Sketch by Jack Chalker

Orders to Sail

Harold Payne described the summer of 1941 at Larkhill Camp near Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, the artillery range where the regiment completed its training.

Lt Hartley's orders to sail came on 22th September 1941. The regiment went to Liverpool and embarked in Dominion Monarch, a 27,000 ton Shaw Savil luxury cruise liner. She sailed on 30th September, destination unknown to the troops on board.

Dominion Monarch-4

Dominion Monarch

The Dominion Monarch was requested in August 1940 by the British Government. She was stripped of her fittings, fitted out with 3,556 berths, painted grey and continued her service as a troop transporter.

To minimise exposure to U boats. Dominion Monarch   was escorted across the North Atlantic, down the east coast of North America, and across the mid Atlantic to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where she joined other ships including the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Argus . From there she sailed to Cape Town, where the gunners enjoyed five days' shore leave. By now they guessed that their destination was the Far East, although Britain was not yet at war with the Japanese.

According to Harold Payne's tape, the six week voyage was pleasant if boring. This is borne out by two letters from Lt Hartley to his brother Jack, who was also a 2nd Lt in the Royal Artillery. These letters, written on board the Dominion Monarch , are dated 13th October 1941 and 10th November 1941. Copies, kindly supplied by Jack's widow Jean, are in the Hartley family album.

He writes of swimming in the ship's pool, sunbathing, playing bridge. The food was "excellent " and large tots of gin cost 4d (less than 2p) a glass. Cigarettes cost Is 8d (8p) for 50. The swimming pool was refilled three times a day to keep the water at SOT. It was "the only cool spot on board".

Dominion Monarch docked at Keppel Harbour, south Singapore, on the evening of 28th November 1941. The regiment did not know at the time, but the Japanese Emperor had already approved plans to attack Pearl Harbour and Malaya on 7th December.


Next Chapter

Journey up Malaya



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[2nd Lt. R. Hartley] [Orders to Sail] [Journey up Malaya] [Japanese Invade] [Kajang to Jitra] [Slim River] [Retreat to Tebong] [Aftermath] [Regiment History] [Map of Malaya]


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