Remembering the HMS Dragonfly, HMS Grasshopper and HMS Scorpion

HMS Dragonfly

HMS Grasshopper

HMS Scorpion

November 13th, 2011 - Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, a day in which we honour the country's war dead. On this day, the Sejarah Melayu website would like to pay tribute to the nearly 100 Malay seamen of the Royal Navy and Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve who were killed in February 1942 in their efforts to slow down the Japanese advance into Malaya and evacuate British troops and civilians to safety. On February 14th alone, over 80 Malay seamen who were killed, or missing presumed killed, when Japanese aircraft and destroyers sank the HMS Scorpion, HMS Dragonfly and HMS Grasshopper off the coast of Sumatra.

HMS Scorpion, HMS Dragonfly and HMS Grasshopper were sister ships of a class of gunboats designated the "Locust Class" (all five ships of this class bear insect names).  The Locust Class was the first class of river gunboats specifically designed to function in the open sea. They were about 200 feet long, with a speed of 17 knots and had a complement of between 74-93 crewmen. Its armamanet consisted of a 0.5 inch quad barrel machine gun, 4-inch Mk V gun, 3.5-inch Howitzer  and two 2-inch deck mounted mortars.

During the Second World War, these three ships were tasked with securing the Chinese rivers as part of the gunboat squadron operating from Shanghai, China. They were withdrawn and sent to Singapore after the Japanese forces invaded China. Japanese forces invaded Malaya just after midnight on 8th December 1941 (local time, just prior to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour). Completely taken by surprise, British forces along the length of the Malay Peninsula were overrun. The 15th Brigade (comprising the British Battalion, the 2nd Cambridgeshire and the 5th and 6th Norfolks retreated south to Singapore but found its way blocked by Japanese forces at Senggarang. sister ships. On 31st January, HMS Scorpion, HMS Grasshopper and HMS Dragonfly successfully evacuated the 1,500 men of the brigade to Singapore.

However, Singapore itself was soon to fall and HMS Scorpion and HMS Grasshopper left Keppel Harbour in Singapore on 14th February 1942 - just one day before the final surrender of the port city - and set course for Batavia in Java. The sister ships were immediately attacked by waves of Japanese torpedo and dive bomber aircraft in the shallow waters of Rusuk Buaja Island. The HMS Dragonfly  was sunk, while HMS Grasshopper was heavily damaged, managed to beach itself and was abandoned. Earlier, HMS Scorpion was damaged by aircraft on February 9th. The same day HMS Scorpion and HMS Grasshopper were lost, HMS Scorpion encountered a Japanese destroyer and was sunk in the vicinity of Muntok in the Banka Straits.

Judy a pointer dog, was a mascot onboard the Dragonfly. She was captured after the ship's loss, was the only known dog to be registered as a Second World War Prisoner of War, and was later awarded the Dickin Medal by the PDSA, considered to be the animals' VC

Eyewitness Accounts
Naval Casualty List for February 1942
Judy the English pointer

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