‘FUKAI’ MARU – Singapore to Keijo, (Chosen) Korea 1942 – Jack Taylor, Jim Clancy, Bill Gray, Ted Roots & ‘Dutchy’ Holland

KOREA ‘A’ & ‘B’ PARTIES – Fukai Maru Singapore to Korea.

‘Fukai’ Maru’s journey in 1942 to Keijo, Korea or Chosen as the Japanese had renamed the country.
At Singapore on 16 August 1942 Korea A and B parties  were trucked to Keppell Harbour where they boarded ‘Elistor’ Maru and made to walk naked through a hot chemical bath (likened to a sheep dip).
It was intended both Parties to depart on ‘Fukai’ Maru for a journey of five weeks – a run down, rusty and dirty converted cargo ship of 3800 tons.   Fukai’s decks were adorned with various ramshackle deckhouses.  Around the two after hatches lay piles of sacks and wooden tubs.  There were only four holds divided into two tiers above a cargo of were Malayan bauxite. Space on ‘Fukai’ for this large number of men was impossible.  The Officers and technicians were ordered off onto another ship leaving 1100 British and Australian POWs on board.  Jack Taylor, with Jim Clancy, Bill Gray, Ted Roots and ‘Dutchy’ Holland were assigned to No. 4  or D Hold with about 100 others.
The POW’s space was 20 yards long by 15 yards wide and infested with the usual vermin.
The double-tiered bunks built around  the hatchway were covered with thin straw matting providing each man and his kit a space of 6 feet by 2 feet.  The men could only sit in their bunks and unable to stand because the space between their bunks and overhead was between  3 1/2 feet to 4 feet.

The POWs were allowed on deck for 6 hours daily.

These conditions were rather luxurious compared to many later transport ships. Two meals daily were served at 9am and 5pm and always the same –  a plateful of boiled rice over which was poured a thin stew (about size of coffee cup).  The rice was of far better quality than the men had had at Changi.
Every other day the men were served an issue of sugar, either in the form of sweetened tea/two desert spoons of granulated sugar/or small bag of sweets.  The men were used to minimal rations from Singapore and barely noticed the small rations –  but far superior to rations on most transport ships.



Please read the following personal description

By midday Saturday 22 August 1942 Fukai anchored a mile offshore from Cape St Jacques which was close to the mouth of the Mekong River – a short distance inland lay the city of Saigon.  Scrub covered hills surrounded a sandy bay with a nearby village which during the day seemed deserted but became a line of twinkling lights at night.
Leaving St Jacques the weather deteriorated with wind and rain making it necessary to keep the hatches closed.  The atmosphere below decks was miserable to say the least.  There were two motor driven ventilators which were frequently out of order or switched off by the Japanese just when they were needed most.  They would also switch off the lights when most needed – such as the arrival of a meal – leaving the POWs in total darkness.
The men sleeping directly below the hatches would find their quarters and bedding soaking wet during this weather.
During the nights the ship’s rats caused pandemonium running across the men and sometimes biting them.  However, by the end of the voyage all had adjusted.
On the morning of 29 August at 11.30 Fukai dropped anchor outside the entrance to the port of Taikao on the west side of Formosa.  During the afternoon the ship steamed into harbour. Fukai was soon surrounded by a fleet of lighters into which its cargo of bauxite was discharged for the use of a large aluminium plant which lay at the eastern end of the harbour.
They would not leave Taikao until 14 Sept.  Wild wind and rains swept through the harbour delaying them by at least three days.   Everybody on board felt relieved to be out of the breakwater and the crew were able to commence cleaning the filth from the decks, ashes from the stokehold and garbage from the galley. Lastly the toilets were thoroughly cleaned.
In the afternoon Fukai joined a convoy waiting off Taimen, heading northwards through what was known to be the busiest area for American submarines – POWs well aware their lives were now at high risk.
Fukai was obliged to seek shelter for 12 hours off Pescardores Islands from a threatening typhoon. That night they became part of a 11 ship convoy and the next morning they could see the last of the northern most point of Formosa before heading into very heavy weather towards Korea.  The hatches were closed and everything on deck tied down.  After four days the men were thankful at dawn on 22nd Sep to see land 4 or 5 miles distant.
Fukai finally entered a wide bay and dropped anchor outside the breakwater of Fusan harbour.
Later that same evening Japanese medical staff came on board for inspection of the ship and the POWs.  There were a number of dysentery cases.  The POWs were subjected to testing for dysentery – the old glass rod!  The next day 28 cases were sent ashore to a local hospital (7 subsequently died).
Two days later on 24th the POWs breakfasted and prepared to disembark amidst a vast array of armed military police with fixed bayonets and a cinematographer.  The men began a 3 km walk to the station.  The locals watched in silence the first batch of prisoners with their characteristic mongol faces from the road side sprinkled with the odd European face (Russian) – these people had lived under Japanese rule since 1910.  Their eyes were expressionless as were their faces.
(Remember the Japanese had annexed Korea in 1910 and remained such until 1945.  The Koreans despised the Japanese who subjected the locals to a lesser quality of life.)
The POWs soon realised their march was not a direct route, they were in fact touring the town for the benefit of the locals.  The newsreel man arrived to ensure records were taken.
The men were very exhausted after their two-hour march and were happy to remove their packs and sit on them at the station.  To their utter surprise when their train arrived they were to sit in carriages and not open trucks.  All captured on film of course.  They also enjoyed the best meal since becoming POWs before spending a sleepless night on the train.  In the morning the train traversed hilly country with paddy fields and reached Keijo,the capital city at 1 o’clock.
Here the train was split in two, Senior Officers, AIF and 2nd Battalion of the Loyals remained at Keijo and 535 men proceeded to Jensen.
Shortly after 2pm on 25th, the train arrived at Jensen.  The POWs set out with the local population witnessing their arrival and marching a mile and a half through squalid streets with empty shops until they reached their camp.

Please read further about 2/4th men who sailed Fukai