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Thread: A Singapore Survivor

  1. #1
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    Default A Singapore Survivor





    I picked up this V&C deck watch last year but just got around to checking with the fantastic people at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in hopes they had a record of its service. Eureka, they did!



    The Royal Navy records indicate it was purchased as a chronometer watch in October of 1940. It remained in storage until being transferred to "Singapore" in 1942 (Sembawang Naval Base?). The date stamp is very faint but I can just make out "15 JAN 1942". History tells us Singapore (and Sembawang) fell to the Japanese in February of 1942 and wasn't liberated until 1945.

    It would be very interesting to know if this watch participated in the evacuation of Singapore. Somehow it escaped and made it to active duty because the next entry was an assignment in August of 1943 to HMS Adamant, a submarine tender with the Eastern Fleet which supported a flotilla of nine T-class subs. This watch stayed on Adamant's ledgers until May of 1947.

    Interestingly, the entry made when the watch was taken back into storage at Plymouth included the note: "ex Truncheon". HMS Truncheon was one of the submarines in Adamant's flotilla so I take that to mean the watch saw service on Truncheon.

    These photos from the Imperial War Museum (non-commercial license granted) show:

    (a) the view back from the Adamant while on its maiden voyage in March of 1942

    ON BOARD THE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP HMS ADAMANT ON CONVOY. 28 MARCH 1942, AT SEA IN THE ATLANTIC. HMS ADAMANT AND ESCORTING WARSHIPS IN ONE OF THE LARGEST CONVOYS OF THE WAR, SAILING FROM THE CLYDE TO FREETOWN CARRYING SUPPLIES AND PERSONNEL FOR THE FORCES IN THE MIDDLE EAST. IT WAS HMS ADAMANT'S MAIDEN VOYAGE.

    (b) and over its 4.5" guns

    ON BOARD THE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP HMS ADAMANT ON CONVOY. 31 MARCH 1942, AT SEA IN THE ATLANTIC. HMS ADAMANT AND ESCORTING WARSHIP IN ONE OF THE LARGEST CONVOYS OF THE WAR SAILING FROM THE CLYDE TO FREETOWN CARRYING SUPPLIES AND PERSONNEL FOR THE FORCES IN THE MIDDLE EAST. IT WAS HMS ADAMANT'S MAIDEN VOYAGE.

    (c) HM Submarine Truncheon in 1945

    HMS/M TRUNCHEON, BRITISH TRITON CLASS SUBMARINE. MAY 1945, AT SEA.

    (d) Truncheon in 1963 after conversion to a "Super-T".

    SHIPS OF THE ROYAL NAVY 1945-1980

    (e) Lieut. R. J. Clutterbuck in March of 1943 returning to depot ship (Adamant?) from war patrol as Captain of HM Submarine Torbay. Clutterbuck would take command of Truncheon in 1945.

    SUBMARINE OFFICER RETURNS TO DEPOT SHIP AFTER SUCCESSFUL PATROL. 6 TO 11 MARCH 1943, ALGIERS.

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    H.M.S. Adamant Royal Navy Research Archive

    Early history

    HMS ADAMANT was ordered on March 1st 1939 from Harland & Wolff, Belfast, as a purpose built submarine depot ship. Her keel was laid down on May 18th 1939 and she was launched on November 20th 1941. She was completed in January 1942, and after acceptance trials was commissioned on February 28th 1942, Captain R. S. Warne, RN in command..


    HMS ADAMANT was capable of servicing up to nine submarines at a time while accommodating their crews. Her on-board facilities included a foundry, light and heavy machine shops, electrical and torpedo repair shops, and equipment to support fitters, patternmakers, coppersmiths and shipwrights.

    Allocated to the Eastern Fleet

    The ship was allocated for service with the Eastern Fleet and preparations for her departure from the UK were made over the next three weeks; for the first leg to Freetown, Sierra Leone, she sailed as part of Convoy WS 17 which had assembled at sea, off Oversay Island, on Monday, March 23rd. She arrived at Freetown on Monday, April 6th. The second leg was in convoy WS 17B which departed from Freetown on Saturday, April 11th and arrived at Capetown on Thursday, April 23rd. From Capetown she sailed with WS 19 on Monday April 27th arriving off Durban on May 1st, on May 7th the convoy split into two off Mombasa, WS 19A for Aden and W 19B for Bombay; ADAMANT detached and sailed independently for Mombasa, arriving at Kilindini on May 9th 1942.

    On Monday, March 22nd 1943 ADAMANT sailed for Colombo with destroyers QUICKMATCH and NIZAM and local A/S escort, the three ships entered Colombo Harbour on Friday, April 2nd. This was a short stay; she was ordered to return to Kilindini to relieve HMS WAYLAND, and sailed from Colombo on Sunday, June 6th, escorted by the sloop HMIS HINDUSTAN, arriving at Addu Atoll on June 8th.


    The following day they sailed to rendezvous with the destroyer NEPAL at 70 degrees East on the 10th. At this point HINDUSTAN, relieved by NEPAL, returned to Addu Atoll while ADAMANT escorted by NEPAL proceeded to Kilindini. ADAMANT arrived Kilindini Wednesday, June 16th.


    HMS ADAMANT remained at Kilindini until Tuesday, 28th September 1943 when she sailed to return to Colombo. Escorted by NAPIER, NORMAN and NEPAL she arrived at Colombo on Friday, 8th October. Two days later, Captain 4th Submarine Flotilla, was installed aboard ADAMANT. She did not remain at Colombo for long' she sailed for Trincomalee on December 1st, escorted by QUICKMATCH and RAPID


    The Submarine depot ship HMS MAIDSTONE joined ADAMANT at Trincomalee on March 3rd 1944; upon her arrival the 4th Submarine Flotilla was split when a new 8th Submarine Flotilla was formed and attached to MAIDSTONE (Note: 8th SM Flotilla then comprised 8 S-Class submarines but increased in July when four T-Class, six S-Class and the Dutch O19 were being supported). MAIDSTONE sailed for Fremantle August 25th 1944.

    Operations with the East Indies Fleet

    HMS ADAMANT and her 4th Submarine flotilla remained in Trincomalee until April 1945 when she was transferred to Fremantle, Western Australia, she arrived there on April 11th, 1945; her submarines joined her there on completion of their current patrols. She was to relieve HMS MAIDSTONE which sailed to join the British Pacific Fleet on April 19th with her 8th Submarine Flotilla. ADAMANT continued to support the 'T' class boats of the 4th Flotilla in East Indies Fleet operations against the Japanese until the war's end.

    Post War

    On September 30th HMS MAIDSTONE arrived in Freemantle from Hong Kong carrying liberated allied prisoners of war, she moored astern of ADAMANT at North Wharf. The following day crewmen with a short length of Foreign Service or not due for release on Age & Service grounds were transferred from MAIDSTONE to ADAMANT; on October 10th the two ships performed a further part crew exchange in advance of ADAMANT sailing on the 14th for Hong Kong, via Christmas Island, and the Sunda Straits to arrive at Hong Kong on October 29th. MAIDSTONE sailed on the 25th for the UK, via Simonstown carrying ex- prisoners of war.


    On October 14th 1945 ADAMANT and her flotilla sailed form Gage Roads for Hong King, calling at Christmas Island, and then preceded via the Sunda Straits to arrive at Hong Kong on October 29th. Here her submarines were engaged on anti-piracy patrols off the China Coast. Before the submarines went on these patrols, ADAMANT and the submarines took part in exercises in order to give them practice in attacking. ADAMANT was used as the target and the submarines fired dummy torpedoes which were set to run under the depot ship. She was to remain at Hong Kong until February 1946, before returning to No. 4 berth North Wharf, Freemantle on February 28th with the Submarines TAPIR and TOTEM; they were soon joined by TAURUS, VIRTUE, VORACIOUS and VOX, on March 14th. The last member of the flotilla was HMS TURPIN.


    On March 23rd 1946 the flotilla split up, TAURUS, TOTEM and TURPIN departed to return to Hong Kong, while VIRTUE, VORACIOUS and VOX, sailed for Singapore and England the following day. ADAMANT sailed for Sydney in company with TAPIR arriving there on April 3rd. At the start of May ADAMANT with submarines TALENT, TAPIR, TAURUS, TIRELESS, TOTEM, TRUNCHEON, and TURPIN began a month of exercises in Jervis Bay. On completion she returned to Sydney on June 3rd in company with TAPIR, TURPIN, and TAURUS before sailing for Brisbane to enter the Cairn cross dock to undergo a period of defect rectification and a boiler clean. The remaining eight submarines of her flotilla were sent to various Australian Cities for the Victory Day Celebrations. She returned to Sydney on June 21st and began preparations for a Pacific cruise and visit to Japan.


    HMS ADAMANT with the destroyer HMS PENN and HM submarines TALENT, TALLY HO, TIRELESS, and TRUNCHEON sailed on Friday, July 5th 1946, for a visit to the Pacific Islands Japan and finally Hong Kong. Visits were made to Banaba Island, Kiribati, Fiji, the Caroline's, the Mariana's, Kure in Japan, then on to Hong Kong. After leaving Hong Kong TALLY HO and TALENT returned to UK, arriving home by Christmas 1946.


    In 1950, she returned to England, where she served as flagship of the Senior Officer, Reserve Fleet, Portsmouth. In 1953 she took part in the Fleet Review to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

    In October 1954, she was re-commissioned as depot ship to the 3rd Submarine Squadron at Rothesay Bay, where she was based until October 1957. She moved further up the Clyde in 1959 to Faslane on Gare Loch, ending the permanent RN presence at Rothesay. In early 1964, she moved to the 2nd Submarine Squadron at Devonport. In March 1966 she was listed for disposal. She arrived at Inverkeithing in September 1970, to be broken up.


    Hard to say if it survived Singapore. Maybe it was designated as being shipped there, but due to the progress of the Japanese down through Malaysia around this time it wasn't actually sent there ? Pure conjecture on my part of course.

    IAP
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    Senior Member river rat's Avatar
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    Congrats wished the US Navy Observatory kept records of US issued chronometers. Great history with your V&C deck watch.

  4. #4

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    Great history and beautiful watch
    Thank you kindly.

  5. #5

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    Am very fond of the quality of deck watches. Great history. Cheers, Ian.

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    Love the wonderful names of Vacheron & Constantin, Ulysse Nardin and Jaeger Le Coultre. Such histories of excellence and quality.

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    At this point a watch becomes a work of art.
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

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    Yes. But wristwatch guys don't get it.

  9. #9

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    I could have bought a perfect Hamilton Cal:22 Deck Chronometer in original box for 690 recently. Cheaper than 1 chromed cased dozen! Bonkers.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by springmount View Post
    Yes. But wristwatch guys don't get it.
    A friend who collects watches doesn't like pocket watches saying they're too big and unpractical, yet he wears huge 44mm watches that look like hockey pucks on his wrist.

    To each his own
    Thank you kindly.

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    As an incidenntal note my dad was sitting on a ship in Singapore waiting for the invasion of Japan. Hard events in '45 precluded that but he didn't arrive home until '46. Away since the begining. He spent alot of time in a chair , head in hands, drinking milk of magnesia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ianp View Post
    H.M.S. Adamant Royal Navy Research Archive



    Hard to say if it survived Singapore. Maybe it was designated as being shipped there, but due to the progress of the Japanese down through Malaysia around this time it wasn't actually sent there ? Pure conjecture on my part of course.

    IAP
    Thanks for posting that very helpful history. It shows that when Adamant was issued the watch on 5 August 1943, she was at Kilindini (Kenya), the Eastern Fleet's "safe" harbour where many ships retreated after Singapore. At a more basic level, the Chronometer control sheet doesn't have Singapore crossed-out, so I'm unsure if you are seeing something I'm not?

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    Quote Originally Posted by river rat View Post
    Congrats wished the US Navy Observatory kept records of US issued chronometers. Great history with your V&C deck watch.
    Yeah that would be nice. I also wish the Deutsche Seewarte records in Hamburg hadn't been blown-up :-( Wonder about the other navies of WWII; Japan, France, etc.? At least those great volunteers at Greenwich are there for us!
    Last edited by Tick Talk; 01-09-2018 at 19:05.

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    Quote Originally Posted by What Does Your Watch Say? View Post
    look like hockey pucks on his wrist.
    LOL, now that's a Canadian analogy, along with Johnny LaRue ;-)

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    It was just the timing of the date vs the fall of Singapore, by the 15th they pretty much knew they were up a certain creek without a paddle.

    IAP
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    I do, I'm not watch'ist.

    Quote Originally Posted by springmount View Post
    Yes. But wristwatch guys don't get it.
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

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    It features pretty heavily in the book I've written. Very few of the men knew that there was going to be a surrender right up until the order came and even afterwards some units were not informed. Percival and his staff didn't even know until just before he did it, basically he lost his nerve. By 15th Jan we still had a foothold on the peninsular in a fairly good defensive position with a large marsh on the left flank to the coast preventing Japanese armour from outflanking British positions. The Japanese had become cautious after a spectacular battle a short time before in which Australians supported by the British caused massive casualties. At that point, with so many men on the island, with almost limitless supplies and in an exceptionally strong defensive position away from Singapore Island itself there was a lot of hope but also confusion. The only thing lacking was leadership and the rest, as they say, is history .


    Quote Originally Posted by ianp View Post
    It was just the timing of the date vs the fall of Singapore, by the 15th they pretty much knew they were up a certain creek without a paddle.

    IAP
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tick Talk View Post
    LOL, now that's a Canadian analogy, along with Johnny LaRue ;-)
    'eh
    Thank you kindly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by James K View Post
    It features pretty heavily in the book I've written. Very few of the men knew that there was going to be a surrender right up until the order came and even afterwards some units were not informed. Percival and his staff didn't even know until just before he did it, basically he lost his nerve. By 15th Jan we still had a foothold on the peninsular in a fairly good defensive position with a large marsh on the left flank to the coast preventing Japanese armour from outflanking British positions. The Japanese had become cautious after a spectacular battle a short time before in which Australians supported by the British caused massive casualties. At that point, with so many men on the island, with almost limitless supplies and in an exceptionally strong defensive position away from Singapore Island itself there was a lot of hope but also confusion. The only thing lacking was leadership and the rest, as they say, is history .
    If I understand correctly, the Japanese supply lines were at the limit and they couldn't have sustained the offensive for much longer? Winston Churchill wrote in The Hinge of Fate that he always thought a Royal Commission should have been held "upon the worst disaster and largest capitulation of British history".

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    The Japanese supply lines were stretched but the RAF had left behind valuable massed stores of ammunition and fuel at several bases that they had abandoned without demolition. The Japanese speed of advance relied upon capturing enemy supplies, out flanking and manoeuvring fixed positions and there being neither coordination between allied positions nor mutually supporting lines of defence, they got all of that in spades. Principle offenders in the Malay peninsular were the senior RAF officers who refused to cooperate or even coordinate with the Royal Navy and to a lesser extent the Army. Once it reached Singapore things were too late, Percival had refused to allow defensive positions to be constructed lest it "give a bad impression and effect civilian morale", his defence plans such as they were did not get distributed to all the units involved and some units refused to support others because of racism. Gordon Bennett who refused permission for Australian units to cover the withdrawal of Indian troops because he didn't want ammunition wasted on "Wogs" (his words not mine) When it came for those same Australian units to withdraw the Indians who were supposed to cover them had been wiped out. Gordon Bennett then escaped Singapore without orders because he though himself the only man who could save Australia from the Japanese, he was later accused of cowardice and [in my view] should have been shot.

    The whole thing was a mess from beginning to end and could so easily have been avoided those who bore principle responsibility were Brooke-Popham, Percivale, Gordon Bennett with Wavell shouldering a small part of the blame.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tick Talk View Post
    If I understand correctly, the Japanese supply lines were at the limit and they couldn't have sustained the offensive for much longer? Winston Churchill wrote in The Hinge of Fate that he always thought a Royal Commission should have been held "upon the worst disaster and largest capitulation of British history".
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

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