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Thread: Sinking of the Gloucester Castle

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    Default Re: Sinking of the Gloucester Castle

    Lou send an email to letters@dailymail.co.uk they will help you find him by publishing your request in the paper and yours is a far more interesting story than some they publish, should imagine they will jump at the chance

    Regards Ivan

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    Default Re: Sinking of the Gloucester Castle

    Hi Lou
    the Sea Breeze article about the sinking of the Gloucester Castle was written by a steward, Austin Morris of Merseyside, I wrote to him many years ago to get information on Joe Farnworth, but unfortunately he had just died.
    I have 1,200 Sea Breezes and other seafaring mags, If I find it I will have a look.
    Cheers
    Brian.

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    Default Re: Sinking of the Gloucester Castle

    This is Austin Morris's report from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peop...a5917656.shtml

    I joined the Gloucester Castle on 2nd June 1942. She was a very old ship. about 36/37 years old then, a coal burner. She sailed from Birkenhead on 2nd June bound for South Africa. When we got near to Freetown the convoy broke up and the ships' captains were asked if they wanted to stay in Freetown whilst another convoy was formed to take us right down the Cape, or we could go on our own individually. Captain Rose reasoned that we were outside U boat area and were fairly safe, so he elected to carry on to Cape Town. We steamed down these tranquil waters off West Africa, it was very hot and humid but nice sailing. At 6 p.m. on 15th July the whole world opened up in a fire of machine guns, shells, everything being pumped into us -the noise, the smell of burning cordite, we wondered what the hell was the matter, where it was coming from.
    We were also carrying 40 gallon drums of aeroplane dope on deck stacked outside the crew's entrance to the accommodation down below. That aeroplane dope immediately caught on fire. I happened to be down below when all this firing was going on, we thought that somehow the ammunition locker had caught fire. Myself and about 12 other men got to the bottom of the stairway and gazed at this red shape of fire which was our doorway at the top of the companionway, the dope spilled on the deck and caught fire and it was flaming up.
    One or two of the lads were asking what we were going to do and I said, “if we stayed where we were we would roast”. My idea was to go up the stairs through the fire and over the side and to tread water until we got a piece of wreckage. I'm no hero, I was probably more frightened than the rest, but fear drove me up those stairs. When I got up on top and stepped out the doorway I found that the flames weren't quite as high as I thought they were, it was all emanating from the floor itself and swirling about as the ship was beginning to list then. I ran down along an alleyway and a few of the lads came up behind me, those who stayed down below just didn’t get out. I got to an area where there were no flames, they were just out-side this door leading out onto the deck, that was where the flames were, fortunately. That's why I didn't go right over the side, if the flames had of been all over the deck I would certainly have gone right over the side because from the door leading out on deck to the side was only about 15ft.
    I threaded my way through the flames and got into the accommodation and I noticed that there was water in the accommodation on the saloon deck, I couldn't understand this, I didn't realise that the whole ship was slowly sinking.
    I made my way up on deck, when I got there, there was a smell of smoke and burning but there were no lifeboats, they were all shattered, there was just bits of wood left. There was only one boat on which we managed to break the two struts underneath it and we lowered it down into the water with a fellow called Dave Jones, a Glaswegian, his leg was broken, but we sort of threw him into the boat. There was just the rope ladder leading down to the boat then, there were only about 3 or 4 of us on deck and there were two old ladies there as well. There was complete silence except for the crackling of bits of wood. One of the ladies was a passenger and the other was a stewardess and I realised that they couldn't get down the rope ladder and the ship was sinking, water was swirling round our ankles then. One of them asked me what we were going to do but I couldn't answer, I was amazed at everything. I’ll always remember the stewardess putting her arm round this very old lady and saying "Come with me back to my cabin, and we'll talk to God". I watched those two old ladies going down that slanting deck, which was now listing, and they stepped through the outer combing into the passenger accommodation, I never saw them again.
    It dawned on me that the ship was sinking. I had my lifejacket on, the old cork type. Something floating round knocked my knee, it was a lifejacket, I picked it up in case I came across somebody without a lifejacket. Just then the whole ship went down with me standing on the deck holding this lifejacket.
    I was caught in the vortex of the ship going down, it was a maelstrom, there were wires beating me in the face, bits hitting me. I went down, down, down. I'm a fairly good swimmer and I held my breath. When you think you’re going to die, you don't think of God and heaven, you think of your mum, your dad, the street in which you were born and your brothers and sisters. I couldn't hold my lungs any longer, I took in sea water through my nose and mouth and funnily enough it seemed to ease this terrific pain in my chest, and I noticed that the blackness before my eyes was beginning to go grey. I realised that it was light and I must have been coming up to the surface, that gave me an added incentive to hold onto my breath longer.
    It went lighter and lighter and I felt cool air on my wet face. I gazed up and there was just the moon, nothing else, I thought 'this isn't happening to me I'm going to wake up from a nasty dream'. I then heard someone shouting "Hey, hey", I'd come up near this shattered lifeboat into which weld thrown Davey Jones, he was still there with his broken leg! He helped me in and I vomited up all this oil and seawater.
    The lifejackets had little red lights on then, we could hear people shouting for help, we had no oars or anything but we managed to pull a few other people in and other seamen splashed their way towards us. We then became aware of a huge grey shape, somebody said it was a ship. We started shouting, nobody had a light but we were shouting and waving. Then we heard a voice saying (not with an English accent) "Stay where you are". Gradually this huge ship (which turned out to be a German raider) came alongside the lifeboat. Sailors slid down ropes into the lifeboat, German seamen.
    When we told them that we were from a British passenger ship and that there were women and children aboard, I must give credit to those Germans, they threw off their jackets and dived underneath broken lifeboats pulling bodies out to see if they could help them in any way. We managed to get two women and two kiddies, one a boy of about 14 and another boy of about 10 and by that time the other men had secured the lifeboat alongside lines to the rope ladder coming down from the raider and searchlights were shining on us. The two ladies had ropes put round their waist and they started to climb up the ladder at the same time as the German sailors were pulling them up, the two kids were next and then we seamen followed. There were quite a crowd of us in the end, fellows started drifting in from other boats. We all lay on the deck covered in oil, we were surrounded by a crowd of German sailors and there were machine guns pointed at us. Gradually we wiped the oil from our faces and cleaned ourselves, a lot were crying and upset, the usual reactions of a terrible experience.
    Among the survivors was a bloke called Raymond Perrins, he was an officers' steward, he came from Fazakerley (Liverpool) and also there was a senior second officer called Partidger who was a bit of a snob. Before breakfast on the ship, Partidger used to like prunes, but he always insisted on having exactly six prunes, if he was given any more or less by Perrins he'd make him take it away until there were exactly six. It was a bit of a joke with us lads. Anyway, on the German raider Perrin just sat in a corner staring at Partidger, he wiped the oil away from his mouth and then he said to Partidger "You won't be getting your six f***ing prunes tomorrow morning will you la!" Of course the humorous situation transmitted itself to one or two of us and we started laughing. The German sailors shoved the machine guns towards us menacingly.
    But we were all now prisoners of war together and we gradually formed a friendliness and bond of everybody being equal.
    Rob Page R855150 - British & Commonwealth Shipping ( 1965 - 1973 ) Gulf Oil -( 1973 - 1975 ) Sealink ( 1975 - 1986 )

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    Default Re: Sinking of the Gloucester Castle

    No doubt we the survivors of sinking all had different stories to tell with due respect to Austin Morris story of the sinking i find that there was a few different stories to what i have said .
    First of all it was 7pm when the raider opened fire , he mentioned he had the old cork type life belt well as far as i know we all had the waistcoat jacket with the whistle and a red light ,Then he said it went very quiet as the ship was sinking well i can remember the raider kept on firing also i was in the water but no sign of oil .
    i am not trying to discredit Austin story but that was the way i saw it

    ---------- Post added 22nd July 2014 at 12:41 AM ---------- Previous post was 21st July 2014 at 11:03 PM ----------

    One other thing it was young Ronald White who had a broken leg

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    Default Re: Sinking of the Gloucester Castle

    i have just found this tread - and very interesting and sad to read - digging around i found that no less then 8 union castle ships were sunk in the great war - the most controversial perrhaps the sinking of the llandovery castle
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