Sunday, May 29, 2011

The color of Penang

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Patriotism, Politician & Soldiers.

Talking about patriotism, the litmus paper is the war time. The only time Malaysia ever have any modern war was the WW2; Emergency was just like small civil war, a war of ideology, a by product of cold war after WW2. Japanese occupation was the real test, a tribulation of 3 years and 8 months. During the time, there were war hero, who fight for Malaya against the Japanese. Looking at the war only with historical view, without any corruption from political and racial views, the majority who were in the anti-Japanese armies were the Chinese. This is historical fact, partly due to the political development in the Far East. They were soldiers, patriotic soldiers. So there is no reason that Malaysian Chinese are not interest in uniform.

Recently I look through on the military history of WW2, Malaya, and Japan; British had no plan to defense Malaya even before the war, they are more worry about their home country against the Nazi. May be they were over confidence that Imperial Japanese Army will not attack their Singapore, or they believe they have enough power to defend their fortress. Their best air defense was in Europe. When the war come, they are not prepared, they think only of evacuation of their own people. The Indian soldiers and Malayan soldiers were left behind to become POW. Their grand escape plan backfire, many end up in POW Camp or died in the sea of Java, only few who evacuated earlier managed to escape, and some lucky one. The escape of British colonist, revealed negatively on them, especially the Indian soldiers and local residents in Malaya. They were some brave soldiers, some battle, .....but not enough to protect Malaya, and in the end, the defeat of British empire in the most shameful war that British had ever fight.

The Indian had their dilemma, to believe the promise by the Imperial Japanese Army, that they will support their independence of India, or prepare to suffer under their occupation , or even go to POW Camp. Many aligned with the Japan initially and joined Indian National Army(INA), with anticipation for Japanese support for independence of India from British. But there were some who were ready to POW Camp. The aim of the army was to overthrow the British Raj in colonial India, with Japanese assistance. Initially composed of Indian prisoners of war captured by Japan in her Malayan campaign and at Singapore, it later drew volunteers from Indian expatriate population in Malaya and Burma. Some of the member of British Indian soldiers even provide information to Japan for their invasion of Malaya. Their main core of support was from Indian in Malaya, Singapore and Burma.

Initially formed in 1942 immediately after the fall of Singapore under Mohan Singh, the first INA collapsed in December that year before it was revived under the leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose in 1943 and proclaimed the army of Bose's Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind (The Provisional Government of Free India). This second INA fought along with the Imperial Japanese Army against the British and Commonwealth forces in the campaigns in Burma, Imphal and Kohima, and later, against the successful Burma Campaign of the Allies. The end of the war saw a large number of the troops repatriated to India where some faced trial for treason and became a galvanising point of the Indian Independence movement.

After Indian independence, the ex-INA members, with some exceptions, were refused service in the Indian Army. However, a number of notable members later became involved in local politic or public life in India and in Southeast Asia.

For further information on INA,,please read wikipedia I have personally know some of ex-member of INA, one of them even become an active politician and public figure in Penang. They sincerely and strongly believe in the promise of Imperial Japanese Army.

The Malay was also indulged in the hope for independence of Malaya and Indonesia, and there was engagement and participation in the occupation government.

In administering Kedah, the Japanese implemented a policy of cooperation with the right winged elites. The then Monopoly and Customs Commissioner Tunku Muhamad Jiwa ibn Sultan Abdul Hamid and Ismail Harun (2nd assistant secretary) initiated the cooperation. The Kulim district officer also cooperated with the Japanese. In his speech aired by Radio Pulau Pinang, Tunku Abdul Rahman urged the people of Malaya and Sumatra to accept the Japanese occupation to avoid further bloodshed((by Abu Talib Ahmad). Even though the Malays (who are Muslims) and Indians were not badly treated by Japanese forces in the beginning of the occupation, later they too felt the hardship of life under the occupation and this was magnified by the brutal treatment of anyone who was suspected of being anti-Japanese (although hardly any atrocities were inflicted on them). Thus the SOE found a suitable backing among a few Malays and sent their officers to train local resistance forces famously known as Harimau Malaya Force 136 (Tigers of Malaya of Force 136). However, certain individuals in Malaya were strong supporters of the Japanese, and were actively involved in the notorious Kempeitai "mopping up" operations and other atrocities(source: wikipedia). Note: Force 136 was the general cover name for a branch of the British World War II organization, the Special Operations Executive (SOE)

But there were some individuals who joined Force 136 and Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).

The battle of Bukit Panjang was fought mostly by the 1st Malay regiment with a little support from the British. Most of the men fought to the death and when they ran out of ammo,they charged with their bayonets at the enemy. But what really stood out was that though Lt Adnan was wounded,he fought on and in the end was hung from a tree and stabbed to death.

Tunku Osman Khalil Shah Tunku Muhammad Jiwa, a student from Hutching School, Penang was another hero from Force 136, and there were others. Some joined Harimau Malaya Force 136 (Tigers of Malaya of Force 136). Lieutenant Ibrahim bin Ismail (M.B.E.)who retired as a full general and chief of the Malaysian armed forces in the 1970s; Captain Hussein Onn, Malaysia's 3rd Prime Minister. They have served their country well....

For Force 136, there are books; but Wikipedia do have write up on the topic.It was interesting to know that some Canadian Chinese joined Force 136, one of them is Willie (Jun Wai) Chong, Frank Lee ,Victor Eric Wong , Paul Chan ,Harry Fong,Gordon J.K. Quan. What did these Canadian Chinese do in Malaya, risking their life with Force 136?. If you want to know the story, visit their website

The rest was history......

The Chinese was the one that suffered most from Japanese Occupation; yet many also joined the resistance movement. Be it communist MPAJA or under Force 136. Many lost their life for the land they lived and love. They become soldiers, not their choice, but for the reason to take up arms against Imperial Japanese Army that occupy Malaya.

From time to time the MCP released policy statements or manifestos to the public. Below is Wikipedia's initial attempt to list them:

* 1940. Manifesto calling for expulsion of British imperialism.
* February 1943. Anti-Japanese Programme (nine points).
* 27 August 1945. Eight Point Manifesto. Generally moderate; the only demands objected to by the British were those for an elected assembly and a wide franchise. It "expressed the hope" (Cheah's words) that the British would consider granting self-government to Malaya.

MPAJA is not treated as part of the anti Japanese war and hence is excluded from the history book and museums. Some of the historian begin to argue that is MPAJA a patriotic force in history, and played a critical role in the independence of Malaya , like INA? Force 136?....

History tell us that at the political development of the world at the time; and the fight against independence from the colonist in Asian; many had believed in communist struggle for their independence. Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaya...

After the war, the ugly side of the colonist returned, more chaos despite the war was over. Many freedom fighters failed to term with their colonist government when the war ended. They were not provide with political right to form a political party like Japanese Communist Party. Many were forced into the jungle to take up arm, and classified as terrorist by the colonist propaganda. That was the period we see the political struggle of the British Empire in Malaya, Burma and India, their swan days in Asia. They use their propaganda machine to discredit the independence fighters, trying to salvage their pride. The independence fighters lost the war, and history was not fair to them...and it just happen many of them were Chinese, it become blurred with racial tone....looking at the political scene in the world, it was just an ideology, a chosen way to make a political stance....they lost their life for their ideology, their home land, and their nation.....a cruel historical fact.

....the story and history were ..... tainted with wrong perception and polluted with hidden political agenda, not from the prospective of historical view, neither from the neutral view, but from the perspective of winner or losers...the winner write their history.....In war, for ordinary people, either way you loose.

The history proved that Chinese are patriotic, in war; but they preferred peace to make a living, in a fair and just environment. During the WW2, Emergency, Confrontation, there were still many Chinese soldiers who joined the government arm forces ; but there are many who choose to remain as an ordinary people, working hard, paying taxes.....the silence patriotic people, who despite having their political stance, silently contribute to society, their community, and the nation. No historian will remember them, for they are not soldiers in the battlefields, but brave patriotic solders in their own life.....

Going back to the Canadian Chinese who joined Force 136, and those who participated in WW2 as soldiers, they were recognized by the open minded Canadian government, despite fighting a war in Malaya, and not Canada.....

Politician are politician; wearing a mask, either way they win....they make policy, some are not good one, with their political power, they can justify it. They write new history, in tune with their political agenda, history that they want to see, history that please them.....and they can change often. Great nation is the one who has confidence to accept their identity, their history, good or ugly, as genuine history. There were opportunists in the WW2, traitors to the land and people, who cooperate with the enemy, but transformed to become hero, public figure, politician, millionaires.....after the war. Many change their hats, as pure blood opportunist, they want to change their history, to erase their past life. But people who died during the war, lived through the war, know their history, their ugly past.

But the fact remain, patriotism is from the heart, at the moment of war, when it out pour; regardless of other factors, just for the land and family. Even they are not soldiers....

A simple fact for simple man....a patriotic person will let the next generation know their historical truth, and not to erase the truth from their children...... the internet world will play the role to continue telling the truth, if you know to differentiate the reliable source.

...We really need to learn from the German.......

Still remember Bunga Raya?......

Suggested articles

1. MUSEUMS AND THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION OF MALAYA,by Abu Talib Ahmad, /Museums_and_the_Japanese_Occupation_of_Malaya_%28Abu_Talib_Ahmad%29.pdf( Interesting article, as the author traced the history of WW2 in the museums)
2.Chapman, Freddie Spencer. The Jungle is neutral. Lyon Press. ISBN 1-59228-107-9.
4. Force 136,

Bunga Raya, the national flower

The Straits Times, 29 July 1960, Page 1

Tunku Abdul Rahman announced in Kuala Lumpur 28-7-1960 at the opening of Malaya Agri-Horticultural Association exhibition at Selangor Turf Club, announced that the national flower should be Bunga Raya for the federation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Mayor of Colchester is from Penang

The New Mayor, a Penang SGGS student

Congratulation to Helen Chuah, for being appointed as the Mayor of Colchester, UK

Still remember writing about her being appointed as Deputy Mayor of Colchester in my blog article dated 24th August 2010, with title “ Helen Chuah – Deputy Mayor of Colchester 2010-2011. After writing the blog, I sent an e-mail to her to congratulate her for her appointment and told her that I am proud of her, as Penang lang. She replied to my e-mail and the letter was posted in my blog, to inform Penang people, that we have a proud girl from Penang who had done well in oversea. The e-mail was posted in my blog dated 23-12-2010, titled “ A letter from Deputy Mayor of Colchester, UK( ex student from SGGS) “. The Penang girl from the famous school, SGGS(St George's Girls School ), the missionary school that just celebrated the 125th Anniversary on 10 October 2010.

St. George's Girls School, is a secondary school for girls located at Jalan Macalister, George Town, Penang, Malaysia. Established in 1884, the school currently caters to approximately 1300 students from Form 1 to Form 6. The abbreviated name for the school is SGGS with the pupils known as Georgians. SGGS is one of the best school in Penang. Mayor Helen Chuch completed her secondary education and left the school in 1967.

St. George's was started by the Colonial Chaplain's wife. The official opening took place on 7th January 1885 at "The Manse", which stood by the northern beach at Farquhar Street. With Miss R.A. Shackleford as its first principal, the institution offered an English education to the sheltered daughters of Penang society, and today is the alma mater of many eminent and illustrious ladies who have made their marks both in Malaysia and the world. Her alumni included Her Royal Highness the Raja Permaisuri of Perak, Tuanku Bainun, Lim Beng Hong @ Mrs B.H. Oon(the first Chinese woman to be called to the English bar in 1926), Khoo Salma Nasution(President of Penang Heritage Trust or PHT) and many others. Now it included Mayor Helen Chuah as one of the proud Georgians.

To her classmates, to her family members and many Penang people who known her, Mayor Helen Chuch is Chuah Gaik Choon, a typical Chinese girl from Penang.

COUNCILLOR Helen Chuah, who is currently the Deputy Mayor , will be sworn in as Colchester's Mayor 2011-2012 on 18-5-2011. At a formal ceremony at the Moot Hall next Wednesday, Ms Chuah will take the badge and robes of the office from outgoing Mayor Sonia Lewis. Her escort will be partner Councillor Mike Hogg, a former Mayor himself, while Councillor Christopher Arnold is to be elected Deputy Mayor.

Her partner Michael Hogg, was the Mayor in 2001, is the first citizen of Colchester Borough Council and acts as Chair of the Council. Helen Chuah will be the 1636th Mayor, and the first Mayor of Colchester born outside the country.

Helen Chuah told the local reporter from NST, "It is a pity that my father who served in the Merchant Navy and also in the police force, is no longer with us. He was the one who encouraged me to read and pursue my education. He loved history and ceremonies. He would have loved the Mayor Making ceremony. He would have been so proud,". I am sure Mr Chuah will be proud of her daughter's achievement.

As she walk into the hall for her sworn in ceremony, may be she can still remember the school song or perhaps hear the melody of her school song singing by the students of St. George's Girls School.....with the blessing from people of her home state, Penang....

SGGS School Anthem

Seniors and juniors all gathered here,
Together we march on without a fear,
Goodwill and happiness we want to spread,
Every day's a challenge let's go right ahead.

Onwards we move towards the light,
Resolved are we to face the fight,
Giving our best from day to day,
If there's a will, there's always a way.

Around the bends of life we'll have to turn,
Near and far fond thoughts will always burn.

St. George's, St. George's,
We'll ever proclaim,
Honour and uphold you
Forever praise your name,
St. George's, St. George's,
We'll always be true,
Our dear St. George's Girls' School.

Her school will be proud of her; her family will be proud of her, and all Penang people will be proud of her....

Recommended readings:
1.St George's Girls School Penang 125th Anniversary,
2. My earlier blog, Helen Chuah – Deputy Mayor of Colchester 2010-2011, dated 24th August 2010
3. A letter from Deputy Mayor of Colchester, UK( ex student from SGGS), dated 23-12-2010
4.Helen Chuah - Mayor of Colchester
5. Siblings proud of new mayor of Colchester,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Malaysian Chinese in Military

Somebody said sometime ago; one minister of defense said some community is not patriotic, because they are not in arm forces. As I read the colonial history of our arm forces prior to independence, the fact was there were many Chinese and Indian in the arm forces. This minister did not read our nation's military history.

Some one comment that there were many volunteers in arm forces during the pre war days, and there were many Chinese volunteers in the resistance movement , especially during the WW2....

Recently there was one remark, why there are more Chinese volunteers in voluntary fire fighting units, than the number in the government fire brigade....

As I go through the history of our uniform units; there were many Chinese in uniform, in colonial days; at least much more than today.....why?...some even lost their life for the sake of the nation.....and yet there were numbers, but not today....

But why the number is declining......

The list of Malaysian Chinese Generals in the arm forces sine its establishment

Air Force – Brigadier General

Brig Jen (Rtd) Huang Chew Siong TUDM (Bersara)
Brig Jen (Rtd) Datuk Toh Boon Fook TUDM (Bersara)- mendiang
Brig Jen (Rtd)Dato' Stephen Ngiau Tai Kong TUDM (Bersara)
Brig Jen (Rtd)Dato' Koh Kia Lim TUDM (Bersara)
Brig Jen(Rtd)  Dato' Loke Kok Yee TUDM (Bersara)
Brig Jen (Rtd) Dato' Soon Lian Cheng TUDM (Bersara)
Brig Jen (Rtd) Dato' Lau Kong Cheng TUDM (Bersara)
Brig Jen Dato' Lim Tiow Yew TUDM - Timbalan Komander, HQ IADS)
Brig Jen (Rtd) Goh Seng Toh

Army Major General

Mej Jen (Rtd) Dato Leong Siew Meng (RSD),Commandant, Armed Forces Defence College.
Mej Jen (Rtd) Dato Lai Chung Wah (KAD),Commandant, Armed Forces Defence College.
Mej Jen (Rtd) Dato' Johan Hew Deng Onn bin Abdullah (RAD)-General Officer Commanding, 3rd Malaysian Infantry Brigade.
Brig Jen (Rtd) Chong Thean Bok – Commander, 1st Malaysian Infantry Brigade.
Brig Jen (Rtd) Hon Mun Loong – Commander, 9th Malaysian Infantry Brigade.
Brig Jen (Rtd) Philip Lee.
Beig Jen (Rtd) Goh Ah Bah – Commander, 9th Malaysian Infantry Brigade.

Laksma Pertama(Rtd) Dato Albert Thong Hon Sin (B)
Laksma Pertama (Rtd) Lim Say Kiang (B)
Laksma Pertama(Rtd) Dato Ir Fong Soo Hoi (B)
Laksma Pertama (Rtd)Dato Tan See Ming (B)
Laksma Pertama Dato Tan Eng Seng - Komandan MPAT,Commandant Armed Forces Defence College.

It seems that there are more generals in TUDM(Royal Malaysian Air Force) than Army or Navy....

List of Chinese recipients of PGB

Kolonel (B) Maurice Lam Shye Choon
Mejar (B) Lee Ah Pow
Leftenan Muda (B) David Fu Chee Ming
Sarjan (B) Choo Wah Soon
Sarjan (B) Cheng Eng Chin @ Chong Yong Chin

It was also reported that Ranger Mat Isa bin Hassan PGB, despite the name Mat Isa, he was a Chinese.

I still remember during my school days, many were expired to be student of RMC(Royal Military College), one of the prestigious choice for people who wish to be in uniform. I wonder what happen now?.......

The new recruits for the uniform units in old days, were mainly from Boy Scout Movement, Boy's Brigade, Army Cadets; what happen to these youth movement now?.....

Is the appointment of Brigadier-General Ravinder Singh, a Sikh, as the chief of the Singapore Army, giving any clue to Malaysia?. Sikh, as a community, is having a long tradition of serving in uniform, both as policemen and in the armed forces, not only in Singapore but also Malaysia. But what happen to Sikh community in armed forces and police force in Malaysia, their number are also declining. Now they preferred to be lawyer or doctor in Malaysia, where they can excel in their occupation. Are they facing the same dilemma as the Chinese community? ......

Recommended reading:

1. In the military, the non-Malay is ridden like a horse, by Major (Rtd) D.Swami, is a touching article from a retired major, read on the article about Lt Lee Ah Poh,a PGB recipient and how he was treated)
2. 2Lt N.H. Siebel PGB and Captain Maurice Lam PGB in the Congo,
3. LACK OF NON-BUMI PARTICIPATION IN THE ARMY, I like this blog, a fair view from a Malay retired army officer)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Japanese Occupation Forced Labour from Penang

During the WW2, many Strait Settlement residents were sent to Siam for the railway construction by the Imperial Japanese Army. Some of them were not military men, but civilian. There were the POW or Prisoner of War, and the civilian forced labour. Many died at the construction site and never returned. Some returned after the war, but were sicked and ill nourished, many died after their return.

Two of my uncle were the civilian forced labour for the construction of railway in Thailand. They died shortly after their return to Penang. They were returned, but a different person; weak, sick and undernourished. There were no money for their medical treatment. The time was tough in the post war period, and they passed away without a chance.....

Abducted civilian forced labor(強制連行・強制労働犠牲者/被害者)

Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
Forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.

There were many Romusha (労務者, Rōmusha, "laborer")from Asian countries in World War II, who were forced by the Imperial Japanese Army as forced laborers during the Japanese occupation(日本軍の強制労働) . They are ordinary people who were unwillingly forced to leave their home in the army trucks, and sent work at the railway track in the Siam/Burma border. They were not just romusha, but the victim of forced labor(強制労働犠牲者). In Japanese, forced labor is called Kyōsei rō dō(強制労働,きょうせいろうどう), unlike POW(Prisoner of war) or hori-yo( 捕虜,ほりょ)who are war prisoners protected under international law, the forced laborer were merely ordinary civilian who are not prison labor( 囚人労働,[しゅうじんろうどう). They were abducted into Forced Labor Concentration Camp(強制労働収容所)against their wishes, a forced movement of forced labor, is Kyosei ren ko to Kyōsei rō dō(強制連行と強制労働) in Japanese. (note: 強制連行,きょうせいれんこう, kyosei ren ko means abduction against the victim's will)

POW Forced Labor of Japan Imperial Army(日本軍の捕虜の強制労働)
The Imperial Japan Army however did not comply with international Convention, and instead treated the POW as forced labor. It is forced labour of Japanese POW(日本軍の捕虜の強制労働)or POW forced labor, which was a breach of International Convention on POW.
The Japanese military's use of forced labor, by Asian civilians and POWs also caused many deaths. According to a joint study by historians including Zhifen Ju, Mitsuyoshi Himeta, Toru Kubo and Mark Peattie, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilized by the Kōa-in (Japanese Asia Development Board) for forced labour. More than 100,000 civilians and POWs died in the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway.
The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between four and 10 million romusha (Japanese: "manual laborer"), were forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South East Asia. Only 52,000 were repatriated to Java, meaning that there was a death rate of 80%.

According to historian Akira Fujiwara, Emperor Hirohito personally ratified the decision to remove the constraints of international law (Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)) on the treatment of Chinese prisoners of war in the directive of August 5, 1937. This notification also advised staff officers to stop using the term "prisoners of war". The Geneva Convention exempted POWs of sergeant rank or higher from manual labour, and stipulated that prisoners performing work should be provided with extra rations and other essentials. However, Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention at the time, and Japanese forces did not follow the convention.
The Empire of Japan, which had never signed the Second Geneva Convention of 1929, also did not treat prisoners of war in accordance with international agreements, including provisions of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907), either during the Second Sino-Japanese War or during the Pacific War. Moreover, according to a directive ratified on 5 August 1937 by Hirohito, the constraints of the Hague Conventions were explicitly removed on Chinese prisoners

Prisoners of war from China, the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the Philippines held by the Japanese armed forces were subject to murder, beatings, summary punishment, brutal treatment, forced labour, medical experimentation, starvation rations and poor medical treatment. The most notorious use of forced labour was in the construction of the Burma–Thailand Death Railway

According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. The death rate of Chinese was much larger. Thus, while 37,583 prisoners from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Dominions, 28,500 from Netherlands and 14,473 from the United States were released after the surrender of Japan, the number for the Chinese was only 56. After the war, it became clear that there existed a high command order – issued from the War Ministry in Tokyo – to kill all remaining POWs

The International Labour Organization's Forced Labour Convention of 1930 defines forced labour as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself [or herself] voluntarily." (For the origins of the term "corvée," see the entry in the Columbia Encyclopedia.)

One of the few very scholars to have attended to the genocidal (or "democidal") dimension of forced labour is R.J. Rummel. In his book Death by Government, Rummel offers the estimate that "at a rock-bottom minimum, 10 million colonial forced laborers must have died" as a result of the brutal exploitation inflicted upon them, and "the true toll may have been several times this number." He adds:

This does not even weigh the human cost of the state's conventional forced labor -- that of subjects compelled to man galleys, sail ships (as by the operation of press-gangs in British ports), carry supplies and weapons in time of war or rebellion, build pyramids, construct fortifications, or build roads, bridges, dams, canals and the like. Indeed, the use of such forced labor, or corvée, has been traditional in Asia, even up to recent decades. Sometimes this labor served in lieu of taxes, where the subject was decreed to owe to the king or emperor or state a month or more of labor per year. While perhaps justifiable in theory, the practice often meant that overseers would execute the laborer that was too often late for work, slow on the job, sickly, or critical of the work. (Rummel, Death by Government [New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1994], pp. 64-65.)

The Burma Railway
The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Thailand–Burma Railway and similar names, is a 415 kilometres (258 mi) railway between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), built by the Empire of Japan during World War II, to support its forces in the Burma campaign.

Forced labour was used in its construction. About 180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Of these, around 90,000 Asian laborers (mainly romusha) and 16,000 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. The dead POWs included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans and a smaller number of Canadians and New Zealanders.

POW Camp & Forced Labor Concentration Camp
The living and working conditions on the railway were horrific. The estimated total number of civilian labourers and POWs who died during construction varies considerably, but the Australian Government figures suggest that of the 330,000 people that worked on the line (including 250,000 Asian labourers and 61,000 Allied POWs) about 90,000 of the labourers and about 16,000 Allied prisoners died. See external link below.
Portrait of POW "Dusty" Rhodes. A three-minute sketch by Old painted in Thailand in 1944.

Life in the POW camps was recorded at great risk to themselves by artists such as Jack Bridger Chalker, Philip Meninsky, Ashley George Old and Ronald Searle. Human hair was often used for brushes, plant juices and blood for paint, and toilet paper as the 'canvas'. Some of their works were used as evidence in the trials of Japanese war criminals. Many are now held by the Australian War Memorial, State Library of Victoria and the Imperial War Museum in London.

But the horrors, starvation, sickness, and death that occurred during the construction of the Thailand-Burma railway are not the whole story. Except for the worst months of the construction period, known as the "Speedo" (mid-spring to mid-October 1943), one of the ways the Allied POWs kept their spirits going in the hellish conditions was to ask one of the musicians in their midst to play his guitar or accordion for them, or lead them in a group singalong, or request their camp comedians to tell some rough jokes, or put on a skit.

After the railway was completed, the POWs still had almost two years to survive before their liberation. During this time, most of the POWs were moved to hospital and relocation camps where they could be available for maintenance crews or sent to Japan to alleviate the manpower shortage there. It was in these camps that entertainment flourished as an essential part of their rehabilitation. Theatres out of bamboo and atap (palm fronds) were built, set, lighting, costumes and makeup devisded, and an array of entertainment produced that included music halls, variety shows, cabarets, plays, and musical comedies – even pantomimes. These activities engaged numerous POWs as actors, singers, musicians, designers, technicians, and female impersonators.

POWs and Asian workers were also used to build the Kra Isthmus Railway from Chumphon to Kra Buri, and the Sumatra or Palembang Railway from Pakanbaroe to Moeara.

The construction of the Burma Railway is counted as a war crime committed by Japan in Asia. Hiroshi Abe, the first lieutenant who supervised construction of the railway at Sonkrai where over 3,000 POWs died, was later sentenced to death as a B/C class war criminal. His sentence was later commuted to 15 years in prison.

Hellfire Pass was a particularly difficult section of the line to build due to it being the largest rock cutting on the railway, coupled with its general remoteness and the lack of proper construction tools during building. The Australian, British, Dutch, other allied prisoners of war, along with Chinese, Malays and Tamils labourers, were required by the Japanese to complete the cutting. Sixty nine men were beaten to death by Japanese and Korean guards in the six weeks it took to build the cutting, and many more died from cholera, dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion (Wigmore 568)

The Railway after the war
After the war the railway was in very poor condition and needed heavy reconstruction for use by the Royal Thai Railway system. On 24 June 1949, the portion from Kanchanaburi to Nong Pladuk (Thai หนองปลาดุก) was finished; on 1 April 1952, the next section up to Wang Pho (Wangpo) was done. Finally, on 1 July 1958 the rail line was completed to Nam Tok (Thai น้ำตก, English Sai Yok "waterfalls".) The portion in use today measures some 130 km (80 miles). The line was abandoned beyond Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi. The steel rails were salvaged for reuse in expanding the Bangsue railway yard, reinforcing the BKK-Banphachi double track, rehabilitating the track from Thung Song to Trang, and constructing both the Nong Pladuk-Suphanburi and Ban Thung Pho-Khirirat Nikhom branch lines. Parts of abandoned route have been converted into a walking trail.

Since the 1990s various proposals have been made to rebuild the complete railway, but these plans have not yet come to fruition. Since a large part of the original railway line is now submerged by the Vajiralongkorn Dam, and the surrounding terrain is mountainous, it would take extensive tunneling to reconnect Thailand with Burma by rail.

Cemeteries and memorials
After the war, the remains of most of the war dead were moved from former POW camps burial grounds and solitary sites along the rail line to one of three war cemeteries. The exception was fallen Americans, who were repatriated to the United States. (A total of 902 American POWs worked on the railway – 534 men from the 131st Field Artillery Regiment and 368 survivors of the sunken USS Houston (CA-30); 133 of them died.)

The main POW cemetery is in the city of Kanchanaburi, where 6,982 POWs are buried, mostly British, Australian, Dutch and Canadians. Also at the main cemetery is the Kanchanaburi Memorial, which honours 11 Indian soldiers from British regiments who were buried in local Muslim cemeteries. A smaller cemetery just outside the city is Chung Kai, with 1,750 war graves. Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar has the graves of 3,617 POWs (3,149 Commonwealth and 621 Dutch) who died on the Burmese portion of the line. The three cemeteries there are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Several museums are dedicated to those who perished building the railway. The largest of these is at Hellfire Pass (north of the current terminus at Nam Tok), a cutting where the greatest number of lives were lost. An Australian memorial is at Hellfire Pass. Two other museums are in Kanchanaburi – the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum, opened in March 2003, and the JEATH War Museum. There is a memorial plaque at the Kwae bridge itself and an historic wartime steam locomotive is on display.

A preserved section of line has been rebuilt at the National Memorial Arboretum in England.

The Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) by ILO
In June 1998 the International Labour Conference adopted a Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up that obligates member States to respect, promote and realize freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, the effective abolition of child labour, and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The InFocus Programme on Promoting the Declaration is responsible for the reporting processes and technical cooperation activities associated with the Declaration; and it carries out awareness raising, advocacy and knowledge functions.

In November 2001, following the publication of the first Global Report on forced labour, the ILO Governing Body created a Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL), as part of broader efforts to promote the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up.

But many were not POW, but civilian forced labor ....

When my two uncles passed away, as victim of force labour of Japanese Imperial Army. What left in the family were two old aged parent and younger siblings, who still need the financial support. Facing the difficult time of post war period, without the presence of the two sons who are skilled in the trade, the family business suffered. No family members were able to manage the business, the lucrative family business finally was forced to close. This greatly affected the livelihood and financial of the family for many years. My grandparent were left to suffer the agony of the loss of two sons, and the loss of business that was build up by their parent. They suffered for a long time, until they passed away... An unforgotten event of the WW2, only the family members will understand the mental torture, of the past memory of the war.

For such a long time........the bad memory of Japanese Occupation in Penang.....

It was a long time since the WW2, many things had been forgotten; yet my two uncles who died young during the Japanese Occupation were forever staying underground not knowing why this happen to them. They returned and died, and their names will be forgotten, without any memorial. Only a basic tombstone, and wild grasses accompanied them, without any family member of his own as they died young and unmarried.

Some years later, may be as their siblings are slowly followed them to the next world; they will be forgotten, and tombstone will be no more, and may be disappeared without any traces. So were the history of forced labor of Burma/Siamese from Penang.

They were not POW, but only forced labor of Imperial Japanese Army during the occupation......and the ugly story still continue today...

But, Lest We Forget .... the historical truth...禁止強制労働(きょうせいろうどう)...

Related articles/books/websites:
1. Proof of POW Forced Labor for Japan’s Foreign Minister: The Aso Mines;
2. The Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL),
3. ILO between the two world wars 1930,

Penang Marine Police

The Marine Police was formed in 1947 at Batu Uban, Penang....

Marine Operations Force

Malay Water Police
The Marine Police used to be known as the Malay Water Police and its responsibility was to maintain security in Penang and the Straits of Johor.

1947 Marine Police
Owing to the increase in marine activities, the marine police was formed on September 1, 1947 in Batu Uban, Penang before being transferred to Gelugor, Penang with 19 boats contributed by the Customs Development and the Royal Malaysian Navy Reserve with 90 personnel.

2009 Pasukan Gerakan Marin(Marine Operations Force)
In 6 February 2009, the name of Malaysian Marine Police was changed to Pasukan Gerakan Marin(In English: Marine Operations Force) with the aim of making the force more sensitive, progressive and innovative in their service to the community. The renaming was launched by the Minister of Home Affairs, Dato' Seri Syed Hamid Albar at PULAMAR (Abbreviation of Pusat Latihan Marin or Marine Police Training Centre), Tampoi, Johor Bahru and witnessed by Tan Sri Musa Hassan, the Inspector General of Police, the Director of Internal Security and Public Order, Dato' Hussin Ismail and all senior police officers and Malaysian media. In addition to functioning as regular police stations and huts, the Marine Police also took over police shacks located on islands, lakes, coastal and river areas. On November 24, 2008, a total of 41 marine police bases in the country were upgraded to Beach Police Stations and Beach Police Shacks.

The Marine Operations Force is currently headed by Senior Assistant Commissioner II Dato' Isa bin Munir. It operates from five regional bases around the peninsula and East Malaysia. It also has a police base at Putrajaya for the security of the lake. Each of these regional bases are organised similarly to the Neighbourhood Police Centres of the land divisions, and conduct patrols within its respective maritime sectors.

The Marine Police is organised into five main bases:

1. Northern Region Marine Police (Region 1)- Based at Batu Uban, Penang. Has responsibility for the maritime activities in the states of Perlis, Penang, Kedah, Perak and Selangor

2. South Region Marine Police Force (Region 2)- Based at Tampoi, Johor Bahru, Johore. Has responsibility for the maritime activities in the states of Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johore

3. East Region Marine Police Force (Region 3)- Based at Kemaman, Terengganu. Has responsibility for the maritime activities in the states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang

4. Sabah Region Marine Police Force (Region 4)- Based at Sandakan, Sabah. Has responsibility for the maritime activities in the state of Sabah and Labuan

5. Sarawak Region Marine Police Force (Region 5) - Based at Kuching, Sarawak. Has responsibility for the maritime activities in the states of Sarawak

Monday, May 9, 2011

First RMN(Royal Malaysian Navy) at Penang in 1938

RMN(Royal Malaysian Navy or TLDM)
Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) (Malay: Tentera Laut DiRaja Malaysia (TLDM)) is the naval arm of Malaysia's armed forces. In terms of personnel the RMN is one of the largest fleet in South East Asia and is also considered as one of the more technologically advanced navy in South East Asia.The role of the Royal Malaysian Navy is to safeguarding the Malaysia's coastline, her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), her territorial waters and as well as defending Malaysia against all seaborne threats.

History of RMN

Before independence there was no independent navy in Malaya. But the Indian Navy and Royal Navy from Britain were managing the marine defense in the Strait Settlement and later Malay states. The Strait Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve were formed in Singapore(1934) and Penang(1938). Since now Singapore (was under Strait Settlement) no longer in Malaysia, Penang was now the only state left with the history linked with founder of Malaysian Navy - The Strait Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Can we said the founding of Malaysian Navy is Malayan Naval Volunteer Reserve (MRNVR), the Penang Branch of Strait Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve,in 1938 at Penang?........

The names of the early marine defenses establishment in Malaya
1786- British East Indian Company
1826 –Strait Settlement
1830-British Indian Navy- Her Majesty Indian Navy(1830) Bombay Marine(1863)/ Royal Indian Marine(1892)/ Royal Indian Navy (1934). The development of Indian Navy.
British Royal Navy, RN.
1934 - Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve
1936- Royal Navy Malay Section
1941- British Royal Navy Eastern Fleet(based at Singapore)
1942-1945 Imperial Japanese Navy
1945- British Royal Navy Eastern Fleet (from Singapore base)
1949- Malayan Naval Force (MNF)
1952- British Royal Malayan Navy, mainly for coastal petrol
1952- Malayan RNVR(Malayan Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve)
1957- Royal Malayan Navy
1963- Royal Malaysian Navy

1934- Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve
The Royal Malaysian Navy can trace its roots to the formation of the Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve (SSNVR) in Singapore on 27 April 1934 by the British colonial government in Singapore. The first Commanding Officer was Commander LW Johnson,MVO,RN. He was assisted by personnel from RN and Sergeant-Major Adnan Raji from SSVC(Strait Settlement Volunteer Corp)as drill instructor,at HMS PEIANDOK, Singapore in 1941. The SSNVR was formed to assist the Royal Navy in the defense of Singapore, upon which the defense of the Malay Peninsula was based. Another reason behind its formation were political developments in Asia, particularly a Japan that was increasingly assertive in Asia.

In 1938, the SSNVR was expanded with a branch in Penang. Initially known as SSNVR Penang, it was later designated as the Malayan Naval Volunteer Reserve (MRNVR) and received HMS Panji, transferred from Singapore, for training purposes. However by 1940 MRNVR had acquired two additional patrol boats, HMS Trang and HMS Jerong and five minesweepers.

MALAYAN ROYAL NAVY VOLUNTEER RESERVE Operated in Malayan and Straits Settlements waters, with a flotilla of local shipping vessels, some engaged in mine laying and mine-sweeping, utilising adapted civilian vessels of the Straits Steamship Co., and other commercial European and Chinese trading vessels; also launches, with RN, RNVR and MRNVR officers and crews. (Volunteers mixed races: Malaya 433: Singapore 150 officers, 500 ratings)

On 18 January 1935, the British Admiralty presented Singapore with an Acacia class sloop, HMS Laburnum, to serve as the Reserve's Headquarters and drill ship. It was berthed at the Telok Ayer Basin.

HMS Laburnum
HMS Laburnum (Pennant no. T49 in 1/18, later T48)(1915-1942),was a Royal Navy Acacia class sloop built by Charles Connell & Company, Scotstoun. She was laid down February 1915, launched 10 June 1915 and completed in August 1915. The Acacia class Fleet Sweeping Sloops were adapted for escort work, minesweeping and as decoy warships. She was in the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy from 11 March 1922 to 11 February 1935, where she exercised with cruisers, toured New Zealand ports, took part in ceremonial occasions, and went on annual Pacific Island cruises. This was in conjunction with her sister ship Veronica which was similar, but with small differences as they came from different commercial shipyards. She left Auckland on 1 February 1935 for Singapore, where she was paid off to become a drill and training ship for the Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve, commissioned on 18 Feb 1935. HMS Laburnum was sunk in February 1942, prior to the capitulation of Singapore at the beginning of the Pacific Second World War. She was Scuttled, 15 February 1942.

The smaller HMS Penyengat, a HDML(Harbour Defence Motor Launch) was brought in for seamanship and navigational training. By 1937, two motor launches HMS Panglima and HMS Pahlawan, equipped with Lewis guns, were commissioned for coastal patrols. These were built in by Thornycroft in Singapore specifically for the Straits Settlement RNVR(the volunteer reserve force of the Royal Navy (RN) in the United Kingdom). were outside the normal Royal Navy numbering system for HDMLs. Their names were HMS Penyengat,HMS Pahlawan, HMS Panglima, HMS Penghambat, HMS Pengail and HMS Panji(to Penang).

HMS Panglima
The first Panglima was a 23 metre motor launch built in Singapore in 1937. It was used for the training of naval officers and ratings in the Malayan Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (MRNVR). During World War II, the ship was involved in the evacuation of British and Australian troops from Johore, escort duties and patrol duties. However, in February 1942, while evacuating troops from Singapore, it was bombed and sunk. PANGLIMA - Left Singapore 12/2 unfinished launches. Scuttled Palembang River 15th Feb. LT Riches, M.R.N.V.R., HMS PANGLIMA was commanded by Lt H G G G Riches, also from SSRNVR.

HMS Pahlawan
Sub Lt Philip Dorian Cork(1909-1995) from SSRNVR,was the Commanding officer from 14.10.1941 to 12.1941; 08.1942 to 04.1946. PAHLAWAN - Sighted by TENGARROH 0315/14th Feb off No. 5 Buoy, Singapore S.C. No further information. See TENGARROH’s report

HMS Simbang (an ex-RAF torpedo recovery launch) was one of the MRNVR ships together with HMS Panglima and HMS Pelandok. It was transfer to MRNVR in 1948 for a replacement for a Malayan ship lost during the WW2, as announced by Admiralty on 15-7-1948(source: Malaya Bulletin dated 25th August 1948).

HMS Penghambat(Lost or destroyed to prevent falling into enemy hands at Singapore), PENGHAMBAT - scuttled in Telok Ayer Basin, Singapore, 15th Feb by order of Captain, A.V. Report of LT F.O.S. Man, M.R.N.V.R.

HMS PANJI - Sunk at Singapore by Japanese shellfire p.m. 13/2.

HMS Penyengat(Lost or destroyed to prevent falling into enemy hands at Singapore), and HMS Panglima were Scuttled during WW2. while the other three supposedly managed to escape to Burma to join the Burmese RNVR and survived the war.

The following were under SSRNVR, EASTERN FLEET(under the command of Flag C-in-C Eastern Fleet Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton KCB, DSO, ashore at Singapore)as at Jan 1942:-

Motor Launches - CHENGTEH (Lt P R S O Spicer SSRNVR), MADRAS (no CO listed), O K (no CO listed), PAHLAWAN (Sub Lt P D Cork SSRNVR), PANGLIMA (Lt H G G G Riches SSRNVR), PENGAIL (Lt R J Draycott SSRNVR), PENGAWAL (Sub Lt L C Jago SSRNVR), PENGHAMBAT (Lt F D S Man SSRNVR), PENINGAT (no CO listed), ROHDA (Ty/Lt G D Inns RNVR), SYLVIA (Lt R J D Draycott SSRNVR), locations not known

Auxiliary Anti-Submarine Vessels - BAN HONG LIONG (Ty/Lt G M Christie RNR), BULAN (Ty/Lt W A Busby RNR), GIANG BEE (Act/Lt S K Rayner SSNVR), KEDAH (Cdr A W Sprott Rtd), KELANA (Ty/Lt C J Windsor RNVR), KUALA (Lt F H George, SSNVR), MATA HARI (Ty/Lt G A Brignall RNR), PING WO (Ty/Lt J Fant RNR), all at Singapore, SHU KWANG (Cdr A D Thomson DSC Rtd) at Trengganu, SHUN AN (Lt O R T Henman SSRNVR), SIANG WO (Ty/Lt Cdr A Woodley RNR), both at Singapore, TIEN KWANG (Act/Lt R W Heale SSRNVR) at Trengganu

Auxiliary minesweepers - CHANGTEH (Act/Lt P R S O Spicer SSRNVR), CIRCE (Ty/Lt A Brown RNR), GEMAS (Acting Sub Lt W E Quirke SSRNVR), all at Singapore, HUA TONG (Ty/Lt O G Jones RNR) at Penang, JERAK (Lt H C Butcher SSRNVR), JERANTUT (Ty/Lt J P Upton RNVR), both at Singapore, JERAM (Lt J H Evans RNVR) at Penang, KLIAS (Lt H N Smyth SSRNVR) at Singapore, MALACCA (Lt J W Morphett SSRNVR) at Penang, MEDUSA (Ty/P B Bruce RNR), RAHMAN (Act/Sub Lt D G Freeman SSRNVR), SCOTT HARLEY (Ty/Lt J Rennie RNR), all at Singapore, SIN AIK LEE (Lt J M Brander SSRNVR) at Penang, TAPAH (Cdr G E W W Bayly SSRNVR) at Singapore, TRANG (Lt H T Rigden RNVR) at Penang, WO KWANG (Ty/Lt J Robinson RNR) at Singapore

At Penang
Skid Towing Vessels - PRINCE, VULTURE, both at Penang (no COs listed),
Auxiliary minesweepers - HUA TONG (Ty/Lt O G Jones RNR) at Penang, JERAM (Lt J H Evans RNVR) at Penang,MALACCA (Lt J W Morphett SSRNVR) at Penang,SIN AIK LEE (Lt J M Brander SSRNVR) at Penang,TRANG (Lt H T Rigden RNVR) at Penang

(source: ROYAL NAVY SHIPS, January 1942 Part 4 of 4,OVERSEAS and COMMONWEALTH NAVIES, Part 4,

With the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe, the SSNVR increased the recruitment of mainly indigenous personnel into the force, to beef up local defenses as Royal Navy resources were required in Europe.

1936-1947 Royal Navy- Malay Section
Members of the SSNVR were called up to active duty, and the force was augmented by members of the Royal Navy Malay Section. This formed the basis of the navy in Malaya, called the Malay Navy, manned by indigenous Malay personnel (similarly, the Malays were recruited into the fledgling Malay Regiment formed in 1936). The Malay Navy had a strength of 400 men who received their training at HMS Pelandok from 1940-1942, the Royal Navy training establishment in Malaya(note: this training centre was destroyed during a Japanese air raid). Recruitment was increased and in 1941 at the outbreak of the war in Asia, the Malay Navy had a strength of 1450 men. Under the command of first commanding officer, Commander H. Vickers(or Lt Cdr Horace Vickers), the recruits were trained as telegraphists, seamen and signal visualizes before serving on board RN ships, mostly merchantmen hastily converted and armed for combat. These ships were part of 80 warships the RN had for the defense of Malaya against the Japanese, with the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse leading the fleet.
(Note: Battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse were sunk in South China Sea, off Kuantan. HMS Hwang Ho with Lt.-Commander H Vickers was sunk off Lingga and he and his crew were taken as prisoner of wars (POW's) to Pulau Bangka where he later died, and another report that VICKERS, Horace, Lieutenant Commander, Siang Wo, 13 February 1942, ship loss, killed, source:

HMMS Sri Melaka Ex HMS Malaya, HMS Pelandok Ex LCT 341
Originally named as HMS Pelandok but renamed two months later as HMS Malaya, she was one of two remaining LCT Mk 3 remaining in the Royal Navy service in 1947. The vessel was brought to Singapore during World War II and was then refurbished after the war for duties in Malayan waters. She initially served as a maintenance repair craft for the Royal Navy but was later converted to a training and accommodation ship before entering service into the Malayan Naval Force on 18 April 1949, to serve as a training ship like her namesake. As of January 1957, she was still listed as the maintenance repair craft HMMS Sri Melaka in the RMN vessels list.

Sembawang was home to a major British naval base, its construction of which began in 1928 and was completed in 1938. The base included dockyards, wharves and workshops, as well as supporting administrative, residential and commercial areas.

The WW2
The RN was however shocked on 2 December 1941 when these ships were sunk by Japanese warplanes, exposing the RN's fleet weakness against air attacks since there was no effective air cover available. Eleven days after the sinking of the capital ships,

1. HMS Lipis was sunk in Sarawak waters.
2. HMS Kudat sunk in Klang harbour,
3. HMS Surveyor was sunk in Pulau Besar and
4. HMS Kampar was sunk in the South China Sea.
5. HMS Matahari & (6) HMS Larut, were sunk by Japanese aircraft near Pulau Sabang while withdrawing from Malaya, on 13 January 1942.The survivors who swam to the island were later rescued by HMS Kedah, which was heading towards Java Island after evacuating Borneo waters.
7. HMS Pelandok - In Singapore, HMS Pelandok was initially bombed on 8 December 1941 but was later destroyed in January 1942 by Japanese air raids.
8. HMS Laburnum - All able-bodied survivors were then moved to HMS Laburnum to join members of the MRNVR there. However, HMS Laburnum herself was damaged by the Imperial Japanese Navy on 11 February 1942 and was scuttled four days later at the Fall of Singapore to avoid her capture by the Japanese.

One of the casualty was Ahmad Saidi(recorded as AHMAD, Bin S),Ordinary Seaman, SE/X 658 (Malayan RNVR), MPK(missing presumed killed in battle on 9 December 1941). He entered the navy in 1939. He was the younger brother of Lt Adnan Saidi. Lt Adnan bin Saidi, (1915 - 14 February 1942), was a Malayan soldier of the 1st Infantry Brigade which fought the Japanese in the Battle of Singapore. He is regarded by Malaysians and Singaporeans today as a hero for his actions on Bukit Chandu. His other brother Amarullah bin Saidi was also a member of the military, but survived the war.

Evacuation to Australia

By this time, all surviving ships were ordered to make a break from the harbour and sail for Australia via Indonesia, and for Colombo. Of the Malay seamen left behind in Singapore, 25 were killed by the Japanese in Tanjong Pagar after the surrender while the rest were sent as force labourers to Siam, Burma and Indonesia although some managed to escape to their kampongs.

Most of the ships escaping to Australia were sunk by the Japanese who were waiting in ambush in the south of Singapore.
1. HMS Vyner Brooke - was sunk by 9 Japanese Bombers on 14 February off Pulau Bangka with 20 Malay seamen dead.
2. HMS Hwang Ho - with Lt.-Commander Vickers was sunk off Lingga and he and his crew were taken as prisoner of wars (POW's) to Pulau Bangka where he later died.
3. HMS Siang Wo and 4. HMS Shu Kuang - were sunk on the same day but the survivors from the latter ship managed to reach Padang Sumatra where they were evacuated by the light cruiser HMS Dauntless to Chelicap Java. There, the Malay survivors joined those on board HMS Kedah that now headed towards Colombo as the way to Australia was no longer safe. Unfortunately after two days sailing. HMS Kedah had mechanical problems and was taken under tow by HMS Dauntless and arrived in Colombo in March 1942.

H.M.S. Kelantan, HMS Pangkor, HMS Pahang, HMS Perak, HMS Kepong, HMS Matang, and escort H.M.S. Medusa also safely arrived in Colombo in addition to H.M.S. Kedah. Of the 143 Malay Navy and MRNVR personnel now in Colombo, some were sent to East Africa to serve as intelligence operatives and others to India to prepare troops for the liberation of Malaya. Those remaining in Colombo were mainly deployed as telegraphists or harbour securitymen, while a number of selected personnel served with the British Military Force 136 and the USA's clandestine military unit OSS 404. These men later returned to Malaya with the liberation forces on September 1945.

Throughout the Second World War, the Malay Navy served with the Allied Forces in the Indian and Pacific theater of operations.

1945 - The WW2 ended
When the war ended with the Japanese Surrender in 1945, only 600 personnel of the Malay Navy reported for muster. Post war economic constraints saw the disbandment of the Malay Navy in 1947. In 1946, Commander (later Captain) HEH Nicholls, from RN, who was born in Pahang state, led the force from the disbandment of the Malay navy, through the MNF days, into RMN until his retirement just before Malaya independence. It was he who began to promote senior Malay Navy veterans to officer post in 1953 and who recruit young men as cadet for officer training in the UK from 1954.

1949 – The Malayan Naval Force(1949-1952)
The need for a permanent regular naval force was raised by the Government of Malaya, and after much preparatory work, the Government of Singapore announced that it was prepared to raise and maintain a naval force known as Malayan Naval Force. Ordinance No 40 of 1948 which received the assent of His Excellency Governor on 24-12-1948, authorizing the raising of Malayan Naval Force by, and at the expense of the Government of Singapore.

The Malay Navy was reactivated on 24 December 1948 at the outbreak of the Malayan Emergency, the Communist-inspired insurgent war against the British Colonial government. The Malayan Naval Force regulation was officially gazetted on 4 March 1949 by the colonial authorities, and was based at an ex-Royal Air Force radio base station in Woodlands, Singapore. The base was initially called the 'MNF Barracks' but later renamed HMS Malaya. The new naval force was further implemented by Ordinance No 13 of 28th April 1949, which made the Force subject to the Naval Discipline Act and made provision for its service in time of emergency.

The Malayan RNVR was reconstituted as a joint force comprising the Singapore Division and the Federation Division, by an Ordinance passed in Singapore in 1952.

Two of the Malayan Navy Force personnel were honored with BRITISH EMPIRE MEDAL (Military Division), Sergeant-Major Adnan Raji, Master-at-Arms & Syed Mohamad bin Syed Hussin, CSM, Singapore Vol. Corps. Adnan Raji was the first Malay promoted to Petty Officer.

The main mission of the Malayan Naval Force (MNF) was coastal patrol in order to stop the communist terrorists from receiving supplies from the sea. In addition, the Force was tasked with guarding the approaches to Singapore and other ports.

The MNF was firstly equipped with a River class frigate, HMS Test, which was used as a training ship.

At the end of 1949, MNF fleet had expanded to include the following:
1. Landing Craft Tank (LST) Malayan Ship HMS Pelandok
2. Landing Craft Gunnery
3. Habour Defence Motor Launches(HDML), now classified as Seaward Defence Motor Launches (SDML)
4. HMS Test, which was on loan from RN, to be returned to RN in Jan 1950

HDMLs(now reclassified as SDML) were later progressively transferred to the Malayan Naval Force from the RN's 200th Patrol Squadron in Singapore from 1949. These were RMN's first naval combatants, mainly for coastal patrol. The lists are as per the records below:-

Pennant Number (EX) Built Transferred Name Deactivated

SDML 3501 (ex HDML 1081) 8.10.41 1951 Sri Kedah 1959

SDML 3502 (ex HDML 1105) 3.43 1949 Sri Trengganu 1970

SDML 3505 (ex HDML 1333) 15.9.44 1958 Sri Pahang 1965

SDML 3506 (ex HDML 1334) 16.10.44 1950 Sri Negeri Sembilan 1966

SDML 3507 (ex HDML 1335) 2.1.1945 1950 Sri Perak 1966

SDML 3509 (ex HDML 1336) 30.9.44 1949 Sri Selangor 1961

SDML 3508 (ex HDML 1385) 8..43 1950 Sri Kelantan 1965

HMS Test Ex -HMIS Neza(1941-1955)
HMS Test was one of six River class frigates built by Hall, Russell & Company, Aberdeen. It was laid down on 15 Aug 1941, launched on 30 May 1942, and finally commissioned on 12 Oct 1942. The frigate was transferred in 1946 to the Royal Indian Navy as HMIS Neza (K239)for WW-II service, but was returned to the Royal Navy in Apr 1947. Being surplus to the Royal Navy's needs, she served as an accommodation ship in Singapore from 1948. However in 1949, she was loaned to the newly created Malayan Naval Force as a training frigate until hulked a year later. She finally scrapped on 25 Feb 1955.

1952- "Royal" Title - British Royal Malayan Navy 1952-1958
In August 1952, Queen Elizabeth II, bestowed the title "Royal Malayan Navy" to the Malayan Naval Force in recognition of the sterling service in action during the Malayan Emergency.

1955- The Pioneers
The Straits Times, 24 March 1954, Page 4, reported that RMN is sending 8 cadets to Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, UK, said Capt H. E. H. Nicholl. But 9 was sent.

They are the "golden boys" of 1955, the nine youngsters who were the pioneers of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Rear-Admiral (now Laksamana Muda)(R) Datuk Thanabalasingam Karalasingam, Laksamana Pertama (R) Pavithran Krishnan Nettur, Kept (R) Cheah Leong Voon, Kept (R) Phang Kok Keng and Kept (R) Khoo Tee Chuan, Laksamana Pertama (R) Malcolm William Alvisse, Laksamana Pertama (R) Abdul Aziz Wahab, Capt Chitharanjan Kuttan, Vice-Admiral (now Laksamana Madya) (R) Datuk Mohamad Zain Mohamad Salleh. Although they were officially the pioneers, two others had joined the navy as officers before them.
Chia Cheng Lock joined in 1953 but retired prematurely in June 1962 as a lieutenant after differences with the administration. Charles Tong joined in January 1954 and retired as a commander at the age of 52 on May 12, 1988. "However, both Chia and Tong were enlisted under a different service scheme," Chia, 71, now lives in London, and Tong, 69, is in Penang.

At that time, the navy was only 512-man strong with some pre- war ships which saw valiant service in naval gunfire support operations up Malayan rivers during the 1948-1960 Emergency period." Khoo was the first commanding officer of the naval college KD Pelanduk in Lumut.

The navy was initially based in Woodlands, Singapore when Malaya was under British rule, before moving to Malaysian shores after Independence. Upon graduating from the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in England in 1959, the nine officers were asked to set up the naval branch of the Defence Ministry.

Khoo supervised KD Hang Tuah's voyage from Britain to the main naval base in Woodlands in 1964. He later oversaw the construction of the country's main naval base in Lumut in 1982. This resulted in the shifting of the KD Pelanduk naval college at Sembawang and the main training base KD Malaya at Woodlands to Lumut. Khoo had the distinction of having participated in battle during his 18-month operational sea training on board the aircraft carrier HMS Alision in the Mediterranean Sea, after being commissioned as an officer in 1958. "The carrier was called upon to assist the other British forces in the area after the Cypriots and Turks waged civil war in Cyprus. "I was in action for four months from May 1958 before our Government sought my release."

Thanabalasingam, perhaps holds a world record in being navy chief at 31 and receiving four promotions within a span of six months. At one time, he was also appointed acting Armed Forces chief when Jen Tunku Osman Jiwa was away attending the regional border committee meeting in Bangkok. In 1967, he was serving as resident naval officer in Tawau with the rank of lieutenant-commander. A month later, he took command of KD Hang Tuah with the rank of commander before being promoted to captain to be groomed as the country's first navy chief. "I spent a couple of months in Australia on a familiarisation tour and attended specialised command and staff courses, tailor made to lead a navy. "When I returned on Dec 1, that year, I was promoted to commodore as RMN chief, something that usually takes 35 years," said Thanabalasingam, who was promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1973. He retired at 40 in 1976 to make way for "younger blood".


1957 - Formation of new country - Malaysia
1957 – The RMN comprised of 31 officers (all British except 3), 98 senior sailors(28 British), and 500 junior sailors, they were based at Woodlands, Singapore(HMS Malaya). In addition, there were two divisions of MRNVR , one in Singapore with 183 officers and 529 sailors, and another in Malaya(which split into Penang & Kuala Lumpur) with 44 officers and 144 sailors. They operate varieties of petrol boats.

1958 - Royal Malayan Navy 1958-1963
Malaya, soon after attaining independence on 31 August 1957, had successfully negotiated with the British Government and had the British Royal Malayan Navy transferred to the independent Federation of Malaya on 12 July 1958. With the hoisting of the Federation naval ensign - the White Ensign modified by the substitution of the Union Flag with the Federation flag in the canton - the RMN was thus made responsible for Malaya's maritime self defense.

1959-The trying years with RAN(Royal Australian Navy)
The Malayan Government initially showed some reluctance to take responsibility for the naval defense of the country, perceiving that it did not need a navy. The British withheld defence assistance to change this mindset, and the Royal Malayan Navy (RMN) was established in 1958. Unfortunately, the British, initially, did not supply the right kind of personnel to bring this new navy up to effective levels of organizational, technical or operational performance. In 1959, the Malayans invited Australia to assist, offering the RAN the position of chief of their navy, having previously agreed that Australia and New Zealand should be ‘attached’ to the agreement allowing British forces to be stationed in Malaya.

In 1958 a small Naval Branch was established at the Ministry of Defence under the first Commander of the Royal Malayan Navy, Commodore ED Norman, DSO, DSC, RN This Branch was expanded during 1960s.

It was not an opportune moment for the RAN to loan experienced officers to another navy, as the RAN had a major re-equipment programme beginning to deliver new ships and equipment and there was an associated need for significant retraining. Nevertheless, the new commander, Captain W. J. (Bill) Dovers and staff officers to support him were found and, within a few weeks of being told of their unusual new posting, by January 1960 the new officers were at the helm of the RMN, and many positions of importance and influence were occupied by Australian officers and sailors. During the term of the subsequent RAN ‘Adviser’ to the RMN Chief of Naval Staff, Malayan ties with the RAN continued to strengthen, with students accepted for training in RAN specialist schools. The RAN was not alone in supporting the RMN during its difficult first years. British interest and assistance remained strong, and countries like India and New Zealand were also involved in training and maintenance roles.

From then on it became Malayan owned and administered. The designation "Royal" in Royal Malayan Navy was now in reference to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who became the Supreme Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces. All ships, facilities, and personnel serving in the Royal Malayan Navy were inherited by the Malayan government.
The new force shouldered the responsibility with only an operational and training base at HMMS Malaya and a small coastal fleet of one LCT, two Ham class minesweepers, one coastal minelayer, and seven MLs (the ex-RN 200th Patrol Squadron) on transfer from the Royal Navy.

KD Mutiara was the first ship officially awarded the title "Kapal Diraja' or KD on 20 May 1961. Amongst her other firsts were she was the first ship specifically built for the RMN and she was also the first locally built vessel, wholly built with local wood by local artisans.

1963 Royal Malaysian Navy(1963 until now)
On 16 September 1963 the naval force was renamed the Royal Malaysian Navy, following the formation of Malaysia. The RMN was gradually strengthened after the formation of Malaysia. 18 Keris class patrol boats were ordered from Vosper, and these formed the mainstay of the navy for years to come. These 103 ft (31 m) boats were driven by Maybach diesels and capable of 27 knots (50 km/h). The Keris patrol boats were confined to coastal patrols and had short endurance. An offensive capability was acquired with the purchase of four Vosper Brave class fast attack craft. The Perkasa class Fast Patrol Boats were built for the RMN by Vosper Thorneycroft in 1967, powered by three Rolls Royce Marine Proteus gas turbines as the main power plant with two diesel auxiliary engines for cruising and manoeuvring. These were armed with four 21-inch (53 cm) torpedoes, one Bofors 40 mm gun forward, and one 20 mm cannon aft. They had a maximum speed of 54 knots (100 km/h) and was driven by triple propellers.

HMS Loch Insh/KD Hang Tuah(K433)

The Royal Navy transferred the Loch class frigate HMS Loch Insh to the RMN in 1964 and renamed KD (Kapal di-Raja, "His Majesty's Ship") Hang Tuah. In 1965, during the Indonesian Confrontation, Hang Tuah took over guardship duties off Tawau from HMS Yarra. The ship served the RMN until decommissioned in the 1977 and scrapped.

HMAS Yarra (F07/DE 45)1957-1985, named for the Yarra River, was a River class destroyer escort of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Yarra was laid down by the Williamstown Naval Dockyard at Melbourne, Victoria on 9 April 1957,and commissioned into the RAN on 27 July 1961. Yarra operated during the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation; during a three-week patrol in June 1965, the ship fired on an Indonesian incursion force near Sabah. The ship's service was later recognised with the battle honour "Malaysia 1964-66". She was sold for scrap on 22 November 1985.

KD Hang Tuah, ex HMS Loch Insh
HMS Loch Insh (K433/F433) 1944-1977 was a Loch-class frigate of the Royal Navy, named after Loch Insh in Scotland. She was built by Henry Robb of Leith yard, of Henry Robb Ltd. HMS Loch Insh was launched on 10 May 1944. During her service in WW2, she had sunk U286, and U307, both German Submarine, in the Barents Sea north of Murmansk, Russia. At the end of World War II she was decommissioned, but reactivated in 1950 and served, mostly in the Persian Gulf, until 1962. She was placed on the Disposal List, and sold to the Royal Malaysian Navy in 1963. After a very extensive refit at Portsmouth, which included changes to the superstructure and the provision of helicopter landing facilities, on 2 October 1964 the ship was commissioned into the Royal Malaysian Navy and renamed KD Hang Tuah (F433). She sailed for Malaysia on 12 November 1964, and served as the flagship of the Royal Malaysian Navy until 1971, when she was used as a training ship until withdrawn from service six years later. She was scrapped in 1977). Visitor and tourist can visit and explore this nostalgic ship at Bandar Hilir, Melaka or at the Lumut Navy base.

Malaysianisation of the Navy
Following the end of Indonesian Confrontation in 1966 Tunku Abdul Rahman and his colleagues decided to Malaysianise the top posts in the navy and air force. They initially offered these posts to two senior Malaysian army generals, who declined for two main reasons. First they felt that they were not professionally qualified and second because they did not want to jeopardise their own careers in the army.
Tunku and his colleagues then decided that they would select two officers, one from the navy and one from the air force, and appoint them chiefs of their respective services. They were fully aware of Rear Admiral Datuk K. Thanabalasingam's age but decided, nevertheless, to appoint him and take the risk. This exercise created history not only because Malaysians for the first time were appointed to these two top posts but also because of his age—he was 31 years old and a bachelor.
Under Thanabalasingam and with Tunku Abdul Rahman's foresight and will, they were responsible for initiating the gradual transformation of the navy from a coastal navy (brown water force) to an ocean-going navy (blue water navy).

The first three RMN chief were Australian from Royal Australian Navy(RAN), who had contributed to the strong foundation of RMN, and established relationship between RAN and RMN, where training were given by them. Rear Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri Dato' Seri K. Thanabalasingam(1967-1976) was the first Malaysian to be the Chief of young RMN,and holding the record of not only the first, but also the only one from Indian community.

List of the Chief of Royal Malaysian Navy

1. Commodore ED Norman, DSO, DSC, RN (1957-1960)
2. Captain W. J. (Bill) Dovers, (1960-1962)
2. Captain A. M. Synnot(1962-1965),
3. Commodore A.N. Dollard Ran(1965 - 1967)
4. Chief of Navy - Rear Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri Dato' Seri K. Thanabalasingam(1967-1976)
5. Vice Admiral Dato' Mohd Zain bin Mohd Salleh(1976 - 1986)

Rear Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri Dato' Seri K. Thanabalasingam - The first local Chief

Rear Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri Dato' Seri K. Thanabalasingam is the third chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy and the first Malaysian to be appointed to the post.
Born in 1936,December 0, 1936 (age 75). of Ceylonese or Sri Lankan Tamil descent, Thanabalasingam joined the British Royal Malayan Navy, which was then under British control, in May 1955. He was sent to the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth, England, from which he graduated in early 1958.
He then decided to join the newly established Malayan Navy, which was fully Malayan owned and administered in late 1958. On his return to Malaya, he was appointed the first Naval Cadet Training Officer at the then Federation Military College at Port Dickson (currently the Royal Military College, Kuala Lumpur in Sungai Besi) from January 1, 1959.

By then, newly independent Malaya under Tunku Abdul Rahman's leadership had successfully negotiated with the British Government to transfer the British Royal Malayan Navy to the Malayan Government on July 1, 1958.

The British Royal Malayan Navy and all its assets (the ships, the bases and jetties and personnel) were merged with the existing Malayan Navy and from then on it became Malayan owned and administered. This new entity was named Royal Malayan Navy, and the designation “Royal” was a reference to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

After the trials and tribulations of the Indonesian Confrontation settled down, especially after the signing of the agreement between newly formed Malaysia and Indonesia in 1966, Tunku Abdul Rahman and his colleagues decided to Malaysianize the top posts in the navy and air force. They initially offered these posts to two senior Malaysian army generals, who declined for two main reasons. Firstly they felt that they were not professionally qualified and secondly because they did not want to jeopardise their own careers in the army.

Tunku and his cabinet then decided that they would select two officers, one from the navy and one from the air force, and appoint them chiefs of the respective services. They were fully aware of Thanabalasingam's age but decided, nevertheless, to appoint him and take the risk. This exercise created history not only because Malaysians for the first time were appointed to these two top posts but also because of his age—he was 31 years old and a bachelor. Tan Sri Dato Sulaiman Sujak was the first Malaysian in RMAF, who was the Chief of RMAF from 1 Nov 1967 - 31 Dec 1976.

Under Thanabalasingam and with Tunku Abdul Rahman's foresight, the Royal Malaysian Navy was gradually transformed from a coastal navy (brown water force) to an ocean-going navy (blue water navy).

At the end of 1976, he retired from the naval service as Rear Admiral at the age of 40. He ventured subsequently into private business. He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur.

Recommended articles/book/websites:

1.The Royal Australian Navy in Malaya, Malaysia and Singapore, 1948-1971, by Dr Ian Pfennigwerth
2.Loyal leader earned respect,
4. RAAF Official website
5. HMS LOCH INSH (K 433) - Loch-class Frigate;
7. What happened to the HMS Laburnum? , of HMS Laburnum)
8. Straits Settlements Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (SSRNVR) Officers, 1939-1945;
9.Harbour Defence Motor Launch,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Penang Submarine Base 1943-1945

Penang was captured by Japanese forces invading from the north through Thailand on 19 December 1941, one of the key stages of the Battle of Malaya, days after having neutralized American sea power at Pearl Harbor. Three and a half years of rule of terror ensued. Many of the local populace fled to the interior and plantations to escape from Japanese atrocities, of which many were reported and documented. During this occupation, Penang was governed by four successive Japanese governors, starting with Shotaro Katayama

Penang, situated on the west coast of Peninsula Malaya was under Japanese occupation and in Feb 1942, Japan make Penang as their submarine base, under the command of Admiral Uzuki. A second base was established at Kobe, Japan, and a small repair base was located at Singapore, Jakarta and Surabaya.

In early 1943, German Navy made Japanese occupied Penang their first port of call and principal base for U boats. From 1943 to 1944, Jerejak Island was made a submarine base by the Germans. This base served Axis submarine forces: (Italian Regia Marina, German Kriegsmarine, and the Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun, or Imperial Japanese Navy). Here at regular intervals, technological and information exchanges occurred.

Why German U-boat base in Penang?
Before the German invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa) commenced in June 1941, land and air transportation between Germany and Japan was possible. The two allies often seek to exchange knowledge and other raw materials. Germany needed rubber, metals such as copper and bismuth, and medicines such as quinine. On the reverse, Japan needed steel, mercury and optical glass. In addition, the two nations were interested in each other’s latest military hardware, including prototypes of the latest weapons and blueprints for research. After the invasion of Russia, the only practical means of exchange was by sea. Initially, this was met by surface blockade-runners running to and from the Far East. But the British blitz in 1942 disrupted the flow of materials that by the end of 1942, it became clear that German supply lines were being threatened and the situation could not continue as it is. As a consequence, a proposal was put forth by Admiral Donitz on February 1943 to use submarines for transport purposes. In order to provision for U-boats traversing the Indian Ocean, an Eastern base was clearly required.

Another reason for German interest in an Eastern base seem to suggest that while the Atlantic campaign was going well for the Germans, U-boat operations gradually extended southwards, down the African coast and finally up to the Cape of Good Hope. In its quest for more fertile fields, it was only logical to further extend into the Indian Ocean, where it is believed that Allied ASW capabilities were not as sophisticated as those in the Atlantic.

Finally, with the collapse of the Atlantic campaign in May 1943, U-boats needed to be on the offensive elsewhere and with that, U-boats were dispatched to their Far Eastern bases in mid 1943 to undertake offensive operations in the Indian Ocean. Planning however for these bases had already begun, as early as late 1942.

(Extract from German Interest in the Far East,

Where exactly was the location of the site of a German submarine base from June 1943 to March 1944.?

It is a little known fact that Penang served as a German U-boat base in the Far East. Where exactly was the location? Some said it was at Pulau Jerejak, some said there was also a secret submarine naval base situated near this Bukit Batu Maung fort. In the Pulau Jerejak island you can found 2 Russian Sailors Grave which their cruiser was sunk in WW1 by Germans. There was a German U-boat Deck gun found on a mountain Bukit Batu Maung in Penang, which is now Penang War Museum. From the historical photo , the U boats were seen clearly at Swettenham Pier, which was established in 1903, and named after Frank Athelstane Swettenham (1850-1946), the first Resident General of the Federated Malay States between 1896 and 1901. Batu Maung is better bet for the submarine base, but Swettenham Pier had a photo for evidence.....

Author Dennis Gunton, author of the book The Penang Submarines, said that:

The mooring space at Swettenham Pier, beneath the parapets of Fort Cornwallis, for example, was largely turned over to German use. "The Japanese built 26 sheds housing various workshops on the esplanade adjacent to Fort Cornwallis, blocked from public view by a six-foot wall,"

Historian Lawrence Paterson, author of the book Grey Wolves: U Boats in the Indian Ocean, who said that;

The 302,200 square feet of machine shops and maintenance areas were linked by railway track to Swettenham Pier. "The facility was able to accommodate up to five U-boats at a time alongside the wooden pylons "And as there was initially little fear of an Allied air attack, the Germans did not hesitate to leave their boats tied in a position that would be considered dangerously exposed in the increasingly bombed French ports. "At Swettenham Pier, they quickly established a torpedo balancing station within the established Japanese balancing workshop as well as maintenance facilities where diesel repairs could be undertaken," adds Paterson. "A mobile torpedo balancing unit was later established aboard the Japanese supply ship Quito." Interestingly, Paterson also records that two German Arado Ar 196 seaplanes were incongruously painted with hinomaru (Japanese national) markings and provided at least a token escort for incoming U-boats.

German U Boat base was at Swettenham Pier.

Commander in Charge(CIC) at Penang Submarine Base

It was reported that the successive different Commander in Charge(CIC) at Penang Submarine Base are as follow :

* Fregattenkapitän Werner Trendtel(who was assigned to Kriegsmarine High Command from Apr 1938 until May 1941 and then transferred to the German embassy in Tokyo as part of the Marine Attaché staff from May 1941 until Apr 1943 from Japan, but did not take over command because of a new task in Japan)

* Korvettenkapitän Wolfgang Erhardt(B: 14 Mar 1907. Commanded T 7. Later served as leader of naval attaché office in Malaya and military attaché office in Singapore from Mar 1943 until the end of the war. Taken into Allied custody and finally released from captivity in Mar 1947. Later commanded Bundesmarine's sail training ship GORCH FOCK from 1958 until 1962).

* Kapitänleutnant Konrad Hoppe - aviation officer, Oberleutnant (Navy) Konrad Hoppe (Crew 35). Hoppe was promoted to Kapitaenleutnant after arrival in Japan, and was placed to disposal for service by Navy HQ. Among his new duties were supervising the building of the base at Penang and later also at Surabaya, on the northern coast of Java. DKiG holder Kapitänleutnant Konrad Hoppe was the Fliegeroffizier of the “Michel” (HSK 9)Hoppe was dispatched on U-168, but later returned to Surabaya, Java as CIC)

* Erhardt again (because Hoppe was dispatched on U-168, but later returned to Java)
* Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Dommes - CIC at Penang from Sept 1943. Commander of U 178 from 02.1943 to 11.1943. Wilhelm Dommes (16 April 1907 in Buchberg – 23 January 1990 in Hannover) was a German U-boat commander in World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He is notable as being the commander of U-boats in the Indian Ocean, whereby German and Japanese forces cooperatively fought for the only time in the war. In January 1945 the base commander of Singapore and Chief of all Monsun boats. (

* Korvettenkapitän Waldemar Grützmacher - CIC at Penang from January 1945. Before this, he was CIC in Yokohama.

Werner Trendtel may not be physically with the base, may involved in planning stage at Tokyo. Wolfgang Erhard may be overall in charge at Malaya, including Singapore and Penang. But only Wilhelm Dommes and Waldemar Grützmacher were the men that actually at the Penang Submarine Base, and see action. Konrad Hoppe only oversee the building of the base.

Monsun Gruppe, the German U Boats fleets in Penang
Monsun Gruppe or Monsoon Group was a force of German U-boats (submarines) that operated in the Pacific and Indian Oceans during World War II. Although similar naming conventions were used for temporary groupings of submarines in the Atlantic, the longer duration of Indian Ocean patrols caused the name to be permanently associated with the relatively small number of U-boats operating out of Penang. The Indian Ocean was the only place where German and Japanese forces fought in the same theater. Arrangements were made to avoid incidents between U-boats and Japanese submarines - attacks on other submarines were strictly forbidden. The idea of stationing U-boats in Malaya and the East Indies for operations in the Indian Ocean was first proposed by the Japanese in December 1942. As no supplies were available at either location the idea was turned down although a number of U-boats operated around the Cape of Good Hope at the time. A few days after Cappellini reached the East Indies, U-511 became the first U-boat to complete the voyage. This boat carried Japanese naval attache Admiral Kichisaburō Nomura from Berlin to Kure. The boat was given to Japan as RO-500; and its German crew returned to Penang to provide replacement personnel for the main submarine base being established at a former British seaplane base on the west coast of the Malayan Peninsula. A second base was established at Kobe and small repair bases were located at Singapore, Jakarta and Surabaya. As part of the dispersal of U-boat operations following heavy losses in the North Atlantic during the spring of 1943, Wilhelm Dommes was ordered to sail his U-178 from his operating area off South Africa to assume command at Penang.
(source: wikipedia)

U-511, under the command of Kptlt. Fritz Schneewind, arrived in Penang(then still under Japanese occupation) in July 1943, followed by U-178 in August 1943. This essentially started the U-boat campaign in the Indian Ocean and also provided the Germans with penetration into the Pacific for the first time, alongside their ally, Japan.

On March 28 1943, U-178 departed from France and en route to the Indian Ocean, BdU sent a message that she was to sail to Malaya and set up a U-boat base there. After having replenished from a surface tanker in the Indian Ocean, the U-178 arrived in Penang at the Malayan Peninsula on August 1943. KK Wilhelm Dommes(Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Dommes) became the first commander of the German U-boat base in Asia,located in the former British seaplane base in Penang. A second base was established at Kobe, Japan, and a small repair base was located at Singapore, Jakarta and Surabaya.

U511 - The first U Boat to arrive in Penang

In April 1943, U178 was sent to Penang to establish the U Boat base there. But the first U boat to arrive was U 511 on 15-7-1943, commanded by Kptlt Fritz Schneewind, who took temporary charge of the base as Senior Officer, while his U Boat go on to Kobe. U511 was one of the two U boats presented to Japan for copying. U178 only arrived in late August 1943, after 152 days at sea. It was command by Kptlt Wlheim Dommes, who became Commander of German U Boat base in Penang, with satellite facilities at Singapore, Djakarta, Surabaya and Kobe..

Korvettenkapit Dommes of U178, had got the order on 22 July to refuel from the Italian submarine Luigi Torelli SE of the Cape of Good Hope. On 7 August Admiral Doenitz asked Dommes whether his boat would be fit for a prolonged patrol in the same area after an overhaul in the Japanese base at Penang, Malaya. Dommes agreed, fueled from Torelli next day and in company with the Italian submarine, U178 reached Penang on the 29th.

Why was Dommes sent to Penang? The Battle of the Atlantic had been won by the Royal Navy in May (41 U boats destroyed that month) so that Doenitz had now decided - too late - to send 11 U-boats to the Far East. He believed that in those waters they would have better opportunities and chances and that the anti-submarine measures were not yet fully organized. Until then the U-boat campaign in the western Indian Ocean had not been profitable. The sinking were uneconomic even if one considered the loss of only two U-boats. The anti-submarine measures in those waters were steadily increasing and because of the Axis surrender in North Africa the Mediterranean was reopened to Allied shipping. It meant that the Cape route lost much of its significance for the Allies.

How did the Japanese react to the German proposals? As early as December 1942 they had offered to place some bases at the disposal of the German Navy, for example Penang and Sebang (in Sumatra). But Doenitz was not in a great hurry to accept the offer as far as his U-boats were concerned. Only after the catastrophe in the Atlantic did he take up the offer. But he would soon be disappointed because the Admiralty and Vice-Admiral Max Horton (C-in-C Western Approaches) had anticipated such a diversionary movement of the U-boats and already by mid-1943 the British were building up powerful forces in India. This was why the Japanese requested the Germans to deploy U-boats in the Arabian Sea instead of the east coast of South Africa.

U511- Gift of U-boats to the Emperor of Japan.
Part of the German attempt to improve relations with Japan involved the gift of two U-boats to Hirohito. This gesture of goodwill was to be completed by the presentation of two Japanese submarines to Germany. Japan had requested two large U-boats, 1100 and 1350 tons, but only 750 tonners were sent. The Germans, therefore, were in no position to complain when the Japanese gift turned out to be three old ex-Italian boats which the Germans themselves had repaired.

As usual, misunderstanding plagued the exchange. The German navy demanded payment, evidently not having been informed that the submarines were gifts, and the personal intervention of Hitler was required to straighten matters out.

The first German submarine left Europe in April 1943, under the command of Schneewind (U-511). On board were Admiral Nomura, former special naval representative in Germany, and Woermann, German Ambassador to Nanking. As was the case with Musenberg, Schneewind did not hesitate to engage in operations along the way, with no more success than the former.

On 14 July 1943, U-511 reached Penang, the first German U-boat to touch at a Far Eastern port. The U-boat was officially turned over to the Japanese navy at Kobe on 16 September. Schneewind became Senior Officer U-Base Penang.

The Japanese officers and crews to man the second gift submarine were brought from Japan on the Japanese submarine I-8 in the fall of 1943. After several months of training and study, they took over U-1224, and on 30 March 1944, departed Kiel for Japan. As an instrument of German goodwill, U-1224 was a failure. The course and approximately daily positions of the submarine were known by radio intelligence and enabled TG 22.2 to meet U-1224 on course at about 18°E - 33°W and to sink it, possibly on 13 May 1944.

Independent operations, May to August 1943.

During the summer of 1943, seven U-boats operated independently in the Indian Ocean: Kentrat (U-196), Hartmann (U-198), Bucholz (U-195), Lüth (U-181), Gysae (U-177), Dommes (U-178) and Bartels (U-197). They were concentrated, mainly around Durban, Lourenco Marques, south of Madagascar and off Mozambique. Capetown and Mauritius were also patrolled. According to claims reported in their messages, operations were highly successful. Thirty-six ships, of about 235,000 GRT, were claimed sunk, nine of them by Lüth, who was awarded the highest German decoration for his success.
On 22 June all of these U-boats were refueled by the Charlotte Schliemann south of Madagascar, the first refueling of its kind in the Indian Ocean. Five of the seven returned to Europe. Bartels was sunk while operating off Madagascar, and Dommes (U178) was ordered to make Penang his homing port and operational base.

U-178 was, therefore, the first U-boat assigned to U-base Penang. Kptlt Wlheim Dommes of U178,became Commander of German U Boat base in Penang.

First 'wave' - 11 U-boats and two auxiliaries

Doenitz decided to send the Gruppe Monsun ('Monsoon Group') into the Indian Ocean where they should harass Allied shipping, and after completing their patrol enter Japanese-held Penang. The group consisted of nine Type IXC boats and two IXD-2. For refuelling near the equator there was the U-tanker U462. The supply ship Brake would act as a depot ship in the Indian Ocean.

The dispatch of 11 submarines and 1 supply submarine under Operation Monsoon in Summer of 1943 to Penang. 4 of the submarine actually arrived at Penang, they were U188, U168, U532, U183

Pich (U-168) and Lüdden (U-188), the first Monsun boats to sail, left France about 30 June 1943. Tillesmann (U-516), Würdemann (U-506), Auffermann (U-514), Hennig (U-533), Schäfer (U-183), Junker (U-532) and Witte (U-509) left between 5 and 8 July. Pietzech (U-532) also left at this time, but was forced back to port with engine trouble and did not leave until 16 August. Kuppish (U-847) left the end of July. By the end of August, of the eleven Monsun boats which had sailed from France, five had been sunk in the Middle Atlantic, and one had been forced to drop out of the operation.

With the sinking of Metz is connected to loss of another important Monsun boat, Kuppisch (U-847). Three other active refuelers besides Metz had been sunk in July 1943, and Kuppisch was one of the several operational U-boats forced to act as refuelers pro-tem. On his way to the Far East in July, he was ordered to refuel six submarines. While standing by in the rendezvous area, (which radio intelligence had spotted several days in advance) he was attacked by Card aircraft and sunk on about 27 August. Not only the submarine but the man possibly destined to be the first Commander Penang was lost.(Note: Herbert Kuppisch, the man destined to be the commander of the Penang base. But was KIA when his boat (U-847) was sunk southwest of the Azores).

The U-boats sailed from France and Germany between 11 June and 8 July and their captains were ordered to operate in the Arabian Sea and then to proceed to Penang. Right from the beginning the 'Monsoon Group' met disaster. On 24 June U200 was sunk SW of Iceland by an American Catalina; on 8 July U514 fell victim to RAF Coastal Command's 224 Squadron in the Bay of Biscay; on 12 July U506 was sunk by US planes west of Vigo; three days later U509 was sunk by aircraft of the US escort-carrier Santee NW of Madeira when she was looking for the U-tanker U462 which had been destroyed by Santee's planes west of the Azores; on the 30th the group's own tender was sunk by 502 Squadron, RAF, NW of Cape Ortegal (Spain) and on 27 August U847 was destroyed by three planes of the US escort-carrier Card in mid-Atlantic.

Five of the 11 U-boats proceeding to the Far East and their U-tanker had been finished off before even crossing the equator. The 5 u boats were Schäfer, Pich, Hennig, Junker and Lüdden

They were fueled by the Brake on 8 September, southeast of Madagascar, before cruising to their attack area. Each commander was allowed to use his own judgment to some extent in choosing his attack area, and from September to November 1943, the northern Indian Ocean was well patrolled. The main areas of concentration were the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and the Laccadive-Maldive Islands. Operations were also conducted off Mombassa, Calcutta and Bombay. The operations on which so much time, fuel and work had been expanded were extremely unproductive. Only three ships, of about 19,000 GRT, were claimed sunk, and the loss of Hennig on 16 October reduced the Monsun fleet to four submarines. The four remaining Monsun boats, Schäfer(U183), Pich(U168), Junker(U532) and Lüdden(U188) reached Penang by November 1943.

The fuel situation of the U-boats was now so critical that U516 was ordered to supply U532 and U533 from her own fuel and then to return to France. The two boats and the other survivors (U168, U183, U188) got round the Cape of Good Hope and joined the supply ship Brake about 450 miles south of Mauritius where they refuelled during 8-14 September. Doenitz was now looking forward to a surprise blow from his U-boats in the Arabian Sea but Japanese submarine operations in these waters had already alerted Eastern Fleet HQ so that convoys were being introduced and strong air and sea patrols covered the endangered routes to Durban, Mombasa, Aden, Bombay and Colombo.

After having refuelled from the supply ship Brake the boats of Gruppe Monsun proceeded to their assigned patrol stations; U168 to the Indian coast south of Bombay, U532 to the mid-ocean Chagos Archipelago and Ceylon, U183 and U533 to the Seychelles-Gulf of Aden area and finally U188 to the southern coast of Arabia. The group was joined by U178 from Penang. The six submarines did not have much success during their patrols which lasted until November. They sank only three ships (20,801 tons) during September and three more (13,015 tons) in October. Group Monsoon then withdrew to Penang, first arrival being U183 on 17 October. But the day before, U533 was lost in the Gulf of Oman to an obsolete RAF Blenheim Mk.V (Bisley) of 244 Squadron. The remaining four units were overhauled in Penang so that only U178, which should have returned to Germany for a refit, prowled the Indian Ocean for the rest of 1943 and sank one ship of 7,244 tons.

Penang was far from being an ideal base for the German Far East U-boats. It had never been a naval base and no trained labor or dockyard facilities were available. The U boat crews could undertake only emergency repairs assisted by shore personnel from the Armed Merchant Raider Thor (lost by fire at Yokohama, Japan, on 30 November 1942). It is not surprising that it took 50-70 days to overhaul a U-boat and prepare her for the next war patrol. As an example of the difficulties, a flashlight or battery could only be got from Bangkok, hundreds of miles distant.

Second cruise of the Monsun submarines - Far East to Germany.

Schneewind, who took over U-183 after Schäfer's death in Penang, Pich (U-168),Junker (U-532), Lüdden (U-188), and Spahr, who replaced Dommes in U-178, left Penang at intervals from 29 November 1943 to 1 February 1944. During January and February, patrols were maintained from Ceylon to the Gulf of Aden and around Mauritius Island. Contrary to plans this was the most productive phase of the entire operation, the U-boats claiming 21 sinkings, totaling about 119,000 GRT.

Of the eleven original Monsun boats, only one, Lüdden, returned to Germany.

The second Monsoon Group - Only one got through
In the autumn of 1943 Doenitz decided once more to send all boats of the large IXD-2 type to the Indian Ocean as soon as they were commissioned. It was the second Monsoon Group but fared even worse than the first after the submarines left their bases in France and Norway. The US Navy had established an airfield on Ascension Island with B24 Liberators and B25 Mitchells available to patrol the mid-Atlantic and out of four U-boats sent only one reached Penang. U848 was destroyed by one of the planes, 290 miles SW of Ascension, on 5 November, U849 on the 25th off the Congo estuary and U850 west of Madeira on 20 December by planes from the US carrier Bogue. Only U510 (Kapitnleutnant Eick) a Type IXC type boat, got through. She left Lorient on 3 November and rounded the Cape in January 1944. Though her movements were detected by RDF (Radio Direction Finding) the search for her was not successful. U510 sank five ships (31,220 tons) and damaged one of 9,970 tons during February and March before entering Penang; a notable individual score at this period of the war.

A second wave of Monsun Gruppe U-boats was dispatched from Europe to make up for losses in transit.

* U-219 sailed on a minelaying mission on 22 October 1943 but returned to France on 1 January 1944 after being diverted to fuel other boats in the North Atlantic.[14]
* U-848 sailed 18 September 1943 and sank the 4,600-ton British freighter Baron Semple before being sunk by USN PB4Y Liberators in the South Atlantic on 5 November 1943.[15]
* U-849 sailed 2 October 1943 and was sunk by a USN PB4Y Liberator in the South Atlantic on 25 November 1943.[15]
* U-850 sailed 18 November 1943 and was sunk by aircraft from USS Bogue on 20 December 1943.[15]
* U-510 sailed 3 November 1943 and sank the 7,400-ton British tanker San Alvaro, the 9,200-ton American freighter E.G.Seubert, and three more freighters before reaching Penang on 5 May 1944

By now torpedoes were running short in the German naval base. U1062 (Type VIIF) left Bergen in Norway on 3 January 1944 with 39 torpedoes (25 as cargo) on board. The three remaining U-boats in Penang (U168, U188 and U532) were meanwhile taking on board important cargoes and preparing for the long and perilous voyage home. They left the base between 4 January and 7 February and were ordered to expend their torpedoes in the Indian Ocean. U188 sank seven ships (42,549 tons), U532 another two and U168 two small vessels.

By RDF fixes the Royal Navy's Eastern Fleet could locate the supply ship Charlotte Schliemann east of Mauritius. The ship had already refuelled U178 and U510 on 28 January and should now refuel U532. Eastern Fleet guessed that Charlotte Schliemann was still in the area so the cruiser Newcastle, the destroyer Relentless and Catalinas from Mauritius were sent out to find and destroy her. Even the captains of Charlotte Schliemann and U532 decided on 11 February to shift their point of rendezvous to the south, i.e. into mid-ocean, because they would not run the risk of being detected by air patrols. Should planes attack the tanker, U532 would not dive but open fire with her flak guns. After two hours a Catalina was sighted and U532 dived in spite of the promise not to do so. The U-boat surfaced during the night to search for the supply ship but did not find her.

The Catalinas had summoned the destroyer Relentless which opened fire at 0100 the next day and then fired torpedoes at the supply ship, scoring one hit. The crew of Charlotte Schliemann abandoned her and 41 officers and men were taken prisoner.

Gradually the Indian Ocean became even less attractive for the U-boats, which sank seven ships in February 1944 and four in March. On 11 March the second and last supply ship, the tanker Brake, met the same fate as Charlotte Schliemann. She was about 1,000 miles SE of Mauritius and refuelling U188, U168 and U532. Again the Royal Navy got RDF fixes on the U-boat concentration, due to the ex-Italian U-boat UIT22 continuously sending radio signals to Brake while on her way to Japan. Eastern Fleet HQ sent out the escort carrier Battler, the cruisers Suffolk and Newcastle as well as the destroyers Roebuck and Quadrant to have a look at the presumed rendezvous. One of the carrier-borne aircraft sighted the tanker and U-boats at 1600 and homed Roebuck to the point. The destroyer opened fire and Brake was then scuttled by her crew. U188 reached Bordeaux on 19 June and U532 Penang on 19 April, together with U1062 which brought the precious torpedoes.

So far Doenitz had committed 42 U-boats to his Indian Ocean campaign, 12 had been lost to planes and ships, 23 had made the round trip successfully but only six were at this time operational in the Far East; U168, U183, U532, U510, UIT24 and UIT25. But it was still believed that the Indian Ocean had a high concentration of Allied shipping, ignoring the fact that even in that sea most ships sailed in convoy and not independently. Doenitz should have known this and that his U-boats had no chance of penetrating the convoy escorts and firing their torpedoes. New submarine groups were sent out during 1944 but to reduce the risk of detection from the air the U-boats sailed independently, most of them being sunk.

Of the first six U-boats U177, U1059, UIT22 and U851 were sunk by air attacks before rounding the Cape. Only three got through to the Indian Ocean. Then fate caught up with U852, a new IXD-2 type cruiser which had left Kiel on 18 January 1944 under Kapitanleutnant Eck, the successful skipper of U50. On 13 March, Eck had sunk the Greek freighter Peleus of 4,695 tons in mid-Atlantic, machine-gunned the survivors on the rafts and hurled hand-grenades at them. Four men were still alive when U852 left the scene and three of them were rescued after 35 days. U852 was caught in the Arabian Sea on 3 May and heavily damaged by RAF planes (8 and 621 Squadrons) SE of Socotra Island, going aground off Somalia. Kapitanleutnant Eck, the medical officer, the officer of the watch and the rest of the crew were brought to England where the U852 atrocity was investigated. Only after the war were these three U-boat men brought to trial in Hamburg and sentenced to death. They were executed by a British firing squad on 30 November 1945. Which was the one that arrive at Penang?

The next nine U-boats followed between March and May 1944. Lost to US escort-carrier groups were U860 and the U-tanker U490. All other boats reached the Indian Ocean but the pickings were few and far between; three ships during June, four in July and eight in August. During this period U168, U183, U510 and U532 were undergoing repair and overhaul at Penang. While U198 sank two large British ships near Cape Delgado and Dar-es-Salaam in the first week of August, three warships of 3rd Escort Group sailed from Durban in search of her. The escort carriers Begum and Shah, with four frigates, joined in the hunt. Finally on 10 August an Avenger aircraft from Shah sighted U198 about 600 miles east of Mombasa. Next day another plane from the carrier sighted the U-boat again about 80 miles NW of the Seychelles. The aircraft dropped depth charges as U198 crash-dived. The U-boat came to the surface again and opened fire with her flak guns. U198 evaded the plane but later a Catalina sighted her farther north. At dawn on 12 August the British frigates and the Royal Indian Navy sloop Godavari closed the position. The latter ship and the frigates Findhorn (Royal Canadian Navy) and Parret dropped depth-charges and after the first salvo heavy explosions were heard under water and large oil patches came to the surface. That was the end of U198.

The last U-boats to reach the Indian Ocean were the Type IXD-2s U861 and U862. Two more U-boats, U863 and U871, were sunk in the Atlantic during their attempts in September to reach the Far East. After the Allied invasion of France, U180 and U219 were converted to transports and sailed from Bordeaux on 20 August. Two days later U180 struck a mine on leaving the Gironde, but U195 reached the Indian Ocean. Though U862 was attacked on 20 August off the Comore Islands in the Mozambique Channel, by a Catalina (which was shot down) and hunted by an escort carrier group, she entered Penang on 9 September. U861 reached Penang on the 22nd.

During August and September U859 reappeared in the Gulf of Aden and sank two 7,000-ton ships. But in a well-laid ambush the British submarine Trenchant torpedoed her on 23 September at the very doorstep of Penang. Ironically, the two boats had left their home ports on the same day in the spring.

Already on 14 February UIT23 had been sunk by Tallyho and on 17 July the Japanese I-166 succumbed to Telemachus. The Penang trap seemed to be closed by British submarines based at Trincomalee, Ceylon. Doenitz decided to transfer the base to Batavia, in Java. In Penang everything including torpedoes was short and the Japanese as usual unhelpful, but now more unfriendly as Germany's fortunes declined. The still-operational U-boats were loaded with strategic raw materials such as tin, rubber, wolfram, opium and ordered back to Germany.

U-boat base at Georgetown, Penang island ceased to exist as a functional U-boat base after October 1944 when all U-boats transferred to either Djakarta or Soerabaya due to Allied submarine activity off Penang followed by aerial mining. By 1945 when Grützmacher took charge Penang's only significance was as a radio station. It was the only official Kreigsmarine base permitted within Japanese held Asia. Penang would receive and transmit messages to OKM Germany, however two small frieghters Bogota and Eritrea with radio stations were positioned to maintain contact at Djakarta and Soerebaya, Indonesia.

Relocation to Batavia
U168 left Batavia on 4 October and was sunk the next day by the Dutch submarine Zwaardvisch. Farthest east of all the U-boats to perish she had accounted for just one ship. U181 left Batavia on 19th and sank the 10,198-ton American tanker Fort Lee east of Mauritius. Then engine trouble forced her back to Batavia. The US submarine Flounder caught U537 off Bali on 9 November. U196 sailed on the 11th and was lost on the Sunda Strait. U510 returned to Europe, as well as U843. U862 operated off Fremantle as one of the last U-boats in the Far East during February 1945 and sank two sizeable ships. U510 made a second attempt to reach Germany but being short of fuel had to surrender at St. Nazaire and served in the French Navy until 1958. U195 suffered engine trouble and had to return to Batavia. U183 was torpedoed by the US submarine Besugo in the Java Sea on 23 April 1945.

Though the tables were turned for Germany, two further attempts were made to get through to the Indian Ocean. U864 left Bergen (Norway) on 5 February 1945 but was sunk a short way out by yet another target hungry Allied submarine, HMS Venturer. U234 left Europe with two important Japanese submarine designers on board. She surrendered on 16 May in Portsmouth, US, where the Japanese committed suicide.

The remaining U-boats in the Far East were U181, U195, U219 and U862 as well as the transports UIT24 and UIT25 which were seized by the Japanese in May and commissioned by the Imperial Navy, merely to surrender ingloriously three months later. So ended the U-boat operations in the Indian Ocean and Far East: 'Misconceived, misdirected, and tragically wasteful in spite of devotion to duty, the valiant efforts, sacrifices, and success of the Far East cadre'.

(extract from

Incessant Allied air and submarine attacks render Penang untenable as an operational base for submarines. German U-boats withdraw to Batavia (Jakarta),

In May 1945, the last 4 German submarine and 2 Italian submarines were taken over by Japanese, when German commander surrender. U188, which had been based in Penang, was captured when Allies landing in France in June 1944. The log of U188 from May 1943 to June 1944 revealed to the Allies the situation of the Penang base and the Indian Ocean.(source: A world at arms: a global history of World War II, by Gerhard L. Weinberg, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pg 385)

Six boats remaining in Japanese territory were taken over by the Imperial Japanese Navy when Germany surrendered in 1945.

* U-181 (type IXD2 cruiser) became I-501 and was scrapped at Singapore after Japan surrendered.
* U-862 (type IXD2 cruiser) became I-502 and was scrapped at Singapore after Japan surrendered.
* UIT-24 (originally Cappellini, then Aquilla III) became I-503 and was found at Kobe when Japan surrendered and scuttled by USN in Kii Suido.
* UIT-25 (originally Torelli) became I-504 and was found at Kobe when Japan surrendered and scuttled by USN in Kii Suido.
* U-219 (type XB minelayer) became I-505 and was scrapped at Jakarta after Japan surrendered.
* U-195 (type IXD1 oiler) became I-506 and was scrapped at Jakarta after Japan surrendered.

Japanese forces in Penang finally surrendered to British forces on 6 September 1945.

The Action off the Coast of Penang

German submarine U-859 was a German Type IXD2 U-boat built during World War II. She was one of a select number of U-boats to join the Monsun Gruppe or Monsoon Group, which operated in the Far East alongside the Imperial Japanese Navy.
U-859 was built in Bremen during 1942 and 1943, and was heavily adapted following her completion in July 1943, with the addition of a Snorkel to enable her to stay underwater for longer during the hazardous passage to Penang in Malaya. Thus she was not ready for war service until the spring of 1944, when following her working up period and modifications she departed Kiel for the East.

Although U-859 only had a single war patrol from which she never returned, her six month career was highly eventful and carried her halfway across the world and into an entirely different theatre of conflict.

Commanded by Kapitänleutnant Johann Jebsen, U-859 sailed from Kiel for Penang on 4 April 1944, carrying 31 tons of mercury in metal flasks destined for use in the Japanese munitions industry, and (according to some sources) uranium oxide also destined for Japan. She avoided shipping lanes and during her time in the North Atlantic, remained submerged for 23 hours every day, running on her schnorkel, surfacing for just one hour per day at 23:00, later reduced to 15 minutes. Three weeks into her voyage, Jebsen saw a target he could not refuse. The MV Colin, formerly an Italian freighter taken over by American authorities and registered in Panama, was slowly steaming unescorted in the North Atlantic following engine failure. Three torpedoes sank her before the U-859 went on her way southwards.[3]
The boat's voyage continued smoothly for the next two months, and she rounded the Cape of Good Hope and entered the Indian Ocean without further trouble. On the 5 July she was spotted by a Lockheed Ventura aircraft, which swooped down on the boat only to be brought down by the anti aircraft guns. There were no survivors from the aircraft's crew.

Her second victim was her most famous, and became one of the most famous treasure shipwrecks of the Twentieth Century. The unescorted Liberty ship SS John Barry was transporting a cargo of 3 million silver one-riyal coins from Aden to Ras Tanura in the Persian Gulf as part of an American government agreement with the Saudi royal family; the silver coins had been minted in America for Saudi monarch King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and were stacked in huge boxes in the hold, and went down with the ship when she was torpedoed at 15°10′N 55°18′E / 15.167°N 55.3°E, about 100 miles south of the entrance to the Arabian Sea. A massive salvage operation in 1994 succeeded in retrieving many of the lost coins.

Three days later another unescorted merchant, the British SS Troilus was also sunk,[5] with six hands drowned.

On 23 September U-859 was running on the surface, within 23 mi (37 km) of Penang and the end of her voyage, when she was intercepted in the Malacca Straits by HMS Trenchant. In difficult conditions with a heavy swell running and a second U-boat thought to be lurking, Trenchant's commander Arthur Hezlet carried out a snap attack using his stern torpedo tubes, hitting U-859 amidships. The U-boat sank immediately in 50 m (160 ft) of water with several compartments flooded, and 47 men drowned, including her commander.

Twenty of the crew did manage to escape however, opening the hatch in the relatively shallow sea and struggling to the calm surface. Eleven of the survivors were picked up by HMS Trenchant immediately following the sinking, and the remaining 9 were picked up by the Japanese after being adrift for 24 hours and were taken ashore to await repatriation

In 1972 a total of 12 tons of mercury were recovered from the U-859 and brought into Singapore. The West German Embassy claimed ownership of the mercury. The Receiver of Wreck took possession of the mercury, and the High Court of Singapore ruled that "the German state has never ceased to exist despite Germany's unconditional surrender in 1945 and whatever was the property of the German State, unless it was captured and taken away by one of the Allied Powers, still remains the property of the German State..

HMS Trenchant (P331)
HMS Trenchant (P331) was a British T class submarine of the Second World War.On completion she was given over to the crew of HMS Thrasher whose submarine was due for a refit.
Trenchant under her captain Commander Arthur Hezlet, DSO, DSC acted in the Far East mostly off South East Asia against Japanese shipping sinking a range of vessels both transports and warships, using her torpedoes, gun and also by ramming. She often operated in company with her sister, HMS Terrapin.

On 23 September 1944 she sank the German submarine U-859 in the Straits of Malacca, by torpedoes. 11 of the crew were taken aboard as prisoners of war.

On 27 October 1944, "Chariots" carried into action by Trenchant sank a Japanese Army cargo ship, the Sumatra Maru in Phuket harbour, Siam.

Her most significant action during the war was on 8 June 1945, when she sank the Japanese cruiser Ashigara at a range of 4,000 yards with five out of eight torpedoes fired. The action in the Bangka Straits earned her commander a second DSO and the US Legion of Merit, and the ship the battle honour "Malaya 1944-45". The Ashigara had been carrying some 1,600 Japanese Army troops and materiel.

This was the history of Submarine base in Penang, long before Malaysia has her first submarine. The first submarine base in Malaysia, that was in Penang, a German/Japanese submarine base.....

Submariners Prayer

Lord God, our power evermore,
Whose arms doth reach the ocean floor,
Dive with our men beneath the sea;
Traverse the depths protectively.
O' hear us when we pray, and keep
Them safe from peril in the deep.
There are no roses on a Sailor's grave,
No lilies on an ocean wave.
The only tribute are the seagulls' sweeps,
And the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps.

Recommended video in youtube:
1. U234(HITLER'S LAST U-BOAT) (1/5) to 5/5
2. U-864 (HITLER'S LAST DEADLY SECRET) (1/5) to 5/5
3. The hunt for U864 , by BBC
4. Lt. Commander Gysae's U-boat in the Indian Ocean (Jan 1944), Lieutenant Commander Gysae's U-boat in the Indian Ocean, Repair work above and below water while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, provisions, torpedoes, and oil transferred from supply U-boat, eating and bathing, a commercial freighter is torpedoed.
5. The war file- U Boat Wars, 1-4

Recommended books/websites/articles/blogs
1. The Penang submarines : Penang and submarine operations: 1942/45, by Dennis Gunton (The first and only book that was comissioned by the City Council of Georgetown, Penang - Malaysia. It is also the ealiest book written about both Japanese , German & Italian submarines operating in Asia during WW2. This book talks extensively about Penang Island as the primary U-Boat base, which was shared with the Imperial Japanese Navy. The relationship between two different axis navies as well as the fate of every Gruppe Monsun - the operational name given to the German U-Boats are also discussed here along with a handdrawn map that details all the U-Boats that was sunk in Asia and enroute from Europe to Penang).
2. German U Boat;
3. Monsun Gruppe, wikipedia article provide the list of U Boats in the Indian Ocean/Far East)
4. Hitler's Grey Wolves - U-boats in the Indian Ocean"
5. More than merchants: a history of the German-speaking community in Penang, 1800s-1940s(2006), by Salma Nasution Khoo, Areca Books, 2006
6. U-boat Operations of the Second World War: Career histories, U511-UIT25,by Kenneth G. Wynn, Naval Institute Press, 1998
7. pictures)
8. pictures)
10. Fateful Enmity" Turns Into Sincere Friendship, read, the touching story of how Captain George Duffy met the officer Konrad Hoppe of the German cruiser Michel, which sank the US American Leader during WW2, and how friendship developed despite the painful past).