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Once Navy - Always Navy


RNA Torbay



Next RNA General Meeting November 24th, 2016 - RAFA Club Torquay. Meeting commences 1930. Following meeting January 26th 2017 - The Annual General Meeting - Once Navy, Always Navy!

Shipmate Peter Brown's Naval Thanksgiving Service

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Shipmate Peter Brown's Eulogy

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Piracy of SS "Tungchow”, from 29th January, to 1st February, 1935.
By Shipmate Peter Brown

My sister Amy and I were born and bred in Shanghai in the 1920's and after beginning our education in the Kindergarten of the Cathedral School in Shanghai, my sister started up in North China at the China Inland Mission Schools in Chefoo (now Yentai) in 1932, followed by me in 1933. We would only return to Shanghai in December each year for the Christmas holidays and that happened as usual in December, 1934. We were to return to Chefoo with the Shanghai Party late in January, 1935 on board one of Butterfield and Swire's ships and in this instance we sailed from the French Bund on board the "Tungchow" during the afternoon of 29th January. The attached photographs taken from the North China Daily News of 2nd February, 1935, show the Girls and Boys of the Shanghai Party waving goodbye to their families as we set sail on that memorable day.

A few hours after sailing and while we were still in the mouth of the Yangtse River, the SS "Tungchow", with 78 CIM school children and Staff on board was pirated! The Chinese pirates, 14 in all, who had booked as passengers on the lower deck, managed to climb up over the guard rails on to our upper deck and had taken on the Russian anti-pirate guards with their automatic weapons. They outnumbered the guards and when they had killed the sergeant, the remaining four guards surrendered.

From that time we were confined to our cabins and not allowed out on deck, while the pirates ordered the British Captain to turn south instead of sailing north. They also attempted to disguise the ship by painting two white stripes around the plain black funnel and renamed the ship "Toa Maru", making her look like one of the Japanese OSK (Osaka Shusen Kaisha) Line. Unbeknown to any of us at that time, they were heading south to a well-known pirate den in Honghai Bay, just north of Hong Kong. When the "Tungchow” failed to wireless in to the port of Tsingtao, en route north and then failed to arrive in Weihaiwei on the morning of the 1st February, the Senior Naval Officer, Shanghai, advised the C-in-C of the China Squadron in Hong Kong that the "Tungchow" was missing. All Royal Navy ships that were available were ordered to sea to look for us and within six hours the "Tungchow" was found in Honghai Bay by aircraft from the carrier HMS Hermes, just as the pirates had left the ship and were heading for a beach in a junk and one of the ship's lifeboats. We were allowed to go up on the boat deck and I well remember seeing the aircraft arrive overhead, but they were told not to fire at the two craft as they each had a hostage aboard. They were left unhurt by the lifeboat on the beach and were returned to the ship. We then sailed for Hong Kong and were met by the destroyer HMS Dainty and escorted into port.

You may wonder why on earth did the pirates attack a ship which was carrying a large number of school children returning to their schools in Chefoo? The answer lies in the fact that originally some gold bullion was to have been carried on board the "Tungchow" of the B&S Line up to Tiensin, the port of Beijing, but at the last moment this precious cargo was transferred secretly to a ship of the other British Shipping Line, Jardine Matheson, but the pirates had not caught up with this transfer! By way of some compensation for their loss, they confiscated any jewellery, watches and cash from our school party and also looted any valuables they could find from the ship before their departure.

After refuelling and taking on more provisions, we returned north to Shanghai, where we were given another week's holiday, having been re-united with our families.  Then we sailed again in another B&S ship for Chefoo, where we arrived safely back at school and if I remember rightly, were heralded as heroes and were something like the envy of the rest of the schools!





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