The Captain's Official Report
I, LEONARD ECCLES, aged 48 years, and holding a British Board of Trade Master's
Certificate, No. 008336, hereby testify that I was in command of the s.s.
"Rhexenor" owned by Alfred Holt & Co., of Liverpool, on February 3
, at which date the vessel was torpedoed in Lat. 24-59 North. and Long. 43-37
West. on passage from Freetown to Saint John, N.B.
---(Sgd.) Leonard Eccles,---
The vessel sank after being torpedoed and shelled by an enemy submarine.
Total souls on board were seventy, two of which were male passengers, all were
Sunrise on the day in question was at 6.33 a.m. and the attack was at about
6.45 a.m. The vessel was fully loaded with a cargo of Cocoa in bags.
Bridge officers were - Chief Officer Maurice Case and Fourth Officer C.W. Allen.
In the Crow's Nest lookout - Charles Adamson - O. Seaman.
On the Gun platform aft - James MacRae, R.N.R. and J. Holdcroft and H. Rigby
Guns crews fully understood that anything suspicious was to be fired upon
immediately without waiting for orders. The 4 inch gun was always at the
ready, with the exception of the firing tube, these were at hand.
I had walked the lower bridge from some time before daylight, as was my
practice, until after sunrise, all seemed as usual. I then went into my
bathroom to wash etc., and had not been in there more than a few minutes when
the vessel staggered and an explosion occurred. I came outside through the
port door, which was the lee side, just in time to see the No 2 lifeboat being
blown to bits out of the davits. Mr. Case, Chief Officer, was coming down the
bridge ladder for orders.
I gave orders for Alarms to be rung for stations and to get the boats ready for
lowering in case of a second torpedo, or anything sudden happening. I then
went on the bridge and made sure secret papers etc., were all in the weighted
container, and handed same to the Chief Officer who put them over the side.
The vessel was listing to port and settling by the head, and on looking over
the port side below the bridge I could see a huge rent in the ship's side,
plating badly sticking out. Orders were given to get away what boats they
could except No. 1 - this was to remain for the last of the ship's company.
The ship was not steering but turning in a quick circle to port. Engines were
stopped and Nos. 3, 5 and 6 boats were lowered. The list did not increase
dangerously but the foredeck was becoming awash at the break of the forecastle
head. Distress messages had been sent out and the Radio Officer was satisfied
he had been heard. He then came along with the boat's wireless set which with
a Chronometer, books, Aldis Lamp, Verey Pistol and lights, was placed in No. 1
boat. The boat was at bridge deck level. While this was going on, a
submarine appeared slightly on the port bow, distance between a quarter to half
a mile. Gunner MacRae asked if he should open fire with a point five twin
colt. I did not think it would serve any purpose, our four inch gun could not
be brought to bear on the target. Sensing a shelling attack, I gave orders to
lower the last boat No.1, and before we had cleared the ship's side rapid
shelling commenced, and fragments falling around the boats. The boats pulled
away from the area and the ship sank shortly after, on fire fore and aft. list
ninety degrees to port. I very much regretted having to leave a fine vessel -
events showed we could not have saved her. The submarine closed the boats as
mentioned in my other report.