Sinking of the SS Tanjong Pinang on 17th February 194262
This very small 97 ft converted tug was 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.
Only about 15 to 20 women, children and babies are known to have reached land. For those who managed to leave the ship the flotation devices were only four small rafts (initially with about 40 people both on them and hanging on to the edges at one stage), a pram dinghy, two small boats and a Carley raft. On the Carley float with a few of the ship’s crew (Able Seamen Baird, Hissey and Archer) were seven Sisters of which six died with exposure and Sister Black landed on Banka Island but died later of a wound. Those who reached land included the ship’s Captain Lt Basil Shaw NZRNVR (who was murdered with Able Seaman Young by the Japanese on Banka Island on 21 February), plus between five and eight crew members, three European nurses, one civilian European woman and three Eurasian women. One seaman was killed with the Captain, one nurse died and two crewmen plus one nurse and a civilian died in captivity.
The above reflects the testimonies of the very few survivors including Able Seaman J Baird (who was interned in Palembang camp and survived the war), Able Seaman Archer (who was wounded and died in Palembang camp on 17.8 1945), Malay Seaman Ali Bin Rafi (who survived and rejoined the Navy in 1945), Able Seaman Hissey (who died in Palembang camp on 26.7.1945), and Able Seaman Richardson (survivor from HMS Prince of Wales, who ended up on a raft for eight days , was picked up by a Japanese cruiser and was interned in Palembang).
62 See http://www.cofepow.org.uk/pages/civilian_ss_tanjong_pinang.htm . See also “Out in the Midday Sun” in Appendix 5.