Ships Concert – 1st Class Lounge – SS Monowai (26th Sept 1945)

Ships ConcertShips Concert Actors 1945

 ‘As they boarded ships, the former prisoners took with them diaries, papers, drawings, artworks, photographic negatives, items and mementos – all records of their time in Changi. However small, these were cherished reminders of their survival, of their war.’

Source: Lachlan Grant, ‘Thoughts of Home: Liberation & Repatriation’, The AIF Forestry Company’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg. 341

‘PoW’s on some British repatriation ships, eg: HMNZS Monowai, were warned by the O.C. not to speak about the contemptible horrors they had witnessed when they disembarked. The reason given was two-fold. First they were told that hearing the truth would only bring untold misery to those who had lost sons and husbands. Secondly, they were warned that if the press got hold of their names and addresses, every man and his dog would be telephoning to see if they had heard of their missing relatives and knew what had become of them. Medical staff in some hospitals encouraged the PoWs to talk about their experiences, as they thought it would aid in recovery.

HMNZS Monowai departed Singapore 14th September 1945 with 1,000 ex POWs & 200 internees. (left Colombo about 19th September 1945) arriving Liverpool 8th October 1945.’

Source: Ally McCormick’s Repatriation Ships

‘Days later as arrangements were being made to repatriate those fit enough to travel, Bill (Able Seaman William Coates Nicholls) experienced what he later referred to as ‘the saddest incident of the whole time of imprisonment,’ when a friend and fellow prisoner died: ‘It was very heartbreaking, and so sad, that after living through three and a half years of starvation and absolute hell, he should die just as we got free.’ Bill was given a medical examination and the news that he would soon b e on his way home, even though, he recalled ‘you could count every bone down my body, they decided I was fit enough to travel’. Bill boarded the New Zealand troopship HMNZS Monowai, which sailed for England on 14 September’

Source:  ‘A Cruel Captivity’ by Ellie Taylor, 2018, page 75, Pen & Sword Books Ltd


Thank you to Doug Clark for discovering this image in the Imperial War Museum (IWM) on 19th August 2015 and scanning a copy for us.