HMS LI-WO

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Tab, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. Tab

    Tab Senior Member

    While researching my family history I found that a cousin died on HMS LI-WO.
    It is an interesting story that is largely forgotten so if you wish to know more just click on the link below

    The story of HMS Li Wo and her crew

    .
     
    Ray Hanson likes this.
  2. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    Captain Thomas Wilkinson V.C. was from my home town, and lived around the corner from where I used to live. His family still live in Widnes
     
  3. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    The MID group including the memorial cross to Derbridge is currently on offer with a NZ dealer, way over the odds IMHO. NZ$4K+

    Regards

    simon
     
  4. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    HMS LI WO - a most gallant action.

    Capt Thomas Wilkinson V.C. RNVR.

    Held at the British National Archives in Kew - ADM 1/30580 Award of Posthumous Mention in Despatches to Lt T Wilkinson RNVR for services in HMS Li Wo in action with Japanese Naval forces Feb 14 1942. This award was cancelled in favour of the VC.

    His Mention in Despatches citation: Viewing Page 6084 of Issue 37387

    Cancelled in favour of the V.C. Citation here: Viewing Page 6125 of Issue 37819

    I have to say I find it strange that he was initially awarded a MiD despite what is stated on his citation and then approx 1 year later awarded the V.C. In my book he should have received the V.C. straight away.

    Attachements below courtesy of the War Illustrated.

    Regards
    Hugh
     

    Attached Files:

  5. Tab

    Tab Senior Member

    I think that the problem with the awards was the story was not heard off till after the war, then it had to be checked and verified which all takes time
     
  6. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    What an amazing story.
    I too am surprised the VC was not immediate - if a MiD was awarded something must have been known about the action - but perhaps full details were not known until release of prisoners.
    Am I reading this correctly, some of the victims and survivors were previously crew of Repulse and Prince of Wales?
     
  7. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    I think that it would be most interesting to view all recommendations for this action.

    as you could only receive the VC or an MID posthumously, it begs the question what did the others do. obviously, you can't award more than 1 or 2 (VC's) for a specific naval action in which only 1 ship was engaged, the recomendation that would prove most interesting reading would be that of temporary sub -lieut Stanton. To receive the DSO in the most junior of Officer ranks is an indication to me that it was a toss of the coin for a VC.

    A most interesting story

    regards

    simon
     
  8. Ray Hanson

    Ray Hanson Member

    I'd never heard of this action before, thanks for posting.

    What can you say? - some things just leave you speechless.
     
  9. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    On 14 February, the HMS LI WO, a shallow draft Yangtze river steamer, was on passage from Singapore. She was still commanded by Temporary Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson RNR, her peacetime Master, who had served in the Mercantile Marine in World War I. Before she sailed on 'Black Friday' the British part of her merchant crew was supplemented by nineteen Navy, five Army, two RAF, thirty-four Europeans, ten Malays and six Chinese. Once again, the Naval Ratings were survivors from the REPULSE and the PRINCE OF WALES. The Captain decided to make a dash for the Banka Strait. The ship had already suffered considerable damage in four air attacks when, late in the afternoon of 14 February, she sighted two enemy convoys. The larger of the two convoys had an escort that included a heavy cruiser and several destroyers. Lieutenant Wilkinson sought the backing of his crew and engaged the convoy with the intention of fighting to the last taking “as many as possible of those Jap bastards with us.”1 When all of the LI WO’s four inch ammunition (for her Japanese-made gun!) was exhausted the Commanding Officer decided to ram a ship that they had damaged. The machine gunners on the LI WO were said to have wiped out two guns on the Japanese vessel. After this the British ship was hit by nine salvoes and, with her ensign still flying and her Captain on the bridge, she rolled over to port and sank. At the most thirteen survived the sinking. one of these was killed on shore and little more than half survived the war as prisoners. This scratch crew of eighty-four was destined to become the most decorated Royal Navy small ship crew in World War II. After the war, Lieutenant Wilkinson was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Lieutenant Stanton, her peacetime Chief Officer, received the DSO, Leading Seaman Thompson the CGM, Leading Seaman Spenser and Able Seaman Spendlove the DSM. Two officers and four ratings were mentioned in despatches. Less than a quarter of her crew were from the regular Royal Navy, though the citation suggests that almost all were.
    1 www.merchantnavyofficers.com/straits2.html Straits Steamship Co. history
     
  10. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    as you could only receive the VC or an MID posthumously, it begs the question what did the others do.
    simon

    Simon,
    I think you may have your facts wrong there or have I misunderstood. The criteria for being awarded these decorations had nothing to do with whether the person survived or not.
    Regards
    Hugh
     
  11. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    I think that the problem with the awards was the story was not heard off till after the war, then it had to be checked and verified which all takes time

    Tab,
    I accept what you say but to go from a posthumous MID to a posthumous V.C. [the lowest to the highest award] in a year must be unprecedented.

    Regards
    Hugh
     
  12. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Hugh, the point I was trying to make was that you could not get a DSO posthumously or a DSC/ DSM in the same manner, you had to survive the recommendation, the only awards that could be made as a deceased recipient were the VC or the MID.

    The DSO was never an option for the Captain as the DSO is an Order & Companionship of the DSO are never handed out postumously.

    A relative of mine was reccomended for an MBE during the battle of France he was KIA after the recommendation was put in & it was struck out and MID inserted in its place on the recommendation because he died prior to the date of gazetting.

    In effect you must live long enough for the award to be Gazetted, if you can do that & & die the day after the gazette date it is not a postumous award, it is presented postumously.

    If you die before the award is Gazetted, then your award is reviewed either up to a VC if it indeed warrants it & in the case of the Captain it must have or it is downgraded to an MID, that Is why I stated that it would be interesting to see what the original recommendations of the MID's to deceased ships company were.

    This is just 1 example of how the system works. you need to go to the Royal warrants to see the criteria of eligability & for WW1 & WW2 you did not have that for posthumous awards

    Regards

    simon
     
    Hugh MacLean likes this.
  13. Proud Grandson

    Proud Grandson Junior Member

    I read with interest regarding this ship and her crew. I have dug around for information and it's a shame that most of the data is found after the fact. Nevertheless, the crew to whom I salute, were one heck of force to be reckoned with. Brave and courageous is all I can come up with. I am the grandson of 1 of 2 officers that some cannot put a name to. My grandfather is Lt.Cdr.Edgar Neil Derbidge, MID. My grandmother, Joan, passed away Dec 29, 2001, aged 94. She never remarried since the war and although she would never admit it, I felt her heartbreak when granddad never came home. He was born in 1910 and died March 3, 1942, aged 31. I never got to meet him but I know alot about him. It was he who was the wounded officer that made it to shore (shot in the stomach) but died 2 weeks later in the Japanese POW camp. It's sad to see his Military Cross up for sale, but I trust it will be in good hands. Thankyou all for your stories, we will remember them.:poppy:
     
  14. izzy

    izzy Senior Member

    In Victoria Park Widnes there is a memorial to three local Servicemen awarded the V.C one of them is Thomas Wilkinson
     
  15. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Proud Grandson
    Are you aware that your Grandfathers Medals & Memorial Cross are currently for sale in New Zealand?

    Regards

    Simon
     
  16. Proud Grandson

    Proud Grandson Junior Member

    Hi Simon
    If you know the details of the seller or where they are being sold, any information would be very much appreciated. I'm trying to find any information about exactly how many were awarded, but more importantly, how they were earned. Maybe I can one day, get them all together and back in the family for the next generation to enjoy.
    Kind regards
    Jason
     
  17. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

  18. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Just to update all engaged in this thread, I have done some work for Jason on his G'father & found out that he along with the other survivors made it ashore on Bunker Island (famous for its Japanese massacre of Australian Nurses).

    The group evaded the Japanese for 2 weeks & were to be set upon by Bandits (locals) who shot Derbidge & stole all the food.. Some time later, they were rounded up by the Japanese & it was whilst being transported to the POW camp on the island that Derbidge died.

    At least now, we have narrowed down the area in which he rests, which to my mind, is better than a name on a tablet in Auckland which just keeps you wondering

    Regards

    Simon
     
  19. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Debriefing Report Of Last Action of HMS Li Wo.

    Report By Chief Petty Officer C. H. Rogers D/JX 125387

    Final Action Of The Li-Wo Near Banka Island

    After returning from my last job in Singapore, Jahore Straits Patrol, I was detailed to join HMS Li Wo, a river boat of 1,000 tons and speed of 15 knots. It had one 4” gun forward, two twin Lewis guns, one Halman projector and ASDIC installation procedure.

    My joining orders were to report to Orange Hotel at 1500 hours, 13 Feb 42. The Japanese were occupying Singapore very quickly and the hotel was under fire from trench mortars. On reporting I was detailed to take a party of men from about 80 idfferent branches to join the Li Wo. Having loaded the lorries with provisions we proceeded to Keppel Harbour where the ship was anchored about 1 mile off shore.

    Once on board the 1st Lieutenant, Lt. Stanton, gave my orders, which were to detail off gun crews, lookouts, and men for the engine and boiler rooms. About midnight we found we were no longer able to communicate with shore but were advised by another ship to move off. This we attempted, but the C.O., Lt. Wilkinson, found it extremely difficult owing to the lack of marker buoys and decided to anchor until morning. At dawn the gun crews were closed up and the ship got under way.

    During the afternoon of the 14th we were bombed but luckily no hits were scored. At about 19000 hours we anchored in a small bay on one of the islands. The next morning we were bombed again but escaped being hit. The planes were very low which gave us a chance to retaliate with machine gun fire. The Captain then decided we would make a dash through “bomb alley”, the Banka Straits. Whilst proceeding to this area we sighted a convoy of about 30 ships, on the horizon off our starboard bow, heading in the direction of Banka Island, but were unable to identify them until we closed to about 16,000 yards. Suddenly, on the horizon, dead ahead, we sighted the tops of 3 funnels, which turned out to be a Jap cruiser carrying 6” guns. We also sighted off our port bow a Jap destroyer heading the convoy, which was in sections of 4 and 6 ships. The Captain was also certain that its mission was to support the invasion of Singapore.

    Word very rapidly passed around the ship that we were going to go into action and that the leading ship in the nearest section would be our first target. Battle ensigns were hoisted, one on Gaff and one at Masthead, and we closed rapidly with the 4” gun ready to open fire. With no sign of enemyfire we closed to 2,000 yards when the order to open fire was given. The 1st salvo fell short, the 2nd crossed the bow and the 3rd scored a direct hit just under the bridge. She appeared to be on fire and turned to port. The other ships turned to starboard and commenced firing at us with small calibre guns.

    The damaged ship was now approaching the Li Wo, still firing, so the C.O. decided to ram her. We hit her at top speed amidships and became interlocked, our bows being buckled back – we were now really at close quarters. A machine gun duel took place which was fast and furious, with many men killed or wounded. The Li Wo gunners eventually wiped out the 2 guns which caused the Japs to abandon ship, which by this time was well on fire.

    Whilst all this was happening the Jap cruiser had circled around behind us and was heading straight for us at high speed. We eventually became disentangled from the crippled Jap ship and set course away from the cruiser. The cruiser opened fire at a range of 18,000 yards and noticed that the enemy destroyer that had been heading for us on the opposite was turning away. No doubt she knew that we were at the mercy of the cruiser as we were outgunned and out-ranged.

    We zigzagged as the salvos fell – we had a poor opinion of the Jap gunners as their salvos of 6” shells were falling wide, sometimes 300 yards or more off target. However, gradually they came nearer and nearer and shrapnel was now hitting us causing many men to be killed or wounded. I personally was hit with 3 pieces of shrapnel in the leg, but not seriously wounded. After about the 9th salvo we were told to abandon ship, so all who were able to jumped overboard. Very soon afterwards the cordite locker at the rear of the gun and amidships was hit. The last sight I had of the Li Wo as she started on her last voyage to the bottom of the ocean was something I shall never forget – her ensigns were still flying and the Captain was standing on the bridge, and, although, listing to port, she was still under way. Then, suddenly, she disappeared – the Li Wo was no more. For this action, Lt Wilkinson was awarded the V.C. (Posth).

    HMS Li Wo had fought her last action and was now at rest on the bottom of the ocean. The few remaining men who had escaped were at the mercy of the sea – there was no land in sight. Eventually in the distance a lifeboat was sighted, bobbing up and down in the swell. L. S. Thompson and myself struck out towards it, but just as we were approaching it, we noticed a ship from the convoy heading towards us. We swam away as fast as possible and on glancing back saw the ship ram the lifeboat. Around this area there were about 30 men struggling for their lives, little realising that the worst part was yet to come – the Japs were not content to leave us to our fate, but circled around and opened up a murderous attack with machine guns, hand grenades, coal and wood. It was just plain cold blooded murder. Amidst the hell, men could be heard crying out for mercy, but still the Japs continued their ‘sport’. I lay on my back with arms outstretched and luckily no more shots came in my direction.

    After what seemed like an eternity the ship moved off, leaving the ones that had cheated death again, once more, to their fate. Those that were able to, made toward the lifeboat, which was by now about half submerged – there were only 8 survivors. Lt Stanton had a bullet hole through the back of his head, another officer was wounded in the stomach and had part of his hand shot away, P. G. Huntley had his foot blown off and was in very bad condition. We helped each other into the lifeboat which was now submerged to the gunwhale, and tried to make the best of a bad situation. There were no oars, food or medical supplies, all we could do was let the boat drift. As e drifted we saw the ship that we had crippled – it was also drifting, and still on fire. We spent a very cold night, and as dawn broke, one of the officers whom I had been holding in my arms, died from his severe shrapnel wounds. I informed Lt. Stanton who helped me take off his lifebelt and put him over the side where he slowly sank below the surface.

    After about 2 days, we eventually saw our first sign of land on the horizon, about 16 miles away. We were all in rather bad shape, but ignoring the sharks which have been swimming around us continuously and yet never attacked us once, we attempted to tow the boat toward the shore, but to no avail. A Jap destroyed came and had a sniff at us and we wondered if our earlier experiences would be repeated. However, they only gave us a cursory glance and sailed away, leaving us to our fate, but we were not going to be beaten.

    The boat was now getting extremely waterlogged and we expected her to go down at any time. Lt. Stanton decided to try to get to the Jap ship which was now 2 miles away, and so, along with the gunnery officer they started to swim, but the tides were against them and they were lucky enough to be picked up during the night. The almost totally submerged boat now contained myself, L. S. Wilden, L. S. Spencer, P. O. Huntley, a Malay called Tel, and an unknown soldier. P.O. Huntley died as a result of his wounds and the soldier was lost overboard. L. S. Spencer set off to swim ashore but was unsuccessful and was picked up extremely exhausted.

    Only 3 of us were now left, myself, L. S. Wilden and the Malayan, so we decided to let the boat drift to wherever the tide would take her. As luck would have it, another partly submerged boat drifted toward us, just before dark. We swam towards it and found it was a Naval Whaler, split down the centre, but preferable because it had oars and sail. We boarded her, rigged her for sailing, and had just picked out a sight of land to sail for when we heard yells and shouts. They came from 2 rafts we hadn’t previously seen – on one raft there were 3 men, on the other 4 men. They were also survivors from the Li Wo, and we were glad to find that they had a tin of biscuits with them. I could only let a few on board the whaler and then we took the rafts in tow. We were helped by the strong wind which sprang up, but the boat was submerged up to the gunwhale so we were actually sitting in water all the time.

    During the night a Jap patrol boat approached and shone her searchlight on us, but because we had dropped over the lee side they did not detect us.

    My aim was to try to reach the land ahead which I knew to be Sumatra, but the tides were so strong that we could only drift with them. At about 2am we sighted land straight ahead so I put 6 men on the oars and we started rowing for our lives. We were still rowing 4 hours later but I knew we were getting nearer to the shore. We went ashore several hours later on Banka Island, along with a Jap invasion party who seemed to ignore us until later when we were taken prisoner – but that’s another story!
     
  20. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    A further update which debunks some previous info on the story:


    As an Aside, I think what we have down the bottom is an acknowledgement of this gentlemans involvement, and as awards for ww2 had closed off, he was unable to be awarded the MID as his other surving shipmates were.

    The Sinking of HMS 'Li-Wo'
    Introduction
    On Wednesday 6th March 2002 I visited my niece in Cardiff. Quite casually, she handed me an A4 brown envelope saying that her grandfather (and my father) had given it to her a few years before he died. Inside, I found a 24 page photocopied letter, penned by my father, to the Imperial War Museum about the sinking of HMS 'Li Wo'.
    I have reproduced the letter below exactly as it was written.
    Moyra Jones 7th March 2002
    The Director
    Imperial War Museum
    Lambeth Rd
    London S.E.1
    Sunday 30/8/64

    Dear Sir,
    On the 14th August, this year, I visited London with my Daughter and Nephew, and took them to The Imperial War Museum.
    It was a surprise, and a proud moment, and a sad one, when I saw the scale Model of H.M.S. "Li-Woo" (sic), as I am one of the few survivors of the short but epic action, North of the Banka Straits, on Sat 14th February 1942.
    I feel that I must write to you, correcting much of the information about the Ship and the action that took place, between H.M.S "Li-Woo", and a Japanese convoy and Japanese Naval Escorts.
    I commented to one of the Attendants on duty, that the facts were wrong, and was advised by him, to see the Records in the Records Department, of which I did.
    Which of course, after seeing them, decided to write to you, hoping most sincerely, that you will investigate most fully, the facts I intend to give.
    Before I give any account, I wish to make it perfectly clear, that I seek no glory, I seek no financial gain, and I seek no publicity.
    My object and reason is purely and simply this.
    Ever since 5-30 P.M. Saturday 14th 1942. I have honoured and admired the memory of the Bravest Man I ever knew.
    Lt. Wilkinson V.C. R.N.
    This is the first time I have written to anyone about this action, as until that visit to the Imperial War Museum, I was always under the impression that the true real facts were fully known.
    I wonder how many of the gun's crew, who composed of "Prince of Wales", and "Repulse" survivors were interviewed? Or interrogated over this action? I also wish to add, that I was never asked for an account of the action after the war had ended, and the reason why I was unable to give an account during my 3 1/2 years as a Japanese P.O.W. was simply this:-
    When I was first taken P.O.W. the survivors of the "Li-Woo" were in a tempory P.O.W. Camp at Muntok, in Banka Island, with Army, Navy, R.A.F. personel, and with many civilians, of which there were many children.
    I was only at that Camp, which had no real British Military Administration for a week at the most, when I escaped with Lt. Col. Daly of Dal Force Malaya, Lt. Eno, Army, Sgt. Ken Wharton, Australian Army, only to be eventually betrayed by Natives, and handed over to the Japanese, when we landed at Java.
    During my captivity, the Japs never knew that we were recaptured P.O.W.s.
    I deemed that discretion was the better of Valour.
    I could not mention the "Li-Woo" action North of the Banka Straits, without giving myself away that I was an escaped P.O.W.
    The punishment was death.
    Also we were mixed with many Dutch, and Dutch Eurasians, many of the Eurasians were Pro-Jap, and would give away their own Mother.
    Here now is the facts as I know them, nothing added, nothing exaggerated.
    After being sunk on the "Prince of Wales" I was sent up into Malaya with:-
    C.P.O. Rogers "Repulse"
    Ldg/Smn Adly(sic) "Repulse"
    Ldg/Smn Bennett "Repulse"
    Ldg Smn Countant "Prince of Wales".
    I need not bother you about details, as it is non revelant to the "Li-Woo", except this.
    After returning to Singapore from Malaya, we were detailed to patrol the Jahore Straits in small boats. We operated from a small village opposite Paula Ubin Island.
    We were recalled from there to the Orange Hotel, Thursday afternoon 12th Feb 1942.
    We were then detailed to go aboard the "Li-Woo" to sail for Java.
    On arrival aboard, we were detailed as Guns Crew, being that the others were Torpedo ratings, and C.P.O Rogers, a Rangetaker, I was appointed Gun Layer.
    My Guns crew consisted of C.P.O Rogers, Ldg/Smn Adley, Bennett Countant, and two stoker ratings who were with us in the Jahore Straits Patrol.
    We left Singapore Harbour late Thursday night Feb 12th 1942 only to drop anchor outside the Harbour.
    On Friday 13th Feb 1942 we sailed for Java with the "Fu Woo" a sister ship. We were attacked many times y aircraft, and came through. On Sat 14th Feb 1942 we dropped anchor close inshore, we were informed that we were anchoring for a while, trusting to luck that we would not be spotted by enemy aircraft, as the Captain intended to go through the 80 miles of the Banka Straits in darkness.
    We were spotted by a Jap seaplane just had we got under way again.
    Between 4-30. 5-0 P.M we sighted smoke on the horizon off the Port Bow. It was a convoy.
    Lt Wilkingson (sic) asked if anyone could recognise if any of the warships were Jap.
    Informed him that I had served two years on the China Station, 1936-1938 and was familiar with Jap warships.
    He told me to come to the bridge, and then handed me his telescope.
    I saw one Jap light cruiser and two Jap destroyers, without looking for any more, I told him they were Japanese.
    He then asked me if I had any doubt, I told him "none whatever".
    The convoy was about 10 mile away, and I was told to report back to the gun.
    Captain Wilkingson's words to us was this:-
    "A Jap convoy is ahead, I am going to attack it, we will take as many of those Jap Bastards, as possible, with us.
    Those words I will never forget, they have always been fixed clearly in my mind.
    I returned to the gun, AND I CHECKED THE AMMUNITION, AND REPORTED IT FROM THE GUN, TO CAPTAIN WILKINGSON.
    My report to him was this.
    SIX SEM-ARMOUR PIERCING SHELLS.
    FOUR GRAZE FUSE SHELLS.
    THREE A.A. SHELLS.
    He replied :- "Gunlayer, is that all the ammunition you have"?
    I answered :- "Yes Sir", thirteen shells in all, plus three practice shell."
    How or why 13 practice shells came into it, I don't know, all I can assume is this.
    Possibly, it was because for most of the crew, it was their first taste of action, and I know the effect it has on many.
    Admitted there was thrteen shells, but they were 6. S.A.P. 4 GRAZE FUSE and 3. A.A.
    I do not class a practice shell as shell for action.
    Do you think that I can ever forget that moment.
    The hopelessness of knowing that I had only six shells that could do any damage, and realising that two shells would probably be wasted before we found the range and target.
    The "Li Woo's" Gunnery Officer joined us, Captain Wilkinson's name is the only one I remember.
    The Gunnery Officer was Ginger headed, I believe he was a New Zealander.
    I had a hurried conference with him, and said to him :-
    "Look Sir, I have only six shells that can do any damage, four that can do harm if we fire at the super structure as anti personel shells, then our last hope is to set the A.A. shells at Fuse 2 and hope for the best."
    I also pointed out, that unless we were lucky with our first shot, as all we had was "Gunlayers Control", "Gunlayers Firing", with no range Finder and no Inclanometre to help, we might waste two shells at least, before we were on target, should we use the practice shells as our ranging shots?"
    He paused for a moment, then replied: "it might be a good idea, but then again it might not, as if we can get in close enough, and we find our target, it is a wasted effort." I received the order to load with S.A.P.
    Approx. half an hour later we engaged the enemy.
    Our selected target was a transport of between four to five thousand tons.
    At an estimated range of four thousand yards, deflection six left, we opened fire.
    The first shell was over target.
    I ordered, "Fixed Sight, Rapid Salvos." I know that at least three of our remaining five S.A.P. shells, were bang on target, as fire broke out on her immediately.
    Soon she was blazing furiously. In less than two minutes our ammunition was expended.
    Captain Wilkinson selected another target, the ship nearest to him, about 800 tons and deliberately rammed and sank it.
    We were now among the Jap convoy, helpless, drifting, and no ammo.
    I will never forget another hero of this action, a man unknown, unsung, unpraised.
    An R.A.F. sargeant who manned the Vickers Lewis Gun, from the time the ship left Singapore, to when the "Li Woo" sank.
    It was his deadly accurate fire, that wipe (sic) out the four man gun's crew aboard the Jap transport we rammed.
    The enemy's gun was about 30 to 40 M.Metre. It was this gun that caused our first casualties.
    I myself was wounded in the chest. The R.A.F. Sargent then swept the bridge and decks with his deadly fire, killing many.
    He then opened up on another transport about 200 yards away.
    The Jap convoy cleared away from us, and we came under fire from the Jap warships.
    It was a fearful experience as it took the Japs five to ten minutes to find our range, their gunnery was lousy, and the noise of their shells whistling overhead, always expecting the next one to land inboard, knowing that we had to just sit there and take it, and and the helplessness of not being able to do anything about it.
    When they eventually found our range, it was all over.
    The "Li-Woo" listed to Starboard and sank stern first.
    When we survivors were swimming in the water, the Japs transports closed in. I myself was on one of two rafts which for safety we had tied together. The transports came towards us, and picked up their own survivors, we were then under the impression when they came slowly at us that they were going to pick us up as well.
    But we were in for a shock. They came right at us and deliberately rammed us but we realise just before, what their intentions were, and hastily dived into the sea.
    With my own eyes, and there are times when the memory of it is most vivid, I saw that transport go among a group of survivors, and mamouver amongst them with churning screws, killing at least a dozen.
    It was only the sudden darkness that saved us.
    We succeeded in regaining the rafts, and all night we could see the transport we set on fire blazing fiercely.
    The following afternoon, Sunday 15th Feb we were picked up by other survivors who were in a boat, with a sail and oars.
    It was badly holed, and the gunwales was four inches above the water.
    It was only its buoyancy tanks keeping it afloat.
    Just after sunrise on Monday 16th Feb, 1942, we were washed ashore.
    My shipmate C.P.O Rogers was in the sailing boat.
    We seemed to separate in groups, just aimlessly walking around the Island, there were four of us in the group I was in, C.P.O Rogers was one of them.
    Late that afternoon we ran into a Jap patrol and was taken prisioner.
    A few days later I met L/Smn Adley, and Bennett, they also had run into a Jap patrol, but were not so fortunate as we were.
    The Jap patrol opened fire on them, L/Smn Adley was shot in the arm, and Ldg/ Smn Bennett was bayonetted.
    That is my story, nothing added, nothing exaggerated.
    My one intention, and the only reason why I have written this down, is that the facts should be known, in fact must be known to all, the courage and bravery, and the great achievement accomplished by Lt. Wilkingson V.C. of H.M.S Li-Woo, on Saturday 14th February 1942, against tremendous odds.
    I was on the gun deck, during the short journey from Singapore to the end of the "Li-Woo".
    I was the Gunlayer. I will state most emphatically, that to the best of my knowledge, there was no member of the "Li-Woo s" original crew, a member of that gun's crew.
    How can a practise shell cause a transport vessel to burst into flames?
    Sunday afternoon we could see her, an abandoned, floating, blackened wreck, smoking slightly.
    Do you think it possible?
    I will willingly travel to London and undergo any interrogation you wish to put me through. But please, I beg of you, please see that "Lt. Wilkingson V.C. gets the credit that is due to him.
    Is this too much to ask, for a man who made the Supreme Sacrifice, and who won the Highest Award that his Country could bestow upon him?
    It was my intention after seeing the model of the "Li-Woo" to get in touch with C.P.O. Rogers. I believe that he resides at Bristol, but for the time being, I have decided against it, so that you can have the opportunity to check my story, without any collusion between C.P.O. Rogers or any one else, with me.
    I swear to you on oath, that since the war ended, I have not seen or communicated with any of the "Li-Woo" survivors.
    There is a lot more details, small ones, that I can give you, but, my aim is, as I have stated previously, Let "Lt Wilkingson V.C. have the just credit due to him, and the facts put right.
    Yours sincerely,
    T.H. Parsons
    E/34 Room
    Chace Guildhouse
    London Rd
    Coventry.
    Late Leading Seaman T.H.PARSONS
    D/JX.143539
    P.S AFTER READING MY STORY WOULD YOU PLEASE PASS ON TO NAVAL RECORDS.
    Follow up
    HOUSE OF COMMONS
    LONDON SWLA 0AA
    01-219 4166
    From:
    The Rt Hon. James Callaghan, MP. 8th January 1986

    Dear Mr Parsons,
    Thank you for your letter with the account of your service in the Far East during the last war. First, allow me to congratulate you on the determination and courage you showed throughout the period.
    I will readily take up the matter up with the Ministry of Defence in order to secure a statement from the Admiralty that you took part in the "Li-Wo" action but will not do so until you have been to see me in Cardiff on 18th January, at the offices of the GMBATU, 17 Newport Road, between 10.00 and 11.00 a.m.
    I shall look forward to seeing you then, when we can discuss any additional points that need to be put forward.
    Yours sincerely,
    (Signed Jim Callaghan)

    This is to certify
    that
    LEADING SEAMAN THOMAS HENRY PARSONS D/JX 143539
    On the 14th February 1942
    took part in the action when his Majesty's Patrol Ship
    LI-WO whilst on patrol duty off Singapore, gallantly
    engaged the superior forces of the enemy, inflicting
    significant damage on a convoy of troopships before being
    sunk by a Japanese cruiser. The heroism and self sacrifice
    of the many who died and the few who survived were in the
    highest traditions of the Royal Navy.

    George Younger
    20th February 1986 SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE
     

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