This morning I was awakened at approximately 4.00am. By the sound of trucks and much chattering, so I decided to call my three cobbers and make another attempt to get away. Well, this time we arrived at the airport of Yutan about 5.00am and finally took off in a B24 at 9.00am after receiving K rations. The weather was marvelous and on arrival at Luzon the scenery was beautiful, panoramic. We proceeded down to Clark Field and set the machine down at 2.30pm. After receiving biscuits and coffee we waited for a plane, for Manila, but there just wasn’t enough available so we were taken to a transit camp for the night. Whilst having supper last night, two young American boys asked me to tell them some of my experiences in Nippon, so after a cigarette and another round of coffee, we adjourned to their quarters and they gave me cigars, about a quarter of a bottle of whisky and a carton of cigarettes (Chesterfields) so I saved a shot of whisky for my three mates and brought the bottle back to our quarters. We are under canvas and have been issued with mosquito nets and one blanket. John Paletta, 5 Madison Street Paterson, New Jersey and Noel Solden, Oshkosh, Nebraska, are the two boys who entertained me this evening, they both belong to 13th Bomber Squadron (John – Radioman and Noel – Engineer). I promised to reciprocate if ever they drop in to Sydney.

25th September 1945

Last night for supper I had my first taste of sauerkraut (canned) and hot dogs. This is my very first time of tasting same although the Americans talked quite a lot about it in Japan and I might mention I rather enjoyed same.

This morning had a delightful breakfast and taken to airfield by truck and the Red Cross fed us doughnuts and coffee. Later, about 2.30pm boarded C47 and was flown to Nichols Field arriving about 3.00pm. Was put on board a truck and driven to an Australian Camp. Here I regret to say I had to depart from my three English friends without getting their addresses.

After informing Aussie Officers I was Australian Merchant N/O, I was immediately transferred to officer’s camp by truck where I met up with Jock and Chief again. Jock and I are in the same tent with three other Aussie Army Officers.
I received three cans of beer, cigarettes, cigars, candy, clothing, boots etc. Went to the movies this evening and peeked half way through the show felling very tired.

26th September 1945

This morning I went to be medically processed and interrogated, during the medical business I passed through the hands of several Aussie nurses who immediately addressed me as Blue and made enquiries as to where I had my hair permed.

Last night I was introduced to Commander Gheer who related many of his experiences. I am dining with Generals, Brigadier Generals and officers of all descriptions. Was yarning with Colonel Rudolf, who spoke, with great respect of Brown.

Received my cigarettes, cigars, beer issue, as well as a pipe. I had a double shot of gin for a night cap.

Captain Creese arrived here today, also met Colonel Lindsay, Captain Hamilton and Ginger Jap. The dentist put me down for a new outfit. I have written home.

27th September 1945

Today I met Captain Carlson, formerly POW Singapore, also had conversation with Major Cousins. Roy Gabel, Jim Innes, Charlie Hurley, Bill Hall, Lindsay Scott and Bill Porteous arrived here today. Heard today of Holland’s death “Hauraki”, died July 12th exactly three years to the day, POW McCready came down today and I believe Jake left yesterday for Canada. Lieutenant J Badham, Lieutenant Pat Dowse from this tent, are just leaving us for Aussie, both from Melbourne.

Bill, Jim and I went to a concert tonight.
The first all American Vaudeville Show I have seen and sure enjoyed the same. Loud shrieks and cat calls were in evidence from the GI’s in the leg shows.

28th September 1945

Today the camp was visited by Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser of the K.G.5
I have written two letters, one to brother Marty and one to Mum.
Commander Tinker is in our tent now, after being discharged from the hospital. Had a yarn with Major Muir at lunch, who tells me Sirater was killed with a food parcel and he was enquiring about “Chips”.
Attended another review tonight, quite entertaining but that was all.


29th September 1945

Went down to see Jake this morning and he took off at 10.00am on the Prince Robert, bound for Vancouver. Saw Jack Pierce, Johnny Harvey, Reginald Bell, McCready, Harland, Alexander and Jack Neil, this morning, all look ‘A’ ONE. This evening, went to International Ballet, semi opera review, which was just too much, so retired about half way through. Jock, Chief and Skipper have been notified to go tomorrow on aircraft carrier “Formidable”.

30th September 1945

Hedland, Hall, Innes, Porteous, Scott and Hurley have been notified to stand by for Tuesday. Went to show last night and it rained like hell but I decided to sit it out as we worked for seven days in every bit as bad weather in Japan.

1st October 1945 – Monday

Today Whalie and three other officer of DI arrived. I received five tablets and a dose of salts today as I have worms which seem very common among the boys. Went to show tonight, saw Joan Blundell, and not bad. Jock received a letter enquiring about Todd today from his sister Molly Todd, Quay View Flats, Kirribilli.

2nd October 1945

Jock, Chief and Skipper got away this morning at 6.00am on “Formidable”. This morning I posted a letter to Mother,. Went to the movies last night and saw “Brewster’s Millions”. A fairly good show. Major Emmett was enquiring about Charlie House.

3rd October 1945

Today I was interrogated again verbally and had to sign typewritten copy later. Was taken to waterfront today, but weather was too rough to be taken out to carrier which was anchored outside breakwater.
Attended show tonight – Philippine Orchestra, quite good, with some very attractive women singing - particularly the Hill Billy Gal.


4th October 1945

Weather cleared up, joined THE SPEAKER (British Air Craft Carrier) about 12 noon, and had good trip out in lighter.
Met a guy in the bar who went to school with my brother in law Herbert Robertson (Bert)
Attended a movie on flight deck.

5th October 1945

Watched deck sports today, was very amusing, hockey running and three legged races. The chap’s name, who knows Bert, is Len Griffen – he went to LeFevre School in Semaphore South in South Australia.

6th October 1945 – Saturday.

We were ordered to wear our epaulettes today – not possessing same the Chief is going to make some for us, drew one tin of fifty cigarettes from canteen. It was raining nearly all day, but the heat is stifling.

7th October 1945 – Sunday

Today I wore my epaulettes and was abused by Mr. Jack Neil who remarked I looked like a honeymoon what not.
Went to see “Mark Twain”, good show, but think my taste for movies is slightly distorted or film stars have gone to the dogs. Drew one carton of lucky strikes for Jack Harlan.

8th October 1945 – Monday

Marty was told to ease up on his liquor by Major Newton, bloody cheek.
Wrote to Alf Doubridge and one to Mum.

9th October 1945 – Tuesday

Today I was asked whether I was an officer, this is the second time for the trip, so I’m not doing badly as far as the old school tie bastards go. We stop about 2.00pm today, put a board ashore to pick up mail (Manus) and set sail again.
Went to the movies tonight, saw “Casablanca” Very good show.

10th October 1945 Wednesday

They ran out of beer in the Ward room today. Went to show tonight.

11th October 1845

Went through heavy rain storm. No show tonight owing to weather .

12th October 1945

Went to see the rest of Casablanca and Shine on Harvest Moon, with Ann Sheridan.

13th October 1945

Today we stopped the shop and painted it, many sharks were seen and the crew shot several which bled freely. Tonight Charlie, Jim and I had a few snorts in the Ward room and then attended a concert put on by the crew. The Skipper addressed all and thanked the passengers for their cooperation.

Before retiring it was announced that Australia was in sight and all hands cheered merrily so I took a glimpse to see a lighthouse flickering out its signal.

14th October 1945 – Sunday

The day passed very pleasantly, the weather had been exceptionally good, the whole trip. We have slowed down a little so as to be on schedule.
Tonight I saw “Heaven can wait” with Don Ameche, a good show.

15th October 1945 – Monday – ARRIVED HOME

This day is one that will live in my memory for ever as we steamed through the Sydney Heads about 8.00am on a perfect spring day. Small craft littered the harbour with welcome-home signs to Jack, Bill and Harry etc. and as the ferries steamed by they tooted and blasted their sirens and fog horns, and the sight of six hundred Australian soldiers ranked from stem to stern really thrilled me to think that in a few hours they would be at home a few hours after we berthed. On approaching Garden Island the Duke of York’s crew lined its decks and gave three hearty cheers for the returning boys, which brought a lump in my throat.

When the lines were taken and the ship made fast, I noticed my brother-in-law standing on the wharf, who shouted, “the family is at the Mission”. After being addressed by some General, we were all allowed ashore and I rushed to shake Oscar’s hand. I was trembling like a leaf, but on arrival at the Mission I had calmed or cooled down considerably, to find Ma, Mary, Sally, Kath and little Mary and Pat, a bit more excited than myself”.

Unquote

spongebob
22nd May 2011, 11:52
MV Hauraki (cont)

Sixth Engineer William Porteous

This portion of the story outlines my personal association and nostalgic discussion with this crew member which has been posted on the net earlier

I first met Bill in the late 1960’s when he worked for a large Corporation based in Wellington New Zealand and I was with the Auckland office of Babcock and Wilcox Ltd.
At the time our Company was the biggest single customer of Bill’s group so he invariably looked me up when visiting Auckland and, in the good old days of Corporate excesses, usually took me to lunch which often extended into an afternoon off but justifiable as we claimed to conduct as much business this way as we would in the confines of an office.
He was a generation older than I but we had a lot in common from our early training in similar apprentiships, our times spent in the Merchant Navy as Marine Engineers plus our current engineering activities which gave us plenty of common ground to form a good friendship.
As an ex NZ Railways apprentice trained in Dunedin’s Hillside workshops in pre WW2 days he had a lasting passion for steam locomotives several of which he had helped build, so a favourite haunt during these visits was the Auckland Museum of Transport and Technology where several engines were enjoying their retirement.
A year or so later circumstances changed at my office and rather than accept an undesirable “promotion’ I took an opportunity to join the Auckland office of Bill’s group and knowing of our individual engineering business contacts and associations throughout the country the Head Office Management of my new employer deciding to send Bill and I on a fortnight’s trip through New Zealand’s South Island in order to introduce his contacts to me, mine to him and, not knowing of our already established friendship, to generally allow us to spend time ‘bonding’ and really getting to know one another
We visited Paper Mills, Dairy factories, Freezing Works, Hospitals and any industries that used steam and of course many of the engineering staff were ex-marine types and known to us so we had a great time ‘chewing the fat’ with many old friends and acquaintances, drank a lot of beer and generally ‘fed well’ and it was while we were eating lots of green salads to counteract the calories of the prime steaks that were our staple fare when on a Company funded jaunt that I noticed Bill’s reluctance to eat cucumber which he always carefully weeded out from his lettuce and tomato. As a lover of cucumber I swiftly scooped it on to my plate and accepted his explanation that he simply did not like it however, after a week had passed we had established an even closer relationship and after a few drinks before dinner I pressed Bill and he opened up with an explanation as to why he disliked cucumber and a fascinating and sometimes horrific story began to unfold..

Bill completed his engineering apprentiship just before the out-break of World War Two and had gone to sea as a Marine Engineer with the Union Steam ship Company serving on the passenger liners ‘Tahiti’ and ‘Aorangi’ on the North American run before transferring to the cargo ship MV ‘Hauraki’ in early 1942.
( not the NZ shipping Co’s post war MV Hauraki)
Bill’s story as he told it to me was that immediately the shot across the bows heralded the enemy they knew that they were in a ‘no win’ situation so the engineers worked to a contingency plan and began throwing spare parts overboard and commenced a planned ‘high wear’ regime for the main engine and auxiliaries such as running them with too little cooling water and inadequate lubricating oil pressures, not enough to be obvious or to immediately cripple the ship, but at a level that would ensure undue wear and unreliability in the medium term and the need for a relatively early refit. The boarding party included engineers from the Japanese ships who occupied the engine room on each watch together with an armed guard so this slow destruction technique could not be too obvious but otherwise the voyage to Singapore was uneventful apart from the anxiety as to what would become of them.
The ship managed to send out a distress signal warning of the pending capture but other than that the NZ Authorities or crew’s families and loved ones were not to know much about their fate until after the Japanese surrender.
As I tried to write from memory of a traumatic story told to me thirty years ago in a self effacing and matter of fact manner I was able to search the internet for reinforcing information.
Several sites, including the official NZ History “The middle phase of the war against Japan - June 1942 to December 1944”all confirm Bill’s story and if anything, exposes his version as told to me as being somewhat modest and understated when you review the historic conditions that are so typical of the other documented Japanese acts of barbarism of this period.

I quote now from accounts documented in the New Zealand War History.
Quote
“When the ship finally arrived in Yokohama Harbour the engineer crew members were taken to the infamous Ofuna Camp about ten miles from the port, put into small cells and forbidden to talk to anyone. Here they were given just enough food to stay alive and were subjected to an exhausting regime of exercise. They also experienced and saw the mass and individual beatings which helped give this camp the title of ‘Torture Farm’’
After being softened up in this manner they were interrogated several times during their six weeks stay before being drafted out to individual working camps in Yokohama.
The 20 members of the Hauraki had been at least fortunate in the fact that they had been able to travel from Singapore to Yokohama in relative style aboard their own ship rather than the overland and sea journey endured by the other prisoners in the back of goods trucks and ship’s decks without seating or bedding and having to squat for hours on end for several days.
Men at this working camp (Yokohama D1) were allocated to the Mitsubishi Naval and Merchant Shipyards and re-accommodated in a large old goods shed about 2 miles from the yard and at first, when there were only about 500 men they were not overcrowded. The building however was filthy and the straw of the sleeping platforms soon became infested with rats, lice and fleas. There was a concrete floor and negligible heating so in the freezing winter months of 1943 many of the men contracted pneumonia.
There were almost no medical supplies and the camp diet consisted of a cup of rice grain and a cup of thin fish or vegetable soup three times a day. These factors combined to make it very difficult to resist disease. Sick men were often forced out to work and nearly 50 of the camp strength died in the first year.
Reveille was at 5 am and after the 2 mile march to the shipyard the men began work at 7 am, worked until 5 pm then marched back to camp where lights out was at 8 pm.
There were the usual bashings to maintain discipline some times varied by making the whole camp stand to attention until midnight.
The shipyard work consisted of all the heavy manual tasks connected with building and overhauling of ships and the “Hauraki” herself came in for a much needed overhaul in January 1943 and eventually went back to sea in September 1943.
At the end of 1944 Allied air raids began to be both daily and nightly occurrences, the shipyards being a prime target so both prisoners and their captors spent much of their time sheltering in snow lined trenches or what ever protection was available”
Unquote



Reverting to Bill’s own personal account, beyond his somewhat downplayed précis of the above, he mentioned that he was at one time an amateur wrestler of reasonable skill having won a provincial championship in his light weight class and one morning in the Yokohama docks, after the march from the camp and while waiting for the gang plank to be lowered to board ship and start work, he and a fellow crew member felt light hearted enough to take up the stance of a wrestling match hold then fooled around for a few minutes only to be observed by the Army Colonel Engineer in charge of the prisoner labour force in the dockyard who was a wrestler himself.
He could see from Bill’s style that he was trained at the sport and after a discussion via an interpreter Bill found himself booked for a bout with the Colonel on the jetty the next morning.
They proved evenly matched as far as tactical skills went but Bill’s half staved body did not have the strength to match that of the well fed officer and in any case Bill imagined that if he was able to overpower or tactically defeat the man the loss of face and humiliation might see him grievously punished. After several bouts the match became a regular morning fixture for many months on end as the Officer enjoying Bill’s skills and the work-out it gave him but realising Bill’s malnutrition was hampering their competitiveness he ordered that Bill was to be given extra rations. These consisted of extra rice and, for some reason that was never explained, several cucumbers each day. They had no nutritional value what-so-ever but Bill ate them at the Colonel’s insistence to avoid any repercussions and overall found that his health and strength marginally improved to allow him to even derive a bit of enjoyment out of the morning tussles himself.
His daily appointments with the Colonel saw a strained and very fragile friendship develop which seemed to provide a buffer from the brutal treatment often meted by the overseers and guards, usually for little reason, and this “protection” spilled over to some of Bill’s companions, the other engineers from the Hauraki crew who had managed to stay together as a team.
Although it is not tabled in the NZ History account Bill mentioned that some of the Hauraki’s engineering crew were at one time taken from the Yokohama D camp and housed in a shed on the end of a dockyard jetty partly so they could spend longer hours actually doing productive engineering maintenance work, some of this being on their old ship and they were sure that the extent of work needed on their old vessel was attributable to the “abusive” treatment they had given to the equipment during the voyage to Japan.
As Bill saw it, maybe being accommodated on the jetty was another of the Colonel’s concessions to his group which freed them from some of the main camp privations and terrors.
The same harsh cold sleeping conditions existed as did the food rations but with a little more quantity and always with Bill’s cucumbers.
The work they did was in line with their engineering skills and was no doubt very valuable to the Japanese war effort but any thought of “shoddy” work or attempted sabotage was quelled by the example of punishment meted out to a young Japanese apprentice which they witnessed.
The lad was working on a small auxiliary engine in a ship’s engine room near the New Zealander’s work area and was trying to undo a flywheel nut not realising that because of the engines rotation it had a left-hand thread. The kiwis stood back and laughed at his antics in a good natured way but an overseer appeared and realising what was going on laid into the lad with a pinch bar and would have killed him had the NZer’s not intervened. This was all because of the perceived humiliation that the boy was creating in front of the foreigners and was an example of how the Hauraki men might fare if they did any thing untoward.
Again Bill was sure that his association with the Colonel was the only reason they escaped punishment for acting on the boy’s behalf.
I recall asking Bill if they ever thought of escape and he confirmed that once they were quartered in the shed on the jetty they did conjure up several plans but each fell by the wayside as they checked each one with a fine tooth comb.
Security was fairly lax, just one armed guard on night shift and often he fell asleep but the doubts of a successful plan were always there,
Firstly they were Europeans with only a smattering of Japanese language and a shore based escape would see them stick out like the proverbial in a land of many millions that probably did not have one European person roaming free.
The only other avenue was a boat or ship but neither of these were practical as steaming even a small coastal vessel out of the harbour would raise an immediate alarm and a smaller launch or patrol craft would not clear hostile waters, which then stretched for perhaps 1000 miles, before a faster boat or even a Zero drive bomber was sent to sort them out.
Their physical condition was another discouraging factor as they never had the real continuous will to carry any plan through.
The most harrowing time of their captivity was the latter stages of the war when the Americans started their large scale bombing raids on several cities especially Tokyo and strategic ports with naval dock yards like Yokohama.
These raids were the first indication that the war might be progressing in the Allies favour as up until then there was no unbiased war news reports at all. What little news they could glean from the few partly friendly civilian dock workers was laced with propaganda about his Imperial Majesty’s constant defeats of the Americans and their Allies in all theatres.
The only comfort from these raids was the fact that at least the Yanks seemed to be getting the upper hand but that was where it ended as the raids themselves were more fearful than anything they had had to endure over the past two or three years. It was almost a rule of every man to himself while the raids were on and the deadly accuracy meant that there was little comfort in seeking refuge in the bowels of the ships hold or engine room as these vessels were the prime targets and a direct hit would probably see you trapped below. Bill recalled that they spent many of the earlier raids perched on the piles under the wharf hoping that a bomb would not come through the decking but as the bombing progressed the Americans started to use incendiaries with devastating effect and as the dockyard became uninhabitable and they were sent back to the main camp then again to another camp away from the port

Most of the Hauraki group survived but I recall Bill saying that one man passed away out of sheer despair and malnutrition while another died in a camp hospital from wounds and burns received during one of these raids.
An internet site that I have visited contains a speech of conciliation given by Yoshiko Tamura in Japan on Anzac day 25th of April 2004 when he mentioned that a detailed search of Japanese war burial sites had found the graves of several prisoners of war and he mentions that the grave of William Brodie had been found and inscribed by his family after the war and identifying him as the 5th engineer on the MV Hauraki who had died on the 10th of August 1945 at age 30.He died of severe burns as a result of the bombings and just five days before the Japanese surrender.

Bill’s first indication that it was all over came when the Colonel came to him one day and asked him to sign a document, written in Japanese and supposedly stating that all the Hauraki crew had received fair and just treatment from him as their workplace commander. This conciliatory move illustrated that he was not your usual type of Japanese career Officer/Warrior who would have fallen on his sword rather than surrender or show any compassion but just a civilian engineer caught up in the conflict and given a high military rank to enable him to have enough clout to perform his job which was keeping ships at sea.
Bill agreed and within a few days they were transported to a more comfortable camp to await the American troops and Bill never heard of his sparring partner again.
Bill admitted that it was a love/hate relationship at the time but as he got older and often dwelled on those days he realised that this common ground of a mutual sporting interest had certainly resulted in preferential treatment, albeit stilted and without any emotional display but it had undoubtedly eased the trauma for him and maybe his group, perhaps even saved their lives.
I asked Bill if he ever felt like contacting the Colonel in the post war years and he replied “Often but my enthusiasm for it always faltered as I thought of the other side to our treatments and really did not want all the reminders”
The trip back to New Zealand was reasonably swift thanks to the US Air Force and shipping services and they finally arrived in Wellington for a very brief reunion with their families before being again interrogated by local intelligence officers.
I believe that Bill finished up marrying the young lady that had been his questioner and counsellor during this de briefing period.
It was a long story with a happy ending and told to me over several nights of quiet conversation and at a time when the mellowing influences of a few drams of alcohol had softened the mind’s barriers.
This was over 36 years ago and while there were other anecdotes that I should recall my memory dims but I feel that I have captured the essence of the man who largely downplayed his own privations and talked more of the plight of others and his precious moments of diversion via his wrestling.
It is only my recent internet searching that has disclosed the true horrors of these times that Bill largely glossed over.
As I read through other crew members accounts there are a few minor
discrepancies regarding some of the dates, place names, camps and other moments but all in all the overall story carries an air of as much completeness as we can expect.
A year or two later I was out to dinner one night with Bill and his wife and while he was away talking to friends at another table I was able to talk to her about Bill’s ordeal and she was surprised that I knew so much and commented that he must of trusted and liked me a lot because it had taken him many years to tell her as much and in fact during the original de briefings on arrival back in Wellington his lips were almost sealed
Bill got on with life; he was cheeky by nature with a great sense of humour but with an attitude that accepted no flack from anyone. When ever we had Japanese visitors to the office, and there were many due to our Japanese agencies, he would excuse himself and go off some where for the day. The sight, the sound of their voices, his understanding of some of their Japanese language talk between themselves etc all bought back harsh and sad memories, just like the smell and the taste of cucumber.
Bill reached 60, the compulsory retiring age for the Company’s staff and left with a good pension and the intention to play golf for the rest of his life but alas those years in captivity had no doubt left their mark and he died less than two years into his game.



.
There were 55 officers and crew on board Hauraki at the time of capture but the accounts of only a few are available and it is to be hoped that anyone having any knowledge of the other crew members and their stories will come forward to make this account as complete as possible



Written by Bob Jenkins May 2011



Addendum.

One crew list available is as follows but this is incomplete as it does not list Engineer Alexander Meredith and names only 48 personnel whereas the total crew numbered 55 plus 8 passengers at the time of capture


1
Ahearn
William Robert M
Assistant Steward
1904
Died 12 Sept 1944
Changi
2
Back
John Frederick
Purser
25
New Zealand
Changi
3
Belasis
Theodore
Seaman
1915
Aust
Changi
4
Bond
Arthur
Seaman
1919
Aust
Changi
5
Brodie
William Henry
5th Engineer
30
10 Aug 1945
Japan
6
Cox
Alfred
Seaman AB
1895
British
Changi
7
Creese
Albert William
Master

31 Aug 1947
death attributed to Japanese Captivity
Japan
8
Day
Martial Power
Assistant Steward
21


9
Derrett
Edward
Seaman
36


10
Falconer

Chief Engineer


Japan
11
Gibson
Robert Henry
Seaman AB
33


12
Goodman
Peter James
Seaman
1921
New Zealand
Changi
13
Graham
John Robert “Jack”
Seaman
21


14
Green
James Patrick
Seaman
1924
Aust

15
Grey
Grafton “Colin”
Seaman-Bosun
22


16
Hall
William Peebles
3rd Engineer


Japan
17
Harland
J



Japan
18
Higginson
Walter John
Chief Steward
1890
Britain

19
Holland
David James
Assistant Steward
1916
Aust

20
Holland
William
AB

12 July 1945
Japan
21
Hughes
Lewis
Motorman
57
27 feb 1945
Japan
22
Hurley
CT



Japan

Innis
JD



Japan
23
Jacobson
Earl




24
Kerferd
Keith Thomas
Deck Hand
1916
Aust

25
Littlewood
George
Seaman
1920
Aust

26
McCallum
Dick J



Japan
27
McCook
John
Seaman
37


28
McCready
E



Japan
29
McEvoy
Frank
Seaman
48


30
McIntyre
Alan Frederick
2nd Mate
27


31
McKenty
Kenneth William Nicol “Ken”
Ships Steward
28


32
McKinlay
Desmond “Des”
2nd Radio Officer
24


33
Merritt
John Henry “Jessy”
Quartermaster
26


34
Patua

Cook
48


35
Porteous
William
6th engineer


Japan
36
Spaulding
Reginald John
Seaman
1920
Aust

37
Stewart





38
Stuart
Gordon
Seaman
26


39
Thomson
RL
Second engineer


Japan
40
Todd
William Angus
1st Mate
44
19 April 1944
Japan
41
Townsend
Cyril J
Seaman
1918
Aust

42
Walker





43
Wallace
Robert D
3rd Mate
24


44
Watts
William R
Radio Officer
29


45
White
James Edwin
Seaman
1911
Aust

46
Wrigley





47
Johns
Brian


From A.f.m pto

48
Hogg
Alec


From A.f.m pto

49






50






51








Written by Bob Jenkins May 2011

spongebob
22nd May 2011, 21:20
Attention Moderators, I have posted this thread on the wrong forum and I guess it should be on the "Maritime History" or "Ships no more" threads,
Could you change it over to whatever you think is appropriate

Thanks

Bob

M29
25th May 2011, 11:14
Bob
Thanks for posting this, a great story of the men and their ordeals, especially as often, the stories of MN personal captured by the Japanese are seldom heard. I hope you receive more information to add to this story of a ship and her people.

Best Wishes

Alan

Klaatu83
25th May 2011, 20:11
On 11 November 1942 the two Japanese raiders, Hokoku Maru and Aikoku Maru, the ships that had captured the Hauraki, intercepted the Shell tanker Ondina in the Indian Ocean. The Ondina was escorted by the Royal Indian Navy's HMIS Bengal, a 650-ton Australian-built minesweeper of the Bathurst class, armed with a single 12-pounder gun. During the course of one of the most one-sided sea battles of World War II, HMIS Bengal sank Hokoku Maru, and drove Aikoku Maru away. The surviving Japanese raider managed to make it back to Singapore, where she was ignominiously re-rated as a transport.

The Ondina was so badly damaged in the battle that that her crew were compelled to abandon ship. However, after the sinking of Hokoku Maru and withdrawal of Aikoku Maru, they re-boarded their ship, extinguished her fires and resumed their voyage.

During the course of 30 years in the Merchant Marine I've met a lot of WW-II veteran merchant seaman, and have heard many first-hand accounts of how badly they were treated. For example, their pay stopped when their ships were sunk and, if they were lucky enough to be rescued, they were on their own after they were landed in a foreign port. In addition, the oft-quoted Geneva Convention rules for the treatment of prisoners of war did not apply to Merchant Seamen, because they were not considered to be military personnel.

Most of all, there was (and still is) a huge difference in the way Merchant Seaman are regarded by the general public in the United States, compared with the way they are regarded in Britain and British Commonwealth countries. During World War II, American Merchant Seamen were widely reviled by the public, the press, and members of the military as communists, cowards, overpaid war profiteers and draft-dodgers. World War II merchant seamen weren't even officially recognized as World War II veterans until 1989. There is still a bill pending in Congress to award WW-II Merchant Seamen a pension of $1000 per month, which still hasn't been passed.

spongebob
26th May 2011, 00:56
Thanks for your comments Alan and Klaatu83, much appreciated.
I have Goggled the ships HMIS Bengal and Odina to find a wealth of information re their battle with the Japanese raiders and I will be able to blend this story of comeuppance into the Hauraki account .
I know the Bathurst class well as the RAN gifted four of these little ships to the RNZN just after the war and I worked on them often.

Bob