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Sainfoin’s War
By W.J. Mitchell and Colin Buckenham


The Hospital Ship Takliwa

Takliwa in harbour shortly before she was lost

Data Recovery Coventry

In October 1945, a few weeks after the total surrender of Japan due to the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Sainfoin was on passage from Sumatra to Madras in heavy seas. On the second day out she intercepted an S.O.S. from the Hospital Transport ship "Takliwa" carrying 820 repatriated sick and prisioners of war from Hong Kong to Madras. Some four hours after receiving the signal "Takliwa" was found beached, and on fire, on the southern most tip of The Great Nicobar Island. H.M.S. Sainfoin anchored as close to the beach as possible, but, nevertheless lowering her L.C.A.'s proved a hair raising business in the heavy seas that were running. A few yards of lee were afforded between the burning ship and the shore, allowing the craft to go alongside and take off survivors. Between 0830 and 1200, six hundred ex P.O.W.'s were taken to Sainfoin, the remainder had landed ashore, either by swimming or in Takliwa's life boats. Explosions aboard the stricken ship was now making it impossible to use the lee any longer, so all remaining survivors were therefore moved down the beach to await further attempts to rescue them. At first light next morning the craft were lowered away, and as Takliwa had almost burned herself out this permitted the use of the lee again. A third L.C.A. was washed ashore onto the coral reef during the morning. All the crew were saved, as were those of the two other craft lost the day before. The last of the survivors were taken off to safety by 1100. There was not a single casualty amongst the ex P.O.W.'s or the crew of the Takliwa. A tremendous welcome awaited Sainfoin on her arrival in Madras and both the Royal Marines of the flotilla and ships company felt that the hard work of these two days off the Nicobars was well rewarded by the joy with which these men, all Indian soldiers, were returning to their homeland after three and a half years of captivity. Altogether 1,083 ex P.O.W.'s, ships crew and nurses were rescued, plus the ships cat, to which our ships pet monkey "Mortimer" tried to become amorously attached. That cat was more relieved to see Madras than anyone on board, making a swift exit as the gangway was lowered.

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