The Rentse Cover
1944 cover addressed to Capt. A. Rentse, Det. 404, Adv. H.Q., Supreme Allied Command, South East Asia. A 1d Purple/Brown Elizabeth stamp (issued 1 Jan 1943), tied by Port Macquarie, NSW, circular datestamp, pays the correct postage to military personnel within Australia or overseas. Sender’s address on rear, Miss. B. Rentse, 7 St Neot Avenue, Potts Point, Sydney, NSW. The cover has been opened and resealed by censors in NSW with censor district 2 (NSW) censor label, and tied with diamond “Passed By Censor 679” handstamp. An additional numbered handstamp (“11”), possibly linked to censorship, ties the label on the rear of the cover.The History
Starting with FamilySearch
(www.familysearch.org), I conduct a search by surname (initials tend to obscure the search), looking for potential candidates. One possible match is Anker Rentse, which has a link to Find a Grave
(www.findagrave.com). Luckily for us, the findagrave entry includes a short biography (many don't), which strengthens the likelihood that this is our individual, and provides a strong basis for further research. Going back to FamilySearch, we include "Anker" in the search engine, and arrive at the name of Søren Anker Sigvard Rentse
(b.21 June 1895, Ebeltoft, Denmark).
The match for Søren Anker Sigvard Rentse yields a copy of the November 1925 Denmark census in which his wife is given as Karen Mariane
. The couples’ birth dates, places of birth, and employment are also given. Anker is recorded as a "planter". Also attached to this record is a link to a family tree. If a user has created a family tree through FamilySearch, these links can save us a lot of time in research - someone may have already done it for us! Here we see that Karen's maiden name was Olsen. Through this, we see that Karen was single and living at home in the 1921 Census, and married in 1925.
Another useful resource tool for Danish genealogical research is Danish Family Search
(https://www.danishfamilysearch.com/). This resource provides us with a copy of the marital record for the couple, under the names of Søren Anker Sigvard Jensen (later changed to Rentse) and Karen Mariane Baunsøe. They were married March 31, 1923, in Copenhagen.
If you are wondering about the Jensen <> Rentse, Olsen <> Baunsøe discrepancies, don't worry; research into Danish families can be problematic when it comes to surnames, as one online guide (Introduction to Genealogy Research in Denmark
If the Renstse family were based in Malaysia for much of their lives, another good resource to explore is the free online Singapore Newspaper Archive
(https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/). Here a search for "Anker Rentse" yields an embarrassment of riches, that allows us to put together the following brief biography, and understand the history behind this cover.
Anker moved to Johore, Malaysia, in 1924, where he worked on the Mount Austin Estate. This rubber plantation was largely worked by Danish employees, as it was part of East Asiatic Company Limited, of Copenhagen. He then became manager of the Kuala Hau Estate in Kelantan, from 1927 until 1931. Anker and Karen's only child, daughter, Birthe
, was born July 21, 1926, in Copenhagen, Denmark. This timeline suggests that Anker moved to Johore after his marriage in 1923, and had returned to Denmark to be present at the time of the November 1925 census. Perhaps, Karen had decided to stay in Copenhagen during this period, until after their child was born?
After leaving the Kuala Hau Estate, Anker went to work for the Kelantan Government in the Drainage and Irrigation Department. With the arrival of the Japanese, the Rentse family moved to Singapore, where Anker worked for the Ministry of Information, before finally evacuating to Australia as the Japanese continued their advance.
The Australian National Archives
(https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/) provides an excellent source of information to research official documents concerning immigration into Australia. From this resource, we discover that Karen and Birthe arrived in Melbourne aboard the S.S. Aorangi, on January 24, 1942.
From the COFEPOW (Children of Far East Prisoners of War)
website (https://www.cofepow.org.uk/), the role of the Aorangi was described as follows,
Anker did not travel to Australia on the same ship, he followed aboard the S.S. Marella, from Batavia, which docked at Fremantle on February 27, 1942. The following excerpt about the departure of the Marella from Batavia, is from the book "The Royal New Zealand Air Force", which is part of The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945
, available through the Victoria University of Wellington Electronic Text Collection
If there has been any doubt about whether Anker Rentse and Søren Anker Sigvard Rentse were the same person, the following Form of Application for Registration
as an alien resident in Australia (from the Australian National Archives), confirms that they were one in the same. In this document his employer is recorded as the Malayan Government Records Office, 61 Hunter Street, Sydney, New South Wales. However, his residential address is 8 Albert Street, East Malvern, Victoria.
Through the Australian newspaper archives, TROVE
(https://trove.nla.gov.au/), this advertisement from The West Australian
(5 March 1942), shows the Malayan government calling upon all Malayan government officials in Australia to report in to the office.
While in Australia, Anker joined the British Army Intelligence Corps and was sent to Calcutta, India. He was subsequently seconded by the American forces as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.).
The address on the cover, "Det. 404" corroborates this account. "Det[achment] 404" of the South East Asia Command (S.E.A.C), was the O.S.S. detachment based in Ceylon for operations in Southeast Asia, with whom Anker helped arrange the infiltration of O.S.S. personnel into the region.
The structure of the O.S.S. was as follows…
- OSS Deer Team: Vietnam
- OSS Detachment 101: Burma
- OSS Detachment 202: China
- OSS Detachment 303: New Delhi, India
- OSS Detachment 404: attached to British South East Asia Command in Kandy, Ceylon
- OSS Detachment 505: Calcutta, India
On the rear of the cover, the sender has identified herself as "Miss. B. Rentse", Birthe, living at 7 St Neot Avenue, Potts Point, Sydney; presumably with her mother. The 7 St Neot Ave address was a building of flats, named "Park View" which was completed in early 1939. It was advertised as offering "ultra-modern small furnished flats" with balconies, a good outlook, and every convenience and luxury.
Perfect for an evacuated family, waiting out the war.
After the war, Anker returned to Malaya with the British Military Administration as a Civil Affairs Officer in Kelantan. During the Malayan Union he acted as Deputy Resident Commissioner, Ulu Kelantan, until 1947. On returning from leave, he was appointed to the newly created role of Development Officer, Kelantan. As the Development Officer,
In recognition for his services to Kelantan, Anker received the Crown of Kelantan Decoration Sri Mahkota Kelantan (S.M.K.), which was instituted in 1916 by Sultan Muhammad IV as a reward for those whose civil servants who did not qualify for the ordinary classes of the Order of the Crown of Kelantan. In October 1949, Anker also received the United States of America Medal of Freedom with Bronze Palm. The following citation comes from the British National Archives
The medal ceremony is pictured below. This picture comes from another excellent resource for research into the region, the National Archives Singapore
(https://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/). In this photo, the United States Military Liaison Officer Lieutenant Colonel Verle D. Miller pins the American Medal of Freedom with Bronze Palm on Captain Anker Rentse at the United States Military Liaison Office, Union Building, Singapore.
The announcement was published in The London Gazette
(https://www.thegazette.co.uk/) on March 10, 1950.
After the war, Birthe returned to Malaya, but, having commenced an Economics degree at The University of Sydney, returned in 1949 for one year in order to complete it. The pictured Application for Registration
, from Australia's National Archives, shows that she arrived in Australia at the port of Fremantle on April 5, 1949. She travelled first class aboard the MV Charon, which had departed Singapore March 12, 1949. From Fremantle, it is likely that she proceeded to Sydney by air.
On August 8, 1950, Birthe, now back in Malaya, and working as Secretary to the British Advisor, married Hugh King Ashby, State Agricultural Officer, Kelantan. The wedding took place in Kota Bahru, Kelantan. The following wedding photo appeared in The Straits Times
on August 20, 1950. In the wedding group, the proud parents, Anker and Karen, are pictured at center, to the left of the Rev. Wilson, and at the far right the Sultan of Kelantan, and Sultan of Pahang.
After the fall of Singapore in February 1942, Hugh King Ashby, a member of the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force, had been captured by the Japanese. He wrote a memoir of his experiences, unfinished due to his sudden death in 1987. A digitized copy of the memoir is available through the website for The Australian War Memorial
(https://www.awm.gov.au/). The following description describes the memoirs, which can be read or downloaded from the following link: Memoir of Hugh King Ashby
Just five days after the wedding photo appeared in The Straits Times
, Anker died in a plane crash. On August 25, 1950, he was travelling abroad an RAF Dakota on a target-marking and supply mission, as part of the British effort in the anti-communist guerrilla war known as the Malayan Emergency. Engine failure caused the plane to crash in thick jungle, killing all 12 on board. Due to the location, rescuers buried the bodies on site. It wasn't until 2008 that the bodies were recovered and 2012 that the bodies were reinterred with a full burial. Anker’s final resting place is the Cheras Road Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, in Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Anker’s wife Karen, remarried on March 1, 1952, in a quiet ceremony at Singapore Registry Office, to Richard Wallace Jakeman (1908-1986) of the Malayan Civil Service. Like Birthe’s husband, Jakeman was also a former Japanese POW, who had been transported to a camp in Korea. Karen died in 1969.