SS Vyner Brooke

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SS Vyner Brooke
Name: Vyner Brooke
Namesake: Sir Charles Vyner Brooke
Owner: Sarawak Steamship Co
Operator: Ritchie & Bisset
Port of registry: Kingdom of Sarawak Kuching
Route: KuchingSingapore
Builder: Ramage & Ferguson Ltd, Leith, Scotland
Yard number: 264
Completed: February 1928
Fate: sunk by aircraft, 14 February 1942
General characteristics
  • 1,670 GRT
  • tonnage under deck 1,133
  • 713 NRT[1]
Length: 240.7 ft (73.4 m)
Beam: 41.3 ft (12.6 m)
Draught: 16 ft 2 34 in (4.95 m)
Depth: 16.1 ft (4.9 m)
Decks: one
Installed power: 297 NHP
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h)
  • 44 1st-class passengers
  • 200+ deck passengers
Notes: royal yacht

SS Vyner Brooke was a Scottish-built steamship that was both the royal yacht of Sarawak and a merchant ship frequently used between Singapore and Kuching. She was named after the 3rd Rajah of Sarawak, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke. At the outbreak of war with Japan the ship was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and armed.


Ship designed by naval architect F.G Ritchie OBE, of Ritchie & Bisset, Singapore. Ramage & Ferguson of Leith, Edinburgh's harbour area, built the ship, completing her in February 1928. The launch by Her Highness the Ranee was scheduled for 10 November 1927 at Leith.[2] The ship sailed from Leith for Singapore on 17 April 1928.[3]

Vyner Brooke was flush decked with 'tween decks, all steel sheathed in 2.5 in (6.4 cm) with six watertight bulkheads. The main deck was as clear as possible of structures for deck passenger use with accommodations forward for crew and aft for stewards, clerks and ship's boys. The refrigeration plant, designed to keep the cold store two degrees below freezing, was located on the main deck. Cabins amidships on the upper deck provided for 44 first-class passengers with a 40 ft (12.2 m) by 24 ft (7.3 m) saloon forward of the cabins. A staircase at the after end of the saloon led to a shade deck and two de luxe cabins and a private sitting room. The ship was equipped with wireless and carried lifeboats, rafts and lifebelts for 650 people and could carry at least 200 deck passengers.[2]

She was 1,670 GRT had six corrugated furnaces with a combined grate area of 124 square feet (12 m2) that heated two single-ended Barclay, Curle & Co. boilers with a combined heating surface of 4,390 square feet (408 m2). These fed steam at 180 lbf/in2 to a three-cylinder triple expansion steam engine built by Ramage and Ferguson. The engine was rated at 297 NHP and drove twin screws.[1][2]

Cargo was handled by two three ton cranes at each hatch with a heavy, twenty ton derrick.[2]

Royal Navy Requisition[edit]

At the beginning of the war in the Pacific Vyner Brooke was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, painted gray and armed with a four-inch deck gun forward, two Lewis guns aft and depth charges.[4] The ship's Australian and British officers were mostly Malay Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and had been asked to remain aboard the now HMS Vyner Brooke.[5] The ship's company, under the command of her peacetime captain, Richard E. Borton, was augmented by reservists, some survivors of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse and European and Malay professional sailors.[4]

Sinking and massacre[edit]

On 14 February 1942 in World War II, while evacuating nurses and wounded servicemen away from Singapore she was bombed by Japanese aircraft and sunk. Some of the survivors who reached Bangka Island east of Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies were massacred by the Imperial Japanese Army. Others were imprisoned in Palembang and Muntok POW camps.


  1. ^ a b Lloyd's Register, Steamers & Motorships (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1934. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "SS Vyner Brooke" (PDF). The Sarawak Gazette. 7 (1 November 1927): 278–279. 1927. Retrieved 30 January 2018. 
  3. ^ "Notes" (PDF). The Sarawak Gazette. 8 (1 March 1928): 46. 1928. Retrieved 30 January 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Shaw, Ian Winton (2010). On Radji Beach. Sydney, Australia: Macmillan, Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN 9781405040242. LCCN 2010530252. Retrieved 30 January 2018. 
  5. ^ Smith, Colin (2005). Singapore Burning. London: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0670913413. LCCN 2007362297. Retrieved 30 January 2018. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "The Sinking of the Vyner Brooke". The Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 31 December 2017. 
  • Crabb, Brian James (2006). Beyond the Call of Duty. The Loss of British Commonwealth Mercantile and Service Women at Sea During the Second World War. Donington, Lincolnshire: Shaun Tyas. ISBN 1 900289 66-0. 
  • Foo, Vincent H.K.; Chin, Chai Foh (2001). Story of The Sarawak Steamship Company. Kuching: The Sarawak Steamship Co. ISBN 9834070705. 
  • Laxon, W.A. (2004). The Straits Steamship Fleets. Kuching: The Sarawak Steamship Co. ISBN 9834070713. 
  • Shaw, Ian W. (2010). On Radji Beach. Sydney, NSW: Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN 978-1-4050-4024-2. OCLC 610570783.