Clarence Frederick Frank Smith
Known as ‘Kelly’
1919/04/09 - Born Bagworth, Leicester
Son of Percy and Gertrude Smith
With Japan entering the war, the HMS Grasshopper along with two other gunboats, the ‘Scorpion’ and ‘Dragonfly’, sailed from Hong Kong to Singapore.
The crew had a pet dog called Judy, she fell into the Yangtse from the ‘Gnat’ and nearly drowned, survived the sinking of the HMS Grasshopper, torpedoed in SS Van Waerwijck, wounded by Japanese rifle fire in Sumatra and lacerated by an alligator. She survived the Japanese PoW camps and was awarded the Dickin Medal - the animal VC.
1942/02/10 - The HMS Grasshopper left Singapore for Batavia, evacuating with two other ships, HMS Dragonfly and HMS Scorpion, between them they carried about 1000 evacuees.
1942/02/14 - Off Rusuk Buaga Island in the Banka Straights, HMS Grasshopper was attacked and badly damaged by Japanese aircraft at 0800 hours.
Commander Hoffman organised evacuation of HMS Grasshopper and the burials of the dead on the small island of Posik. He also organised scouting parties with the crew of marines for food and water. As no food or water was found on the small island Commander Hoffman asked Petty Officer White to swim to the badly damaged HMS Grasshopper and collect as much food as possible, this White did and also found Judy who had been trapped under fallen cabinets. White loaded Judy and the food into a raft. Judy later helped by finding fresh water on the island.
After six days on the island the survivors were taken by a tongkang (light wooden boat) to Singkep Island, Sumatra. Singkep is separated from the east coast of Sumatra by the Berhala Strait. They eventually made their way across the straight and attempted to walk through the jungle towards Padang.
All three evacuation ships mentioned above were badly damaged, beached or sunk.
1942/03/17 - Captured Sumatra
PoW No. I 140
‘Kelly’ was eventually taken prisoner by the Japanese and sent to Gloegoer Camp, Medan where he spent just over two years.
1944/06/25 - Transported from Belawan, the port city of Medan, Sumatra, in the hell ship Harugiku Maru, within a convoy composed of a tanker and freighter, and sailed down the Strait of Malacca on their way to Pakanbaroe, Sumatra. The ship was a Dutch Captured ship, formerly Van Waerwijck.
1944/06/26 - Shortly before 1000 hours, approx. 100 miles Southeast of Belawan, HMS Truculent sighted the Japanese convoy, which consisted of a 4,000-ton freighter and two small freighters escorted by two sub-chasers and one mine layer steaming down the narrow Strait of Malacca. At 1112 hours the Truculent fired four torpedoes, and two of which hit the Harugiku Maru.
By the torpedo attack of Truculent, Harugiku Maru broke in two and sank with her stern lying on its side in the shallow water. The POWs were immediately allowed to evacuate over the side. Although she sank within 15 minutes of the torpedo hits, the loss of lives was 180, the Japanese picked up the survivors
Japanese Index card - Side One
Japanese Index card - Side Two
Survivors were taken to Singapore for roughly a month and then ferried back to Pekanbaru, Sumatra to work on the Sumatra Railway.
New PoW No. I 9835
Liberated - Pakan Baroe, Sumatra (named on list, as of 15 August 1945)
1945/10/15 - He was finally liberated and transported to Ceylon. He found this journey traumatising and never boarded an aeroplane again.
Amazingly he met up with his brother-in-law Harry who recognised him at the cinema. Harry Clarence to live with him for a short time to help him recover as he was concerned that he wouldn't make the journey home.
1945/11/09 - Clarence finally arrived back in England on 09/11/1945 and was reunited with his family. He had been away 6 years (three and a half of which he was in captivity).
KEW:- WO 345/47, WO 361/2006, WO 392/26, WO 361/1948, WO 361/2013