The SS Tjisalak Massacre

History of Sorts

146

The SS Tjisalak was a 5,787-ton Dutch freighter with passenger accommodation built in 1917 for the Java-China-Japan Line and used by the Allies during World War II to transport supplies across the Indian Ocean between Australia and Ceylon. On 26 March 1944, she was torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese submarine I-8 while traveling un-escorted. The freighter’s crew were subsequently massacred in an infamous naval war crime.

The Tjisalak was sailing from Melbourne and Colombo with a cargo of flour and mail. The crew of 80 consisted of Dutch, Chinese and English merchant seaman, plus ten Royal Navy gunners manning the ship’s four-inch gun. Also on board were five passengers (including an American Red Cross nurse, Mrs. Verna Gorden-Britten) and 22 Laskar sailors returning to India after the loss of their ship. Tjisalak had been travelling for 19 days, when her captain became confused by an unusual wireless message from…

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