Sunday, 21 July 2013

HMS Thanet Revisited


Do you remember when I wrote about the sinking of the HMS Thanet last year? Ever since I speculated about the fate of her crew in that article, I have been grateful to receive many emails from military history buffs and relatives of crewmembers offering to throw more light on the topic. In fact, I think it's about time I did another post about it, don't you agree?!

To start with, I received this message from John Williams, Chairman of the Margate Historical Society and Archivist for Friends of Margate Museum, which proved very enlightening:

"We have now a broader picture of the ships fate listing all the Japanese vessels involved in the sinking of HMS Thanet.

We also published details of the fate of the crew-members. The battle in which HMS Thanet engaged the following Imperial Japanese naval vessels(FUBUKI,AMAGIRI and YUGURI) off the coast of Malya(mouth of the Endau River) has been covered by Arthur Lane and other noted historians..

The Japanese list 31 men as being picked up from the sea by the Japanese SHIRAYUKI on the 27th January as comprising one torpedo officer(Sub Lieutenant R.H.Danger),five Petty Officers and twenty-five ratings,and also state that with the exception of Sub Lieutenant Danger,who remained on board the SHIRAYUKI to later become a prisoner-of-war in Indo China,the whole group was handed over early on the 28th to the Japanese Army Group Invasion Forc which had landed at Endau and taken to a holding camp.Tragically,their stay there would have been brief as local residents there reported hearing machine-gun fire from the camp that morning,and a further report from a Japanese resident stated emphatically that all prisoners had been executed as retaliation for the hundreds of Japanese soldiers who had been killed in the ambush of the 25th.To confuse the picture even more,the British memorial Register states that just 41 men survived,which contradicts the information given above.With the passage of time it will never be possible to be 100% certain of all the facts as to just who was lost in the sinking or subsequently,but probably the best indication is the crew list we hold that covers those missing in action and those that survived the sinking of HMS Thanet plus crewmembers held as prisoners of war.

Arthur Lane and others have been aware of the fate of those who fell into the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army(Arthur was a POW on the notorious Burma Railway).Also the meeting up of downed RAF aircrew and those survivors trying to make their way to Singapore has been documented and related to historians and authors in various publications(See "The Remorsless Road Singapore to Nagasaki" by James McEwan.Published by Airlife. ISBN 1 85310-886-3 Page 19). "Survivors from HMS Thanet contacted Charles MacDonald,an RAF navigator whilst in the Malayan jungle.The survivors reached the coast in the vicinity of Mersing.They came across a junk and were later picked up by a British patrol vessel and landed at Pulau Ubin".

As the Japanese Imperial Army made their way down through the jungle of the Malayan Peninsula,the Imperial Japanese Navy took-over and occupied the port of Endau made up of a task-force of one aircraft-carrier,one heavy cruiser,five light cruisers and five destroyers.

RAF attacks on the port were ineffectual and the aircraft were beaten off by the Japanese.On the night of the 27th December 1942 the Australian destroyer HMAS Vampire and the British destroyer HMS Thanet made their way to the mouth of the Endau River at night.They were engaged by the Japanese destroyers AMAGIRI,HATSUYUKI and SHIRAYUKI. HMAS Vampire managed to escape under the cover of a smoke-screen by HMS Thanet was overwhelmed by the superior gunfire of the Japaneses vessels.

We have a full crew-listing for HMS Thanet plus comprehensive details relating to the history of the ship(including photographs etc)"

So there we go, folks - John Williams is clearly the authority on this subject so feel free to contact him if you have any questions and please make sure you have a read of his blog too. I do have some more information to share - including some scans featuring newspaper clippings relating to HMS Thanet - but I think I will post those on another day. Until then, bon voyage!

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