Torpedoed three times - an amazing account taken from 1917's Chart and Compass Torpedoed three times - an amazing account taken from 1917's Chart and Compass

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Torpedoed three times

A torpedoed crew making their way to the Sailors' Rest in a busy British port
A torpedoed crew making their way to the Sailors' Rest in a busy British port

This amazing account, taken from the 1917 edition of Chart and Compass, described the amazing story of one seafarer who survived being torpedoed three times during World War 1 and how the Society supported fellow seafarers affected by the conflict.

The door is open. Three young men enter – one of them comes forward and addressing me says, “You know me. I was here about nine months ago. I have been torpedoed twice since then.”

He was pleased when I assured him that I clearly remembered him. “Come,” I said, “up to my office and we will have a chat together for a little while.”

Seated, I requested that he might relate to me the story of his shipwrecks. The following is a rough outline of his remarks:

“After leaving the port I was torpedoed off Ushant. No one was hurt; all of the crew were saved. We were not so fortunate, however, on the occasion of our late mis-adventure, as two of our number were instantly killed and another has since succumbed to his injuries.

“Our ship was a vessel of 3,500 tons. We were on a voyage from an English port to Alexandria with a cargo of coal. On May 27, when about ninety miles off, we were, without the slightest warning, ruthlessly attacked by the enemy. The torpedo penetrated the ship’s side in close proximity to the boiler. The was a loud and terrible explosion. This was followed by a rush of water and a thick cloud of smoke mingled with debris.

“At the moment the two seamen on duty below were killed, while the third man – who has subsequently died – was so scorched, scalded and disfigured that we were unable to recognise him in the usual way. By the force of the impact our starboard boat was smashed. All we had then left to accommodate us was a ‘life’ and a ‘jolly’ boat. The Captain ordered us to get them lowered and to stand by and await his instructions.

Correspondence on behalf of Queen Alexandra about the Society's work with seafarers
Correspondence on behalf of Queen Alexandra about the Society's work with seafarers

Rescued by a French destroyer.

“The submarine not having put in an appearance and our ship now being in a sinking condition, we were soon ordered to ‘man’ these. We did so and pushed off as quickly as possible. At an earlier stage we saw the periscope of the enemy craft but did not at any time get a glimpse of the boat itself. It would possibly have been otherwise had not a French destroyer come along. Ten minutes afterwards the ‘friend in need’ took us on board, her kindly crew ministering to our wants with the utmost alacrity. We were landed at Malta the same night at 11.30.

“In response to a wireless forthwith sent off two tugboats were immediately sent to the scene of the disaster, but their effort was without avail, and about one hour after our departure the ship disappeared.

“At the port mentioned we were accommodated at one of the local hotels – the Sailors’ Rest there already being filled with men, like ourselves – torpedoed.”