Signalman McHugh

The following is information on Signalman McHugh who is on our Roll of Honour. I am sure you will find this fascinating. McHugh’s posting card was marked ‘RUN’ which we all know means deserter however the following indicates otherwise.

Hello Frank,

I called you last week regarding the true account of the last days of Signalman McHugh.

Attached is the research document I have created over the past seven years (one of many memorial documents on such ships escaping Singapore) covering the people and last voyage of the little “SS. Tanjong Pinang” on which Signalman McHugh served.

He was one of literally dozens of men based at “HMS Sultan” (the shore base in Singapore) when the Japanese landed on that Island in February 1942; and who were then assigned urgently and without surviving official records (since they would have been destroyed within the next day or two) to quite a number of small merchant ships to make escapes with huge complements of civilians from Singapore as the Japanese closed in around the city.

You will note that the Captain (Lt Basil Shaw) and officers (Lt Gerard and Lt Studholme) on this ship were also New Zealanders who lost their lives following the point blank the attack by what was probably a Japanese destroyer in my view.

By way of background there were other NZ sailors on these ships – although the majority of ratings came from the surviving crew from the “HMS Repulse” and “HMS. Prince of Wales”.

Other RNZNVR men were on motor torpedo boats, MLs and many of these also also lost their lives.

I have also attached a newspaper cutting from pre-war years showing the “SS. Tanjong Pinang” – it was only 90 feet in length which is extraordinary when one contemplates it was carrying some 200 passengers (including some NZ women) on its last lonely voyage – together with my research on the “SS. Kuala” from which the passengers on the “SS. Tanjong Pinang” derived. Able Seaman Sarney was the only crew member from NZ on that latter ship although there were a number of women passengers from here – he spent the rest of the war as a POW in Sumatra, Malaya and the Burma railway camps.

There were no passenger lists for any of these ships leaving Singapore in the last week before the Surrender to the Japanese – the attached documents represent several thousand hours of original research using files from the Imperial war Museum in London and a multitude of personal diaries and memoirs.

Click HERE to read the full report.  Click on image to enlarge.

Tandjong Penang 1936 photo of ship


Click HERE to read the article on SS Kuala.  Click on image to enlarge.


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2 Responses to Signalman McHugh

  1. Jim D says:

    Our records at HMNZS Toroa show that Sig McHugh was MPK (Missing Presumed Killed). It would seem that from L/Sea Richardson’s account that his signalman companion (McHugh) may have died as a result of his wounds.

  2. Jim D says:

    I hasten to add that McHugh was not a member of HMNZS Toroa. Thanks to the painstaking work of the outgoing Toroa Museum Curator, Lt Cdr Neill Howard, RNZNVR, MA, VRD, Rtd, we have a Roll of Honour of personnel who served in the NZ Division of the RN and RNZN 1939 – 1946. Jim Dell, Museum Curator, HMNZS Toroa.

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