1941: Rangitane prisoners describe their treatment

Evening Post, 3 January 1941, p 8

ATTACK ON RANGITANE
NO OPPORTUNITY TO ABANDON SHIP
CONDITIONS ON THE RAIDER

(By Telegraph—Press Association—Copyright.)

(Received January 3, 2.45 pm)

SYDNEY, This Day

It is now revealed that the German raiders worked together. The Tokyo Maru and the Manyo Maru flew the Japanese colours.

The attack on the Rangitane made by the raiders stands out from survivors’ stories as one of the most ghastly incidents in sea warfare.

Without giving any opportunity for the Rangitane to be abandoned, the raiders opened fire.

The Rangitane’s quartermaster, L Valeric, describing the shelling, said that stewards gathered up the dead and injured in blankets and carried them to the lifeboats. Two of the ship’s stewardesses were killed and a third wounded, and the others helped the women and children and attended to their wounds.

Two brothers named Stickfuss who were employed in the engine-room were seen assisting each other, though both were mortally wounded. They were assisted into a boat, which was so riddled with shrapnel that it sank immediately. Two of their mates held them up until a German pinnace rescued them. They died together on the same night.

Describing the quarters allotted to themselves and thirteen other women, Misses M Black and F MacDonald, both Rangitane survivors, said that the room measured 12ft by 10ft. They were never allowed on deck, and at times they were awakened to be cross-examined. The food was very bad and there was no washing water.

Mr Henderson, another Rangitane survivor, said that in the forward hold of the Tokyo Maru about 130 men spent periods ranging up to three and a half weeks. During that time a machine-gun was always trained down the hatch. The survivors only had bamboo mats to sleep on. The food was abominable and the washing and sanitary arrangements disgusting.