© Copyright 2011  Julianne Dodds Rescue yacht White Swan World War II Singapore had once been the major British military base in South East Asia, but early in 1942 the Japanese forces invaded Malaya.  The resulting battle lasted from 7th to 15th February and resulted in the fall of Singapore to the Japanese and the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history.  Before the surrender, large and small craft had been escaping Singapore and streaming across the Straits to Java and Sumatra carrying as many women and children as they possibly could. Among these vessels was Merton Brown’s White Swan. Upon arriving in Batavia, Lieutenant Upton  R.N.V.R. took over command of White Swan. Ownership and private affairs had become of second importance to the Navy in time of war so Brown’s vessel was commandeered. The last time Brown saw his beautiful schooner was on 27th February 1942, when she sailed for the Sunda Straits.   In a report given by Brown after the war, details were given of the events surrounding his departure from Singapore and leading up to the loss of his schooner. War in Singapore 1942 Black smoke billows into the air from a timber yard ablaze after a Japanese air attack. Reproduced with kind permission Australian War Memorial [10] “Left Singapore on the “WHITE SWAN’, a schooner with diesel engine in company with a  yawl owned by J.A.D. Anderson, also with a diesel engine.  They left together; their  programme was this:- They left Singapore on Tuesday the 10th Feb. at 5 p.m. – arrived Muntok 13th at 4.30 p.m.  – left Muntok the 13th at 7 p.m. – arrived Batavia 15th Sunday at 7 p.m.  Merton Brown was in charge of the engineering section for Thornycrofts launches.  This  was known as the Marine section R.A.F. – the whole was under the charge of Pilot Officer  Rutherford and Goolde, Aircraft Inspector, and Rutherford was in command of the  launches. In the Muntok entrance to the Banka Straits they were in company with the R.N. aux. 5.  “ROMPIN” which was towing six launches.  The Japanese bombers had passed over them  but appeared to think them too small to be worth the bomb.  There were a number of ships  aground near Buntok Light House; one of 10,000 tons, which he thinks was Dutch, was  well down aft, two or three smaller ships as well.  The “SIANG WO” signalled them after she had been hit and she appeared to be grounded.   Merton Brown took his launch and went on board and agreed to take the women off only as  their ships were full to overcrowding of R.A.F. men.  He took four women (these names  can be seen on Miss Tasker’s list), he does not remember them. Just after they left the ‘SIANG WO” the “ROMPIN’S” engine blew up.  Her Engineers  were – Gordon Burt of the A.P.C. and Geoff Maund of the Borneo Motors.  These men  were both all right but it is certain that they must be prisoners in the hands of the Japanese  probably at Muntok.  Four women remained on the ‘ROMPIN” :-  Mrs Leyland  Miss Lee (Chinese)  Two middle-aged women (wives or clerks of M.C.I. officials) At 5 p.m. Goolde in command and Rutherford set off in a launch over the Straits to  Palembang to get a ship to relieve the “ROMPIN”.  This place they would have reached the  next day about the same time as the Japanese.  Mr Merton Brown is sure that no one from  the "ROMPIN", either officers or men, of whom there were 23 or 24, ever turned up in  Batavia.  He was there 10 days after the "WHITE SWAN" arrived before going and they  must have arrived by then if they were to come at all.  A Mrs. Harris, previously secretary to Merton Brown in Thornycrofts, says she saw Goolde  going up the river in a launch.  She is now with Wylde of Thornycrofts in Sydney. On their way down they picked up a R.A.F. pilot and one crew, he was slightly wounded at  3 a.m. on the 14th off an Island by the Nanka Light.  This Pilot reported to Batavia, his  name is not known.  They arrived safely in Batavia just an hour after Anderson's yawl.  Mr Merton Brown handed his yacht over to Lieut. Upton R.N.V.R. from the "RAHMAN".  The feed pump on the "RAHMAN" had broken down.  Also with him was Sub-Lieut.  Freeman R.N.V.R. and 26 of the crew from "PRINCE OF WALES". The 'RAHMAN" was  scuttled on the 27th Feb., on which day the  "WHITE SWAN" sailed for the Sunda Straits.   She has not been heard of since. About this time a very large number of ships left Batavia for the Sunda Straits and it is  feared that a great proportion was sunk by a Japanese fleet.  Merton Brown went to Tjilichap (Tjilatjap) and left on the Sunday 1st March at 11:30 p.m.  by the "BENDIGO".  He had on board 70 from the H.M.S. "JUPITER", a Destroyer  torpedoed and sunk off Sourabaya.  He thinks that Stuart Clark, Secretary of the Cricket  Club at Singapore, and Lammart R.N.V.R. of the Sun Life had made a report.  Lammart  went on to the "BENDIGO".  He thinks Cunningham Brown R.N.V.R. was also on the  "BENDIGO".  The "STRONGHOLD" was leaving Tjilichap ahead of them; had on board  200 odd army and R.A.F. at 2 a.m. the United States Sloop "ASHVILLE" signalled saying  "am being bombed", so the "STRONGHOLD" returned to her aid and both of them were  sunk by Japanese. The "BENDIGO" sailed 150 miles east from Tjilichap and then 200 miles due south.  Mr Merton Brown does not think many survivors could possibly have been rescued from  the "STRONGHOLD"." [11]