Emergency Medical Parties
On November 29th, 1942, a Medical Party consisting of eight medical officers, one dental officer and approximately thirty medical orderlies left Zentsuji and proceeded by train to Moji.
This party was under the command of Captain W. Lineberry, (MC), U.S.N. All personnel were of the U.S.N., except three medical officers - Captain J.F. Akeroyd, A.A.F., Captain V. Bristow, A.I.F., and Surgeon Lieutenant S.E.L. Stening, R.A.N.R.
Arriving at Moji this large party was divided into three. The first party under the leadership of Captain Lineberry; the second under Lieutenant Commander T. Moe, (MC), U.S.N., and the third under Captain J.F. Akeroyd.
I was a member of Lieutenant Commander Moe's party which was composed of Lieutenant Commander Moe, myself and Lieutenant J.E.Eppley, (M.C.), U.S.N., as the doctors and eight corpsmen - Chief Pharmacist's mate I. Frontis, G.J. Shaw, PhM1c, A.P. Rowe, PhM1c, J.Young PhMlc, B.W. Berry, PhM3c, J.J. LaCasse, PhM3c, A.R. Wilkinson, PhM3c and W.W. Dunlap, HA1c.
The three parties were sent in different directions. Lieutenant Commander Moe's party proceeded to the dockside to a ship bearing the name "Singapore Maru" and which was flying the yellow flag.
On the dockside beside the ship were stacked piles of rough coffins and beside these small groups of haggard, sick and disconsolate men.
We were told that we had to shift the men still remaining at and in the ship to a small ferry and then to convey them to a hospital, well stocked with everything we were likely to require and then care for these men and restore them to health. We climbed up a very ricketty ladder and descended into the foward holds of the ship and there we were taken aback by the indescribably horrible scene which met our outraged eyes.
The vessel was a cargo ship and had been employed to transport a thousand P.O.W. from Java and Singapore to Japan. They had been crowded into the holds from Singapore for more than a month and had come through heavy weather and extreme heat to the bitter chilling air of Japan. Many had been very seasick and all had been badly underfed. Food had been very limited indeed and the sanitary arrangements woefully inadequate. Some convalescent dysentery patients from a Java hospital had been sent at the last moment to make up a full draft and
some of these patients had been included at the reshuffle at Singapore. These convalescents were, so I think, responsible for initiating an outbreak of dysentery on board. The first case appeared several days out from Singapore and the numbers gradually increased, until at the conclusion of the voyage there were very very few who had not been affected.
The epidemic, plus the overcrowded insanitary conditions and the very low diet was responsible for something over 90 deaths before the ship even reached Japan. It must be noted that the ship carried stocks of European type food, which may have been Red Cross food. This food was loaded at Singapore and was for the prisoners.
They were issued with practically none and had the mortification of seeing illiterate Japanese soldiers bring can after can on to the deck, open the can to see what was inside, maybe taste it and often throw the whole lot over the side because it was not to his fancy.
By the time Lieutenant Commander Moe's party arrived, all the fit prisoners and the majority of the patients had left or been removed from the ship. The remainder ( to be our responsibility ) were the very sick men in the ship and watching us with sad patient eyes on the dockside. None of these men had any winter clothing and many had no long trousers. Our party divested itself of our heavy overcoats and put them over the patients. Then after leading those men we found on the dock to the small junk which was to be our ferry, we proceeded to board the ship again.
Down into the forward hold once more and gazed upon a filthy odorous mass of rubbish, excreta, food, clothing, equipment amongst which we could see here and there a body which may or may not have been still living. Quickly we ran over the inmates of that forward hold. We found about four dead and two almost dead. The remainder were in varying stages of sick from moderately severe to hopeless cases. There was one man there who was not suffering from illness but solely from complete exhaustion. This man, single handed, had cared for, fed, comforted and nursed the sick men in that hold until he could do no more. He had watched men die and had nursed some to near health again.
This man, Gunner C.W. Peacock, R.A., had had no rest for three days and had to be assisted to the deck and to the junk.
Well, the patients were finally sorted out and carried to the junk, those nearly dead had died, and all the bodies were neatly laid out in rows in some of the ample supply of coffins. Below deck there had been a Japanese Woman Doctor, who had been engaged in trying to identify the dead and the moribund, there were also some coolies who assisted us in carrying the patients up the three flights of companionway to the deck and thence to the junk. In the junk the men were all placed on the hatchway and around it and exposed to the biting cold. There was no way of avoiding this however.
The junk cast off after we had carried the last patient and left the coolies to loot the filthy holds. The junk fouled its mooring wire and was held up for nearly an hour before sailing across the water to the Shimoneski side to a disused quarantine station which, we were told, was our hospital. In that junk were some 56 men from Java and Singapore. We transhipped them at the Quarantine Station and carried them into the main room, which was prepared to receive them. Mats ( Tatamis ) covered the floor and five blankets were stacked at intervals around.
The two other parties went to do the same type of work on patients from the same ship who had been unloaded soime days previously. Captain Lineberry's party went to Kokoura Army Hospital where a section had been set aside for this purpose. Captain Aderoyd's party went to an empty Y.M.C.A. building in Moji and found nearly 300 patients awaiting him.
These two parties spent the entire time before their return to Zentsuji at these same stations, while Lieutenant Commander Moe's party proceeded to Nagasaki at a later date and cared for patients in emergencies of lesser degree in two camps there.
Statement of Surg Lt. S.E.L. Stening
Surg Lieut Samuel Edward Lees Stenning RANVR Navy Dept Melbourne
Original File Copy J-10
17 Sep 45 "