Harry Hudson Rodmell NYK Passenger Liners Asama Maru and Tatsuta Maru Display Poster on Board 1928 SOLD AP527

These two diesel-propelled beauties were the foundations of NHK’s passenger fleet in the decade before the Second World War, a conflict they did not survive. The Harry Hudson Rodmell poster is a gem in every way. Probably in its original frame: the whole ensemble was conceived as a travel agency display piece.

Board 37″ x 27″, frame 45 1/2″ x 35 1/2″. Rare.

Harry Hudson Rodmell (28 May 1896 – 3 March 1984) was an English painter and Commercial artist, specialising in marine art. He studied at Hull School of Art before enlisting in the Royal Engineers during World War I. After demobilisation, he was recruited by Ronald Massey, a London agent seeking nautical illustrations for publicity material. Subsequently he produced work for many of the major shipping lines including P & O, Canadian Pacific and the British India Line. His longest running commission was a series of calendars for the tugboat company William Watkins Ltd.

After serving with the Royal Observer Corps during World War II, his graphic design work was largely replaced by commissioned oil paintings of new vessels. These were often produced from plans so that a painting could be completed before the vessel was launched,

The Asama Maru (浅間丸 Asama maru?) was a Japanese ocean liner owned by Nippon Yusen Kaisha. The ship was built in 1927-1929 by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Nagasaki, Japan.

The Asama Maru was built for the trans-Pacific Orient-California fortnightly service; and she was characterized as “The Queen of the Sea.” Principal ports-of-call included Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Yokohama, Honolulu, Los Angeles & San Francisco. On her fourth voyage from Yokohama to SanFrancisco, the speed of the ship’s crossing surpassed the previous record.

The vessel was created as a twin of the Tatsuta Maru; and both ships were named after important Shinto shrines.

The first passenger liner built by NYK was Asama Maru. The ship was built by Mitsubishi at Nagasaki on the southern island of Kyushu. The Asama Maru was launched on October 30, 1927. She left Yokohama on September 15, 1929 on her maiden voyage to California.[7]

NYK Line brochure, 1929.

The 16,975-ton vessel had a length of 583 feet (178 m), and her beam was 71 feet (22 m). The ship had 4 diesel motors, two funnels, two masts, quadruple screws and an average speed of 21-knots. The Asama Maru was the first Japanese passenger liner to be propelled by diesel engines.

The ocean liner provided accommodation for 222 first-class passengers and for 96 second class passengers. There was also room for up to 504 third-class passengers. The ship and passengers were served by a crew of 330.

Pacific War

Before Japan’s entry into the Second World War she was intercepted by the Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Liverpool 35 miles (56 km) from the coast of Niijima on January 21, 1940. Alerted to reports that Axis sailors in the United States were preparing to arrange transport to Germany, the British Government had authorised the C-in-C, China Station to direct a warship to detain certain passengers providing the coast of Japan was not within sight. The Liverpool removed 21 of the ship’s passengers believed to be survivors of the scuttled German liner Columbus. The Government of Japan condemned it as an abuse of belligerent rights and formally protested the action, which further escalated tensions between the two countries.

On 25 Oct. 1940, the Asama Maru departed San Francisco with 8 officers of the Columbus, and arrived Honolulu on 30 Oct. On 12 Nov., they reached Yokohama. In 1941 the ship became a troopship for the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the summer of 1942, it was used in the repatriation of the prewar diplomatic staffs of Japan and the Allied nations, the exchange taking place at what is now Maputo. In transporting Allied prisoners, it was amongst those vessels which earned the epithet “hell ships.” On November 1, 1944, Asama Maru was torpedoed and sunk by the US submarine USS Atule in the South China Sea 100 miles (160 km) south of the island of Pratas.

In December 1941 the Tatsuta Maru was part of an elaborate Japanese deception plan to mask the unannounced attack on the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor. She sailed from Yokohama on 2 December bound for San Francisco with the task of exchanging American evacuees from East Asia for Japanese nationals in the United States. She was scheduled to reach the US on 14 December and despite rumours of war the American press wrongly concluded that meant nothing was likely to happen for some time.

The master of the ship had sealed orders to turn around at midnight on 7 December and return to Japan while maintaining radio silence. Subsequently, Tatsuta Maru was requisitioned as a troopship for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

On February 8, 1943, Tatsuta Maru was torpedoed and sunk by the American submarine Tarpon 42 miles east of Mikurajima. Some 1,400 Japanese soldiers on board were killed.