HM Motor Launch 310 - Singapore 1942,

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Uncle Jack, Mar 4, 2013.

  1. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    I found a 7th page to add to the 6 pages I posted of Lt Stoner's report.

    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
    4jonboy likes this.
  2. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    I found a 7th page to add to the 6 pages I posted of Lt Stoner's report.

    Shows the date of arrival at Changi .. which helps with sorting some names...
    The summary is similar to the one in Lt Pool's book ... which shows total of 44 plus the three who arrived late on the island.

  3. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    I have taken the liberty of transcribing the details from the report and getting what details I could.

    AB Oldnoll of RN. Fate - Survivor / Details - Able Seaman H. R. Oldnall, RNZNVR

    Here is some more information about AB Herbert Robert OLDNALL



    Thanks to a NZ based researcher

    Able Seaman H. R. Oldnall, RNZNVR; born Auckland, 26 Dec 1918;

    Died in Auckland NZ 23 December 1993 see
    Herbert Robert Oldnall (1917 - 1993) - Find A Grave Memorial

    From NZ newspapers

    Evening Post, 16 April 1942, Page 7
    The following list of naval casualties was Issued today:- OLDNALL Herbert
    Robert, Able Seaman, missing Auckland.

    Auckland Star, 27 September 1943, Page 1
    MR. F. W. OLDNALL and Family wish to thank friends and relatives for their
    kind sympathy when his son, Herbert Oldnall. was missing, but have now
    received news that he is a prisoner of war in Japan.

    Evening Post, 22 September 1945, Page 8
    The following naval personnel, previously reported prisoners of war are now
    reported to be safe; In Allied hands:
    Riley, Edward P., Stores Asst. Phama, Taranaki
    Hill, Trevor N. Able Seaman. 6 Kimberley Rd, Epsom, Auckland
    Oldnall, Herbert R. Able seaman. Mr F.W. Oldnall, 2 Orchard Street,
    Avondale. Auckland
    Sarney, John, H. Able seaman. 53 Brighton Road, Parnell, Auckland
    TAYLOR. Fred, Temporary Lieut., R.N.Z.N.V.R. Mr. G. Taylor, Avoca Street,
    Kaikoura (f.)
    CLARK, James B., Temporary Lieutenant, R.N.Z.N.V.R. Mrs. M. A. Clark, 330
    Esk Street, Invercargill (m.).
  4. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Evening Post, 22 September 1945, Page 8
    The following naval personnel, previously reported prisoners of war are now
    reported to be safe; In Allied hands:
    Riley, Edward P., Stores Asst. Phama, Taranaki

    Hill, Trevor N. Able Seaman. 6 Kimberley Rd, Epsom, Auckland

    Oldnall, Herbert R. Able seaman. Mr F.W. Oldnall, 2 Orchard Street, Avondale. Auckland
    Sarney, John, H. Able seaman. 53 Brighton Road, Parnell, Auckland
    TAYLOR. Fred, Temporary Lieut., R.N.Z.N.V.R. Mr. G. Taylor, Avoca Street,
    Kaikoura (f.)
    CLARK, James B., Temporary Lieutenant, R.N.Z.N.V.R. Mrs. M. A. Clark, 330
    Esk Street, Invercargill (m.).

    Might be this guy you found too -

    AB Hill of RN. Fate - Sailed to Batavia / Details - DSM RNZNVR

    (woops - the different initials in the next post would suggest that it was a different AB Hill to the one on ML310)
  5. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    I thought I added this sooner - it is where I got the medal details for Bull & Hill RNZVR -

    CHAPTER 29 — New Zealanders in the Royal Navy | NZETC

    Those who sailed on the 13th were not so fortunate, their ships being sunk by the Japanese and many being killed or taken prisoner. Rear-Admiral E. J. Spooner and Air Vice-Marshal Pulford, with five staff officers and twenty-six other ranks and ratings, left in ML310, commanded by Lieutenant Bull, RNZNVR. (1)

    When nearing Bangka Strait two days later, the launch was attacked by aircraft and a destroyer and it was decided to beach her on Tjibea Island and land the staff party. Later the Japanese boarded the launch, wrecked her machinery, and ordered the crew ashore. A native prahu was made seaworthy and in it Bull, with two ratings and two natives, made a passage of seven days to Merak, in Java, where arrangements were made to send help to those on the island.

    Lieutenant Bull was awarded the DSC and Able Seaman Hill (2) the DSM for courage and devotion to duty. In the event nineteen officers and ratings, including two New Zealanders, died of disease on Tjibea Island and others were taken prisoner. Able Seaman Oldnall (3) and seven others spent some weeks repairing a prahu and in it reached Singkep Island only to be captured by the Japanese.

    Assistant Cook Mitchell (4) and several other ratings who survived the sinking of HMS Kung Wo and other ships made a boat journey of two weeks to Batavia.

    (1) Lieutenant-Commander H. J. Bull, DSC, RNZNVR; born Auckland, 17 Aug 1913; merchant.

    (2) Able Seaman L. B. Hill, DSM, RNZNVR; born Auckland, 22 Sep 1920; clerk.

    (3) Able Seaman H. R. Oldnall, RNZNVR; born Auckland, 26 Dec 1918; leather-maker.

    (4) Cook B. A. Mitchell, RNZNVR; born Auckland, 13 Apr 1922; farmhand; served HMS Marguerite, Persian Gulf, 1942–43.
  6. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

  7. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Looking through the paper catalogue of the WO361 files the other day and WO361-1202 caught my eye.

    Description of the file is:-

    Far East Malaya; Royal Air Force; 40 to 50 men abandoned on island (15 February 1942) and died of starvation, included Air Vice Marshal Pulford and Rear Admiral Spooner.

    Just the 4 pages below.

    P1090527 (Large).JPG

    P1090528 (Large).JPG

    P1090529 (Large).JPG

    P1090530 (Large).JPG
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  8. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    Thanks for posting this report... another addition to the sources
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Not sure if this adds to this thread, but came across:

    HMS ML 310 (ML 310)

    Motor Launch of the Fairmile B class


    The Royal Navy


    Motor Launch


    Fairmile B


    ML 310

    Built by

    United Engineers (Singapore)


    28 Jun 1940

    Laid down



    29 Nov 1941


    15 Feb 1942


    Lost on 15 February 1942 off Tjebia Island
    Salvaged by the Japanese
  10. truenorth

    truenorth New Member

    I read the other day some journal typed pages, on this website, giving the details of the men who were left to die after escaping from Singapore on the Fairmile. My uncle Malcolm Henderson was one of the men who died on the island and I would like to include this journal in the family history. I have searched and can't find it again (gremlins in the computer). I think Bull visited my grandmother when he got back to Australia.
    Many thanks, Elizabeth
  11. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    Are you referring to Lt Stoner's report it is posted as No7 on page 1 of this thread (6 pages) ... with another page in post No 41.

    I have a copy of Wing Commander Atkins reportTNA Ref WO344/362/2 which also lists those on ML310.

  12. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron


    PM sent.

  13. JJCB

    JJCB New Member

    Hello all.
    Thank you for all the information so generously shared on this forum.

    My grandfather, L/Cpl Jack Turner (MP) was on ML310 and it has been wonderful to "flesh out" some of the information I have found. My grandmother was visited by Peter Elphick shortly after my grandfather died in 1974, who was researching his book "Odd Man Out" about the alleged traitor, Patrick Heenan. There is a theory that Heenan was not killed as reported and was on ML310, hence the high number of MPs on board. Does anyone know if there is any official report on the whole incident that has been released after all this time?

    I have read Richard Pool's book, "Course for Disaster" which gives a very comprehensive account of life on the island. I was thrilled to see Jack mentioned by name. However, it is frustrating that everything written and reported seems to be by officers, with the men referred to simply as "OR" - "Other Ranks". I would dearly love to find out more about some of the OR's and their perspective on the events, if anyone is willing to share their stories of relatives with me?

    I found Jack's disembarkation report at Kew, but he didn't fill in much. After being rescued/captured by the Japanese, he was taken to Roberts Hospital in Changi. From his medical records, it looks like he might have stayed in Changi for the rest of the war, however, there is mention of Johore Bahru - does anyone know of a POW camp there?

    Any information would be very gratefully received!

    Many thanks. Jo
  14. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    For more sources take a look at
    There is a related group on Yahoo see - which operates as an email group once you have subscribed. They are very helpful.

    Regarding personal stories - sorry but Uncle Ronnie would never talk about his time as a POW.

  15. JJCB

    JJCB New Member

    Thank you, Robin - links much appreciated.
  16. Gus Mellon

    Gus Mellon New Member

    Gentlemen, I have come at this matter from a different direction, that being whilst researching the war patrols of the U.S. Submarine S-39. See her war patrol reports at ( SS 144 S-39 ), in particular see the report for War Patrol No 3. On the night of 01 March 1942, S-39 surfaced a long way out (more than an hour's surfaced run to the stopping point) and came to a stop a half mile off the S.W. point of the island. They put an enlisted man (USN Petty Officer 1st Class - equivalent to an RN Petty Officer) ashore in a wherry (a small boat carried by the sub) for just on forty minutes, to search for and make contact with any survivors. It was a bright moonlit night and the seas were calm. Whilst the man was ashore, the sub cruised up and down using a blinker tube (signal lamp) to send messages to the shore on Chebia and other nearby islands. The man came back onboard reporting that the native encampment was recently trashed and there were no people on the island. This report is at odds with Lt. Stonors' report. The sub then spent the rest of the night passing up and down off the island, on the surface, using the blinker tube and then spent the entire day dived at periscope depth, again running up and down the length of the island, looking through the periscope for people onshore, but no result. During the surface passage up and down, after the man was recovered onboard, the sub would have been running her diesel engines, both for slow speed propulsion and to recharge her batteries ready for the full day's submergence which lay ahead. On a calm, clear tropical night, those rock crushers would have been audible for a good distance, certainly from all over a small island like that.

    As to why USS S-39 was there at all, according to her patrol report, on 27 February 1942, S-39 was ordered by radio despatch (from Commander, Submarines, Asiatic Fleet [CSAF], her OpCon at Surabaya) to reconnoiter Chebia (Tjibia) Island (in the Juju Group, to the north of Bangka Island), for any signs of around 40 British refugees from Singapore, including Rear Admiral Ernest Spooner RN and Air Vice Marshall Conway Pullford RAF. Since Lt. Bull and his men had sailed away from the island in their repaired native craft on 20 Feb, I can only conclude that Bull had made it to [?] Batavia and summoned help. He obviously survived, since he became both a Lieutenant Commander and was awarded the DSC.

    From reading your thread, it seems that other people made a similar report about the circumstances of what occurred on the island (the Wing Commander's report, that is referred to), whereas S-39 has just one man's word for it. Why just one man? I have research a very large number of USN submarine war patrol reports in recent times and, whilst the sending of parties of the submarine's crew ashore (as opposed to sending special forces and operatives ashore) is not unknown, it has otherwise always been a party sent ashore - ie, more than one man - and in most (but not all) other cases, there has been a junior officer in charge of the party.

    Perhaps the man they sent ashore bottled it and hid out in the beach bushes and later just came back to the submarine with a negative report? It has happened in other cases that I am aware of. Perhaps I am impugning the honour of a man who is most likely now dead and who cannot defend himself against such a slander? I don't know. In any event, his description of what he saw, as given in the patrol report, provides a lot of detail as to what he saw and what condition it was in, even down to the recent slashing damage to coconuts and pot plants in the encampment and the small sized military boot prints he saw leading down to the water's edge. But both of these items are well in line with what Japanese troops would do after surprising a group of holdouts.

    It was a bright moonlit night that night. Having sailed those waters myself (ex-RAN submariner) I know just how bright such a night can be in those waters. It would have made it difficult for the sub guy to just hide up anywhere. But at the same time, it would have been impossible for any sentry on that island to have missed seeing that sub, trotting up and down on the surface. And they would have posted sentries, wouldn't they? Per Stonor's report, there was an O.P. with 12 Javanese soldiers on the island when they arrived. Even if the soldiers cut for it and returned to Sumatra or Java and just blended back in, their O.P. was on the highest point of the island and would have been well set up to keep a lookout - that was what they were there for in the first place. So how, if the men were still on the island on the night of 1 March 1943, did they not see the submarine?

    Did the submarine go to the wrong island? If so, then either Lt. Bull gave the authorities in Batavia the wrong address, or it was mistranslated by the SubOpCon. Neither impossible but neither particularly likely either.

    Any way you cut, it is a mystery.

    Ramacal, I notice that several of the report pages that you posted are either doubled up or missing, in particular pages 3 and 5. Would it be possible for you to re-post the entire report by Lt. Stonor?

    Does any one else have any thoughts on this matter?

  17. DavidBruce

    DavidBruce Member

  18. DavidBruce

    DavidBruce Member

    Kia ora Gentlemen & Elizabeth, how fortunate to stumble across this website and 'meet' you all. Note, I am not DaveB though we clearly have similar names, and share a common interest in researching our father's/uncle's experiences. I hope I can improve our understanding of events surrounding ML310 and the men on board, though I fear some of it will serve only to further the uncertainties and ambiguities evident so far.... I am not very fluent at this.

    My father was AB Leonard B Hill RNZNVR. One of my godfathers was AB T.N.'Tim" Hill RNZNVR. The other was Lt.H.R.'Johnny' Bull RNZNVR. Thus two Hills attach to this story. (Even the NZ Naval record manages to confuse them when referencing this event.)

    There were also two MLs involved in the evacuation - ML310 & ML311. Johnny Bull commanding 310 with Malcolm Henderson RANVR as XO and with Len Hill on board, Ernest Christmas RANVR commanding 311, Lt.Cdr VCF Clark RN acting as XO, and with Tim Hill on board. (The RAN archive erroneously recorded Lt Christmas as being on board 310.) Their journeys were more or less parallel though largely they were not in sight of one another.

    311 was attacked and sunk 15 Feb while attempting passage through the Bangka Straits. Most on board including Lt Christmas were killed in the attack. Amazingly some survived, including Tim Hill and Victor Clark, whose official report describes this event. (David Nelson, quoted above, suggests that Victor Clark and others were aboard 310.)

    Seeking to avoid a similar fate, 310 lands their party 15 Feb onto Tjibia Island (typically there are several spellings available) part of a group known as the Tuju Islands or the Seven Sisters group, north of Bangka Island. In doing so they run aground and are unable to free their vessel. There they are confronted by the Japanese.

    Richard Pool's book gives an account of the circumstances, including the departure of the rescue party comprised of Johnny Bull, his Coxswain Andrew Brough, my father Len Hill, and 2 others, locals found on the island, part of a group of men on Tjibia recorded by Ian Stonor as manning an Observation Post. (Curiously I don't recall Pool or JB in his report mentioning these numbers.) After the best part of seven days at sea in an open boat, the 5 men arrive in Merak 27 Feb and on 28 Feb - the day the Japanese attack Java - Bull reports to Cmdr. Collins RAN commanding China Force in Batavia. The three Navy men are forced to continue their flight and avoid capture by the skin of their teeth.

    We know that USS S-39 was despatched rescue the marooned party, and that they did not succeed. JB remained adamant that he gave the right co-ordinates. The matter vexed him for the rest of his life. In the S-39 archival record attached to Gus' post is a clear reference to where the sub was on the night of 28 Feb/01 Mar - Lat 00 degrees 20 minutes S Long 105 degrees 46 minutes E. This looks right to me, but does it allow for the possibility that they landed on an adjacent island, the wrong one?

    Gus speculates about there being only one man who landed from the sub, unusually. Jim Coe the sub Commander elsewhere refers to Petersen his radio officer as a senior, trusted crew member. Petersen's search of the island was brief. Whose footprints were they? How could a search of the right island not uncover a group of nearly 40 men? Dare I say it, but did he suffer from the not uncommon American disorder of contempt for the British, and not try hard enough? We only have his word for it, and sadly he and Jim Coe were lost at sea shortly afterwards. I apologise for speaking ill of the dead.
    There's more.

    Incredibly, in the 1950s Johnny Bull meets Monk Hendrix, who was serving on S-39 at the time and was a party to the event! Hendrix drew on a map the course he believed S-39 took during the rescue attempt. The course he indicated tracks well past the Tuju Islands. Yet the co-ordinates aforementioned seem accurate. How did this happen? Why? We may never know....

    I have this map in my possession along with other documents, including a considered rebuttal of elements of Richard Pool's account tabled by my father and endorsed by Johnny Bull. I confess that I am attempting to assemble all of the material I can in a book of my own.

    I am deeply troubled however by the challenge of getting it right, making sure it is fair and as factually correct as is possible under the circumstances, and not dishonouring those brave men or doing their descendants a disservice. Sadly I am an amateur at this sort of thing so am acutely aware of the risk, but I will push on, encouraged by your stake and the interest of others in the story. Johnny and Tim Hill's children are aware of my endeavours and provide me with great encouragement.

    And I can't tell you how many times I have fluked onto vital information - I too stumbled across Ian Stonor's report, during a fleeting visit to the IWM.

    Can anyone provide me with George Atkins' report?

    And Yes, Elizabeth, having safely reached Freemantle Johnny Bull did visit your grandparents in Sydney while on his way back to New Zealand. I will be in Sydney 9-12 August. What chance of meeting?
    With respect,
  19. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    Hello David

    Allways pleased to find another relative interested in ML310. My uncle Ronnie had no children so it is up to us his nephews and nieces to to keep pursuing the story.
    I think I have the Atkins report ... will take a look in my files

  20. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    The TNA file for Wing Commander Atkins report is WO 344/362/2. Here are selected pages
    Atkins report WO 344:362:2 doc1.jpeg Atkins Report p2.jpeg Atkins Report p3.jpeg
    ramacal, Dave55 and papiermache like this.

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