The Ships A long long journey to freedom

In September 1943 some of the Canadians at Camp Stanley became part of an exchange of interned citizens, a ‘repatriation.’ For those selected, including the two Canadian nurses, this became a long, long journey to freedom.

The Teia Maru

The Teia Maru was orginally the MS Aramis., Built in 1932, she was a French passenger ship used on the Europe-Asia colonial route. She was converted to an armed merchant cruiser when France entered World War II. Aramis was seized by Japan in 1942, renamed Teia Maru, and served as a repatriation ship in 1943. She then served as a transport until she was torpedoed and sunk in 1944.

The Repatriation Voyage

On 14 September 1943 Teia Maru departed Yokohama carrying 80 American repatriates from Japan. Approximately 975 repatriates boarded at Shanghai on 19 September, 24 boarded at Hong Kong on 23 September, 130 boarded at San Fernando, La Union on 26 September, 27 boarded at Saigon on 30 September, and others boarded at Singapore on 5 October. Teia Maru arrived at Mormugao, Goa on 15 October 1943 carrying 1,525 priests, nuns, protestant missionaries, and businessmen and their families.

The Gripsholm

From the brief Wikipedia article: “MS Gripsholm was an ocean liner, built in 1924 by Armstrong Whitworth in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, for the Swedish American Line for use in the Gothenburg-New York City run. She was of great historical importance as the first ship built for transatlantic express service as a diesel-powered motor vessel, rather than as a conventional steamship. Within forty years, however, all major passenger vessels would be diesel-powered.

“From 1927 onwards, the Gripsholm was used as a cruise ship alongside transatlantic crossings. From 1942 to 1946, the United States Department of State chartered Gripsholm as an exchange and repatriation ship, carrying Japanese and German nationals to exchange points where she then picked up US and Canadian citizens to bring home to the USA and Canada. In this service she sailed under the auspices of the International Red Cross, with a Swedish captain and crew. The ship made 12 round trips, carrying a total of 27,712 repatriates. Exchanges took place at neutral ports; at Lourenço Marques in Mozambique or Mormugoa in Portuguese India with the Japanese, and Stockholm or Lisbon with the Germans.

“After the war, Gripsholm was used to deport inmates of US prisons to Italy and Greece. The Swedish American Line sold Gripsholm to Norddeutscher Lloyd in 1954, who renamed her MS Berlin. The ship was sold for scrap in 1966.”

The 1943 repatriation voyage was one of the most significant for both ships, and pretty well documented. This picture shows the two ships lined up at the dock in Mormugao:


The Ships A long long journey to freedom — 6 Comments

  1. At the age of two, along with my parents and two older sisters left Weinshen Concentration Camp with others to eventually board the Teia Maru, later to be transferred to the Gripsholm and head back to America as a part of a prisoner of war exchange. Thanks for your web site. Sam

    • Dear Mr. Seamans;

      Thank you for your comment. I would be fascinated to hear more of your story. Were you born during the internment? Why were your parents in northern China? What did they say of the conditions and treatment in the camps?

      I really enjoyed doing the research for “Repatriation.” As I always say, the stories that almost no one remembers these days are the most fascinating of all.

  2. I’m so happy that I just did a Google search for the Teia Maru! It was an amazing surprise to see a link to your website.

    I have been working on a documentary about this exchange, though my focus is on the Japanese Americans (many of whom were US citizens), sent to a country they had never been to before. I would love to talk with you, as I would also like to include at least one interview of a person released by the Japanese government. Were you able to interview anyone that was a teenager or older at that time? I can be reached at 818-913-0640.

    • I would love to read whatever you’ve learned! Unfortunately, I have not gotten to interview any of the participants. What I know was put together from hours and hours of (fascinating) internet research.

  3. just found this site doing research on grandparents, William and Leada Berst, were missionaries (medical, him, education, her)in China. They were repatriated on the 1943 Gripsholm trip

    • Awesome! Do you have any firsthand accounts from them? I did a lot of research on the episode, but firsthand accounts are few and far between. I would love hear what you know of their story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.