Going Home, a memoir by Rob Colquhoun

GOING HOME: THE VOYAGE OF THE CAPE MEARES
Manila, 10 April – San Francisco, 12 May, 1945

By Robert Colquhoun

My mother, Elsa Colquhoun, and I were held by the Japanese in Santo Tomás Internment Camp, Manila, from January 1942 to our liberation by the US army on 3 February 1945. By then she was thirty-four and I was six years and four months old. My father was a military prisoner of war in Hong Kong and in Camp my mother met another Englishman, Harold Leney, who would become my stepfather. Their son, Tom, was born there on 30 March 1945. Ten days later the four of us left Camp for the last time and with many other internees headed by truck to the port area on the first stage of our journey home via San Francisco. At the harbor, because of the damage done during the battle for Manila, we were carried by landing craft – an excitement in itself – out to our ship, the SS Cape Meares.

The Cape Meares, named after a promontory in Oregon, was one of 173 C1-B freighters specially built during the war. Eight of these, all named after capes on the west coast of North America, were converted into troopships. (One of them, the Cape San Juan, did not survive the war: on its way to Australia in November 1943 with over 1,300 troops on board, it was torpedoed south-east of Fiji and sank with the loss of 130 lives.)

Cape Meares

Cape Meares


Intended to be used on routes which did not call for fast ships (they were capable of doing 14 knots), C1-Bs were better constructed and more versatile than Liberty and Victory ships. The Cape Meares was built by Consolidated Steel, Wilmington, California, and delivered to the Matson Navigation Co. in June 1943. It was 417 feet long, weighed 6,750 tons and could carry over 1,800 military personnel. It was armed with guns fore, aft and midships (next to the funnel), as shown in the above US Maritime Commission drawing.

The ship’s Master was Edgar A. Quinn, a 33-year-old Chicagoan of Irish descent with fifteen years’ seagoing experience, including war service in the Pacific and the Atlantic. To me, the Captain – nobody ever referred to him by his merchant navy title – was a remote, god-like figure. On one occasion, however, I was taken onto the bridge. Tall men were talking quietly as they went about their business. The Captain, doubtless none too pleased at the presence of this young intruder in his domain, shot us a glance and then returned to his task of getting his ship and its human cargo safely across the Pacific.

The Cape Meares was equipped with a hospital bay and operating theatre and as a result took sick and wounded civilians on board, together with what seems to have been a floating maternity ward of expectant and nursing mothers – several babies would be born on the crossing. The sick also included those who were mentally ill: one passenger, William Balfour, a 25-year-old Scottish radio operator, was described by the immigration authorities on his arrival at San Francisco as “unable to answer questions due to psychosis”.

Among the severely injured was Sofia Adamson, who has left an account of the crossing in her 1982 autobiography Gods, angels & pearls, roses. Born to Greek immigrants in the USA in 1916, she had graduated with a degree in education from UCLA in 1937. She married George Athos Adamson in 1939 and moved to the Philippines, where in 1934 he had joined his brother at an educational institution, recently founded by his cousin, which was to become the Adamson University, Manila. She herself became involved in the College of Education. During 1941 she worked as a secretary in General MacArthur’s office and remained in Manila throughout the Japanese occupation. Because she and George were both of Greek origin, they were spared being interned in Santo Tomás. During the battle for Manila, however, they were both wounded by shrapnel fire – she particularly badly in the neck and leg, so much so that she was unable to walk. As such, she was, as her surgeons put it, “crated for shipping” onto the Cape Meares and then lifted aboard by crane. In fact, because of the unwieldy plaster that encased her leg, she spent most of the voyage below decks, coming up for air with her husband for emergency drills and at various ports of call. After eventually recovering from her injuries in an army hospital in San Francisco, she and George moved to Pasadena, California, in 1946. Active in many areas of civic life, she was most notably a co-founder and benefactor of the Pacific Asia Museum, a showcase for the arts and culture of the Pacific Islands. George died in 2003 and Sofia in 2007, aged ninety. In the title of her autobiography, gods refers to her Greek heritage, angels to her childhood in Los Angeles, pearls to Manila, and roses to her life in Pasadena. She has an entry in Wikipedia.

One of the pregnant mothers on board was Jean Cowan Shanks MacWilliam, whose 1972 memoir can be found on Tom Moore’s Santo Tomás website: http://www.cnac.org/emilscott/macwilliam01.htm. In 1940, in her late twenties, she left her native Scotland for the Philippines to marry her childhood sweetheart, Richard Niven MacWilliam, who was working for the Insular Lumber Company in a remote spot at Fabrica on Negros Island. She arrived in Manila on 27 October and their wedding took place the following day. Their son Scott was born on 16 April 1942 – some four months after the Japanese invasion – and in June all three were interned at Bacolod. In March 1943 they were moved to Santo Tomás and in April 1944 to Los Baños. They were liberated on 23 February 1945, by which time Jean was seven months pregnant – and ripe for the Cape Meares. In the event, their second son, Richard, was born while the ship was at Pearl Harbor on 6 May, a few days before it reached San Francisco. After staying with family in Ohio and spending a week in New York, they sailed for Britain on the Queen Elizabeth in mid-June. Subsequently they returned to the Philippines, where Scott went to school at Brent in Baguio for a year, before moving to Australia in 1951. I have been in contact with Scott MacWilliam by email. He became an academic, working in many different countries on development policy. He is now based at Australian National University in Canberra, from where he carries out research on Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Through Maurice Francis’s email group I have been in touch with another passenger on the Cape Meares – Francine Juhan (now Bostrom). Born in October 1936, and therefore just two years older than me, she was interned in Baguio with her father Francis Golden Juhan, a goldmine administrator, her mother Amelia Johnson, and her younger sister Elizabeth Amelia, aged three in April 1945. The Cape Meares was the obvious ship for the family to go home on: her father had TB and her parents had just had a son – Herman James Juhan, born 29 March. After the war they settled in Santa Monica, where her father set up in real estate, though he died of peritonitis in 1950. Francine now lives in Torrance, near Los Angeles. (Her maternal grandfather, Herman Frithioff Johnson, was interned separately in Santo Tomás. Born in 1885 and a proud ex-marine, he was working as a civil servant at the Cavite naval base near Manila when war broke out. After rescuing a colleague injured in the Japanese air attacks on the base, he himself was wounded, lost an eye and suffered from poor medical treatment during his time in Santo Tomás. The family lost track of him and they were only reunited in the USA after the war.)

Having spent the night of 9 April anchored off Manila harbor – throughout the voyage Harold and I slept on mattresses in the male quarters in the vast hold, while my mother, nursing Tom, had her own cabin – we set sail on the 10th. It was, for me, the start of a memorable experience. The children seemed to be given the run of the ship and I made two friends I have not forgotten. One was a boy of my age, Paul, who I remembered as French but was possibly Paul Laurens, a Belgian, who hadn’t been interned but had been living with his parents on restricted “permanent release” in Manila. (The only problem is that he doesn’t appear on the list of “alien” passengers on board – see below.) I also made friends, as did lots of other children, with a cheerful 19-year-old sailor, nicknamed for obvious reasons Curly, who was part of the gun crew. Always laughing and joking and surrounded by kids, at the end of the voyage he let me have a gigantic screwdriver which I admired – I kept it for years.

The Cape Meares made its way to Tacloban, Leyte (the city which took the full force of typhoon Haiyan in November 2013). It was here, on 12 April, that we learnt of the death of President Roosevelt. We then headed south towards New Guinea, to avoid Japanese submarines – I vaguely remember an incomprehensible “crossing the line” ceremony with a rather disturbing Neptune – before turning north-east for our second port of call, at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the scene of a significant battle and American victory in February 1944. Here we were given a destroyer escort for the next and more dangerous stage of our journey – to Pearl Harbor, Honolulu.

Sofia Adamson, Jean MacWilliam and Francine Juhan all recall what happened next. Our destroyer detected, chased and, judging by the oil slick that came to the surface, sank a Japanese submarine. Unfortunately in firing its depth charges one of the sailors had jammed his hand in the mechanism, badly injuring it. It was decided to transfer him to the Cape Meares, where he could receive proper surgical attention. The destroyer came alongside, a line was thrown between the two ships, and we watched enthralled as the injured man was hauled across by breeches-buoy. I remember urgent shouts, probably magnified through a loud-hailer, as his body dropped dangerously close to the waves. But he arrived safely, received treatment and, writes Jean MacWilliam, recovered well.

Four days later – after, says Sofia Adamson, seven alarms and two failed torpedo attacks on us – we arrived at Pearl Harbor. “It was,” Jean MacWilliam remembered, “an amazing sight.” The broken hulls of ships destroyed in the attack of December 1941 were still visible and contrasted forlornly with the mighty display of US seapower to be seen first in the Marshall Islands and now in Honolulu. So we began the last leg of our voyage. On 8 May we heard that the war in Europe was over. Days later we sailed under the Golden Gate and arrived at San Francisco, shore band playing, on 12 May. For me, it was almost too soon. I had grown to love that ship and adored the crossing – the freedom to roam, the friendly crew, the plentiful food, the ubiquitous smell of paint, the constant throbbing of the engines, and the blinking of signal lamps from ship to ship – not to mention the excitements of lifeboat drill and gun practice (the debonair Curly, in helmet and flak jacket, at his post). It had been the time of my young life.

The Cape Meares continued to serve as a troopship until 1946 – I have found no record of its subsequent peacetime career – and was scrapped in 1965. After further war service (it was his last voyage with the Cape Meares), Captain Quinn remained with the Matson Line till 1951. That year he became a Columbia River Bar pilot at Astoria, Oregon. He died there in 1973, aged sixty-one.

List or Manifest of Alien Passengers Arriving at San Francisco

The list is to be found on Ancestry. It is on more than one page, but I have put the passenger numbers in a continuous sequence. The manner in which nationality was entered varies, but I have simplified and standardized it. Place of birth is also given in the original, but I have not included that here. In square brackets I have given internees‘ page numbers and camp from Stevens’ book, where relevant. “Dhea” means they are listed in Dhea Santos‘ roster at the American Historical Collection, Manila. “TM” indicates they are on Tom Moore’s website.

The crew of the Cape Meares is also on Ancestry. The big puzzle remains: where is the passenger list of US nationals? Was it recorded? It does not appear to be on Ancestry nor has it come to light elsewhere.

1. Adamson, George Athos. 37. Dean, Adamson University. Greek.
2. Adamson, Sofia. 27. Housewife. American.
3. Balfour, William. 25. Radio operator. British.
4. Brown, George Caldwell. 36. Manager. British. [Stevens 530 STIC, Dhea]
5. Brown, Grace Smith. 35. Housewife. British. [“]
6. Brown, Iain Alastair. 3y, 3m. British. [Dhea]
7. Cameron, John Mackenzie. 38. Insurance. British. [Stevens 530 STIC, Dhea]
8. Cameron, Elizabeth Paula. 35. Housewife. British. [“]
9. Cameron, Hugh Mackenzie. 7y, 8m. British. [“]
10. Cameron, Iain Mackenzie. 4m. British. [Dhea]
11. Colquhoun, Elsa. 34. Housewife. British. [Stevens 531 STIC, Dhea, TM]
12. Colquhoun, Robert Francis. 6y, 7m. British. [“]
13. Colquhoun, Thomas Robert. 1m. British.
14. Corpe, Rosemary. 38. Housewife. British. [Stevens 531 STIC, Dhea]
15. Corpe, Crispin John. 5. British. [“]
16. Elie, Hyman Cohen. 45. Navy, Civil Service. American. [Stevens 507 STIC, Dhea]
17. Elie, Yvette Gadol. 25. Housewife. British. [Dhea]
18. Elie, Lloyd C. 6y, 10m. American. [Dhea]
19. Gadol, Fortunée S. (mother of no. 17). 55. Housewife. British.
20. Feldman, Solomon. 44. Accountant, Texaco Co. British. [Stevens 532 STIC, Dhea]
21. Feldman, Zena. 37. Housewife. British. [“]
22. Feldman, Reva. 13y, 6m. British. [“]
23. Feldman, Helen. 5y, 7m. British. [“]
24. Hampton, James A. 67. Watchman. American. [Stevens 511 STIC, Dhea]
25. Hampton, Louis. 23. Student. American.
26. Hampton, James. 27. Civil service. American.
27. Hampton, Teresa Francisco (wife of above). 19. Filipino.
28. Hampton, James J. Raymond III (son). 1y, 9m. Filipino.
29. Harper, James Albert. 29. Foreman. American. [Stevens 547 Los Baños, Dhea]
30. Harper, Ella Mae. 26. Housewife. Canadian. [Stevens 562 Los Baños, Dhea]
31. Harper, Betty Jane. 4y, 8m. American. [Stevens 547 Los Baños, Dhea]
32. Harper, Anita Mae. 7y, 6m. American. [“]
33. Kane, John William James. 23. Manager. New Zealander. [Dhea]
34. Laing, Ronald Ian. 29. Florist. British. [Stevens 533 STIC, Dhea, TM]
35. Laing, Eric Charles. 26. Merchant. British. [“]
36. Laing, Maria Mercedes. 62. Widowed. British. [“]
37. Leney, Harold Bertram. 31. Accountant. British. [Stevens 533 STIC, Dhea, TM]
38. MacWilliam, Richard Niven. 44. Assistant Manager. British. [Stevens 560 Los Baños, Dhea, TM]
39. MacWilliam, Jean Cowan Shanks. 32. Housewife. British. [“]
40. MacWilliam, Scott. 3. British. [“]
41. MacWilliam, Richard Niven Jr. 6 days. Born at sea. British.
42. Nelson, Archibald Graham. 28. Geologist. British. [Stevens 560 Los Baños, Dhea]
43. Piercy, Arthur. 56. Merchant. British. [Stevens 560 Los Baños, Dhea]
44. Rynd, Patrick Gerald. 39. Banker. British. [Stevens 536 STIC, Dhea]
45. Rynd, Charis Veronica. 37. Housewife. British. [“]
46. Rynd, Catherine Ann. 3y, 1m. British. [“]
47. Sun, Ernesto Liorente. 22. Merchant. Filipino.
48. Sun, Doris Rosalind. Wife. 22. Chinese.
49. Van Odije, Anthony Hendrik. 60. Priest. Dutch.

A personal puzzle: who was my young shipboard companion? If it wasn’t Paul Laurens, the only other possible candidate is no. 18, Lloyd Elie. He wasn’t interned and the age is right (born 30 June 1938) – but he was American, not French, and Lloyd is a long way from Paul (I can’t believe I would have got the name so wrong in my memory). On the other hand, there may have been a French connection: his mother was Yvette and his grandmother (no. 19) was called Fortunée. This is not enough to convince me, however, that Lloyd Elie was the boy in question.

Robert Colquhoun, Blackheath, London, February 2014

Complete Cape Meares passenger list:

NameYear of birthOccupationNationality
Adamopoulos, George Athos1909Dean of Adamson UniversityGreek
Adamopoulos, Sofia G.1916HousewifeGreek
Adamson, George Athos1908SecretaryGreek
Almy, Clifford Edwin1888Film DistributorAmerican
Almy, Margaret1898HousewifeAmerican
Arriandiaga, Maria R.1924StudentAmerican
Arriandiaga, Ricardo Sr.1888Merchant MarineAmerican
Atkin, Grace1874NoneAmerican
Atkin, Hercules Boyd1885ManagerAmerican
Balfour, William1920Radio OperatorBritish
Banyea, Anna B.1867NoneAmerican
Barnes, Carole1931ChildAmerican
Barnes, Dorothy Lee1908HousewifeAmerican
Barnes, George Sheldon1906Insurance AdjusterAmerican
Barnes, Georgia Lee1929StudentAmerican
Barnes, Peter Sheldon1942ChildAmerican
Barnes, Thomas Freeman1945ChildAmerican
Brown, George Caldwell1909MerchantBritish
Brown, Grace Smith1910HousewifeBritish
Brown, Iain Alistair Carlton1942ChildBritish
Cameron, Elizabeth Paula1910HousewifeBritish
Cameron, Hugh MacKenzie1938ChildBritish
Cameron, Ian Mackenzie1944ChildBritish
Cameron, John Mackenzie1907InsuranceBritish
Carman, Edna Mertz1883HousewifeAmerican
Colquhoun, Elsa Reynolds1912StenographerBritish
Colquhoun, Robert Francis1938ChildBritish
Colquhoun, Thomas Robert 1945ChildBritish
Corkle, Annie Barber1912Adv. ManagerAmerican
Corpe, Crispin John1940ChildBritish
Corpe, Rosemary1907HousewifeBritish
Crosby, Mable Montgomery1888HousewifeAmerican
Davis, Laura Annie1882MissionaryAmerican
Davis, William Garfield1881MissionaryAmerican
Decoteau, Joseph A. (Reverend)1914PriestAmerican
Elie, Hyman Cohen1900Salesman; Navy, Civil ServiceAmerican
Elie, Lloyd Cohen1938ChildAmerican
Elie, Yvette Cohen1921HousewifeAmerican
Feldman, Helen1939ChildBritish
Feldman, Reva1931StudentBritish
Feldman, Solomon1901Accountant, TexacoBritish
Feldman, Zena1908HousewifeBritish
Foley, Frances Helen1925StudentAmerican
Foley, Mary Addalene1890HousewifeAmerican
Francisco, Louis Joseph Sr.1884MerchantAmerican
Francisco, Marie Dumas1888HousewifeAmerican
Francisco, Maurice Louis1917ClerkAmerican
Francisco, Sonia Marie1932StudentAmerican
Gadol, Fortunee S.1890HousewifeBritish
Hampton, James Albert1878WatchmanAmerican
Hampton, James J. Raymond III1943ChildAmerican
Hampton, James Monroe Jr.1918Civil ServiceAmerican
Hampton, Louis1922StudentFilipino
Hampton, Teresa Francisco1926HousewifeFilipino
Hannigs, Richard Edward1910Mining EngineerAmerican
Hanson, Edward Henry1917TypistAmerican
Harper, Anita Mae1937ChildAmerican
Harper, Betty Jane1941ChildAmerican
Harper, Ella Mae1918HousewifeCanadian
Harper, James Albert1915ForemanAmerican
Harrah, Orville S.1900AuditorAmerican
Harrah, Rosa Maree1900TeacherAmerican
Henderson, Barclay Canova1913American
Henderson, Dorothy Gardiner1918HousewifeAmerican
Henderson, John Gardiner1945ChildAmerican
Hill, Alva Jay1880Ex-MilitaryAmerican
Hill, Martha Mills1894Missionary nurseAmerican
Hill, Samuel Wallace1929StudentAmerican
Holt, Truman Slayton1871American
Howie, Beverley Joan1943ChildAmerican
Howie, Dianne Joyce1941ChildAmerican
Howie, Dorothy Joan Khoury1920HousewifeAmerican
Howie, Jamiel Elias "Jimmy"1906BusinessmanAmerican
Juhan, Amelia1912HousewifeAmerican
Juhan, Elizabeth Aurelia1941ChildAmerican
Juhan, Francine M.1936ChildAmerican
Juhan, Francois G.1911PainterAmerican
Juhan, Herman James1945ChildAmerican
Kane, John William James1922ManagerNew Zealander
Laing, Eric Charles1918MerchantBritish
Laing, Maria Mercedes de Carvajal1883HousewifeBritish
Laing, Ronald Ian1915FloristBritish
LaPointe, William Francis1878Educational AdviserAmerican
Leney, Harold Bertram1913AccountantBritish
MacWilliam, Jean Cowan Shanks1922HousewifeBritish
MacWilliam, Richard Niven Jr.1945ChildBritish
MacWilliam, Richard Niven Sr.1901Assistant managerBritish
MacWilliam, Scott1942ChildBritish
Maimstrom, Charles C.1876American
Manning, Cora Ellen1886HousewifeAmerican
McCaffray, Arthur J. (Rev.)1876PriestAmerican
Meagher, Bernard Joseph1907American
Meagher, Zora Simmons1907American
Miller, Gilbert Charles1913American
Miller, Helen R.1914HousewifeAmerican
Miller, Russell Meares1945ChildAmerican
Nelson, Archibald Graham1916GeologistBritish
Newland, Marcia Mae1935ChildAmerican
Newland, Mona Watson1907MissionaryAmerican
Newland, Neal George1935ChildAmerican
Newland, Paul Vernon1943ChildAmerican
Newland, Vernon Melvin1906MissionaryAmerican
O'Neill, James L.1891American
O'Shaughnessy, Martin J.1890American
Odyk, Anton Hendrik van (Rev.)1885PriestDutch
Olsen, Carl Esten1896MerchantAmerican
Olsen, Florence Margaret1875NoneAmerican
Olsen, Lucy Helen1896HousewifeAmerican
Olsen, Roberta Louise1932ChildAmerican
Piercy, Arthur1889MerchantBritish
Precino, Thomas1872American
Quinn, Grant A. (Rev.)1910American
Rynd, Catherine Ann1942ChildBritish
Rynd, Charis Veronica1908HousewifeBritish
Rynd, Patrick Gerald1905BankerBritish
Sands, Martin Paul "Martie"1900American
Sands, Mildred Marie1903American
Schoppe, Leonard Albert1870American
Schoppe, Lillian A.1872American
Sperry, Henry Muhlenberg Jr.1907American
Start, Henry A.1869DoctorAmerican
Sun, Doris Rosaline1922HousewifeAmerican
Sun, Ernesto Llorente1923MerchantFilipino
Thompson, Evelyn Rennolds1918HousewifeAmerican
Thompson, Rolland English1912General MerchantAmerican
Thompson, Rolland Rennolds1941ChildAmerican
Tuschka, Otto Joseph1873ChemistAmerican
Tuschka, Yetta Jennie1883HousewifeAmerican
Vinson, Olivert Castille1914MissionaryAmerican
Vinson, Thomas Chalmers1914MissionaryAmerican
Waples, James Francis1903American
Warren, Fred Prince1876SalesmanAmerican
Wilson, Edward John1876American
Xydias, Anthony John1879Motion Picture ProducerAmerican
Yearsley, Marie Louise1931ChildCanadian
Yearsley, Pearl Irene1888HousewifeCanadian