SS Heirich Jessen - Escape from Hong Kong

The SS Heinrich Jessen was later requisitioned by the Admiralty for the Royal Indian Navy & re-named HMIS Barracuda for the duration of the war.


SS Heinrich Jessen-HMIS Barracuda

The Heinrich Jessen was built in Japan in 1939 before being towed to Hong Kong where she was fitted out in Kowloon docks with accommodation for four hundred passengers. The SS Heinrich Jessen was launched in February 1940 by Mrs Jessen.

Thirty two year old George Rhod Hansen was the Master of the Heinrich Jessen, the last merchant ship to leave Rangoon, sailing out on the morning of 8th March 1942. On board were members of the 2nd MTB Flotilla including Lt Ron Ashby and his crew, who had earlier escaped from Hong Kong. In December 1941. The Jessen was later requisitioned by the Admiralty for the Royal Indian Navy and renamed HMIS Barracuda under the command of Lt-Cdr S J Gellert RINR. HMIS Barracuda later saw service as the depot ship to the Arakan coastal forces under Commander Ron Ashby RNVR, Senior Officer Arakan Coastal Forces, late OC MTB 07 HKRNVR. [111]

Following the Japanese surrender in 1945 a vast armada of some ninety warships descended on Singapore for the signing of the articles of surrender on 12th September 1945. Among the ships representing the Royal Indian Navy coastal forces were motor launches of the 56th R.I.N. M.L. Flotilla and the ML Depot and Repair Ship, HMIS Barracuda, late SS Heinrich Jessen under the command of Lt-Cdr J H Zappert RINR.

George Rhod Hansen had been friends with fellow Danes in Hong Kong including Niels órskov & Karen Lisbeth Christensen. Niels died on 18th December 1942 while being held in Shamshuipo, a P.O.W. camp. Niels along with a number of fellow Danes signed up to the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force and so he was regarded as military. George Rhod Hansen contacted Niels widow after the war and eventually they fell in love and married in 1956.

Following thirty five years of service, Jebson & Co paid off the SS Heirich Jessen in the mid 1970's




Heinrich Jessen sailing orders 21st December 1941












Butterfield & Swire orders











Armed Merchant Ship SS Narkunda in Bombay 1942






The Armed Merchant Ship SS Narkunda in Bombay, March 1942.


Fighting for Two Kings by Frode Z Olsen


Click here for an interview with Frode Z Olsen.


Fighting for Two Kings by
Frode Z Olsen. is available from all good book shops.

Not an Earthly Chance by Frode Z Olsen

Ikke en Jordisk Chance (Not an Earthly Chance) by Frode Z Olsen.

The story of the Danish community fighting alongside the British in Hong Kong in December 1941.

Research and web publication by Buddy Hide Jnr ©

The contents of this web site led to a considerable number of escapee families contacting me and now each other, and remains the principle source of contact and private information for the spin off projects that have followed. The personal accounts enabled me to record the complete and true account of this remarkable episode of Sino-British war time co-operation. The information compiled here has directly resulted in a museum exhibition in Hong Kong, a re-enactment of the escape in Hong Kong and China, with a movie drama and documentary in the making.

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