Bruce Ginders joined the Royal Navy from New Zealand in 1939. He joined his first and only ship, HMS Exeter in Singapore. Exeter was still in damaged condition from the Battle of the River Plate when in company with HMS Ajax & HMNZS Achilles they damaged and forced the retreat and subsequent scuttling of the German pocket battle ship Graf Spee.
In February 1942 HMS Exeter in company with a force of American, Dutch, Australian and other British ships (ABDACOM) under Dutch Admiral Karel Willem Frederik Marie Doorman engaged Japanese Imperial naval forces in the protracted and disastrous Battle of the Java Sea.
Badly damaged with all three main turrets destroyed the Exeter attempted to escape with the destroyer HMS Electra sunk while covering the withdrawal. On the 1st of March Exeter was overtaken by a Japanese cruiser force and around midday went down after being struck by gunfire and at least one torpedo.
Bruce was one of the roughly 100 of the crew who survived the sinking and subsequent captivity by the Japanese. He spent the remainder of the war in in an unregistered camp on the island of Celebes. He never spoke of this period.
Yesterday Bruce died in hospital among members of his family. Four of his Exeter crewmates survive (full crew list here). Bruce will be laid to rest under a New Zealand Ensign on Friday in Auckland.
Bruce Ginders Ord Sig RN
24th Jan 1920 – 21st May 2007