Abe Grunis

Service number 1254212
Died 29 Nov 1943
Commemorated on Singapore Memorial
Age 29

Abe (Abraham) was born on 28 July 1914 in Cardiff, Wales to Polish born parents Asher and Hannah Baila.

Asher Grunis was born in Pietrokov, Poland in 1877 and married Hannah Baila in 1896. They had seven sons and one daughter and in 1902 he was appointed Rabbi of Wilczyn in Poland. The family emigrated to Cardiff with five of their sons and daughter. The two other sons moved to Israel. Rabbi Grunis was appointed the first communal Rabbi of Cardiff, overseeing the correct application of Jewish religious dietary laws.

Abe was educated at the Cardiff Technical College and worked as a textile director before he enlisted in 1940.

Abe was captured by the Japanese on 20 March 1942 and held at Java POW camp. In April 1943 Abe was sent on one five ships that transported thousands of Dutch and British prisoners of war from Java to the South Moluccas to work on the construction of five Japanese airfields near Liang on Ambon. In November 1943, the Japanese decided to ship the sick men back to Java. A total of 640 men, including a number of Japanese sick patients, were taken on board the ‘Hell Ship’ S.S. Suez Maru. She sailed on 25 November 1943 with 548 POW’s (415 British and 133 Dutch) from Ambon bound for Surabaya. On 29 November 1943 the ship was torpedoed by USS Bonefish near Kangean Island. Most of the POW’s drowned in the holds of the ship. The crew of the Bonefish were unaware that the ship was carrying allied prisoners. Those who escaped from the holds and left the ship were shot by the Japanese. There were no survivors.

Back row left to right. Sydney, Nathan, Hirsch and Abraham. Front row, Paula, Hannah, Rabbi Asher Grunis and Leo. Courtesy Jewish History Association of South Wales.