When Atjeh Party with 50 Australians had departed Gloe Gloer camp on 8 March 1944, were 49 Australians were amongst the remaining group of POWs – including Roy Semple, ‘Win’ Annear, ‘Squasher’ Squance, Alf Burgess and Harold Smith from 2/4th.
On 24 June they were alerted to be ready to leave for Singapore and the following day trucks arrived at Gloe Gloer camp to transport the POWs to port of Belawan to board the ship taking them to Singapore.
The ship SS ‘Van Waerwjick’ was a 3,040-ton passenger-cargo ship captured by Japan on 3 March 1942 and renamed ‘Harukiki Maru’and as was Japanese custom .
The POWs arrived at the docks around noon and were crammed into the fore and aft hold of the ship. A Japanese corvette was to act as escort to this small convoy that included 2 tankers and 2 transport ships. The ‘Harukijku Maru’ left Belawan about 1500 hours on 25 June, heading into the Malacca Straits to join the convoy.
The following day, 26 June at 1350 hours two mighty explosions amidships rocked the ship sending it into the depths of the sea. Two torpedoes had been fired from HMS/M ‘Trucelent ‘ which was depth charged, causing ‘Harukiku Maru’ to hit the bottom at 68 feet. There was no loss of life from the 2/4th but tragically 167 POWs went down with the ship.
Following four hours of treading water, the men were rescued by one of Japanese tankers from the convoy. The POWs then continued their voyage on board this tanker to Singapore where they disembarked and were taken to River Valley Road Transit Camp. Of the four 2/4th men, Annear and Squance would return to Sumatra to work on the Pakan Baroe-Moearo railway. Harold Smith was hospitalised with appendicitis on 21 July and Alf Burgess suffered a head injury from the Harukiku Maru sinking.