Sketch by Jack Chalker

The Long Journey

The Long Journey


Leaving Home

Family 1937

Jim Moffat      -       Lewis Morrison

Tom & Violet Day   -   Hugh Baldwin

Hamish Moffat  -  Mary  -  David Day 

Kathleen Morrison    -    Janet Moffat

Mary Baldwin remained at Innellan until 1937 when she decided to join David yet again in the Far East, but this time on a more permanent basis. There were few ties to hold her back.  Mary, now 37, was in India with 2 girls of her own, married to an Army officer.  David, 35, also was abroad, pioneer farming in the Peace River Block of northern British Columbia, married to a Canadian teacher and with a baby daughter to support.  The remaining children Janet (34), Violet (29), John (31), Kathleen (24) and Hugh (20) also were married although only Janet still lived in Innellan.

Most of them are in the family farewell group photograph, taken at Jenny and Jim Moffat’s home, Clyde Cottage in September of that year.  John also was there with his first wife (who was to leave him whilst he was a Prisoner-of-War in Germany) as was Hugh’s wife Winifred.

Around Mary Baldwin are gathered Jenny & Jim Moffat with their son Hamish (then 8), Violet & Tom Day, up from Manchester with their son David (2), Kathie & Donald Morrison, through from Edinburgh where he was a policeman, and Mary’s youngest child, Hugh.

By then John had joined the Army, serving with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders  -  a regiment which would see action sooner than they could have imagined, at St Valery in France, near Dunkirk.


The Voyage


1939 - On her way to the Far East

The solo photo of Mary Baldwin shows her as she set out, now only a few months short of  her 53rd birthday, for the Far East.  She sailed from Southampton on board the Royal Mail Steamer Rawalpindi, sharing a 2-berth cabin for the voyage :  2nd Class Shelter Deck Cabin 485, starboard side aft on C Deck. This was a routine sailing of a P&O (Peninsular & Orient) ship, on which class and cabin position were significant, socially and for ease of travel.  Hence, of course, the old expression "P.O.S.H.", for Port Out Starboard Home, or always on the opposite side of the ship from the tropical sun for relative coolness and comfort.  Without air conditioning in those days, a two-berth cabin on C Deck starboard would have been hot !  I have the details from a fold-out picture postcard of Rawalpindi which she sent to my mother on leaving.  On it is the cryptic message "Goodbye,  Mother".

S.S. Rawalpindi

16.601 ton passenger ship, was launched in 1925 from the Harland & Wolf shipyard.

This was a new ship, having been built in February 1935, and tho' her size (at 17,000 tons) seems modest by today's standards, she would have been typical of the type of ship used to move British "subjects" and their possessions quickly and economically around the Empire.

The designation Royal Mail Steamer indicates that she was built to maintain a high speed in order to move mail as well as passengers and high-value items as quickly as possible, taking about a month to travel between Britain and the Far East via the Suez Canal.

Little did those passengers and crew know that only two years later the Rawalpindi, by then a lightly-armed Armed Merchant Cruiser, would become famous for engaging the Nazi-German battle-cruisers Sharnhorst & Gneisenau whilst on war patrol in the Iceland-Faroes gap.  Her action persuaded the two commerce-raiders to turn back to the Baltic and so saved the convoy she was guarding.  However, the gallant Rawalpindi was sunk by gunfire with the loss of 238 out the crew of 276. The 38 survivors who were taken on board the Scharnhorst and spent the rest of the war in various POW camps in Europe.

Mary Baldwin's decision to travel to the Far East in September 1937 was a bold one ;  much bolder in its day than it first seems now. In the Far East, following a world trade recession, Japan had invaded China, without serious protest or action by the Western nations, as far back as 1931-32.  The Japanese military government had gone on to terrorise and massacre the Chinese population and set up the "puppet" state of Manchukuo (Manchuria).  On paper at least, Japan was now in formal military alliance with Germany & Italy.  In the Far East, as in Europe, tensions indicating a real prospect of imminent war were already very evident.

By 1937 Germany was already well into a large re-armament program, outstripping Britain & France in quantities of many modern ships, weapons and aircraft ; had recently re-occupied the Rhineland (1936) ;  and was about to invade Austria (1938).  Chamberlain's infamous Munich Declaration of "peace in our time" was still a year away, but although the threat of another war in Europe – less than 20 years after the end of the previous one - was already very evident, appeasement and lack of will to fight reflected the mood of the British nation.    The British showed more concern about the recent abdication of King Edward VIII in December 1936 than about their nation's security.

As Rawalpindi sailed south in the Autumn of 1937 she passed the coast of Spain where a fierce civil war had been raging for a year with active involvement of Germany & Italy on one side, and France and the USSR on the other.  She then passed through the Suez Canal, owned by an Anglo-French company based in Egypt but which Italy had been allowed to use for her invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935.   The signs of impending war were all too clear to many.

From Singapore Mary Baldwin would take a smaller steamship to British North Borneo (now the Malaysian state of Sabah) at a more leisurely pace, perhaps calling first at Kuching in Sarawak, a busy and important trading port.  Then a slow cruise up the coast past Brunei before calling at Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) and then rounding the northern tip of Borneo to reach her destination : Sandakan.


Days of Empire

North Borneo in 1937 had few if any roads and all effective long-distance communication had to be by sea.  Ships and boats therefore were important, especially steamships :  not only for reliable long-distance trading and ferrying across the South China Sea to nearby Malaya, Indo-China, the Philippines, China and beyond but also for coastal trade to connect the small towns and settlements of Borneo.  These included the British protectorate of Sarawak far to the south and round to the east the settlements of the Dutch East Indies, closest of which to British Sandakan was the Dutch oil-field port of Tarakan.

Making one of these small ships go was the role in later life which David Baldwin had chosen – of some importance and status within the Sandakan community yet not too taxing for an experienced deep-sea engineer now 64 years old, whilst still offering a sense of adventure and an attractive lifestyle - and paid for it into the bargain !  The ship is the Baynain, which we met earlier, now converted from coal to oil-fired boilers making life easier for the Asian crew and cleaner for the two European officers :  the Captain and the Engineer, known as The Chief.  Baynain was last shown in Lloyds List of 1941-42 as registered at Sandakan and owned by the Bakau & Kenya Extract Company of Glasgow.  At only 659 total tonnage, measuring 175 feet overall length and needing only 11 feet of water depth she would be well-suited to collecting raw materials from small tropical harbours and inlets for onward shipping to larger ports.  As we’ll see later, she could also carry passengers and their goods over the same network of informal routes.


Next Chapter

Settled at Sandakan



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[Baldwin] [The Beginning] [The Long Journey] [Settled at Sandakan] [War] [Release] [Last Words] [Re-Discovery] [Conclusion]


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