Sketch by Jack Chalker

AHS Manunda History

1929 - 1940:

Following World War I, coastal shipping slowly returned to normal peacetime operation. There had been some war losses but no new passenger vessels were introduced until the 9115-ton Manunda arrived from Glasgow in 1929 for the Adelaide Steamship Co. She was the first interstate passenger ship to be fitted with diesel engines. This must have pleased passengers, Company and crew greatly, as bunkering was a very messy, dirty business. She had a service speed of 15 knots and was fitted to carry 300 passengers in two classes.


1940, 22nd July:

The "Manunda" was commissioned as a hospital ship on 22nd July 1940. Captain James Garden was appointed Master of the ship.


1940 - 1941:

Four trips to the Middle East were made by the Manunda, between November 1940 and September 1941.


1942, January - February:

Manunda sailed from Darling Harbour in Sydney, on 7th January 1942, arriving in Darwin on 14th January 1942. Over the next five weeks evacuation drills and routine work were carried out. The Manunda Medical personnel visited military hospitals in the Darwin area, as they watched the build up of ships in the port. News of the fall of Singapore reached them on the 15th February 1942.


1942, 19th February:

Now Japan had entered the war she required to remove the threat from her flank whilst attacking eastern Java. The build up of the large force at Darwin, gave her reasons for concern. The Japanese Navy launched a heavy air raid at about 10.00am on Thursday 19 February 1942.

An exam for the nursing orderlies was taking place on board the Manunda when  an air raid siren sounded. Protective clothing was sought as they heard Japanese bombs being dropped on Darwin. Fifty-five ships were caught in the attack within the harbour, five large ships, the destroyer USS PEARY and two smaller ships were sunk. 176 people were killed and about 200 being seriously wounded.

Manunda received a near miss with shrapnel going across her decks, killing four people, seventy-six holes appearing in her plates from this near miss. Then a bomb exploded on B and C decks, causing extensive injuries amongst the staff and damaged the navigational instruments. By this time fire had broken out, the medical and nursing staff quarters being totally destroyed. Men were flung overboard by the explosion and some of the life-boats were manned by the hospital crew to rescue injured men from the water. Eleven members of the ships crew were killed on the Manunda an eighteen seriously wounded, there were also many other minor wounds.

Some of the dead were buried at Frances Bay, along Mindil Beach, in a huge bomb hole on the hillside near Darwin Hospital, the bodies were mainly those washed up from sunken ships. Most could not be identified, those with identity discs who was given a proper burial.

Fortunately her main engines were undamaged and having collected as many casualties as practical she proceeded to sea, going south, thus avoiding further attack. Eight days after the Japanese attack, the Manunda eventually delivered the wounded in Fremantle, having only a jury rudder, no compass, and for most of the trip only one screw in action. The master, Captain James Garden, was awarded the OBE for his wonderful feat of seamanship.

Twenty aircraft were destroyed, the air station wrecked, and the wharves and township severely damaged. The wrecking of Darwin and the occupation of airfields on the island of Timor next day severed air communication between Australia and Java. The ABDA Area command was dissolved on 25 February.

The Manunda was repaired quickly in Port Adelaide and returned to the Pacific war zone.


1942, 6 September:

Milne Bay. The TENRYU and the destroyer ARASHI sunk the British freighter ANSHUN. The Japanese illuminate the Australian hospital ship Manunda by searchlight, but do not otherwise trouble her.


1944, 16 April:

The Hospital ship Manunda sailed from Port Moresby arriving Sydney 5 May 1944.


1945, 12 September:

Although the surrender ceremonies had been set for 1400 on board Kapunda, the Japanese commander, General Yamamura, reported that he was "indisposed" to attend. Ordered to show up, however, the general arrived at 1500. The surrender was signed, and theJapanese left the surrender ship, Kapunda, at 1600. The half dozen PT's then proceeded on to Kuching on the Sarawak River and put ashore the first Australian occupation troops.

The next morning, 12 September, Willoughby disembarked the remaining Australian troops to the PT's and unloaded the 50 tons of stores into two LCT's brought to Tanjong Pp for that purpose. On the 13th, 210 former Allied prisoners of war and internees— kept at Kuching—embarked in Willoughby. Among the men transferred were two enlisted men who had been captured by the Japanese after their ship, the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30), had been sunk in Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942. Several stretcher cases went on board the Australian hospital ship Manunda, anchored off Tanjong Po.


1945, 18th October:

Female nurses spent three years as prisoners of war in various camps in the Netherlands East Indies. The Japanese moved them frequently and they suffered appalling conditions. By the end of the war only 24 of the original 65 Army nurses had survived. They were repatriated aboard the hospital ship 'Manunda' , arriving home in Australia on the 18th October 1945.


1945, December:

In December 1945 it was agreed by the United States Government that the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and India should each provide a national contingent for a force to participate in the occupation of Japan.

The objects Of this force, which was designated "British Commonwealth Occupation Force" and known by the initial letters B.C.O.F., were:

  1. To represent the British Commonwealth in the occupation of Japan and to maintain and enhance British Commonwealth prestige in the eyes of the Japanese and our Allies.
  2. To demonstrate to the Japanese our democratic ways of life and living standards.

Lieutenant-General J. Northcott, C.B., M.V.O., was appointed Commander-in-Chief.

Each contingent of the force had an Army and Air Force component. Army components were provided as follows: a British-Indian Division known as BRINDIV composed of 5 British Infantry Brigade Group and 268 Indian Infantry Brigade Group; 34 Australian Infantry Brigade Group, and 9 New Zealand Infantry Brigade Group.

The Air Force component comprised two R.A.F. squadrons, three R.A.A.F. squadrons, one R.N.Z.A.F. squadron and one R.I.A.F. squadron. In addition there were shore-based naval personnel supplied by the Royal Navy.

A.H.S. Manunda anchored off the port on 21 March. She brought the main body of personnel and stores for the 13o Australian General Hospital. The hospital was receiving patients within a fortnight.


1947 - 1956:

A.H.S. Manunda was refitted for commercial service and in 1947 resumed operating on the Melbourne to Cairns run until sold to Japanese shipbreakers in 1956.



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