6th June 1944 Second Engineer Officer JAMES DAVIE S.S. Sambut (London), Merchant Navy

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by CL1, Jun 6, 2011.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Second Engineer Officer JAMES DAVIE

    S.S. Sambut (London), Merchant Navy
    who died age 37
    on 06 June 1944
    Son of Peter and Margaret Davie; husband of Jane Davie, of Stirling.
    Remembered with honour
    CWGC :: Cemetery Details
  2. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    From Forum Member TMAC's history of 92 LAA Regt, part of whom were on the Sambut when it was sunk and I quote:-

    "As the first day wore on, with the Bofors constantly in action, it became apparent that the troop’s expected reinforcements would not be arriving. Unknown to the gunners around the bridges, the liberty ship Sambut, carrying the rest of 318 and RHQ to Normandy, had been sunk around noon on D-Day by shellfire ner the Goodwin Sands in the Dover Strait. Eight men of the 92nd died and all guns and equipment were lost."

    "A REME workshop detachment also arrived. But there was still no sign of the battery’s remaining guns. Next day, the F Troop men finally heard news of the Channel tragedy from the CO, Colonel Bazeley, who made his way into the bridgehead. The Sambut had sailed from Southend in convoy early on D-Day, with the remainder of 318 and RHQ – 120 officers and men – aboard. In all, the liberty ship was carrying a total of 562 troops from 28 different units, 63 crew, plus vehicles, weapons and large quantities of ammunition and high explosives.
    Just after midday on June 6, disaster struck. Three miles off Dover, the ship was hit by two 16-inch shells fired from German gun batteries in Calais – the most terrible misfortune, for the salvoes could not have been aimed. Fierce fires broke out and could not be tackled because the pumping gear was put out of action.
    After about 45 minutes, the master had to order abandon ship. ‘The troops went over the side in a very orderly manner,’ wrote Captain Bill Almond of 92nd LAA. ‘The wounded were also taken off the ship and by 1400 hours she had been completely abandoned and the survivors had been picked up by a variety of small craft. One officer and 73 other ranks swam to a corvette and were not disembarked in the UK until three days later, after enjoying a ringside view of the landing beaches, whither the corvette was steaming at the time.’
    In his book Liberty – The Ships That Won The War, author Peter Elphick gives fuller details of the Sambut disaster, pointing out that she was the first Liberty ship lost during the Normandy campaign. The Sambut, launched in August 1943 in Portland, Orgeon, as the C S Jones, was under the command of Captain Mark Willis.
    The first shell which struck her landed just behind the engine room, the second just forward of the bridge. Inflammable equipment on deck, including lorries loaded with explosives and cases of petrol and diesel, immediately caught fire. The petrol cases had been covered with sandbags, but that did not prevent them igniting. Unfortunately, the first shell damaged much of the firefighting equipment and in consequence within ten minutes fire had really taken hold.
    A few minutes later, a consignment of gelignite in a lorry stowed on No 2 hatch exploded, completely wrecking the bridge and the port side lifeboats. Captain Willis later reported: ‘As the fire was spreading rapidly, I rang the emergency alarm bell and ordered abandon ship. All my crew were clear of the ship in the two remaining starboard lifeboats by 12.30. The ship carried some 30 rafts for the troops. These were released and I told the soldiers to jump overboard to them.
    ‘At first some were rather diffident at the thought of jumping, but they quickly jumped on being told that the ship was likely to blow up at any moment. Everyone should have been wearing lifebelts and I had given specific instructions to the OC troops at 0600 that morning that lifebelts were to be worn from that time onwards. The pilot, chief officer and I were last to leave the ship at approximately 12.40.
    ‘We jumped over the side and swam to a raft. A number of dead bodies were floating in the water, many with lifebelts on. It is possible that many of the missing troops were drowned, but some were undoubtedly killed as they were having dinner in the troop deck which was in the vicinity of the explosion.
    ‘Four Naval motor launches from Dover appeared very quickly, but I thought were extremely slow in picking up survivors. MLs are totally unsuitable for rescue work, sides too high and inexperienced crews. I would like to point out that the convoy did not use a smokescreen. After my vessel was struck, I started my own smoke apparatus and other ships in the convoy followed my example.’
    The author gives the loss of life as 130 soldiers, plus six Sambut crew members. Of the 92nd contingent, three men were killed, four were missing presumed dead, one died of wounds and 14 were wounded. All the regiment’s equipment and records on board the ship were lost. The burning hulk of the Sambut, rocked by explosions, was finally sunk by a Royal Navy torpedo at location 51 08 N, 01 33 E because its wreckage was a hazard to the rest of the invasion fleet.
    Those who died from 92nd LAA were Sergeant Frederick Blaker, Sergeant Percy Ring, Bombardier John Wolfe, Gunner Wilfred Lever and Gunner Walter Hartley – all of 318 Battery – Bombardier Sidney Crane and Gunner Herbert Davies – both of RHQ – and Corporal George Challinor, of the Royal Corps of Signals, attached RHQ."

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