Liberated Rangoon Jail
Notable Experience 1
An R.A.F. Officer was evacuated by Shanghai River toncan from Singapore to Batavia, 13th February, 1942.
On 14th February the ship was bombed and damaged a near miss. The second ship in the convoy received a direct hit and was get on fire. All personnel from both vessels were ordered to Pom Pong Island, about 80 miles south of' Singapore. The total was 700 people, 30 to 40% of whom were women and children. During the following two to three nights various small ships evacuated all the women and children and, the stretcher cases. By this time the party wag very short of rations, and on the evening of the 20th February five toncans arrived and took the remainder of the party to Kala Rhio. Arriving on the island, the Dutch provided food and the party reembarked the same night for Tambilahan, 10 miles up the Indragiri River. Here the party contacted more evaders.
Under arrangements made by the Dutch the party then left to cross Sumatra to Pandang where they arrived on the 6th March.
On arrival at Padang, Colonel Warren, (R. M.) , who was O. C. British Troops there, told the party that several hundred persons had already been evacuated by the Navy to CEYLON and that he expected the remainder would the same treatment.
On the evening of the 6th March a small Kalim steamer put in and took off a few women and children. No further craft arrived, and on the 14th March, obtained permission to move off with a small party. Shortly after this the PoW heard that the Japanese were rapidly approaching Paang. Consequently his party, consisting of the following, get off for Tanjoeng Padang, some 20 miles down the coast:-
S/ Condr. Dainty
S/ Cond. Lissemberg
At Padang they bought a 27 ft. local sailing craft and as much food as their funds would allow, and On 17th March set sail for Puulu Sibeboet.
Here they were well treated by the Malay headman who in the opinion of the PoW deserves some official recognition for his services at this town. The local Malays carried out certain alterations to the PoW’s craft, provided them with more food, and as far as circumstances permitted, generally equipped the party for their attempt to reach Ceylon. On 21st March they again set sail up the west coast to Seromoe Village on Nias Island, obtaining a few more rations, but had to leave hurriedly as they learned that the Dutch authorities had already taken over the island for German internees and that there was a Dutch party on their way to intern the party of PoWs.
On 23rd March the craft was dismasted at sea during a storm, and the party had to spend 10 days on a coral atoll on the North West coast of Pulu Nias. Repairs were carried out, but owing to the prevalent south west winds all hopes of reaching Ceylon were abandoned at this stage, and it was decided instead to attempt to dail due North.
Three days later, during a fierce storm, Bdr. Rawson, (H.K.S.R.A.) lost overboard and two nights later, Sgt. Beaumont, of the same Regiment, died of malaria and exposure.
After 30 days at sea, in spite of all attempts to sail North, the craft touched the Burma coast 40 to 50 miles south of Moulmein, and by this time, 15th May, there was no food left and very little water.
On 16th May the party again attempted to sail North, and at mid-day sailed past a Japanese ship lying at anchor off the mouth of the Moulmein River.
They sailed up the river and hid up at sunset on the 17th May. At dawn on the 18th, they made contact with some Burmese who gave them some mangoes and promised to provide food on the following day. The remainder of the day was spent in hiding in a creek. That night, the monsoon broke, and as a result the party decided that this put an end to any hope of getting on by sea, but that with the help of the Burmese they could attempt to make the overland route.
On the morning of the 19th the Bumese returned and took them to a hut where they were told to wait until a guide arrived. At mid-day, the Burmese returned with rice and jaggay and told them that more food. would be coming an hour's time. The Burmese then clustered around the party ahd succeeded in getting their attention focussed on the food, with the results that the next time the party looked up, there was a Japanese patrol, some twenty strong, coming across the village towards them.
The Burmese immediately ran off, and Bombardier or Corporal Ernest Forty, A.I.F., who was very brown and wearing a lunggyi, ran off with them and has not been heard or since.
As the evading party had no arms with them, with the exception of One .38 pistol, and in addition to this, they were already in a weak condition, they were forced to surrender to the Japanese patrol.
There was a Japanese Air Force Officer in charge of the patrol and he behaved extremely well, allowing the party to finish their food before being marched off and even dealing with a member of hig own patrol who struck Sgt. Gabin, (E. Surreys), with. a rifle butt.
The PoW assumed that the Japanese Officer rang up and informed the authorities in Moulmein Jail of their arrival, as they were given another meal and. reasonably treated as soon as they arrived.