SS Kuala

SS Kuala

The SS Kuala was a small coastal ship converted into an auxiliary vessel.

While still taking on passengers, SS Kuala was attacked by wave after wave of enemy aircraft, killing dozens of passengers including an Army nurse. The ship was carrying 600 people, 500 of whom were civilians. Half of these were women and children. Scores were injured by shrapnel fragments and flying glass. It left Singapore on February 14th as the Japanese advanced.

There were about 50 nurses on board, including civilians and military nurses from the other services. The master of the Kuala had decided to sail at night when they were less visible to aircraft, and lie to during the day. They had just sent men ashore in boats to Pom Pong island to camouflage the ship with branches and thatch when the planes came over. The women heard a warning shout to take cover and the ship was rocked by a massive explosion as the bridge suffered a direct hit and the boiler room caught fire.

With the stricken vessel sinking fast the order came to abandon ship. There were only two lifeboats and not nearly enough lifebelts – all were forced to jump from the blazing ship into the water where a fierce current was sweeping away from the island and out to the open sea, and the Japanese came back and strafed them, hitting one of the lifeboats and catapulting the passengers back into the sea. Some survivors were picked up by the SS Tanjong Pinang, which was itself sunk a day later.

SS Tanjong Pinang

The SS Tanjong Pinang was a 97 foot converted ‘tug’ trying to make its escape with about 160 women and children on board plus about eight wounded men from Pom Pong Island where they had been shipwrecked; it also had on board five ocean shipwreck survivors who had been plucked from the sea on the day before. Almost all these people were survivors, including many wounded, of the earlier sinking of the SS Kuala which had sailed from Singapore on 13 February and had been bombed by Japanese planes at Pom Pong Island so they had already experienced the horror and pain of one sinking. There is no official record of all those on board but it is thought that there were at least 160 on board and there could have been as many as 208 passengers and 17 crew crammed on the deck and into the hold in the dark of the night of 16 February. ┬áThere are also numerous Chinese and Eurasian women who are thought to have been on board too but there are no records of their names.

The ship left from Pom Pong Island at dawn on 17 February. One crew man said a lifeboat had ferried people from Pom Pong Island to the ship eight times carrying 20 people each time except for the last trip of 12 people. Another crewman said there were 250 passengers on board. The ship was stopped at sea about 30 miles north of the Tanjung Ular lighthouse off Banka Island at about 8.30pm that night by a warning shot across its bows. Whilst some women and children were being lowered in the ship’s only two small boats (there were no real lifeboats), a Japanese submarine or torpedo boat opened fire at point blank range whilst its searchlights were trained on the SS Tanjong Pinang directly hitting the starboard side ship’s boat. The ship sank within five to ten minutes taking down many of the women and children passengers who had been trapped in the hold and cabins.

SS Khedive Ismail

SS Khedive Ismail

The SS Khedive Ismail was a steamship sunk with great loss of life in 1944. On 6 February 1944 Convoy KR-8 sailed from Kilindini Harbour at Mombasa, Kenya to Colombo, Ceylon. The convoy consisted of five troop transports (Khedive Ismail, City of Paris, Varsova, Ekma & Ellenga), escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins and the destroyers HMS Petard and HMS Paladin.

In the early afternoon of Saturday 12 February 1944, a Japanese submarine sank the Khedive Ismail with two torpedoes. No fewer than 1,297 people, including 77 women, lost their lives in the two minutes it took for the Khedive Ismail to sink. Only 208 men and 6 women survived. The sinking was the third worst Allied shipping disaster of World War II and the single worst loss of female service personnel in the history of the Commonwealth of Nations. The nurses that died are commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.

Nurses who died at sea on the SS Khedive Ismail

Airey, Freda

Atkin, Joyce Kathleen

Bateman, Edith Mary

Brown, Amy

Dalgarno, Elsie Alice

Dann, Elizabeth Doritha

Davies, Margaret Eluned

Dervan, Gertrude

Dewar, Alice Whitehead

Dowling, Beatrice Olivia

Farrelly, Mary

FitzGerald, Catherine Mary

Harvey, Grace Wesslink

Hastings, Valerie Francis

Humphrey, Muriel Christine

Ievers, Eileen Mary Elsie

Jarman, Marie

Johnston, Maud Fredaline

Kells, Maggie Jane

Kells, Winifred Evelyn

Leckey, Muriel Emily

Leech, Barbara Elisabeth

Littleton, Mary Joyce

MacLaren, Jean Noel

McMillan, Marion Lennox

Moore, Isabella

Morgan, Sarah

Nuttall, Phyllis

Pirie, Barbara

Richardson, Sybil Gwendoline

Robertson, Helen Murray

Senior, Doris Ena

Smith, Marjorie

Spence, Isobel

Taylor, Katherine Mary Monica

Thomas, Jane Mair George

Urquhart, Mary Annie Ross

Walker, Kathleen Hewison

Warwick, Roberta Alice

Whitaker, Mafalda Selene

White, Gwendoline May

Willis, Annie Amelia

Young, Eleanor Jane