Remembering Today 5/12/41 Lance Corporal JOHN MCEWAN MACARTY 17710, New Zealand Infantry

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by CL1, Dec 5, 2011.

  1. CL1

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

    Lance Corporal JOHN MCEWAN MACARTY

    17710, New Zealand Infantry
    who died age 30
    on 05 December 1941
    Son of Edwin Stewart Macarty and of Lilian Hannah Macarty (nee McEwan), of Manchester, England; husband of Lilian Macarty, of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
    Remembered with honour
    CWGC :: Cemetery Details
  2. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Not getting very far with this one, no hits on the NZETC website & following on from the mention of an Australian wife (with the same first name as his mother) I can’t find him on the AWM Commemorative Roll, or any reference in the Australian Archives or in the Australian newspapers of the day.

    The Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph entry gives a couple of extra bits of info, such as the fact that he died at sea and that his last unit of record was the Divisional Defence and Employment Platoon (Emp. Pln.)



    Late in the afternoon of 5 December 1941 the SS Chakdina left Tobruk Harbour, Libya carrying approximately 380 wounded Allied soldiers, 100 German and Italian Prisoners of War and 120 crew. A number of other Allied soldiers also boarded the ship. They were to be transported back to Egypt. At least 123 New Zealanders were aboard the shop when it set sail.

    Just after 9 pm an enemy plane released a torpedo, which exploded in one of the after holds of the Chakdina. She sank within three and a half minutes. There was very little chance of escape, except for those who were not wounded or only lightly wounded, and who were in a favourable position at the time.

    Forty one of the New Zealanders aboard including a small number of the wounded were picked up by the destroyer HMS Farndale and the antisubmarine/minesweeper HMS Thorgrim. The Farndale took most of the survivors to Alexandria where on 7 December, the casualties were admitted to the detachment of 3 NZ General Hospital there. The Thorgrim took the survivors it had onboard to Mersa Matuh.

    The sinking of the Chakdina was the only major misfortune in the evacuation of New Zealand wounded during World War Two.
    CL1 likes this.
  3. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    (some background info as to how the LCPL might have ended up on the medical evacuation ship - from the NZETC)


    Enemy attacks on the Ed Duda part of the Tobruk Corridor were renewed while the Belhamed fighting was still going on, a further attack started up during the night of 1–2 December, and next day it gained added momentum.

    A detached observer might therefore have concluded that the New Zealanders in the Corridor—gunners, infantry, Signals and ASC—had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. But the men concerned knew better. The anti-tankers serving as infantry with 18 Battalion, for example, helped to repulse a German attack on the 2nd and drive the enemy back in disorder.

    Major Sharp took the remaining men of 29 Battery and some of 47 Battery who were with them, together with various wounded New Zealanders from the Belhamed battle, to Tobruk proper, reporting to Artillery Headquarters there. He arranged for rolls to be called and for the wounded to be evacuated to hospitals in the town.

    There would still, however, be an undue proportion of headquarters and administrative troops and those not needed to service the guns would be evacuated by sea as soon as possible. The Division had already suffered grievous loss, the whole of the fortress area was under shellfire and was frequently bombed….

    Of the many sequels to the Corridor battle which ended the main New Zealand part in the offensive, the unhappiest by far concerned the evacuation of wounded from Tobruk.

    Hospitals in the fortress area were grossly overcrowded as a consequence of the unexpectedly long and bitter fighting, and it was a matter of the greatest urgency in the first few days of December to get wounded back to less congested hospitals where they could get proper attention. There was no knowing at that stage how long it would be before the land route eastwards was opened and too few hospital ships were available for the task.

    The little s.s. Chakdina when it sailed in the afternoon of 5 December on its return voyage to Alexandria therefore carried 600 men (including 120 New Zealanders) of whom 380 were wounded, 97 of them New Zealanders.

    Just after 9 p.m. an aerial torpedo struck and exploded in an after hold and in three and a half minutes the crowded little ship sank in a strong swell. Some 400 men were drowned, 80 of them New Zealanders and almost all of these survivors of the fighting at Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed.
  4. Tilford

    Tilford Junior Member

    John Macarty is certainly listed as one of the many New Zealand soldiers who died when the Chakdina sank 5 December 1941.

    DaveB’s comments are useful in helping to recreate the picture of what was happening in Tobruk at around the time the Chakdina sailed for it is now quite clear that the ship also took on board a number of soldiers who were not wounded in any way and who needed transport back to Alexandria. A number of New Zealand headquarters and administrative troops were boarded onto the Thorgrim, one of the antisubmarine vessels which formed part of the convoy escort and a number of the NZ Supply Coy personnel were boarded onto the Kirkland, a petrol carrier which was the other ship in the convoy.

    From what I can deduce, and not confirmed at this stage, is that those others who were not able to board those two ships and who needed transport back to Alexandria were boarded on the Chakdina although it does not appear that their names were recorded. So it is quite likely that a number of fit, not wounded, New Zealand soldiers were lost when the Chakdina sank.

    My research so far suggests that perhaps more than 100 NZ HQ personnel might have sailed on the Chakdina, Kirkland and Thorgrim that night.

    What I find interesting here is that John Macarty is clearly a soldier within the New Zealand Division, however his next of kin, his wife Lilian, is recorded as living in Melbourne, Australia and his parents in Manchester, England.

    We know that many of the New Zealand families of those who died were never told what happened. Perhaps Lilian and his parents were amongst this group and have never heard what happened to John.

    His name is one of the 81 New Zealanders known to have died but I expect there will be more.
  5. LJM2016

    LJM2016 New Member

    John McEwan Macarty Is my sons great great grand father. His great nan Nola is the only daughter of Lillian and John. I would love to know more info if you have any but I will share what you have written with Nola. She only knew that his ship sunk and he had passed.
    Owen likes this.
  6. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Hello LJM and thanks for posting. I think I explored every avenue I could think of back in 2011 regarding his loss.

    I certainly welcome any info you can pass along from Nola - was she born in NZ or Australia??

    I'm guessing Lillian and John met in Australia before moving to NZ - where John enlisted in the NZ army.

    CWGC would just say that his wife is "of Melbourne" - no mention of his / their home address as of the time of his loss.
  7. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

  8. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    Earlier this month I copied the attached doc from NZ National Archive file (R19134081?).
    Of the 10 men from 24 BN listed on this doc, all are listed in the 24 BN Casualty list as "Presumed Killed In Action 5th Dec 41", but only 6 of them appear in the 24 BN Wounded list, so it is likely that there were four "non wounded" 24 BN men on board Chakdina?

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  9. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Geoff - I think that the answers are in my first couple of posts

    "an undue proportion of headquarters and administrative troops and those not needed to service the guns would be evacuated by sea as soon as possible"

    "600 men (including 120 New Zealanders) of whom 380 were wounded, 97 of them New Zealanders"

    "Forty one of the New Zealanders aboard including a small number of the wounded were picked up"
  10. LAF

    LAF New Member

    NOLA and her older brother Boyd were born in Australia and moved to New Zealand
  11. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    Leesa Anne,
    Welcome to the forum. I see you have updated his record on AWMM. There are many on this forum who will be able to help you explore further.
  12. LAF

    LAF New Member

    Yeah as his granddaughter I would like to now some more about him , as my mother can’t really give us any information
  13. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

  14. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    Also from NZ Official History " The Relief of Tobruk" page 489
    CHAPTER 26 — Gazala and Beyond | NZETC

    "Various other small New Zealand parties had already left Tobruk by sea or air, and of these the unluckiest was a group of wounded, a detachment of Divisional Headquarters urgently needed at Baggush, and an escort for General von Ravenstein and another German officer. This group left in the small passenger steamer Chakdina on 5 December, in company with smaller New Zealand contingents in the destroyer Farndale and the corvette Thorgrim. There were 600 aboard the Chakdina including 120 New Zealanders, 97 of them wounded, when the little ship put to sea at 5 p.m. bound for Alexandria. Four hours out in brilliant moonlight it was tropedoed and sank rapidly, taking with it all but some 190 men rescued by the Farndale and Thorgrim; eighty of the New Zealanders were lost, most of them men who had been wounded in the fighting at Sidi Rezegh, and a tragic sequel was thus added to a costly chapter in the history of the Division.1 Of the 480 other troops aboard—wounded, medical staff, and a small ship's company—about 320 were lost. This was the heaviest loss of life sustained in any single incident of the long tale of risky endeavour by the crews of the small ships which supplied Tobruk throughout its siege. Captain Bell, the GSO III (I) of the New Zealand Division, was in the Thorgrim as it stood by for some hours, braving further attacks, to pick up survivors, and was astonished when a naked man hauled aboard from the dark waters turned out to be General von Ravenstein."

    Your grandfather would have been one of "a detachment of Divisional Headquarters urgently needed at Baggush"
  15. LAF

    LAF New Member

    AEFAFEC6-D6A8-4499-A2DF-CC77834E16F6.jpeg Thanks for the information, here is a photo of John mcewan macarty
    dbf likes this.
  16. LAF

    LAF New Member

  17. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    I have searched Papers Past for any explicit reference for the sinking of Chakdina and there is none up until 1950 which is the current limit. This suggests that the families and the public were not informed of this incident.

    The only reference is the casualty lists published in January 1942 where the victims were first listed as "missing" or "wounded and missing" and then later in the month as 80 odd as "Missing, Believed Drowned previously reported wounded and missing" plus nine men, including your grandfather, as "Missing, Believed Drowned previously reported missing"

    Hope this helps you

    Chakdina non wounded lost.jpg
    LAF likes this.
  18. janteb1

    janteb1 Junior Member

    Hi LAF my name is janet and john Mc Ewan Macarty Was my grandmothers brothers son he was born in Manchester england and his mother and father went to Australia in 1927 edwin went first in March and john and his mum went in october that year he met his wife on the ship he was 16 she was 13 and they married in Australia if you want any futher info you can e mail me on janteb1[at] regards Janet
    CL1 likes this.
  19. CL1

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

    best remove the @ in your email and replace wit AT
  20. janteb1

    janteb1 Junior Member

    John was my mothers cousin I may be able to give you more information regards Janet (janteb1at,

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