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. There 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.