USS West Point
Launched in 1939 as the 'America' this cruise ship was acquired by the US Navy in May 1941 for conversion into a troop carrier and was re-named 'West Point'
In November 1941 at Halifax, Nova Scotia she embarked 241 officers and 5202 men of the 55th Brigade, Hertfordshire & Bedfordshire Battalions. On 10th November 1941 'West Point' left port destined for India, accompanied by 5 other transports - 'Wakefield', 'Mount Vernon', 'Orizaba', 'Leonard Wood' and 'Joseph Dickman' as Convoy HS-124. En route they were joined by'Ranger', 'Vincennes', 'Quincy' and a division of destroyers.
They arrived in Bombay, via Capetown, on 27th December 1941. 'West Point', left port again bound for Singapore on 9th January 1942 carrying approximately two-thirds of the troops she had brought to Bombay together with some men from the other ships. All told she was carrying some 5272 men. On the voyage to Singapore she was joined by the 'Wakefield' and 3 British transports - 'Duchess of Bedford', 'Empress of Japan' and 'Empire Star'. They were escorted by the light cruiser 'HMS Caledon' until this ship was relieved by 'HMS Glasgow' on 22nd January. The convoy's escort swelled to 3 cruisers and 4 destroyers as they approached Java. Activity by Japanese submarines in the Indonesia area prompted concern for the safe arrival of these valuable ships and led to a 200 mile detour through the Sunda Strait.
The convoy arrived safely in Singapore on 29th January 1942 and the 'West Point' proceeded to Keppel Harbour where the troops were disembarked and equipment off-loaded.
In view of the deteriorating situation in Singapore, Captain Kelley of 'West Point' was then requested to take refugees and evacuees to safety in Ceylon. Accordingly on 30th January 1276 persons were embarked made up of naval officers and their families, dockyard civilians, civilian evacuees, a 16 man RAF contingent and 225 naval ratings. Accompanied again by 'Wakefield'and escorted by 'HMS Durban' , 'West Point ' headed due west through the Banka Strait and on to Batavia, Java where more refugees were embarked. En route to Ceylon the passenger list was further increased when a baby boy was born on 4th February.
Colombo, Ceylon was reached on 6th February but conditions were very crowded and somewhat chaotic and the British Authorities requested 'West Point' to evacuate personnel to Bombay, India. Subsequently 8 civilian men, 56 women, 53 children and 670 troops were embarked . Accompanied again by 'Wakefield' and escorted by the Greek destroyer ' Queen Olga' , West Point' eventually arrived safely in Bombay where after discharging her evacuees she was directed to Suez to pick up Australian troops who were being withdrawn from North Africa to fight the Japanese in South East Asia.