To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Maros Maru


The PoWs on the Maros Maru were originally from Java and that is where we will start.

From ‘Prisoner Docter’:- Examined by Japanese doctors at Surabaya before departure. Senior Officer, Squadron Leader Pitts was badly beaten up by the Japanese in front of his 2075 assembled men by Mori, a Japanese Sergeant.

South East Asia

Map from Prisoner Doctor

By Richard Philips

Sailed from Java 1943/04/17. The conditions on board were cramped and very unhygienic, even before they sailed 20 PoWs were removed with disease. Eventually set sail in Amagi Maru and Cho Saki Maru.

Nobody died on the 18 day journey but many were very sick.

Arrived at Haruku (Herokoe) Island 1943/05/05 in heavy rain which continued for many days. Although many huts had been built most of these had no atapi roof. The sanitary pits had been used by the natives who had built the huts and were overflowing, a dysentery outbreak quickly followed. their arrival. The Japanese Commander refused the men better latrines and told them each prisoner was to collect 100 flies a day and that would ease the problem. The PoWs died at a rate of 80 a month, a total of 370 deaths in the first four months.

Allies bombed Huruka in April 1944, the some bombs fell very close to the PoW Camp killing many natives in the nearby village.

Transported to Ambon Island (there were 425 deaths on Haruku Island).

Two parties left Haruku Island for Ambon Island in June, one was to return to Java the other was to work on the docks loading ships with stores.

Because of the Allied advance on the Spice islands the Japanese decided to retreat from Ambon in August, two parties of 150 and 500 were formed, the 500 party left Ambon in the Maros Maru bound for Soerabaja, North East coast in Java. The holds of the ship  were full so the PoWs travelled on the deck. Fearing the number of PoWs on deck the Japanese put the PoWs on starvation rations so they were physically incapable of taking over the ship.

The PoWs had no protection on deck from the weather, which turned to heavy rain  in the first day with very rough seas which swamped the deck and the unfortunate PoWs, sickness took hold only too quickly.

The ship with the 150 PoWs was attacked by Allied planes and the PoWs managed to make it to an island, these were taken on board the Maros Maru making conditions on board even more impossible.

Because of the age of the ship the voyage was taking longer then expected due to the old diesel engine and the PoWs health deteriorated at an alarming rate, many dying from acute ber-beri and the will to live on. The death rate was about 15 a day, the bodies were buried at sea.

The steamship eventually reached Makasar in  South Celebes and engineers worked on the engine while the PoWs were kept on the decks. The engine was in such a state it took 40 days to get it in decent working condition. While the ship took on supplies, the PoWs stayed on the deck.

Deaths amongst the PoWs were only too frequent and the bodies were still being buried at sea, in the harbour. Due to the lack of material to weigh the bodies down, the bodies floated around the ships in the harbour, which made a gruesome sight,  like a picture of hell.

After leaving Makasar the rations improved slightly and the Maros Maru arrived at Java in October, 60 days at sea, 305 PoWs dying from disease and starvation. 234 of those who died were British, and the rest were Netherlands Army and Navy.

People often ask me why ‘Hell Ships’ the Maros Maru was hell in the form of  a ship.  May God take care of those who suffered and perished on these ships.


For a more detailed account please read:-

 Prisoner Doctor


Richard Philips


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