- Bee, W.A. ("Buzzer")
- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Perth I
- September 1987 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
It would have been about 9 a.m. when a destroyer was observed to be stopped some distance away from us. By its distinctive duck-billed bow profile it could only be Japanese and we concluded they must have been picking up their own survivors but it was not long before they were underway again and heading towards us. The destroyer came to within a hundred yards of us at the same time cutting its diesel engines. Armed Nippon sailors then began shouting and beckoning us to come alongside. The sight of the fried egg flapping at the stern of the destroyer filled us with grim foreboding but under the circumstances we never had much option other than to comply with their gesticulations.
Climbing the steel runged ladder which was welded to the ship’s hull, proved to be more difficult than I imagined for it was at this time that I realized just how useless my right leg had become. The agony of putting any pressure on my foot was such that I was forced to climb using one foot and one knee. I made it, however, and just as I reached the top rung and about to crawl onto the deck I had the misfortune to see my prized wrist watch slip off and splash back into the water. This watch happened to be part of the proceeds of a recent one and only win (10 pounds) in the WA Lotteries Commission draw.
Once aboard the destroyer we were made to strip completely and throw all our oily clothes into a bin, then a can of kerosene and cotton waste was provided with which to remove the oil from our bodies. This was not exactly a painless operation either, especially the cleaning of matted hair and wiping smarting eyes, nevertheless it was a necessary exercise and it did indicate that perhaps things were not going to be too bad after all.
Next we were issued with the proverbial G-string which was to become the standard dress of the day and night for that matter, for the rest of our term as POWs. Then we were allowed a small drink of water and each given a small sea biscuit (very much like our dog biscuits) before being ushered to a small upper platform amidships where we joined a number of our shipmates who had been picked up a little earlier.
There would have been about 50 of us by now all herded together under the blazing sun. ‘All men sit’, yelped the command and with much prompting and prodding our buttocks tried to assume the required position. This was sheer torture and mercifully, after a lot of pleading, the scorching steel deck was hosed down with cold salt water. Lieutenant John Harper RN the most senior officer in this group tried valiantly on our behalf to have an awning put in place above us also, but his entreaties in this case were ignored. Lt. Harper, navigator on Perth and whose action station was the bridge, was another who did not emerge from the night action entirely unscathed either, having the lower half of one ear shot away. Typically though, with blood continually dripping from it, he never complained.
We wondered what they would do with us next and despite the urgent request for medical treatment, the Japs made it obvious that anything other than the simplest dressings would have to wait also. In the meantime any little movement of my leg would cause a burning sensation followed by a gush of blood from the hole in my calf muscle. Apart from this and considering the exigencies of the moment, I suppose our Naval captors did not treat us too badly.
There was a minimum of panic and no bashings which was in start contrast to their Army counterparts into whose charge we were soon to be thrust. It must be mentioned too that an air raid alert which occurred during the oil removing exercise caused a suspension in the rescue operations and some of our shipmates were left behind in the boat. This caused us some concern at the time but we were relieved to learn that they were rescued a little later on.