Merchant Navy - Unsung Heroes of the Sea. Ships/Crews/Dangers.

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by spidge, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. spidge


    Sadly, the Merchant Navy was the forgotten service. None of the glory, more of the danger, (U-Boats/Enemy Raiders/Aircraft/Mines etc) due to their lack of speed, low defensive capability, atrocious weather and cargo of every kind imaginable. Ammunition, Oil, and other explosive/highly inflammable products, everything military, and everything else to support the military in all theatres of war as well as supplying the civilian populations with necessities.

    There are not even many "hollywood" attempts that show (to me) the terrifying situation of being awakened by a U-Boat's torpedo ripping through the ship, setting it ablaze and having to abandon ship through burning oil, getting onto a life raft, and waiting for rescue in days, weeks, months or never at all.

    Two of my favourites are "San Demetrio London" (1943) a "TRUE" story that shows the Dedication, Seamanship and Heroism of this crew with Ralph Michael, Mervyn Johns and a young Gordon Jackson.

    "Action in the North Atlantic" with Raymond Massey & Humphrey Bogart.

    When a merchant ship was sunk, the seaman’s pay stopped on the day of the sinking. He did not receive any more pay until he joined another ship. The seaman was given 30 days survivor’s leave, dated from the day his ship was sunk. This leave was unpaid. It only meant that he didn’t have to report back to the pool for 30 days. If he spent 10 or 15 days in a lifeboat, or on a life raft, that time in the boat was counted as survivor’s leave. There were many merchant seamen who joined the Navy because it was extremely short of experienced seamen. They joined under what were known as T124X and T124T agreements. These men were in naval uniforms on naval ships under the White Ensign, with naval officers and subject to naval discipline. They received naval rates of pay. At the end of the war, they were not allowed to claim any compensation or any benefits, because they were discharged as merchant seamen.

    The Unsung Heroes of the Sea by P Andrews.

    The Merchant Navy, as a Service, has no real way of displaying its capabilities. There is no compulsory wearing of uniforms, no street parades led by fine military bands, no pomp or ceremony of any sort to attract the general public or media. The only attention given to the Service is when some catastrophe or other occurs which raises the hackles of the conservationists, and this always seems to be to the detriment of the Merchant Navy.
    If a warship is lost, by conflict or by dereliction of duty, we never hear the last of it. If a merchant ship is lost you seldom hear of it. I wonder how many people would consult the Lloyds list of ships lost worldwide in a single year. It runs into hundreds -- ships both large and small, many of them with the loss of all hands and leaving no trace.
    Merchant ships of all sizes quietly come and go. They visit ports both large and small across the world, carrying the raw materials of trade, oil and petroleum products and the manufactured goods of industry. These ships journey to and from all countries, and have been doing so for millennia. It is, however, in times of conflict that the Merchant Navy finds itself an indispensable force within the framework of military operations, and even then for safety and security reasons, a low profile is maintained.

    In Memoriam
    Merchant Navy 1939-1945
    No cross marks the place where now we lie
    What happened is known but to us
    You asked, and we gave our lives to protect
    Our land from the enemy curse
    No Flanders Field where poppies blow;
    No Gleaming Crosses, row on row;
    No Unnamed Tomb for all to see
    And pause -- and wonder who we might be
    The Sailors’ Valhalla is where we lie
    On the ocean bed, watching ships pass by
    Sailing in safety now thru’ the waves
    Often right over our sea-locked graves
    We ask you just to remember us.

    John Curtin, our (Australian) wartime Prime Minister, said of the merchant seaman: Whenever you see a man in the street wearing the distinctive MN badge, raise your hat to him because without these gallant men the war would be lost.
    Qu1ckn1ck, Hugh MacLean and dbf like this.
  2. spidge


    Reposting some statistics might not go astray.

    From: The Unsung Heroes of the Sea

    Wherever the war was being waged, merchant ships were there taking troops and essential supplies to the heart of the action. The traversing of these supply lines by these vessels and their crews, I think you will agree, was an extremely hazardous occupation. The whole maritime world was their battleground. From the moment they left port, these ships and their crews were at war, not knowing when they might be attacked, blown up or disabled in some fashion. Some statistics of the cost to the Merchant Service in World War 2 deserve some contemplation:

    • 4996 British and Allied ships lost
    • 62933 British and Allied merchant seamen killed in action
    • 4000 wounded
    • 5000 merchant seamen taken as prisoners of war.
    Compare this with the 50,758 British and Commonwealth Naval personnel killed in the war. It has been estimated that the Merchant service losses amounted to one in six, compared to the combined armed forces of one in 33. It is also worthy of note that of the total casualties of merchant seamen, only 8.25 percent were wounded but 91.75 percent killed, compared with 79 percent wounded and 21 percent killed in the armed forces.
  3. spidge


    From: The Unsung Heroes of the Sea

    Who could forget the horrors of the Atlantic convoys, in ships which in most instances were completely unable to defend themselves and were at the mercy of a ruthless enemy, day and night, for anything up to a month at a time? Between 1939 and 1945, in the so-called Battle of the Atlantic, nearly 3000 Allied and neutral merchant ships were sunk by enemy action, with a heavy loss of life. Nightmare trips to Archangel and Murmansk, suffering the rigours of an Arctic winter, while under continuous enemy attack, were endured by the crews of the merchant vessels to ensure that essential war equipment, supplies and foodstuffs got through to our Russian Allies.
    Those very hard-fought convoys to the small but intrepid Mediterranean island of Malta, on which so much of the war in the Middle East depended: whether the ships came from Alexandria or by way of Gibraltar, they were under constant attack while trying to keep open the supply lines to the vital beleaguered garrison.
    In August 1942, one of the greatest sea battles of World War 2, Operation Pedestal, was fought by 14 merchant ships and a large fleet of naval vessels throughout five days of continuous warfare -- from air and sea, as the fleet endeavoured to get essential supplies to Malta. Why have so many people not heard of this operation? Was it just another convoy of merchant ships? I can tell you this; we lost more men in those five days of fighting than Australia lost in the whole of the Vietnam War.
    Generally, a convoy of say 45 ships usually had an escort of about four or five corvettes and maybe one old destroyer. To give you some idea of the importance of this convoy of 14 ships to Malta, we had an escort of two battleships, five aircraft carriers, seven cruisers, 22 destroyers, seven submarines and 14 other sundry naval vessels. Yet, despite this level of support, at the end of the five days, only five merchant ships had survived and three of them were badly damaged.
  4. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    I do have to agree with you regarding the Merchant Navy getting a raw deal and they were most certainly the Unsung Heroes of the sea.

    A personal friend of mine, who is not now in good health, was on operation Pedestal whilst serving onboard HMS EAGLE.

    He was injured by one of the torpedoes that sank her and was rescued after several hours in the water.

    Even though he has a chest full of medals he always admired the Merchant Navy sailors, who were sailing in the convoys.

  5. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    My father would have said the same, their service made a lasting impression on him. :poppy::poppy::poppy:
    Good posts Geoff. :)
  6. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    My father served in the Merchant Navy postwar, and his cousin and brother-in-law both served during the war. He told me of the respect he held for the men whom he met and served with.

    One of them was liberated from terrible conditions in Westertimke camp by Dad's former regiment.

    Thanks to Hugh, we found out that the Master of one of his ships was awarded the O.B.E. Dad believes this was for when he purposefully rammed a sinking vessel, keeping it afloat whilst also pushing it towards the coastline.

    I've read some amazing stories of bravery and endurance, but the determination that they all must have had simply to sail under constant threat, often on perilous seas which offered little chance of survival if their ship was sunk, is nothing but admirable.
  7. spidge


    Some interesting statistics from George Duncan's "Maritime Disasters of WW2

    More Maritime Disasters of WWII 1944, 1945

    A total of 2,751 Liberty ships were built, the first, SS Patrick Henry, was launched September 21, 1941.

    Only 531 Victory ships were built. The first was SS United Victory, delivered February 29, 1944.

    A total of 52 American submarines were lost during the war. (374 officers and 3,131 men)

    A total of 354 cargo ships, each of 10,000 tons, were built in Canada during the war.

    The US Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to 140 US mariners during WWII for Service Beyond The Call Of Duty', 604 of them became POWs.

    About 5,000 Chinese seamen were employed on British registered ships at the beginning of the war. In early 1942, after the fall of Hong Kong, this number was doubled. By March, 1943, a total of 831 Chinese seamen had lost their lives on British ships due to enemy action and 254 were missing presumed dead. Some 268 were accounted for as prisoners-of-war. Thousands of these Chinese sailors were hurriedly repatriated after the war, their presence in Britain were no longer as welcome as they had been.

    In 1942, the average sinking of Allied merchant ships was thirty three ships each week. In all, 5,150 Allied ships of all types were sunk, total tonnage 21,570,720. (including 2,426 British registered vessels amounting to 11,331,933 tons) 2,828 were sunk by U-boats. This includes 187 warships and 6 aircraft carriers. A total of 56,683 Americans were lost at sea during all US Naval actions.

    During the course of the war, the Royal Air Force flew 19,917 mine laying sorties. These mines sank 638 ships of all sizes, the RAF losing 450 aircraft.

    Germany lost 754 of the 1,158 U-boats built. A total of 25,871 U-boat men died and and around 5,000 became prisoners of war, 713 U-boats were sunk by British Empire forces, 151 by United States forces and 100 were sunk by mines. A total of 16 foreign submarines were captured by the German Kriegsmarine and commissioned into the German Navy for service under the Swastika. There was 1 British, 2 Norwegian, 5 Dutch, 3 French, 4 Italian and 1 Turkish. The U-Boat casualty list was the highest of all German wartime forces, 72.8% of their crews did not survive. In 36 accidents on board U-boats 42 men were killed and 7 wounded. In 49 other incidents a common cause of death was 'Man overboard'.

    As more ships were being built in the USA, crews to man them were urgently needed and Indian seamen (known as Lascars) were recruited mainly from Bombay and Calcutta.

    By September, 1940, about 3,000 British merchant ships were armed with guns. To man the guns, the army loaned soldiers to the Royal Navy as complete gun crews. They were called Maritime Regiments within the Royal Artillery. They numbered around 10,000 men.
    A total of 2,085 United States Naval Armed Guards were killed during service for their country.
  8. spidge


    Some interesting statistics from George Duncan's "Maritime Disasters of WW2"

    More Maritime Disasters of WWII 1944, 1945
    Merchant Shipping Production. Employing around 640,000 workers, construction of merchant ships reached its peak in the USA, in 1943.
    Merchant Shipping Production in 1943

    • Japan - 769,085 tons
    • America - 11,448,360 tons
    Total Merchant Ship Production 1939-1945

    • Japan - 4,152,361 tons
    • America - 33,993,230 tons
    Merchant Marine Navy Losses

    • British Merchant Marine - 25,070 men killed on the 2,426 ships sunk.
    • US Merchant Marine - 6,838 men killed plus 1,800 naval armed guards. 848 ships were sunk.
    • Italian Merchant Navy - 2,513 ships sunk.
    • Japanese Merchant Navy - 1,152 ships sunk.
    • 1,146 Canadian seamen died through enemy action during WW11.
    (In one of the most appalling blunders in naval history, the failure of the Japanese to sail their merchant ships in convoy without adequate protection from submarines, resulted in the destruction of 63 percent of their merchant shipping. This oversight helped them lose the war)

    Of the 5,150 Allied merchant vessels sunk during WWII, 2,828 were sunk by Axis submarines.

    Seventy-six merchant ships were lost in Australian waters. Twenty-nine of these were Australian vessels on which 349 seamen died. A further 37 seamen died in POW camps.

    Forty-three US Merchant Ships were lost with all hands. Eight were lost with only one survivor.

    A special camp for merchant seamen prisoners of war was set up in 1942 at Westerimke ten miles north of the German port city of Hamburg.

    Prisoners were made to build their own camp on the site of the former Sandbostel Concentration Camp. Around 5,000 men, including 2,985 from 211 British ships, were interned at this camp commonly known as 'Milag Nord'.
  9. spidge


    A good insight to these men who were there from Day 1.

  10. Billy McGee

    Billy McGee Senior Member

    I have been compiling casuaties lost from British & Commonwealth Merchant ships for many years and although the true figure will never be know, the figures below will be as close as any you will ever find.... to date.

    Tower Hill Memorial 23,753
    Buried Ashore 2,594
    Canadian 1,554 (Halifax & Tower Hill Memorial)
    Bombay/Chittagong Memorial 6,048.
    Hong Kong War Memorial 1,400.
    Liverpool Naval Memorial 1,400 (Merchant Seamen who served on RN vessels under the T124T & T124X Agreements)
    Australian War Memorial 359.
    Royal Navy DEMS 3,000.
    DEMS Maritime Regt. 1,222.
    DEMS from other Army Regt's 50.
    Naval Staff 699.

    A HMSO study published in 1955 "Merchant Shipping & the Demands of War" also states that as many as 11,600 Merchant Seamen between 1942-1944 died shortly after leaving their ship, or whose lives were permanently damaged, either physically or mentally.

    After nearly three years and reading through 4,716 digital pages of the DASR, I have also documented the names of a further 5,361 men from all corners of the British Commonwealth who died in service and have up until now been forgotten and have no official commemoration.

    1939-1940 Register 734 pages. 1,033 names found
    1941 Register 1,233 pages.1,035 names found
    1942 Register 884 pages.1,031 names found
    1943 Register 1,183 pages. 946 names found
    1944 Register 395 pages 839 names found
    1945 Register 297 pages. 477 names found

    The combined total being 59,040 of which I have the names of 47,440 on file. I believe at its peak during WWII, British and Commonwealth Merchant Seamen numbered around 185,000.

    (Article written by Billy McGee 2003. Updated for the Tower Hill Commemorative Brochure 2006)

    “Merchant Navy Day”

    On the 3rd September 1939, the day WWII was declared, the first British & Commonwealth casualty occurred with the sinking of the British passenger liner Athenia sunk by U-30 with the loss of 112 passengers & crew. On the 7th May 1945, the day Germany surrendered the last casualty of the War in Europe occurred with the sinking of the British Merchant ship Avondale Park with the loss of two crew. While Britain was living in what became known as the “Phoney War” between September 1939 to May 1940, 177 British Merchant ships were sunk with the loss of hundreds of Merchant Seamen. In the near six years of war, some 2,952 British Merchant ships flying the Red Ensign were lost to U-boats, mines, E-boats, aircraft, commerce raiders, pocket battleships, those who died in captivity and those executed, as well as those lost through the forces of nature in supplying the world with food, raw materials and the materials to fight a war. 32,000 British Merchant Seamen are officially registered with the CWGC being lost to this cause. Unofficial numbers are much higher. These men although civilians volunteered repeatedly to run the gauntlet in the never ending need to supply a nation in its darkest days. Men who once their ship was sunk from beneath them, if lucky enough to survive had their pay stopped before the ship reached the ocean floor. These same brave men were looked upon with distaste at home, simply because they wore no official uniform, which would identify them with any of the armed services. The men of the Merchant Navy suffered more than most in war, even if lucky enough to survive a sinking. The freezing winter waters of the North Atlantic & Arctic Ocean on the North Russian Convoys could kill a man in under a minute. Others left dying of thirst in the searing heat and shark infested waters of the Pacific & Indian Oceans. September 3rd, remember the screams of the dying in the infernos from the burning oil tankers. September 3rd remember the Merchant Seamen machine gunned to death from the SS Anglo Saxon and the two survivors Wilbert Widdicombe & Robert Tapscott who spent seventy days in an open jolly boat before reaching land, which would see Widdicombe dead within three months as his next ship SS Siamese Prince was lost with all hands. September 3rd remember the three hundred and seventy two British Merchant Seamen machine-gunned to death and others beheaded by the Japanese from the ships Behar, Daisy Moller, British Chivalry, Sutlej, Ascot, Nancey Moller & Nellore. September 3rd, remember the likes of 2nd Steward Poon Lim the only survivor from the SS Benlomond who survived one hundred & thirty three days on a life raft. September 3rd remember the two survivors from the Fort Longueuil who spent four and half months adrift in an open boat, only to be captured and imprisoned by the Japanese. Remember fourteen-year-old Welsh boy Kenneth James Lewis, one of the youngest Merchant Seamen killed from the SS Fiscus, a double tragedy as his fifteen-year-old Brother Raymond Leslie Lewis perished with him, both on their first trip to sea. Over five hundred boys age sixteen and under are recorded with the CWGC killed in action serving aboard Merchant ships, which includes the youngest recorded serving casualty of WWII age just fourteen. Also, remember one of the oldest recorded serving casualties, that of James Killey age 74 killed from the SS Fenella, which was bombed and sunk while rescuing injured troops from the beaches at Dunkirk on the 29th May 1940. September 3rd remember Liverpool seaman Billy Swinchin, a survivor from the SS Etrib who survived seventy-seven days on a raft only to be picked up by a U-boat and imprisoned in Germany. Even when captured Merchant Seamen were not treated by the rules laid down by the Geneva Convention. As civilians, they were supposed to be repatriated; instead, they were imprisoned in the Sandbostel Concentration Camp in Germany until they were forced to build their own camp, christened Milag Nord. September 3rd remember the men from the steamers, tankers, tramps, Cam ships, MAC ships, the DEMS, reefers, rescue tugs, cargo ships, coasters, rescue ships, whalers and oilers. Without the Merchant Navy Britain would have starved. There would have been no “Battle of Britain” if it were not for the hundreds of tankers who imported the aviation spirit home. No “Operation Torch”, the invasion of North Africa would have not taken place without the thousands of troops & supplies needed brought by sea. There would have been no D-Day landing at Normandy without the one thousand two hundred and sixty Merchant ships that took part. This country is indebted to all these men. September 3rd remember Merchant Seaman Bill Short who spent four days in an open boat in temperatures of –10. After being rescued warm water had to be siphoned into his stomach as ice crystals had formed. He then had both legs amputated without anaesthetic due to frostbite. Where war goes the Merchant Navy follows. Two World Wars, Palestine 1945-1948, Korea 1950-1953, Suez 1956, Cyprus 1955-1959, Borneo 1962-1966, Falklands 1982, Gulf 1990-1991 & 2003 and Afghanistan. September 3rd remember them! Remember them all, the men of the “Forgotten Fourth Service”.
  11. spidge


    I read this with interest.

    About 5,000 Chinese seamen were employed on British registered ships at the beginning of the war. In early 1942, after the fall of Hong Kong, this number was doubled. By March, 1943, a total of 831 Chinese seamen had lost their lives on British ships due to enemy action and 254 were missing presumed dead. Some 268 were accounted for as prisoners-of-war. Thousands of these Chinese sailors were hurriedly repatriated after the war, their presence in Britain were no longer as welcome as they had been.
  12. spidge


    This is one of the few movies made of the Merchant Navy in ww2 and it is a true story!

    The MV San Demetrio was a British tanker that was abandoned by her crew in mid-Atlantic during the Second World War. She was later re-boarded and successfully brought into harbour. She was the subject of a 1943 film, San Demetrio London, one of the few films that recognised the heroism of the Merchant Navy crews during the war.
    Convoy HX-84

    San Demetrio had loaded 12,000 tons of aviation fuel in Galveston and was bound for Avonmouth. Her maximum speed was twelve knots. She joined Convoy HX-84 for the passage across the north Atlantic and left Halifax, Nova Scotia on 28 October 1940, one of 38 ships. The convoy's sole escort was the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, a converted passenger liner that had been fitted with eight ancient 6-inch guns.
    [edit] Attack by the Admiral Scheer

    On 5 November the German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer found the convoy at [​IMG]50°30′N 32°00′W and attacked immediately. Captain E.S.F. Fegen of HMS Jervis Bay steamed out towards the raider so as to delay the Admiral Scheer to allow the convoy to scatter and escape. The Jervis Bay was completely outclassed, but she fought for 22 minutes [1] before she was sunk with the loss of 190 of her crew. Fegen received a posthumous Victoria Cross. Nevertheless, their sacrifice enabled most of the merchantmen from Convoy HX-84 to escape.
    Admiral Scheer now tried to sink as many of the convoy as possible before darkness fell. San Demetrio was hit by several shells which left the upper deck in flames and destroyed the bridge and the poopdeck. Despite both the exploding shells and the resultant fire, the ship's highly flammable cargo did not explode. Nevertheless, her Master, Captain Waite, believed that the fire could set off the aviation fuel at any moment so he gave the order to abandon ship. Despite the ship remaining under fire from the Scheer, the crew escaped in two lifeboats. Admiral Scheer then turned her attention to other ships of the rapidly scattering convoy.


    The two lifeboats separated during the night and the lifeboat with the captain and twenty-five crew was picked up and taken to Newfoundland. The sixteen men in the other lifeboat, including Second Officer Arthur G. Hawkins and Chief Engineer Charles Pollard, drifted for 24 hours when they sighted a burning ship. To their surprise, they discovered that it was their own ship, San Demetrio. With precious few alternatives, the crew had to decide whether to risk death by exposure or to re-board and risk the fire. In the end they chose to remain in the lifeboat because the fire was too great and the weather too hazardous to attempt boarding, but after a second night aboard the little boat and enduring a freezing North Atlantic winter gale, they regretted not re-boarding the tanker. At dawn the following day, 7 November, the San Demetrio was about five miles downwind and so the crew set sail towards her and re-boarded. They put out the fire and rigged up a steering system. There was no navigational equipment so they guessed a course from occasional glimpses of the sun. They then managed to sail the tanker across the rest of the Atlantic braving bad weather and the U-boats and after seven days reached the waters off Ireland from where they were escorted on to the mouth of the Clyde, docking on 16 November. They declined the offer of a tow from a tug because of the high cost.
    Amazingly, despite the damage and fire only 200 tons of the original cargo had been lost. There was only one fatality, John Boyle, who had been injured jumping into the lifeboat after the original battle and gradually began to feel unwell. He was propped up in the engine room to watch the gauges but died of a haemorrhage after two days. He was awarded the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
    Since the crew had not received any assistance from another vessel, in the following court case they were able to claim the salvage money from the insurers for the ship and cargo. The oil and freight cargo were valued at £60,000. The ship herself, almost new, was worth £250,000. The court awarded the claimants £14,700 salvage money: £2,000 of it going to Skipper Hawkins; £1,000 to the estate of Joe Boyle. Another £1,000 went to 26-year-old Oswald Ross Preston, an American seaman, because he played a "magnificent" part when the battle started. Hawkins was also given the tattered Red Ensign of the ship.

    Second Officer Hawkins was awarded the OBE in recognition of his gallantry. San Demetrio was repaired and returned to service, but she was sunk by a torpedo from U-404 on 17 March 1942.
    The story was made into a film, the San Demetrio London in 1943, starring Walter Fitzgerald, Mervyn Johns, Ralph Michael, and Robert Beatty. It was one one of the few films to recognise the heroism of the Merchant Navy crews during the war.
  13. spidge


    Merchant Navy (Britain) Merchant Marine (US)

    From: American Merchant Marine in World War 2

    These US merchant ships were lost without trace "during" WW2

    33 United States Flag Merchant Ships That Vanished
    (Confirmation of attacks came after World War II from German records)

    SS Albert F. Paul
    SS Lake Osweya
    SS Norlavore^^
    SS Astral
    SS La Salle
    SS Norvana
    SS Azalea City
    SS Louisiana
    SS Robin Goodfellow
    SS C. J. Barkdull
    SS Louise Lykes
    SS Robert Gray
    SS Coamo
    SS L.J. Drake
    SS Samuel Heintzelman
    SS Cynthia Olson
    SS Major Wheeler
    SS Sumner I. Kimball
    SS Edward B. Dudley
    SS Margaret
    SS Sunoil
    SS Esso Williamsburg
    SS Mariana
    SS Tillie Lykes^^
    SS Frances Salman
    SS Meridian
    SS West Ivis
    SS James McKay
    SS Meriwether Lewis
    SS West Portal
    SS John Winthrop
    SS Muskogee
    SS Wichita
  14. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    'SAN DEMETRIO', British Tanker. Eagle Oil & Shipping Co. 8073 tons. Built in 1938.
    Attacked by the German Pocket Battleship 'ADMIRAL SCHEER' and damaged in the North Atlantic on 5th November 1940. Torpedoed by U-404 and sunk off the East Coast of the USA on 17th March 1942.

    London Gazette 4 February 1941 - For services when the ship was attacked and damaged, in re-boarding the ship after abandonment and raising steam.

    Hawkins, Arthur Godfrey Naunton - Second Officer - OBE(Civ)
    Pollard, Charles - Chief Engineer - OBE(Civ)
    Willey, George Pears - Third Engineer - MBE(Civ)
    Davies, John - Storekeeper - BEM(Civ)
    Fletcher, Walter - Boatswain - BEM(Civ)
    Preston, Oswald - Seaman - BEM(Civ)
    Boyle, John - Greaser - Posthumous Commendation

    London Gazette 25 February 1941 - For like services
    Jones, John - Apprentice - BEM(Civ)

    London Gazette 13 May 1941 - For Like services
    MacNeil, Calum - Able Seaman - Commendation

    Ungazetted awards from Lloyd's
    Jones, John Lewis - Apprentice - Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea
    Pollard, Charles - Chief Engineer - Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea

    London Gazette 4 August 1942 - For services when the ship was torpedoed and sunk.

    Vidot, Conrad - Captain - OBE(Civ)
    Jennings, George William - Chief Radio Officer - MBE(Civ)
    Davidson, William McKenzie - Third Officer - Commendation
    Finnis, William Henry Dearlove - Boatswain - Commendation
    Georgeson, James Henry - Carpenter - Commendation
    Knott, George Arthur Henry - Chief Officer - Commendation
    Atkinson, James - Fourth Engineer - Posthumous Commendation
    Black, John Magnus - Chief Officer - Posthumous Commendation
    Emmerson, George Howard - Second Officer - Posthumous Commendation
    Smythe, Edward Foster - Junior Engineer - Posthumous Commendation

    Ungazetted awards by Lloyd's
    Jennings, George William - Chief Radio Officer - Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea
    Vidot, Conrad - Captain - Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea


    Attached Files:

  15. spidge


    A great story Hugh.

    Thanks for posting.


  16. spidge


    The Japanese have been portrayed as merciless in their treatment of Military POW's and civilians so it is not unusual that they treated Merchant Navy/Mariners any different. Their atrocities just kept on coming throughout the war.

    From: American Merchant Marine in World War 2

    The Massacre of the SS Jean Nicolet
    The Liberty ship SS Jean Nicolet was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on July 2, 1944, off Ceylon (Sri Lanka). She had a 41-man crew, plus 28 Armed Guard, 30 passengers and an Army medic. All survived the explosion. They were taken aboard the sub and their lifeboats and rafts were sunk. With their hands tied behind their backs they were forced to sit on deck. Japanese sailors massacred many with bayonets and rifle butts. Thirty survivors were still on deck with their hands tied when a British plane appeared. The sub crash-dived, washing the survivors into the sea. Only 23 were rescued.
  17. spidge


    Conflicting loss numbers here that someone may be able to confirm.

    From: More Maritime Disasters of WWII 1939, 1940, 1941

    SIMON BOLIVAR (November 18, 1939)
    Dutch passenger ship of 8,309 tons built to carry 238 passengers in three classes and sailed the Hamburg-Central America route. (She was named after the South American revolutionary leader 1783-1830.) Owned by the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company, she was en route to the West Indies from Amsterdam when she struck a magnetic mine at 12.30pm when about twenty-five miles from Harwich. Captain Voorspuity and 83 passengers lost their lives. Passing ships picked up survivors and took them either to Harwich or London.


    SIMON BOLIVAR [​IMG]WW2 Dutch passenger ship owned by the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company, 8,309 tons, enroute from Rotterdam to Tilbury, when she struck a magnetic mine about 25 miles from Harwich at about 12:30hrs on 18 November 1939. The Captain and 130 passengers were lost according to More Maritime Disasters of WW2. Another source, World War2 Timelines states 80. ( GRACE_Mary Edith, CWD)
  18. spidge


    from: MS City of Rayville, sunk by a German mine off Cape Otway, Victoria on 8 November 1940

    German commerce raiders including the rogue German U-Boat U-862, operated off the Australian coastline during World War 2.
    During their stay in Australian waters the German Raiders laid extensive mine fields off New South Wales, Hobart and in Bass Strait between the mainland and Tasmania.
    The German Raider "Orion" placed dummy mines in the entrance to the port of Albany in Western Australia.
    In 1940, the German commerce raider "Pinguin" accompanied by a tender ship sailed through Bass Strait and laid mines along the Victorian Coast, including the area off Apollo Bay. This field claimed two ships, "S.S. Cambridge" and "MS City of Rayville" (see below).
    The "MS City of Rayville" was the first US merchant ship sunk in WW2.
    The "Pinguin" also laid mines in South Australian waters including the Gulf of St. Vincent and Investigator Strait (near Kangaroo Island) areas. Numerous mines were reported washed ashore along the coast of South Australia, especially along the south east coast area. "Pinguin" also operated off Newcastle, Sydney and Hobart.

    Read more at the link above!
  19. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Conflicting loss numbers here that someone may be able to confirm.

    I think that the figure of 100+ was down to initial reports with the true figure nearer 80+

    Reports from the time - please see attachments below from The War Illustrated.


    Attached Files:

  20. spidge


    I think that the figure of 100+ was down to initial reports with the true figure nearer 80+

    Reports from the time - please see attachments below from The War Illustrated.


    Great information Hugh from those newspaper reports. I just can't imagine the chaos at the scene with so many young children aboard. Such a sad loss.



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