Stuka attack Avola

Discussion in 'Italy' started by a well camel, Oct 25, 2010.

  1. Anyone help on this one please.
    Below are some of what dad remembers, can anyone provide any extra info:

    " I was with H sec Signals CRA (50 Div) in 1943 driving our armoured scout car. I was in a field hospital and missed going in with my section going to Sicily later on a dirty old collier with other Sig vehicles in the hold. As we were unloading at Syracuse the ship we came in with was attacked by two Stukas. The side of this ship just burst open. Fuel was pouring out into the sea which was on fire. It went up in the air. A few men jumped from the stern into clear water and 'jolly boats' I think they call them were in and out hitting the sea with flat oars to clear the flames. A navy ship came in and fired her guns into her.
    My vehicle number was called during this and I drove it onto a hoist affair which was lifted out the hold and over the side onto a barge that held maybe 6 vehicles. All this seemed to happen at once. I remember the ship settling, as I got ashore onto a stony beach covered with metal plates making a track. We were attacked just after this and took I took cover in an airraid shelter in a square with a Cable section bloke called Frazer. Raymond Wright was on that ship"

    Driver Wright is comemorated on the Cassino Memorial D.O.D. 13 July 1943. Only ship I can find hit that day is Liberty ship Timothy Pickering.
    Anyone know where this sailed from as dad has a blank here
    Also this ship went down stern first and was a mile out.
    Dad seems to remember the stern stuck up and being a lot less than a mile out.
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Driver Wright is comemorated on the Cassino Memorial D.O.D. 13 July 1943. Only ship I can find hit that day is Liberty ship Timothy Pickering.
    Anyone know where this sailed from as dad has a blank here

    I wonder whether this is of any help ?

    At the time in question I was in 84 Bty, 49th LAA Rgt and the following item comes from the Regimental Diaries. Note the port of embarkation.

    On 21 Jul a warning order was received for the regt to embark for Sicily. 84 Bty, with 11 Bde Gp, moved first and embarked in LSTs at Sousse on 23 Jul.

    Best regards

  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    SS Timothy Pickering - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    TIMOTHY PICKERING (July 13, 1943) US liberty ship loaded with supplies, ammunition and troops, hit by two bombs from Stuka dive bombers while in the anchorage one mile off the beach at Avola, Sicily. One 500-lb bomb penetrated into the engine room causing a violent explosion as the cargo blew up. Another landed in the forward hold causing a fire which the crew was unable to control. The resulting explosions caused the ship to settle in the water stern first and had to be sunk by a torpedo from a British destroyer. It took the ship 20 minutes to sink under a mushroom cloud of flame and smoke. Of the 128 British troops on board 127 die as do twenty-three of the forty-three man crew. Sixteen of the twenty-three man Armed Guard were also killed leaving a death toll of 166. There were 23 survivors who were blown overboard by the initial blast and rescued by other friendly ships in the area.

    WW2 Maritime Disasters Lesser Known boats 1943

    Did your father mention the huge loss of life? It appears there was only one survivor.

    It maybe the date of death for Driver Wright is wrong or he died of his wounds a day or so later. I suspect the Port of Embarkation will be in the units war diaries.
  4. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    This day in the war in Europe 65 years ago - Page 56 - Aircraft of World War II - Warbird Forums
    One plane put two bombs into a hold full of ammunition on the 'Timothy Pickering', a US Liberty ship which had arrived with the 'Will Rogers' and still had most of her troops aboard. The 'Pickering' vanished in a mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke and fire that towered a thousand feet into the air. Some of the burning wreckage hit a nearby tanker, which also blew up, and bits of that ship killed several men on the 'O. Henry'. Of 192 men aboard the 'Pickering', the only survivors were 23 men blown overboard in the initial explosion
  5. Cheers for this.
    Will check Sousse.
    Cassino Mem is to the missing I think, so the date seems correct as there were so few survivors.
    He said it the side just 'Burst' and a very few jumped into 'clear water' ie not on fire.
    Will get back tomorrow.
    thanks for all your help.
  6. graybags1963

    graybags1963 Junior Member

    I am researching my Great Uncle: David Upton of Smethwick, nr Birmingham who I believe was killed upon The SS Timothy Pickering. He was aged 28 and a driver with the Royal Army Service Corps. I believe his Unit was 15 Casualty Clearing Station Royal Army Medical Corps. Letters which my father received from him (Dad was only 7 at the time of Uncle David's death) and his war record indicate he was stationed in Alexandria, Egypt. If any one has any further information, I will be very grateful indeed. Many thanks. Gray
  7. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    The army casualties of 'TIMOTHY PICKERING' should be named within the correspondence in the following file at TNA. WO 361/459

  8. graybags1963

    graybags1963 Junior Member

    I just thought I would drop a quick post to thank you for help previously. I visited The National Archives in Kew, London last week and was able to look through the old British War Office file dedicated to the sinking of the SS Timothy Pickering. My Uncle was definitely on board and it sailed to Avola, Sicily from Alexandria, Egypt on 4th July 1943. He was mentioned in an eye witness report as being asleep in the guard room with 2 others at the time the bomb was dropped on 13th July 1943. The guard room was directly underneath the Number 4 hold where the bomb exploded so he would have been killed instantly. It is strangely comforting to know that if he was to die on that day, on board that ship, that he didn't suffer. Once again thank you so much for your assistance in helping me to piece together his final hours.
  9. johnwalker

    johnwalker Junior Member

    I've just come across this website and registered so that I can make a quick comment. My father Kenneth James Walker (D.O.B. 4/3/1922) died last year on his 90th birthday (4th March 2011). He was in the British 57th Anti Tank Regiment and went through North Africa and then on to for the invasion of Sicily, on board the SS Timothy Pickering. To my knowledge, he was the only British survivor on board. I researched this a few years ago. He dived off the burning boat and managed to swim to a landing craft. His life was saved. He then went on to take part in many other important campaigns throughout Italy until the end of the war when he was demobbed. Dad rarely spoke of his horrendous wartime experiences but was always very bitter that the Invasion of Sicily hardly ever got a mention in the news; it was (and still is) ALL about D-Day when anniversaries come up. The Invasion of Sicily seemingly forgotten. A few years ago, with my Father’s very reluctant permission, I wrote to a number of National Newspapers to tell my Father’s story, as the only British survivor on the 65th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Timothy Pickering. And do you know what? I didn’t get a single acknowledgment, let alone a reply. You can contact me at for more information.
  10. johnwalker

    johnwalker Junior Member

    P.S. Taken from my Father's words of tribute ... In 1940 he was called up, joining the 8th Army. He had his training in Yorkshire before going to North Africa. He saw action in Egypt before sailing to Italy. On July 13th 1943 as his ship the SS Timothy Pickering approached Avola in Sicily it was dive bombed by German Stukas and sunk a mile from the port. Of the 128 British Soldiers aboard Ken was the only survivor. He was rescued by a landing craft and after recuperating continued to see action in the war in Italy including the battle at Monte Casino.
  11. johnwalker

    johnwalker Junior Member

    I’ve had another enquiry today (17th July 2021) - many over the years - following my initial upload back in 2012. My interest in the Timothy Pickering started many years ago before my Father died. I came across this WW2 Talk Site in 2012 and started corresponding with an elderly lady whose own Father was on board the ship (Wilma Stover Bergeret, her Father Fred Stover was the Chief Steward on board the Timothy Pickering). I corresponded with her for some years before she died several years ago.

    Another very interesting response came from Chuan Napolitano, a very experienced US naval officer (a naval pilot and instructor) who was doing some research when he travelled to Avola, Scicily. I remain (pen) friends with Chuan and his family to this day, although I have never met him in person.

    I have taken my investigations about as far as I want to - and, in all honesty, do not wish to pursue the matter further, it makes me very sad. After my Father died, I felt there was little more that could be done. I have found out what I needed and wanted to know and, as far as I am concerned, the story can be put to bed, my own personal research is now closed. However, I am attaching a few documents which I found on the Internet, although these are mainly concerned with US personal who were predominant on the ship. I will still be pleased to reply to anyone that may wish to contact me. My email address is: johnawalker1(AT)

    Attached Files:

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