The troops of the 2 Bn 131 FA Rgt and the 26 FA Brigade boarded the SS REPUBLIC at San Francisco on 21 NOV 1941. They stopped briefly at Pearl Harbor to refuel and load ammunition, Some say they also received a newer version of their 75mm cannons known as split-tails rather than the older box-tail s that had been designed to be drawn by horses rather than trucks. They were at sea near the equator when Pearl Harbor was bombed. After another refueling stop at Fiji, they off loaded at Brisbane Australia just before Christmas.
They then boarded the Belgian registered ship Bloemfontein for transit to Java arriving their on 11 JAN 42.
It is of but passing interest that the three ships known to be involved in the POW story — the USS Houston, USAT Liberty and the Bloemfontein carrying the 131 to Java, were all in the same convoy. The Liberty was sunk off the coast of Bali and medic PFC Harry Gray may have been picked up by the Bloemfontein since he then became affiliated with the medical section of the regiment.
Another US military vessel closely associated with this saga is the SS MARBLEHEAD. One of her crew SM1c Benjamin Hopkins was assigned to the 2/131 as a liaison officer; along with SM1c Daniel Rafalovich from the USS HOUSTON.
The following photos are taken from the public domain of The University of Houston USS HOUSTON Digital Collection.
The story of the HMAS PERTH:
In 1942 she participated in the Battle of the Java Sea, she was one of three surviving crusiers from the battle and was torpedoed on March 1 1942 by Japanese destroyers in the Battle of Sunda Strait.
350 crew and 3 civilians were killed, 324 crew members were taken prisoners. 109 died in captivity.
CAPT Hector WALLER: