Loss of SS 'Pinna
Evacuation of Singapore Island
2nd February 1942
07.00 Vessel left berth at Pladjoe and proceeded outwards with pilot aboard.
12.13 Vessel grounded about 2 cables before reaching outer edge of bar. Pilot accepted responsibility for having given wrong order to helmsman, as his attention had been diverted by rescue work directed towards SS 'Katong', which had been bombed and sunk 1 mile away. Attempts made to re-float 'Pinna' at once, using engines ahead and astern. 50 tons of fuel cargo pumped over side to lighten and list vessel.
14.00 Attempts to re-float vessel abandoned owing to rapid fall of tide.
3rd February 1942
07.00 Vessel re-floated on rising tide. Pilot disembarked and vessel proceeded.
16.50 Position about 2½ miles south-west of Berhala Island: vessel attacked by formation of 6 Japanese high-level bombers flying at about 5000 feet. Three bombs dropped, the first and third being near misses, the second striking port side of forecastle head, killing 16 Chinese outright and wounding several others, four of whom died within a few hours. Port anchor blown over side, windlass rendered useless, and the whole of the forecastle gutted by fire. Distress message sent out on emergency aerial as main aerial had carried away in the explosions. All available European staff directed efforts towards putting out fire, remarkably strong pressure being given and maintained by engine-room throughout. Wounded carried to after accommodation and handed over to two European staff members detailed for the task.
19.30 Fire definitely under control: one of three Dutch naval vessels in vicinity came alongside and we asked permission to transfer seriously wounded. She replied that there was no doctor on board. As I was forward I did not hear all that passed between Captain Thomas and the Dutch naval vessel, but the latter withdrew and we proceeded at slow speed to enable us to complete putting out the fire.
4th February 1942
03.00 Last of fire out.
11.00 'Pinna' off Tandjong Oban in Rhic Strait and ordered to stop by Dutch Examination Service. Examination Officer boarded and said we would be unable to proceed except in convoy and gave orders to anchor. When told that there were no anchors available, we were told to proceed independently.
12.15 'Pinna' signalled by British naval patrol ship, who was advised we were damaged and had wounded on board and that we were bound for Pube Samboe as per orders received in Pladjoe. Naval vessel instructed us to proceed to a position south of St. John's Island and await a pilot for Singapore. 'Pinna' proceeded towards this position
13.15 'Pinna' attacked by formation of 5 Japanese dive-bombers: machine-gunned and bombed. As there was no defensive equipment aboard the vessel, no opposition could be offered. Two bombs struck vessel, the first immediately in front of the navigating bridge on the starboard side, exploding in No 2 gas tight hatch in which was stowed aviation spirit in 4 gallon containers, the second abreast of No 2 hatch on port side, blowing ship's side out. Vessel was immediately ablaze and as the front of the bridge was blown in and in flames and the engine-room telegraph rendered useless, the Master, 1st Officer, myself and the Chinese quartermaster dropped to the deck below, the ladder having been blown away. The Master and 1st Officer received burns to arms and upper bodies through being lightly clad. The quartermaster and myself were more fortunate in having on more clothing. Word was passed to the engine-room by messenger to stop the engines and when the position was obviously hopeless, to abandon ship. Fire made it impossible to get at the two forward boats and No 3 boat capsized. The remaining, No 4 boat was launched and starboard after raft got into the water. Wounded men were lowered into the boat. Several men received hand burns in working the boat and raft away. All remaining crew from previous day's bombing left vessel safely, two men who had jumped over side being picked up. An explosion a few minutes after we had cast off was said by the engineers to be the boilers.
14.30 Boat and raft picked up by British naval patrol vessel. First-aid rendered and we were then transferred to two launches which had put out and taken to Changi General Hospital for further medical attention. The Master, 1st Officer and several Chinese were sent to Singapore General Hospital, the remainder of us carried on to Singapore Marine Hostel, where accommodation had been secured, being met there by Captain J.M. Davidson, Marine Superintendent and Mr. Armstrong, Engineer Superintendent.
5th February 1942
Staff members attended Shell House and received $100 Straits Currency advance against wages for purchase of immediate necessities. Chinese survivors also attended office and had their claims attended to.
6th February 1942
Relatives of dead Chinese at Shell House and received compensation on their behalf.
7th February 1942
The Master and 1st Officer being detained in hospital, I was asked by the Naval Control Service to attend and submit a report on the loss of the 'Pinna', which I did. The Senior Officer asked me why the 'Pinna' had not turned back after the first bombing, as she had been twice ordered to do so. If such was the case, no such orders were received according to the Radio Officer, who was on watch throughout.
8th February 1942
A.T. Greene, 3rd Engineer, entered hospital with tonsillitis. S. Bryant, Master
ex- Trocas, also entered hospital as his burns had worsened.
9th February 1942
Staff survivors of 'Pinna' were asked by Captain Davidson to volunteer their services in case the evacuation of shore staff from Singapore became necessary, as native crews of small craft intended for use in such an emergency had deserted. Those who volunteered their services were:-
J.A. Bruce - 1st Engineer
J.C Wood - 2nd Officer
F.N. Green - 2nd Engineer
A.M. Robertson - 3rd Officer
A.Wilson - 4th Engineer
R.W. Armstrong - Apprentice
T. Simkins - Radio Officer
The above 7 men boarded small craft the same day and commenced preparations.
The remaining European survivors, who were unable to give their services through being in hospital were:
W.P. Thomas - Master
R. Watt - 1st Officer
A.T. Green - 3rd Engineer
S. Bryant - Supernumerary - Master ex-Trocas