- Nesdale, Iris
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Whang Pu, HMAS Ping Wo, HMAS Poyang, HMAS Yunnan
- December 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Changte and Taiping, 4500 ton merchant sister ships, before the war plied between Melbourne and Tokyo, carrying general cargo and frozen meat. There was accommodation (first class) also for 20 passengers taking a relaxing shipboard holiday from port to intervening port. Taiping was built in Kowloon Dockyard, Hong Kong for Australian Oriental Line Ltd in 1925.
The British Admiralty chartered Changte as Victualling Stores Issuing Ships (VSIS), and with Japan’s entry into the war Taiping was also chartered by Admiralty, and after a somewhat suspenseful trip reached Sydney in December 1941, actually on Christmas Eve.
The two ships began busy (often solitary) crossings of the Indian Ocean to African, Indian and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesian) ports. Captain Tulloch succeeded Taiping’s Captain A.M. Frame in mid-1942, while Taiping was in Bombay Harbour. John Chalmers, Chief Engineer, had joined the ship in 1925, and was to remain with her for 36 years, until in fact Taiping was broken up in Hong Kong.
The late Colin (Scotty) McClymont, a young store assistant, in his notes referred to the two ships as ‘The Navy’s Floating Supermarkets’, the stores ranging from general needs to chilled or frozen meat.
Pre-war ship’s complement had comprised 14 officers and 106 Chinese crew, but on commissioning into the Royal Australian Navy personnel changes were made, and the passenger service deleted.
Royal Australian Navy Personnel of VSIS Taiping:
Paymaster Lt Cdr R.S. (Bob) Sellar
Paymaster Lieut A.R. (Andy) Johnston
Leading Stores Asst. Nobby Clark
Leading Stores Asst. Arthur Geake
Stores Assistants Charles Caithness, Bob Crowe, Tom Duffield, Doug Frazer, Frank Geoghegan, Pat Lourey, Colin (Scotty) McClymont, Dudley Patch, Bill Smitheram.
Butchers CPO George Dooley, (Butch) Bob Jones.
DEMS Gunners Pat Ahern, Tenny Clark.
‘The record of service for these ships ranks high among the units that were formed to meet emergencies in the Pacific war zone,’ said Mr. George Ruxton, South Australia’s Secretary of the RAN Allied Chinese Ships’ Association, and his sentiment is surely acknowledged.
Stoker Butler paid his tribute to Po Yang in verse:
‘So proudly we hailed her
Though she’s battered and worn,
And there’s no doubt about it,
She came in for scorn
By men who were thoughtless
Of a job so well done,
While she carried ammo
To defeat Jap and the Hun.’