The Sinking of the Junyo Maru


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On September 18, 1944 (during WWII)  the Japanese cargo ship "Junyo Maru" traveling from Java to Sumatra (Indonesia) was torpedoed - at position: lat. 02 degs. 52 mins. S. & long. 101 degs. 12 mins. E. in the Indian Ocean, West off Sumatra near Mukomuko - by the British submarine H.M.S Tradewind. There was no way that the submarine commander could have known what cargo this Japanese ship was carrying .....

The Junyo Maru

The Passengers

On board the 5065 ton vessel were cramped, apart from the crew and Japanese guards, 2300 Dutch, British, American and Australian POWs and 4200 Javanese slave labourers (romushas). They were all bound for work on the 220km long Sumatra Railway Line between Pakan Baru and Muaro.

Of the 6500 reluctant passengers, some 5620 perished in the waters off southwest Sumatra - making this the largest maritime disaster of  World War II! 

The 'price for survival' for the 880 that made it to the shore was employment on the railway line. Many of them did not see the end of the war. The overall survival rate for this "death-railway" was about 66% for POWs and only about 20% for romushas. About 100 Dutch nationals survived the sinking of the Junyo Maru, and 10 of these died on the railway.

The submarine

H.M.S. Tradewind was a submarine of the Triton Class, built at Chatham Dockyard and completed on 18 October 1943.
Her standard displacement was 1090 tons; dimensions: length 273 ft, breadth 26 ft 7 ins, and armament 1-4", 1-20mm Oerlikon 3-.303' Vickers G.O. single (4 mountings).

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Junyo Maru image courtesy of Martin Luning.

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Created February 1997