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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,
I am trying to fresearch my Dad's war history, especially egarding his movement out to and back from Singapore in 1941 and 1945. I have snippets of info from his time as a POW between these dates.
He enlisted on 27th May 1940 and was in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps as a storekeeper.
According to my Sister he arrived in Singapore on either 16th or 18th May as it was either the day before or the day after my sister was born.
On the way from the UK I know he stopped at Durban as he visited the same family who had entertained his brother on his way to N Africa a few months previously.
I also know that on the way to Durban the convoy he was in was escorted by HMS Nelson because he told me that and the ship has an unmistakable outline.

In late 1945 he was repatriated to the UK.His soldiers pay book has the earliest date of 18th September 1945 so he will possibly have been back in the UK then. The last date in the same book is 10th December 1945 which may have been his de mob date. He was in Thailand until at least 5th June 1945 according to his POW report form but I would like to trace his movements between those dates.My sister says that on his way back from the Far East (possibly Rangoon because he also mentioned flying out of captivity in a Dakota) the ship called into Sydney, after whom my older brother (born after the war) was named.

So there you have it.

Can anyone help to identify convoys or actual ships that he may have been on with some possible dates and routes thrown in for good measure?

Best Regards

SFMillsy
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Gydinia,

I have spent a few days now searching the web. You are right that HMS Nelson comes up as being on convoy duty in 1941 escorting a troopship convoy to South Africa, but the sites I found were a bit scant on detail and tended to concenmtrate more on the later convoys when things were desperate.

Peoples war, the BBC website had an interesting story of a guy who was on a troop ship at that time and records that half the troops went to the Western Desert and the other half to Singapore and some of the ships went via Capetown and others via Durban.

He was on the Strathallan and interestingly joined the ship in Liverpool from the RAMC depot in Leeds. They left Liverpool on 20th March 1941 and he records that the other ships in the convoy were Pasteur, Empress of Australia, Stratheden, Strathnara, Strathmore and Orontes.

I will keep looking.
Regards Steve
 

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Steve
Reading about the HMS Nelson she seemed a unlucky vessel with all the incidents she was involved in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi, Thanks for the replies.

I looked on the troop ships one but will study it more closely. I will also try the other MN website mentioned.

I am sure that it is a case of two (or more )heads being better than one. I am sending off for Dad's army records so that also may hold some clues.

All the best.

Steve
 

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Hello,
According to the book The "Winston Specials Troopships via the Cape 1940- 1943" and my own research STRATHALLAN was part of convoy WS7 which was comprised of some 21 merchant ships. which left from several UK ports around 24/Mar/1941
She arrived in Capetown on 16/Apr/1941 in company with EMPRESS OF CANADAANDES, PASTEUR, ORCADES, ORION, STRATHDEN, STRATHMORE, DEMPO, DUCHESS OF ATHOLL and DUCHESS OF YORK together with main escort the cruiser NEWCASTLE which took over from HMS NELSON the day before.
The situation after that seems a little confused. Part of the convoy docked at Durban an other vessels went on to Bombay and Singapore. The only vessel that I have records for is the Dutch ship JOHAN VAN OLDENBARNEVELT which arrived in Singapore 20/May/1941.
I hope this is of some help

Roger
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Roger,

I really think this convoy WS7 could be the one my Dad sailed in. As you point out, accounts after leaving Durban appear to be sketchy. According to my research the 'Ramilles' also accompanied this convoy.

Do you know the route that was taken? Halifax and Freetown appear to be popular at that time but would they have gone right across the Atlantic to make South Africa. If they did it was presumably to avoid the U boats.

Why did they call them Winston's specials? Sounds like a panic measure to me but it must have taken some planning to get those troopships together and to get in excess of 40,000 to N Africa and Singapore.

I am hoping to go to Singapore and Thailand next year to travel up the Railway and visit sites on the 'Death Railway' with my sister. Strange thing was that on my first trip to sea in 1970 I flew out to Japan to join my ship and the next port of call was Singapore!

Thanks for the info. Every little bit helps to put the jigsaw together. have you any info on the 1945 troopship movements?

Regards
Steve Mills
 

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Hello Steve,
As far as I know all of the WS convoys were routed via Freetown. See below.
Not a clue why they were called Winston Specials, I guess the prefix WS was just a coincidence but these convoys were started by the personal intervention of Churchill mainly because of the threat the Italians posed in the Mediterranean and of course the to need to defend the vital Middle east oilfields.
Arnold Hague says there were four ships which detached from convoy WS7 for Bombay on the 01/May/1941 forming the convoy WS7X arriving on 05/May/1941. WS7X comprised the Troopships STRATHMORE, WARWICK CASTLE, DUCHESS OF YORK and as already mentioned J VAN O.
I suggest that your dad transhipped at Cape Town or maybe Durban to either STRATHMORE OR DUCHESS OF YORK or of course he may have been part of a later convoy.
The movements of STRATHALLAN should be in the British National Archive under the file reference BT389/28 also her logbook for the 1941 should be in file reference BT381/1662. Further there is a fair bit of information on the WS convoys in the ADM series but I suggest it would take a few days of research to establish the entire story of WS7 and WS7X.
I have the 1945 movements of most of the troopships which survived WW2. Give me a couple of days and I will try and find some who might make the frame.

regards
Roger

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Roger,

The information you have provided is fascinating as well as the sources. A big THANKYOU for what you have told me so far!

I will keep researching along the lines you suggest. The chart is very interesting too.

Dad definately docked at Durban, he never mentioned Capetown as far as I remember so I should think the convoy did split. The name Duchess of York is starting to ring a feint bell (or should it be 4 Bells...........not bad rum at 80p a bottle I remember).

thanks for your help and interest.

Regards
Steve Mills
 

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Hello again,
Re troopship movements from Sydney NSW. July/August 1945

Going by the dates you gave I have narrowed it down to two vessels. However I think it is important that you obtain your fathers army records so that you are in possession of all the relevant details, otherwise you may find yourself going up a blind alley.

STIRLING CASTLE
Sailed Sydney NSW 29/July/1945. Arrived Liverpool via, Freemantle, Madras & Suez 10/Sept/1945. Her logbook for this period should be in TNA reference
BT381/3521

MAURETANIA
Sailed Sydney NSW 22/Aug/1945 Arrived Liverpool via, Freemantle, Durban, Cape Town & Freetown 23/Sept/1945. Her logbook for this period should be in TNA file reference BT380/1144

regards
Roger
 

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is this the "Nelson" referred to? An old postcard of her
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
John,

Yes this is HMS Nelson, as you can see she has all her main armament for'd and is very distinctive. Her sister ship was HMS Rodney. I am not a RN expert but there is a wealth of information on various websites.

Thanks for the reply.

Roger,

Again thanks for that infomation as I had drawn a blank on the 1945 troopships. I have heard that some men from Malaya travelled home to the Uk by crossing in an Easterly direct and traversing Canada! Seem a long way around to me.

I really appreciate your info.

Best resgard.

Steve Mills
 

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I am writing a novel about a soldier who in 1941 was captured by the Japanese in Singapore and forced to work on the Railway of Death. I have a few questions to ask:

a) If he left in the convoy of troopships in March 1941, which I believe sailed across the Atlantic and called in at Durban, how long did the trip take to reach Singapore?

b) While on board the troopship, were sailors restricted from writing to loved ones back home?

c) What did the troops do on the troopships, I presume lots of army training was involved.

GD
 
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