The Last Ship out of Singapore

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Marshall Ralph Doak Chief Pharmacist's Mate United States Navy

The Last Ship out of Singapore

We started to bring women and children aboard and the other ships in our group left. Everyone left. We could hear gunfire across the Jahore Straits. The Japanese were right there. We were abandoned at Singapore, still burning and not knowing whether or not we could make it out of there. We were waiting on the tide to come in so we could get out of there. You had to depend on the tide to come in at Keppel Harbor. We had 1,500 women and children and we found out later that we had taken aboard Indian troops that were stationed there at Singapore, some dressed as women. We couldn't leave and we were all by ourselves. The Japanese planes were still coming in. We could always tell when the Japanese planes were coming because of the British. The British Air Force consisted of Brewster Buffaloes. They were an American made fighter plane that was absolutely a useless damn thing. It was stubby like a milk bottle and we didn't use it in the USAF, but the British had bought a few of them. They had three PBY Catalinas and when we saw them take off we knew the Japanese planes were coming. I think they were coming from French Indochina at Saigon at that time. There was a lot of chaos and people killed on the docks during these bombardments. Everywhere you looked there was death. Even in the water there were dead sharks and people floating all around. How these people put up with it I'll never know. We were able to get out when the tide came in. We were abandoned and all by ourselves. I'll never understand whey they left us and I know that they took some key personnel off our ship and put them on the other ships. I found this out later. We eventually got our fires pretty well put out and the tide came in.

The Japanese were entering Singapore as we were departing. We were under heavy bombardment when we left and supposedly, from what I hear, we were the last ship that made it out of Singapore before it fell. The fall of Singapore was one of the greatest embarrassments the British ever had because they had 125,000 troops there and they never did really battle. The Japanese landed on the Malay Peninsula and came down on bicycles. There was very little fortification at Singapore. Everything that was there was pointed at the ocean as they figured they'd get a frontal assault. The Japanese never came that way, they came from behind. They walked and rode their bicycles. The Singapore prisoners were taken to the encampment at the river Quay. Another sad part of this is that when a group of British prisoners left Singapore on a transport ship to go to the prison camp, one of our subs torpedoed it. There were about 2,000 of them that were killed. That was a sad day, but it did happen. In no way could the sub know that it was carrying British prisoners. Just before we arrived in Singapore off the Malayan coast the British lost their two prize battleships to aircraft - the Prince of Wales and the Repulse.

Running From the Japanese We left the Singapore Harbor and were in the South China Sea with Japanese ships in every which direction. Here we were by ourselves and we would hide in rain squall. The War Department had published in our local papers about this time that the Japanese had claimed to have sunk the Wakefield. The War Department, in all their wisdom, had come out and said the Wakefield was not sunk. They said the Wakefield was at Singapore and it was hit with a bomb in the sick bay and all medical personnel were killed. I didn't realize that my mother had this information until I got her scrapbook after she died in the 1950's. She never notified my brothers or sisters or anyone that I know of that I'd been killed. She never believed it. She was a very strong individual and she just wouldn't accept it. According to my stepfather, she called the War Department but she got nothing other than that official release. Fortunately I'd gone flat and just got banged up good. We were hiding in the rain sqmllls and were finally getting down to Batavia and Java. The Dutch were still holding it. There were also Japanese ships that had spotted us by late evening. We could make about 20-22 knots on our own as our engine room was still working good. Dutch destroyers and a light cruiser came out and they did battle with the Japanese. We could see it all as we made our way into Batavia at night. The Dutch ships had intercepted the Japanese ships. There was no way we could get repairs to the bulkhead. They didn't have the materials at the time and they were too vulnerable as they were getting bombed too. 23

Soerabaya! We had just lost the heavy cruiser Houston at Soerabaya just north of Batavia. We took one survivor off the Houston. He was a Marine Sergeant that was incorrigible. He was so far gone, but he didn't show any physical signs. All he would do is just keep yelling "Soerabaya, Soerabaya!" He never stopped. It was just incessant. They were sunk by Japanese subs off of "Soerabaya." I'll never forget this Marine. We had him in a private room and he never stopped repeating Soerabaya. The thing that I remember is the smell of cordite. It's absolutely repugnant. Once you experience it and smell it, you'll never forget it. The explosive part of the bomb is so pungent. There were crews working on cleaning up the mess. There was a feeding frenzy off the side of the ship. The body parts and debris that were shoved off the side made the water look like it was boiling.

We didn't stay there too long. The day after we left the Japanese task force hit Batavia, and hit it hard. From there we left by ourselves to Colombo Ceylon. We were one of the first ships in for months, but we couldn't get repairs because they didn't have the materials or manpower. We were welcome and got water and fuel-oil and spent a day or two. You could pick up sapphires for one or two dollars and the biggest and best ones for four or five dollars a piece. I had probably 20, mainly just to get rid of the people pulling on your sleeve. They had no money. I didn't realize these bloomin' things were priceless until later on, when five or six months later I was with my friend McClean. He had 40-50 of them and we went into the jewelry store. He had a hand full and he showed the star sapphires and the guy couldn't believe what he saw. He said each one of those was worth between $700 and $800 a piece. At that point I'd lost mine when we'd had a fire on board ship and had to abandon the ship. I was invited to go to the British Consulate and have tea. I thought it would be good for me to get off the ship and I went there. I didn't realize that when you have tea like that you take a walk, a brisk walk. We went through Indian villages with tigers and cobras and all these things. I was a little apprehensive. Of course we never saw anything like that. When we got back from the walk we had the tea and the cakes. We left Ceylon and the day after we left the Japanese hit the dock area. They were after us again.