LEST WE FORGET

Leading Aircraftman Ernest George TOE

Service No: 40613
Born: Gardenvale VIC, 14 October 1919
Enlisted in the RAAF: 16 May 1941
Unit: No. 9 Squadron, Rathmines NSW
Died: Prisoner of War (Presumed Drowned): (Loss of Rakuyo Maru on 12 September 1944): South China Sea, 14 September 1944, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Joseph Henry and Myrtle May Toe, of McKinnon, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Moorabbin VIC
Remembered: Column 444, Singapore Memorial, Singapore
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Catalina Base Memorial, Rathmines NSW
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

In the battle of the Java Sea, the Allied force was utterly defeated. All 5 cruisers and 6 destroyers were lost, its very gallant and ill-starred commander, Admiral Doorman, going down with his flagship De Ruyter. The Australian cruiser Perth and the American cruiser Houston were sunk in a fierce battle in Bantam Bay against an enemy force of 4 cruisers and 9 destroyers, but not before they had sunk 4 enemy transports and damaged several others. Apart from one Dutch destroyer (Witte de With) which, with a sister destroyer, was put out of action in a bombing attack on Surabaya Harbour several days later, the only ships of the Combined Striking Force to survive the battle were the 4 ageing American destroyers which succeeded in reaching Fremantle on 4th March. The enemy’s losses were negligible, not one warship being sunk.

Extract from Gillison, D.N. (Douglas Napier) (254475) Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962 – Pages 439-440

Little damage was done to Perth until the very end of the action, but she was repeatedly smashed by shell hits while abandoning ship after the second torpedo hit; and many of her people were killed or wounded in the water by exploding shells, and by the third and fourth torpedoes. Of her naval complement of 680—45 officers, 631 ratings, and 4 canteen staff 4—23 officers and 329 ratings were killed in her last action; some 320 (of whom 105 ratings died while prisoners) fell into Japanese hands. As was Captain A. H. Rooks of Houston, Captain Waller was lost with his ship. He was last seen standing with his arms on the front of the bridge, looking down at the silent turrets.

Extract from Gill, G.H. (George Hermon) Royal Australian Navy 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 622

HMAS Perth sank at 0015 hours on 1 March 1942, 4 kms off St Nicolas Point north west Java. In that battle, No. 9 Squadron Walrus aircraft L2319 was destroyed.

The RAAF members embarked on HMAS Perth were:

Corporal (later Warrant Officer) Ronald Adolphus Bradshaw (17357) (Fitter Armourer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 2 July 1946
Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) Allen Vernon McDonough (407008) (Pilot) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 9 January 1946
Corporal Colin Archibald Nott (9358) (Fitter IIA)
Sergeant Harold Sparks (3635) (Fitter IIE)
Leading Aircraftman Ernest George Toe (40613) (Clerk Stores) PoW, Died 14 September 1944
Corporal Phillip Ernest Will (9030) (Fitter IIA)

The Rakuyo Maru, transporting Australian Prisoners of War from Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) to Japan, was torpedoed by the US submarine USS Sealion in the South China Sea on 12 September 1944. No Prisoners were killed in the attack and the ship was abandoned. The Japanese initially rescued their own personnel and abandoned the prisoners but later conducted a rescue. That evening the USS Pampanito sank the Kachidoki Maru transporting British prisoners. On September 15, the USS Pampanito and the USS Sealion rescued 127 survivors and on September 17 the USS Queenfish and the USS Barb rescued a further 30 survivors.

RAAF members lost with the Rakuyo Maru were:

Aircraftman Class 1 Colin Boyd Begg (18951) (No. 1 Squadron)
Corporal Raymond James Bonnett (207782) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Herbert Burston (25171) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman John Thomas Gill (13091) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Richard Daniell Kendall (19690) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Rupert Watkin McClelland (19190) (No.1 Squadron)
Corporal Albert Charles Meredith (11813) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Edward George Myers (24300) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Ernest Toe (40613) (No. 9 Squadron)
Warrant Officer Kenneth Ronald Wood (404155) (No.1 Squadron)

RAAF members rescued by Japanese forces:

Flight Sergeant Albert Thomas Finlay McKay (11729) (No. 1 Squadron) Discharged: 13 June 1946
Corporal David Leslie Quick (10199) (No. 1 Squadron) Discharged: 8 January 1946
Squadron Leader (later Group Captain) Noel Thomas Quinn DFC & Bar (622) (O3106) (No. 8 Squadron) Discharged: 16 February 1971

RAAF member rescued by the USS Sealion on 15 September 1944

Sergeant Noel Charles Ephraim Day (35423) (No. 1 Squadron) Discharged: 17 July 1945

There are believed to be 546 Australian casualties from the Rakuyo Mary – 503 Army, 33 RAN and 10 RAAF. 82 Australian service personnel (71 Army, 8 RAN and 3 RAAF) were rescued by Japanese forces and 92 (87 Army, 4 RAN and 1 RAAF) were rescued by US submarines. There were about 2,218 Australian and British prisoners on the Rakuyo Maru and the Kachidoki Maru – 159 were rescued by US submarines, 656 by Japanese forces, and 1,403 were lost.

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 163/168/120
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

Gillett, R. (Ross) Wings Across the Sea: the first ever complete history of naval aviation from the first world war to the present, Aerospace Publications, 1988