Roy Cornford - Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru - Part 3
Department of Veterans' Affairs
On the first day on the raft, the water was very calm. And when you sat on the raft, the 18 of us, the raft used to go about this far under the water but then the life jacket you had on would take your weight and you'd just float up and down with the rise of the current.
Well we just talked of good things back in Australia and what we'd so when we got home and all this. No one talked of death or not being rescued or anything. And then on the second day we noticed a couple missing. We spotted a Jap - dead -you used to see lots of prisoners floating in their lifejackets that were dead and we'd say "Oh, there goes so-and-so and there goes so-and-so".
Then I spotted a Jap come close to us and he had a water bottle around his neck. And I says "Well, I'll get that water bottle." So I dog paddled about five metres to it, got the water bottle and I was flat out dog paddling back to the raft. They pulled a stick from under the raft, we'd been shoving sticks under the raft and bits of plank and that under the raft to help hold us up higher. They poked the stick out and pulled me aboard and we got the water bottle, it had no cork in it and was full of salt water.
That was I think the second day, and then on the third day it rained. Well, we put our hands up to our mouths like this, and I'd say everybody would have got a couple of good mouthfuls of water. It was still very calm and the water was warm and the nights were warm and the days were warm. Well, they were hot the days, because you got badly burnt. All my arms were burnt right up here and right up there. And where you were in the water all the time your skin had gone - you only had skin, you got practically no flesh under the skin - it had all congealed up and sort of come in to look like big scabs.
On the third night, we still had about 16 of us on the raft. When daylight come the next morning, there was only nine of us left. I never saw one of them disappear. On that third night I got into the middle of the two rafts that we'd joined together and took my lifejacket off, tied a strap to my arm and lay down in about six inches of water and had a sleep. And I slept very well, because we were very, very tired I'll admit and knocked about, we were only skin and bones.
And then the next morning there was only nine of us on the two rafts and we were floating around and we saw this, looked like a small fishing trawler, going to rafts about four or five kilometres away from us. Someone kept saying "Oh, it's a small ship". And then it started coming closer to us, and we're waving and waving, and when it got closer we realised it was a submarine.