The Japanese 'hell ship' Rakuyo Maru

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by ritsonvaljos, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Has anyone researched the Japanese 'hell ships' of WW2 and the Rakuyo Maru in particular, please?

    I understand that in September 1944 the Rakuyo Maru and the Kachidoki Maru were carrying over 2,000 Allied POWs from Singapore making for Japan when they were torpedoed by American submarines who were unaware that Allied servicemen were on board.

    The Rakuyo Maru was torpedoed by the USS Sealion on 12 September 1944. As a result 1159 POWs lost their lives. This was a significant loss of life by any reckoning. .

    This is a link to a 'Roll of Honour' website for the Allied servicemen lost in this incident:

    I wondered if anyone had come across any official report of the sinking and could shed a little more light on it please?

    The request is connected to researching two soldiers who went down with the Rakuyo Maru .

    These two men were brothers from Whitehaven, Cumberland. I understand from relatives their families did not learn of their fate until well after the end of the war. Partly as a result of the late confirmation that these two men had died in the war they were not included in the WW2 'Book of Remembrance'.

    These are the CWGC citations of the two soldiers I am researching in connection with this vessel:

    ( 1 ) Lance Serjeant John James RUDD

    Rank: Lance Serjeant
    Service No: 812509
    Date of Death: 12/09/1944
    Age: 33
    Regiment/Service: Royal Artillery, 88 Field Regt.
    Panel Reference: Column 7.

    Additional Information:
    Husband of I. A. Rudd, of Mirehouse, Whitehaven, Cumberland.

    ( 2 ) Gunner Jacob RUDD

    Name: RUDD, JACOB
    Rank: Gunner
    Service No: 966543
    Date of Death: 12/09/1944
    Age: 27
    Regiment/Service: Royal Artillery, 88 Field Regt.
    Panel Reference: Column 29.

    Additional Information:
    Husband of Elizabeth C. Rudd, of Mirehouse, Whitehaven. Cumberland.


    * In honour of those who gave their lives * .

    Thanks in advance to anyone who can assist.
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    There are several threads on the forum about Rakuyo Maru have you read through them ?
    There might be some relevent info in one or two of them.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    There are forum members who can give far more detailed information on this subject, but at the National Archives there are several file references in relation to the Rakuyo Maru. From the WO361 series alone, which deals with the missing and in some cases first hand witness reports:
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  5. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Thanks for the links.

    Sometimes it is not easy to find a particular topic on these forums.
  6. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    There are fourteen files available free online at Australian Archives. Do a basic search for "Rakuyo Maru" without dates and filter the returns by "digitised items."
  7. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    Regarding the two brothers, they had both previously been on the Burma / Siam Railroad.
    John James just has OVL (overland train) 10/42 written against his name.
    Jacob has 18/10/42 OVL written against his name.
    I believe this was the second trainload of the "Sime Road Party"

    ritsonvaljos likes this.
  8. noman

    noman Member

  9. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    RAKUYO MARU and KACHIDOKI MARU (September 11\13, 1944)
    On September 4th, 2,218 Australian, British and American prisoners of war, who had survived the building of the Death Railway, were marched the three miles from the Valley Road camp in Singapore to the docks to board the two twenty-three year old passenger/cargo ships Rakuyo Maru (9,500 tons) and the Kachidoki Maru(10,500 tons). The Kachidoki Maru was the ex US ship President Harrison which had ran aground at Sha Wai Shan in China and was captured and salvaged by the Japanese. Both vessels were bound for Formosa. In the South China Sea, the twelve ship convoy, including three transports, two tankers and four escorting destroyers, was attacked by three American submarines, the Growler, Sealion and the Pampanito. The Rakuyo and Kachidoki were both sunk by torpedoes 300 miles west of Cape Bojeador, Luzon. A total of 1,144 British, and Australian P.O.W.s lost their lives. Among those lost were thirty-three men from HMAS Perth. All told there were 1,074 survivors, 141 were picked up by the three submarines. The USS Queenfish and USS Barb arrived later and in heavy seas rescued another thirty-two before heading for Saipan. The Japanese destroyers rescued 520 British prisoners from the Kachidoki (488 P.O.W.s and crew had died) and 277 British and Australians from the Rakuyo, to again become Prisoners of War.
    ritsonvaljos likes this.
  10. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    Thought I had seen this name before - Alistair Urquart was on the Rakuyo Maru and describes his incredible escape in his book the forgotten highlander.
  11. Pammy

    Pammy Member

    I just wondered if anyone has done further research on this atrocity that left around 1,000 men to the ravages of the sea and elements with no real hope of being rescued , as it says in the book "Return from the River Kwai " by Clay and Joan Blair. This book covers the sinking and aftermath quite extensively , as told by the survivors.
    My uncle , Samuel Edward Brettell died in some way in this incident and I have been researching it on and off for some time now , ever since I found out he was a medical orderly on. The Burma - Thailand
    If you read the above named book you will find that there were two sets of lifeboats that were acquired when the Japanese soldiers were picked up and they were left behind. I cannot find very much on the fate of the one group of łlifeboats ,led by brigadier Arthur Varley . -- except one or two survivors - reporting they heard prolonged gunfire in the direction of them and one of the Japanese destroyers close by. -
    I'm not even sure if the whole incident was .pursued In the Japanese war crimes trials.

    If anyone has any info on all or any of this please post as I have more things to say about it and ask and discuss. --- Pam
    CL1 likes this.
  12. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forum.

    My uncle died on the Hofuku Maru on 21st September,1944 so have taken an interest in POWs lost whilst being transported by sea, but I have not done further research on the Rakuyo Maru as such.

    The UK Judge Advocate General opened a file on the Rakuyo Maru and obtained one affidavit. "JT33" is one of the last JT files opened, "JT" being short for "Japanese Transport." See the attached card. I have not seen the affidavit. There are very few JAG investigation files relating to the Far East at the UK National Archives: there are far more relating to European theatre of war investigations. Other shipping case materials not in a "JT" file ended up in file "J/29" ( "J" for Japanese ).

    The Australian authorities and JAG took the lead in investigating the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru. There were liaison meetings between the various Judge Advocate General staffs: UK, US, Australian.The United States National Archives has a file on the ship, which the authors of the excellent book you refer to may have seen.

    Many of the articles written about all aspects of the Rakuyo Maru which appeared in Australian Newspapers in about 1944 to 1949 have been read and corrected by volunteers on Trove, the Australian Government digitised newspapers website. A number of survivors from HMAS Perth were on board the Rakuyo Maru. Worth a look.

    Survivors from the Rakuyo Maru provided evidence about the Burma/Thailand railway to the Australian (second) Webb commission, looking into war crimes.

    There was no specific war crimes prosecution involving the ship taken by either UK or Australian authorities. The Americans brought proceedings against leading Japanese in a minor war crimes trial involving evidence on all matters concerning the atrocious conditions under which POWs were transported by sea. The Rakuyo Maru may have been referred to in the proceedings, but I have not seen the transcript.

    As I posted in 2014 there are a number of digitised files ( readable online for free ) at the Australian National Archives. See, for example, file with barcode 527611, which includes statements.

    It is quite possible that the names of the Japanese escort vessels and their subsequent fate can be discovered. It is very likely that all were sunk before the war ended.

  13. Pammy

    Pammy Member

    Thank you for replying so quickly and for all that information. I am sorry to hear that your uncle died on one of these awful ships too. I have started to look at those files but I have got a lot going on at the moment , so may take me a while. I have already found my uncle mentioned in a couple of places with a description of him given by a survivor. ! Another result .
    As regards the escorts of the convoy I managed to find some of their details on POW NETWORK RESEARCH JAPAN . ( if you would like to see any of that I could send it later) . I even found the name of the captain who allowed the survivors of the one lot of lifeboats to be picked up. Apparently dr. Rowley Richards ,( one of the survivors on the lifeboats )tried to trace him after the war ,to thank him , but to no avail ( not sure why that was ! ) . The other lot of 6 lifeboats with about 200 men on were never heard of again . These were the ones led by Brigadier Varley . ( he was the brigadier in charge of A force on the railway and often put his own life in jepordy to get things for or save his men ) . I can only find 2 other men mentioned anywhere out of 200 on those lifeboats . I find it strange , that it seems , none of the survivors have mentioned anyone else on those lost lifeboats , when at a certain point all the lifeboats were completely together until they got split up. ( I notice though , on the file I was reading on the Australian archives that some pages you can't view , why would that be ? )
    As I mentioned yesterday , the men on the lifeboats , who were rescued , saw smoke and heard prolonged gunfire in the direction of another Japanese escort which had turned towards the Varley group. This led them to believe they had been fired upon. !
    Sorry it's a bit detailed , but I am trying to find out why it seems to be a mystery about who else was on those lifeboats and what happened . ( I'm hoping my uncle wasn't but then I'm not sure which is worse , to be machine gunned or linger in the sea ! ---- and how awful nobody was specifically held accountable for any of this and brought to trial , when I'm sure they could have found out a lot of things from the Japanese records as I have done now. ) Do you think it was all kept low key. ?
    I realize that I might be trying to find out the impossible now , but just thought something could turn up somewhere ( even from relatives , friends , associates --being told stories /facts etc. etc. ) about the whole incident and if anyone saw my uncle .
    Regards Pamela . ( I'm sure I will be in touch again soon ) .
    Recce_Mitch and CL1 like this.
  14. Pammy

    Pammy Member

    Sorry , meant to say in the files , where I have found him mentioned , seems to be just thought to be on ship and then a description of him by somebody. Pam.
  15. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your post, and I am sorry that you cannot find further details about the fate of your uncle. The documents on Australian Archives can be downloaded as a pdf. and I appreciate it takes time to read through the 415 pages in document with barcode 527611.

    The Australian investigators summed up progress on the case in 1948 in one of the first documents to be found in document 527611 and I think it sums up the difficulties they faced, and indicates how far they had progressed. The file shows that they had interviewed or had statements from over 92 survivors, so had put in a lot of work. Unfortunately, they were inundated with cases.

    I have transcribed the report, which was prompted by letters from concerned relatives. The originals can be read on the file.





    2 Aust War Crimes Sec (SCAP) TOKYO

    In reply quote WC 3271

    31 Aug 48


    Army Headquarters

    1. Attached hereto as appendices are copies of the following letters:-

    Appendix “A” - Unsigned letter from sister of Sgm. Stanley RAFT.

    Appendix “B” - Letter from P. RAPTY, dated 4 Aug 48.

    Appendix “C” - Letter from Adjutant-General’s Department, GHQ, FEC, dated 25 Aug 48, to Mr. P. RAFTY.

    2. It is known that copies of Appendix “A” were addressed to the

    General MacArthur

    Chief of Staff, GHQ

    Commander in Chief, BCOF


    3. The copy addressed to BCOF was forwarded to this Section under cover
    of BRICOSAT memo dated 17 Dec 47, and the other copies were also referred to
    us by British and United States authorities about the same time.

    4. Action was initiated by this Section on 19 Dec 47 and the fate of the
    missing personnel has been under investigation in conjunction with the British Section’s Investigation into what was known as the “High Seas Case” ( specific atrocities - murder, ill-treatment etc.), and the “Omnibus Shipping Case” ( command responsibility for general conditions aboard P.W. transports).

    4.(sic =5.) The following is a summary in brief of the facts so far ellicited:-

    (a) The “RAKUYO MARU”, together with 5 other transports and oil
    tankers and an escort of 6 Naval vessels, sailed from SINGAPORE on 6 Sep 44. On board the “RAKUYO MARU” was a total of 1,319 prisoners of war, including 717 Australians. On approximately 9 Sep 44 this convoy was joined by an additional 3 transports and 2 escort vessels. It is presumed that these ships came from MANILA.

    (b) At approximately 0100 hrs on 12 Sept 44, the convoy was attacked by Allied submarines and some casualties inflicted. At approximately 0500 hrs on 12 Sep a second attack was launched and further casualties inflicted on the enemy. In this second attack the “RAKUYO MARU” was struck by two or three torpedoes, and, according to statements by prisoners of war, the Japanese crew immediately abandoned ship, denying prisoners of war the use of any lifeboats

    - 2 -

    (c) Capt. C.R.B. RICHARDS and a small party either remained on board the ship or returned to it when it became apparent that the ship was not in immediate danger of sinking. There they found one serviceable lifeboat which had been left by the Japanese, apparently owing to their inability to launch it due to rusty davit gear. This party provisioned the lifeboat, succeeded in launching it and loaded the boat to capacity from prisoners of war in the water.

    (d) At approximately 1900 hrs on 12 Sep some Japanese Naval Craft returned to the scene and proceeded to recue Japanese survivors. As these survivors were rescued they abandoned the lifeboats, which were then taken over by allied survivors, until a total of 11 had been salvaged and loaded to capacity. During the rescue operations the Japanese Naval Craft refused to rescue any Allied survivors from the “RAKUYO MARU.”

    (e) It would appear from the evidence that the 11 lifeboats endeavoured to keep together during the night 12/13 Sep, but a storm dispersed them into two groups of 8 and 3. Early in the morning of 13 Sep the group of 8 were sighted by what will hereinafter be referred to as the “RICHARDS group” to the North of the latter’s position. One lifeboat then left the group of 8 and joined the RICHARDS group, and both groups then proceeded in a Westerly direction. Towards the evening of the 13th, the RICHARDS group observed that the other group had put about and were still proceeding in an Easterly direction when last seen at dusk.

    (f) At approximately 0900 hrs on the morning of the 14th “sounds thought to be gunfire” were heard to the North of the RICHARDS group and a short while later 2 or 3 Japanese light Naval vessels appeared from that direction, and one of these ships rescued the members of the RICHARDS group, totalling 80 Australian and 56 British prisoners of war. On boarding the rescue vessel some of the survivors enquired about some of the other lifeboats, and allege that they were told:-

    (1) the other ship or ships knew about them, or

    (2) to forget all about them.

    (g) The rescue vessel then proceeded to HAINAN Island, where the prisoners of war were transferred to another vessel and later transported to Japan. The port of disembarkation and transfer has not yet been established, but it is believed the ship on which they travelled to Japan was the whaling ship “ATAMA MARU”, and that lead is now being followed.

    6. The master of the “RAKUYO MARU”, SHINOHARA Jineimon has been located and has been subject to two searching investigations, but little of value concerning the fate of missing prisoners of war was learned. He stated that on arrival at HAINAN Island he requested the Navy authorities to despatch other ships to assist in the search and rescue, and that two such ships were despatched during the night 13/14 Sep, but to date they have not been identified.

    7. It is known, however, that the original escort from SINGAPORE comprised the following vessels:-

    Destroyer SHIKANAMI - sunk 12 Sep 44

    Frigate MIKURA - sunk 28 Mar 45

    Frigate HIRADO - sunk 12 Sep 44

    Torpedo Boat HATO - sunk 16 Oct 44

    and two other ships as yet unidentified. The convoy Commodore was rear Admiral KAJIOKA, who was flying his flag in the HIRADO. Demands for rosters of these ships and the present whereabouts of any survivors have been placed with the Japanese government, but to date the information has not been received.

    - 3 -

    8. It is assumed that Sgm RAFT has long since been officially “presumed dead”. probably as of 15 Sep 44, and it would appear that the presumption has not been accepted by the members of his family.

    9. With every respect for the feelings of the missing servicemen’s relatives, it is suggested that all or some of the above facts, together with the following comments, be conveyed to them:-

    (a) the investigation is being conducted by Australian Army and future enquiries should be addressed thereto.

    (b) The position of the “RAKUYO MARU” when sunk was 18 o 42 ‘ North 114 o 30’ East - approximately mid-way between the southern coast of HAINAN island and the Northern coast of LUZON. Nearest land in either an easterly or westerly direction approximately 335 miles. There are no inhabited islands or islands capable of sustaining life between HAINAN island and the coast of LUZON.

    (c) There was very little food or water left in the lifeboats after the Japanese abandoned them. The only lifeboat known to have any provisions was that which Capt RICHARDS and party salvaged and provisioned after the Japanese abandoned ship. Other survivors state that the only food they had was flying fish which they caught in their hands, and drinking water which they caught in canvas during the storm.

    10. The investigation is proceeding, and any further relevant information will be notified in due course. It is anticipated, however, that a period of at least 3 months will elapse before there will be anything definite to report.

    (signed) D. Beresford Godlett Lt Col


    cc. 2 Aust War Crimes Sec SCAP

    Encl: 3.
  16. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the stars, gents.The Rakuyo Maru survivors who were brought to safety on US submarines reached Australia and were sent on three months leave, much to the distress of relatives anxious for news of their boys on the Burma/Thailand railway.

    To return to the lifeboat parties, I'm not coming to any conclusion but here are a few more bits gleaned from the web.Throughout mid-September 1944 a big storm was brewing in the area.
    The websites “POW Research Network” and “Combined Fleet”, aka “Nihon Kaigun”, provide some information about the Japanese escort vessels which were in the vicinity of the last position of the “Rakuyo Maru” ( links given below) at 18-32N, 114-29E. The information they both use probably comes from Japanese and US archives, but no file numbers are used.
    On the other hand, in “Return From The River Kwai” by Joan and Clay Blair ( first published by Raven books in association with Macdonald and Jane’s Publishers in Great Britain in 1979, first Futura Publications edition in 1980 ) file numbers are given.
    The authors give a good bibliography but their main sources were the interviews they carried out with survivors: sixty-four Australian, and thirty-seven British for the “Rakuyo Maru” alone.
    The Blairs also interviewed seventy-six survivors from six US submarines and twenty British survivors from the “Kachidoki Maru.” The book was written before the partial release of the records we now have. Hopefully there are lots more to come ( MOD and Kew: please note).
    The Blairs comment that “ Authorities in Britain and Australia halfheartedly investigated the atrocity of the Rakuyo Maru” ( page 313 pb edition), but I disagree.

    They was a lot wrong with the whole war crimes investigation and prosecution system but the vast majority of the people who painstakingly filled in index cards and pored over Q forms and typed up affidavits were professional to the core, as were the investigators in the field, ex-Shanghai policemen, servicemen, etc. It mattered to them, just as it mattered to the grave finders.

    The “authorities” took deliberate decisions, right or wrong. The fact that half the records haven’t been released yet doesn’t help, but it’s interesting trying to work it out, and a lot more interesting than Sudoku.

    The Blairs refer to the events on the morning of the 14th September. Men in four lifeboats heard machine-gun fire. Then three “corvettes” came into view. One of the “corvettes” stopped and picked up the occupants of the lifeboats.
    POW Network has an article about the Rakuyo Maru which suggests that three escorts previously attached to convoy “MANO-03” ( in Combined Fleet the convoy code is given as “MAMO-03” ) were despatched, probably on the morning of September 13, to the position of the attack on the Rakuyo Maru convoy. These vessels were a minesweeper named “W-21”, a “kaibokan” named “CD-10”, and a kaibokan named “CD-20”, according to the article.

    A Flower Class Corvette was about 200 feet long and about 1,000 tons. A Kaibokan weighed about the same, may be longer.

    The point is that “corvette “ is a good description of the Japanese escort vessels seen by men in lifeboats. CD-10 rescued the occupants of the four lifeboats. ( information from POW Network ).The captain was called Ichinose but “Combined Fleet” says CD-10 was sunk at 29-26N, 128-50E on 27 September 1944 and that eight crewmen were saved by CD-11, but that 148 others were lost.

    One of those rescued from the lifeboats on 14/9/44, Dr. Richards, wanted to honour the captain of CD-10 for having rescued him and POW Network says they advertised for him with no response.Perhaps the Japanese records may say that Ichinose died on 27th September 1944.

    Of the other vessels, which did not participate in the rescue, but which were seen by those rescued, CD-20 was sunk on 30 December 1944 at 06-30N, 120-18E, with 52 men lost. The minesweeper, W-21, survived the war ( information from “Combined Fleet” ), for which thanks.

    Returning to the active war crimes investigation in 1948, as transcribed above, Lt. Col. B. Godlett says that it was the master of the “Rakuyo Maru” who requested the Japanese Navy to despatch other ships.Obviously it made sense to a merchant navy man, Captain Shinohara, to rescue the cargo of slave labourers. Otherwise, what was the point of putting to sea in the first place? In the absence of witnesses, we will not know. I imagine the Blairs must have considered interviewing Japanese witnesses.

    The links are:
    Nihon Kaigun
    POW Research Network Japan
  17. Pammy

    Pammy Member

  18. Pammy

    Pammy Member

    Sorry bit late , but thanks for all that info . I nearly missed the second half yesterday as I was in a bit of a rush . As I mentioned , I did look on the POW Research Network and I saw a lot of that information on there and I saved it -- very informative .
    I wondered what you thought about my comments on , --only 3 names mentioned anywhere , of the 200 men on Varley's group of lifeboats , it seems , even after survivors had been
    Interviewed . -- remembering that ,at first , they were all grouped together , so I thought surely a few survivors would remember a few on the other life boats .? It seems like dr. Rowley Richards , or the others , didn't mention any one else to the Blairs .
    Can you tell me why some pages in the files are blanked out , as I'm not sure why ? -- also
    Do you know why half the records are not released yet ? And when they may be released ? And if you think they could shed some more light on this matter . ?

    Many thanks to you. From Pamela .
  19. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Your points about Australian Archives and their policy on making exceptions under their Archives Act 1983 are answered in the documents online in that they give reasons for wrapping the document behind sealed covers on the files. If the reasons are not clear you should email Australian Archives with a specific question. I find Australian Archives to be very helpful. At the present time they are moving their collections so may not be able to assist you immediately. For further information see:

    Access to records under the Archives Act - Fact sheet 10 – National Archives of Australia, Australian Government

    Documents relating to the Rakuyo Maru in the UK National Archives are these:

    WO 361/733
    War Office: Department of the Permanent Under Secretary of State: Casualties (L) Branch: Enquiries into Missing Personnel, 1939-45 War. | Casualties at sea, China Sea: prisoners of war aboard Japanese transport ship Rakuyo Maru, sunk ... | Casualties at sea, China Sea: prisoners of war aboard Japanese transport ship Rakuyo Maru, sunk by torpedo on 12 September 1944. | Held by: The National Archives
    Former Reference Dep: M 892
    WO 361/1743
    War Office: Department of the Permanent Under Secretary of State: Casualties (L) Branch: Enquiries into Missing Personnel, 1939-45 War. | Prisoners of war, Far East: sinking of Rakuyo Maru, prison ship, 12 September 1944 | Prisoners of war, Far East: sinking of Rakuyo Maru, prison ship, 12 September 1944. | Held by: The National Archives
    TS 26/869
    Treasury Solicitor and HM Procurator General: War Crimes Papers. WORLD WAR II, 1939-1945. Japanese War Crimes in Various Countries. | Thailand: report on sinking of RAKUYO MARU carrying British and Australian prisoners | Thailand: report on sinking of RAKUYO MARU carrying British and Australian prisoners. | Held by: The National Archives
    WO 361/734
    War Office: Department of the Permanent Under Secretary of State: Casualties (L) Branch: Enquiries into Missing Personnel, 1939-45 War. | Casualties at sea, China Sea: prisoners of war aboard Japanese transport ship Rakuyo Maru, sunk ... | Casualties at sea, China Sea: prisoners of war aboard Japanese transport ship Rakuyo Maru, sunk by torpedo on 12 September 1944. | Held by: The National Archives
    Former Reference Dep: Enclosure 1 to M 892
    ADM 1/30281
    Admiralty, and Ministry of Defence, Navy Department: Correspondence and Papers. FINAL SERIES: 1952-1964 (plus strays 1903-1951 and some papers from 1965-1974). Segregated papers: Honours and Awards relating to 1944. | Awards to 2 RAN ratings (1 posthumously) for services when Japanese prison ship Rakuyo Maru... | Awards to 2 RAN ratings (1 posthumously) for services when Japanese prison ship Rakuyo Maru was sunk Sept 22 1944. | With H&A 838/45 Held by: The National Archives
    Former Reference Dep: H&A 426/45
    CO 980/68
    Colonial Office: Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees Department. | Reports from British prisoner of war survivors of Japanese transport "Rakuyo Maru" sunk by United... | Reports from British prisoner of war survivors of Japanese transport "Rakuyo Maru" sunk by United States submarines. | Held by: The National Archives
    Former Reference Dep: 9420/15B
    WO 361/1760
    War Office: Department of the Permanent Under Secretary of State: Casualties (L) Branch: Enquiries into Missing Personnel, 1939-45 War. | Interrogation of POW survivors of the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru; Military personnel missing in ... | Interrogation of POW survivors of the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru; Military personnel missing in the Far East: inquiries regarding search; requests for information. | With photographs Held by: The National Archives
    WO 361/435
    War Office: Department of the Permanent Under Secretary of State: Casualties (L) Branch: Enquiries into Missing Personnel, 1939-45 War. | Malaya and Netherlands East Indies: interrogation of survivors from Rakuyo Maru (Japanese ship carrying prisoners ... | Malaya and Netherlands East Indies: interrogation of survivors from Rakuyo Maru (Japanese ship carrying prisoners of war, sunk by US submarines) regarding missing personnel. | Held by: The National Archives
    Former Reference Dep: M 667

    Many of those files may be helpful to you, but I do not know. The Blairs will not have seen the WO361 files before publication of their book because they were only released in April 2011. You will have to go to Kew. See the thread on "Kew Tips."

    For guidance on UK National Archives see:
    Website help - Website help and terms of use

    When I refer to half the records not being released it is a figure of speech. I have no idea, until they arrive in WO311 (where the JAG's files should end up, given that the very few released to date have been filed in that series.) WO311 is "still accruing." In other words, who knows how long ?

    You may find journalist Ian Cobain's recent book of interest: "The History Thieves". ( pub. by Portobello Books, 2016.) He says at page 142:
    " Most departments destroy more than ninety per cent of the paperwork they possess once it is thirty years old; in 2013, for example, Ministry of Defence archivists said they were destroying ninety-seven per cent of the department's old papers." ( author telephone interview )

    On "shedding light" you just have to read as much as is available: a lot of the Kew files have only been available to read for six years. You could be the first to research them in depth.

    On your question about one group of survivors remembering the others who did not survive I think it unlikely that they would have remembered anything happening outside of a very small radius, given the circumstances of trying to stay alive in the desperate circumstances which existed, trying to keep their heads above water.

    Lifeboats are substantial vessels compared with rafts. A helmsman of a lifeboat may have been visible, but others may well have not had the strength to sit up above the gunwales.

    I hope I have helped, and wish you luck with your further research.
    Recce_Mitch and ozzy16 like this.
  20. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Research papers for " Return from the River Kwai" are held by the University of Wyoming.

    We are treading in the footsteps of giants.

    See this link for information and list of files:

    Clay Blair Papers
    CL1 likes this.

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