During the last days before the Allied surrender to Japan, numbers of injured were evacuated from Singapore by hospital ships to Batavia where they boarded other ships bound for Colombo or continued onto Colombo. There were also the sick/injured soldiers picked up from Batavia. During this time civilians, ie women and children continued to be evacuated mostly to Fremantle. One can only begin to imagine the fear and mayhem of Singapore harbour!
Many women and children did not escape Singapore, becoming prisoners of the IJA.
On 12 February 1942, a Boat named the ‘Wui Sui’ which had been converted to a hospital ship sailed out of Singapore Harbour with sick and injured. Surprisingly it arrived safely in Batavia two days later. However it was stopped by a Japanese cruiser and boarded by an inspection party – however miraculously allowed to continue to its destination.
At Batavia, Captain Melville of the ‘Wu Suii’ and the evacuees transferred to the British Hospital Ship ‘Karapi’ which then sailed to Colombo arriving on 22 February 1942. Here the patients were transferred to Australian General Hospital No. 12 where they were able to recover before being repatriated to Australia.
Capt Melville also remained at the convalescent hospital until a suitable ship arrived to sail them back to Australia.
There were other hospital ships sailing out of Singapore and Batavia.
On 14 March 1942 the ‘Stirling Castle’ with approximately 800 troops on board sailed from Colombo to Melbourne, arriving on 28 March 1942.
Evacuees included several men from the 2/4th – William Darcy O’Neill WX8828, Leo Patrick Byrne WX62155, William Richard Morris WX8200 and Arthur John Rowland WX17293.
Rowland was wounded in his thigh 11 February 1942, listed as missing in action and believed to have escaped to Sumatra. Having boarded a hospital ship he was admitted to 2/12th AGH Colombo Colombo on 9 March 1942 he embarked on ‘Stirling Castle’ for Australia on 13 March 1942.
We also know “Wu-Suii” sailed to Colombo, after which she was seconded to serve as a hospital ship in and around Burma throughout the war. She was eventually returned to Hong Kong from where she was originally working, and sailed as a Hong Kong ferry.