The Second Mate's Report
I was suddenly awakened by a terrific explosion, still dazed I attempted to dress, realising we had been struck by a torpedo. As I was partly dressed Mr. Case, 1st Mate, came in and told me that she was struck on the port side about No 2 and No 3 Hatch and that the engines were stopped. Appearing on deck I observed the submarine end on 3 points on the starboard bow about 7 cables away. Majority of the crew were at their emergency stations, clearing away their respective boats. The 4th Mate, whilst we were on the boat deck informed me that all the ship's papers had been dumped. No 3 and No 5 boats were the first to be launched No 6 and No 1 remained alongside till the master abandoned the vessel. Approximately 7 a.m. submarine commenced shelling the vessel. She was set on fire, shelling ceased approximately 7.20 a.m. and she finally sank on the port beam end at 7.55 a.m.
Submarine came towards my boat, shouting and waving "What ship?" and beckoning me to come alongside. The sea being choppy and a moderate N.E. wind, told the crew to pull, but before we came near submarine made for other boats. I saw the 4th Mate boarding the submarine and also the Chief Steward, saw the Chief Steward returning but the 4th Mate was held prisoner. Submarine went alongside all boats and finally disappeared on the surface on an Easterly course.
I pulled alongside No 1 boat and received some men at the same time had orders by the Master to steer for Antigua. The boats crew were as follows:
|W.M.Thomas||2nd Mate||J.W.Clark||2nd Engineer|
We set sails, set Watches (look-outs, tiller and baling), made the boat as comfortable as possible, we tied the oars outside the boat, rigged the boat cover and the side screens. I informed the crew I was preparing for a 40 day trip and we had plenty of food and water, and that there was no cause for anxiety.
During the night the Master (No 1 boat) flashed his torch at regular intervals. The day ended with a moderate E.N.E wind and a choppy sea.
Feb 4th : At daybreak No 1 boat was the only one visible. The master gave me his noon position knowing that my sextant was out of order. The weather was good and No 1 boat was definitely outsailing us.
Feb 5th Weather kind of squally heavy rain. The last light we saw of No 1 boat was at 2.30 a.m. We carried on same course W.S.W compass. I checked my compass constantly with Polaris.
Feb 6th Wind E.N.E heavy rain squalls and heavy following sea. The sails were reefed and towed our sea anchor with quite a success. Our improvised log gave us a speed of approximately 5 knots.
Feb 7th Wind strong E.N.E heavy rain squalls and overcast. The sails were reefed and continued towing the sea anchor and bucket.
Feb 8th Similar weather prevailed and conditions remained the same.
Feb 9th During hours of darkness heavy squalls severe thunder and lightning, main sails down, jib flying,sea anchor out and bucket and awaited daylight. The lightning struck our boat (was felt by all). Conditions very bad and the morale was low. At daylight we stretched all canvas and personal clothing to dry and extra provisions were granted.
Feb 10th The weather was good,morale improved accordingly. We refitted the boat all canvas up and we all felt as comfortable as expected.
Feb 11th Wind freshened moderate E.N.E wind and a following sea and swell. Speed by log 5 knots. The crew remained good spirited.
Feb 12th Squally with calms. Logging 2 knots. Some fun was made stabbing fish and proved successful.
Feb 13th Weather conditions remained very much the same. Crew were good.
Feb 14th The weather freshened up at sunset and we made good progress during hours of darkness.
Feb 15th Moderate E.N.E wind, moderate sea, speed 5 knots. Reefed sails at sunset.
Feb 16th Moderate N.E wind, conditions same.
Feb 17th Wind freshened to moderate E.N.E. following sea and choppy. Occasional rain showers. The spirits were good.
Feb 18th Weather conditions remained very much the same.
Feb 19th Moderate N.E. wind, sea and swell. Extra lookouts were stationed to look for aircraft as I fully expected to see aerial reconnaisance.
Feb 20th Light N.E. wind, light sea and swell. Morale good.
Feb 21st Light wind, slight following sea and swell. After lunch at 2.30 p.m. we heard the roar of a plane. We all got excited, we sent flares, yellow flag, we did everything in our means but aircraft did not observe us. Remarks were 'We are back in civilisation'. Extra provisions and the crew were good.
Feb 22nd Weather remaining very much the same. In the forenoon we saw the plane (Liberator) circling round the horizon. We used clothing soaked in paraffin in a wood container endeavouring to make smoke to attract attention, but all in vain. Extra provisions were continued and morale was good. At 10.30 p.m. while I was on watch I heard the roar of a plane, instantly ignited my flares, (6) but no recognition, the plane must have seen it as it was a perfect dark night. The crowd were all cheerful.
Feb 23rd At daylight Clark, Breeze saw 2 planes to the Northered approaching us at an altitude of 200 ft. and made the Victory loop. 4 more planes appeared and circled around us. 1 of the planes wrapped up in his Mae West dropped 14 tins of water which we were grateful of. The next plane dropped a packet of camel cigarettes. They kept around us and finally sent us our position. At lunch time they left us. At 5p.m. they appeared again with a parcel of Very's Pistol, cigarettes and matches, also a message as follows:
'Rescue vessel should arrive prior to sundown. If it does not fire the very's
pistol every thirty minutes. Hope the cigarettes help.
At 9.30 p.m. we observed the rescue ship "Conqueror".
Position 19 degrees 35 N, 65 degrees 30 W.
Course and Distance Made Good:
To restore circulation after exposure,frequent massage and liberal use of fish
oil was found very beneficial.
|Arrived St. Thomas (Conqueror)||6.0 a.m.||24th Feb.|
|Left St. Thomas (Samson)||5.30 a.m.||25th Feb.|
|Arrived San Juan (Samson)||5.00 p.m.||25th Feb.|
|Sailed San Juan (Ariel)||3.00 p.m.||1st March|
|Arrived Baltimore (Ariel)||8th March|
|Departed Baltimore (Train)||11th March|
|Arrived New York||11th March|
|Left New York (Saluta)||25th March.|
11 a.m. 1 spoonful of raisins and peanuts.
12 a.m. 1 spoonful of Pemican, 1 Biscuit, 2 ounces of water.
3 p.m. Raisins and Peanuts.
6 p.m. 1 Spoonful of Pemican, 1 Biscuit, Bar of unsweetened chocolate served with sweetened milk, raisins and peanuts and 2 ounces of water.
Horlicks tablets, which were plentiful, issued at any time.
1 tin of condensed milk issued to the watchkeepers to be used during the night.
I found plenty of water and it was good. The food was in a very satisfactory condition.
On average we lost 1 lb. daily.
(Sgd.) W.Meredith Thomas
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