Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 897 February 13, 1942

At 3 AM in the Gulf of Taranto, Italy, Italian torpedo boat Circe spots British sub HMS Tempest on the surface and attacks. HMS Tempest dives but suffers repeated damage from multiple depth charges, finally surfacing at 9 AM due to chlorine gas leaking from a cracked battery. Tempest’s crew abandons ship but 39 men are lost (24 rescued and taken prisoner). Tempest sinks as Circe is preparing a tow.

Singapore. While the bombardment of the city continues, Japanese make small gains in the Western perimeter and dislodge British 55th Brigade (18th Division) from the last reservoir to deprive the city of water. General Percival confers with his senior Generals (Bennett, Heath and Key) who all recommend surrender. Percival loses their respect when he refuses adding “I have my honour to consider”. General Heath is openly contemptuous in reply “You need not bother about your honour. You lost that a long time ago up in the North (Malaya)”. Percival gives in and wires ABDA commander General Wavell for permission to surrender. British Admiral Spooner orders the final evacuation of Navy and merchant ships to Batavia (now Jakarta) on the island of Java, with estimated space for 3000 key military and civilian personnel. At 6.30 PM, a convoy of 44 ships leaves Singapore, including SS Vyner Brooke with wounded and 64 Australian nurses of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital. In their path lies a large flotilla of Japanese submarines and warships (1 aircraft carrier, 8 cruisers, 12 destroyers, 1 frigate, 5 minesweepers and 3 submarine chasers) preparing for the invasion of Palembang on Sumatra, Dutch East Indies. Japanese bombers (shore-based and from carrier Ryujo) sink freighter SS Subador, tankers Manvantara & Merula and numerous other ships.

Dutch Borneo. Japanese Land and Sea Drive Units converge on the capital Bandjarmasin, which is taken unopposed as 500 Dutch troops have orders to take to the jungle to fight a guerilla war. Japanese lose only 9 killed to Dutch fire but have 80% of their troops infected with malaria after the march through the jungle

Bataan. Battle of the Points. Despite a fierce counterattack yesterday by the remaining 200 Japanese troops, US/Filipino forces clear the last Japanese beachhead in Southern Bataan at Anyasan and Silaiim Points. 80 Japanese escape North heading to their own lines but are detected and annihilated 4 days later. 2 Japanese infantry battalions have been wiped out since the first landings behind US lines on January 23 (1800 killed). Battle of the Pockets. Big Pocket is finally eliminated as 500 Japanese troops break out North to return to their own lines, leaving behind 450 dead.

Java, Dutch East Indies. At 9 PM in the Java Sea 80 miles Northwest of Batavia, Japanese submarine I-55 sinks British ammunition ship Derrymore (9 killed, 236 cling to wreckage overnight and are rescued at 4PM next day by Australian minesweeper HMAS Ballarat or reach a nearby island and picked up 3 days later by Dutch minesweeper Cheribon). On board is injured Australian RAF pilot John Gorton who will go on to be Prime Minister of Australia from 1968-1971.


  1. according to a survivor of the Derrymore, you have some facts adrift. The Derrymore was torpedoed at 7pm, 19 died and there were no rafts, most of the rescued men, including the survivor clung onto pieces of the boats that would float.

  2. Thanks for the coment on RMS Derrymore. There are often conflicting reports on sinking of merchant ships, such as time (ships and submarines may have set their clocks for different time zones) and number ofsurvivors.

    In this case my sources are and the book "Across the Sea to War: Australian and New Zealand Troop Convoys Volume 1" Page 334 (htpp:// which both state that 9 RAAF personnel were lost or MIA.

  3. Also, I agree that the survivors clung to wreckage rather than liferafts so I have modified the text. Again, thanks for the thoughtful comments. Do you have a source for the survivor's story?