1941: Holmwood victims describe their capture

Evening Post, 14 January 1941, p 8


(By Telegraph—Press Association.)
AUCKLAND, January 13.

“The officers and crew of the steamer Holmwood must be treated with every respect. Breaches of this rule will be severely dealt with.”

This notice in German on the raider under the name of Manyo Maru was translated by a member of the Holmwood’s crew.

Members of the Holmwood’s crew told interviewers that the rule was strictly adhered to, and that in many cases friendships sprang up between captors and captured.

The second officer of the Holmwood, Mr AA Clark, said the ship was caught in a trap formed by three enemy raiders. The Holmwood had no chance.


“One of the raiders made a flag signal and then came the morse signal to stop,” said Mr Clark, who was on watch at the time. “It was said later that two shots were fired across our bows. I did not see them, but I did hear a ‘plof’ in the sea.”

He added that after the officers, crew, and passengers were taken off the Germans took off some of the live sheep for food, but the majority of the 1400 were left to drown, also a polo pony. The Germans opened fire on the struggling stock with machineguns. It was humane to end their misery. Then the enemy ship steamed north with the two other enemy ships.


Mr Clark said he did not get the idea that the raider people had inside information. They said they were surprised to get the Rangitane, which was sunk a few days later after being shelled.

The Holmwood’s victims were kept below during the shelling. They were treated well and the food was fair, Mr Clark said. On reaching the Tropics every man was provided with shorts, a singlet, and a cap cover. There was, however, a shortage of water. Time hung heavily, but the captives were allowed on deck every day for exercise. German wireless news was given in English.

When they landed at Emira [sic] Island everybody made the best of it. After being taken off they reached another place in 20 hours, and the Red Cross there gave them 20 cases of clothing. They had a wonderful reception when they reached an Australian port, and again the Red Cross was very good to them.