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Survivors Reports

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There were only two survivors from the 'Fort Longueuil'.  The two men, both Indians, survived 4 months on a life raft and then a further 18 months in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp.  They survived against incredible odds.

Below are transcripts of the statements made by Thakar Miah and Mohamed Aftab in January 1946.  I obtained copies of the originals from the Registry of Seamen and Shipping in Cardiff before the records were transferred to the PRO, London.

 

 

Statement made by Thakar Miah, Survivor Ex 'Fort Longueuil'

I am Thakar Miah and joined the 'FORT LONGUEUIL' at Barry on the 10th July 1943 as Fireman. The ship left Barry about seven or eight days after and called at Alexandria and Aden. About 9 days after leaving Aden the vessel was torpedoed and this occurred on Monday, 20th September 1943, at about 3p.m. I was due to go on watch at 4 p.m. on that day and was called by Mohamed Aftab just before 3 p.m. I woke Mofiz Ali, Fireman and Fazlur Rahman went to make tea. He had just left when the ship was torpedoed. I put on my lifejacket and went on deck and saw funnel sinking. I put one leg on the ship's railing and jumped into the sea. I sank and when I got to the surface, I saw one raft with Gunner, Mess Room Boy, Galley Boy, Donkeyman and one Fireman. They called to me and I managed to get to the raft. I then saw that the Donkeyman was Johur Ali and the Fireman Forman Ulla, but I do not know the names of the others on the raft. Mohamed Aftab got to the raft after me. I saw two other rafts. On one raft I saw Chief Mate, 2nd Mate, Carpenter, Apprentice and one Fireman, who I knew as Assab Ulla, but do not know the names of the others. On the other raft there were three people but owing to rain and dark I could not tell who they were. I also saw 4th Engineer sitting on a piece of wood. We called to him, but he could not get to us. The rafts were about 100 to 120 feet apart and we saw them until dark. Next morning I saw only one sail but could not see people. The sail was going away from us.

The ship sank very quickly and nobody went to boat deck. I did not see the Captain or any other members of the crew except those stated.

Three days after the ship sank the food and water finish. The Gunner then said keep the sail up and don't touch it. After about 25 or 26 days the rain came at night. I tasted the water and recovered some strength. I went to the other five with water first but they did not move. I then went to Mohamed Aftab and only one hand moved. I gave him some water and he became stronger and after time he stood up. I tried the five people again but they did not move. I do not know when they died. I was too weak to look at them until the rain came.

Next morning I threw the people into the sea.

Afterwards I catch fish and birds and we both eat them.

The raft drifted to land with a big jungle and next day between about 2 and 3 o'clock I saw a small boy (Malay) and I called to him for food. He ran away and returned with many people. They take us to their house and gave us some rice. About 5 or 6 o'clock the same day the Malays give us to the Japanese. They take us to Japanese Soldier Camp. I asked the Malays what date it was but they could not tell. Later I asked the Japanese and they said 1st February. I do not know the name of the place we landed. I asked the Japanese but they said they would kill me if I asked any more questions. After about 8 days the Japanese take us by motor boat 9 or 10 hours to another place (Chinabang). Here we were questioned by Japanese Magistrate and he said as you two stay in London you are spies. We stayed here 20 or 25 days and were then taken to Kotarajar, Sumatra. After two months in gaol we were taken to Bogitingi and afterwards to gaol. I could not get no news of any other crew of the ship whilst in Japanese hands.

I am sure that the vessel sank on Monday 20th September, 1943 at about 3 p.m. The ship was hit in the middle by the bridge. The Gunner told me it was 20th September but they did not tell me their names. I don not know the names of the Captain, Officers or Engineers, but only knew a few of the British Indians.

Signed by Thakar Miah

In the Presence of R H Johnson 22/1/46

 

Statement made by Mohamed Aftab, Survivor, Ex 'Fort Longueuil'

I am Mohamed Aftab, Greaser of the 'Fort Longueuil' and sailed in the ship from Barry about 16th July 1943. The ship was torpedoed at 3 p.m. on Monday 20th September 1943. I was on duty in the engine room and the 3rd engineer asked me to get him a cup of tea from the mess-room. I had just reached the mess-room when the ship was torpedoed. I jumped into the sea and about half an hour afterwards I saw a raft with one gunner, one galley boy , one mess-room boy, one donkeyman, Johid Ali and Forman Ullah, Fireman. I do not know the names of the first three and I managed to get on the raft with them and Thakar Miah also got on the raft about the same time.

About 26 days after, the gunner, galley boy, mess-room boy, donkeyman and fireman died. The raft drifted to an Island where there was a big jungle but the Japanese would not tell me the name of the place. They stated that it was the 1st February 1944. After eight days the Japanese take us by motor boat to another place about 12 hours away and eventually we were taken to Sumatra.

Just after the ship was torpedoed and I was on the raft, I saw another raft with four or five people on it, chief mate, 2nd mate, carpenter, apprentice and one fireman, Assab Ullah. The rafts were about one hundred feet apart and remained so until night, but the next morning I could not see the raft.

The torpedo hit the ship in the middle and the vessel sunk in about one minute. I saw the 4th engineer and another man clinging to wood but far away and although we called to them they could not get to the raft owing to the bad weather. Next morning we could not see them. I did not see any other members of the crew after the ship sank.

The ship left Aden for Australia and nine days after leaving Aden the vessel was sunk.

After landing on the island from the raft the Malays carried me to their house and the Japanese come about 5 or 6 at night and take us away. The Japanese then tell me it was the 1st February. I was very weak and cannot remember any more.

Signed by M D Aftab

In the Presence of R H Johnson 23/1/46

 

After the war, Thakar Miah and Mohamed Aftab were liberated by British troops and taken to Singapore.  From Singapore they were flown to Rangoon and then sailed to the U.K. in the Bibby Liner 'Derbyshire' as repatriated prisoners of war, in January 1946.

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