The Escape from Singapore

Article is from THE DAILY PROVINCE May 19, 1942 page 3As the EMPRESS OF ASIA lay anchored and burning off Sultan Shoal, the crew and military personnel who were on board as passengers were recovered and taken to Singapore.

At Singapore the crew was separated into components that came to experience three separate destinies.

One group, comprising almost the entire Engine Crew was placed on the CITY OF CANTERBURY, the DEVONSHIRE and the FELIX ROUSSEL, and was successfully repatriated.

A second group, comprising almost the entire Catering Crew volunteered for service at the Miyako and General Hospitals, and eventually with the surrender of Singapore, became interned as Prisoners of War.

A third group comprising most of the Deck Crew (with some members of the Engine Crew) was kept at a camp until plans for extraction were developed.

Some of the Engine Crew were placed upon the EMPIRE STAR and sailed for Batavia on February 11th, 1942. In spite of being struck with bombs the EMPIRE STAR successfully reached Batavia.

The remaining members of this group were assigned to three small coasters that lay anchored and abandoned in Singapore harbour. The ships, the HONG KWONG, AMPANG and SHINKENSHENG were owned by the Straits Settlement Steamship Company.

The three ships also left Singapore on February 11th, 1942 for Batavia. The HONG KWONG and SHINKENSHENG successfully reached Batavia. The AMPANG, however, ran low on fuel and was forced to sail up the Palembang River to Palembang in an attempt to find fuel. While at Palembang, the city received an attack from Japanese paratroopers and the AMPANG was abandoned. The crew from the AMPANG crossed overland through Sumatra to Osthaven, where they were able to cross the Sunda Strait and reach Batavia.

From Batavia the EMPIRE STAR sailed to Australia and reached Fremantle on February 23rd, 1942. Those who had arrived on the HONG KWONG, AMPANG and SHINKENSHENG sought passage outwards on virtually any ship that became available. Some sailed on the PLANCIUS, WUCHANG, and JALARATNA for Ceylon. Others boarded the MARELLA bound for Melbourne and the WHANGPU bound for Fremantle.

From Ceylon and Australia, the homeward journey continued with the EMPRESS OF ASIA survivors successfully securing passage on various ships that arrived in North America and Great Britain during April and May of 1942.


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