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Thread: Merchant Vessel San Demetrio

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    Default Merchant Vessel San Demetrio

    On this day, 16 November, in 1940, the Clyde-built Merchant Vessel San Demetrio limped back into the Clyde after an extraordinary adventure in the Atlantic Ocean, which was made into a 1943 feature film "San Demetrio London" (one of the few films to celebrate the heroism of the Merchant Navy).

    She had been loaded with 11,200 tonnes of aviation fuel at Galveston, Texas, and was on her way back to Avonmouth, Bristol. On 5 November she was hit from several shells and set on fire by the Admiral Scheer, in the same action which sunk HMS Jervis Bay.

    San Demetrio's Captain Waite, believed that the fire could set off the aviation fuel, so he gave the order to abandon ship. With the ship remaining under fire from the Scheer, the crew escaped in two lifeboats.

    The lifeboats separated in the night and the lifeboat with the captain and twenty-five crew was picked up and taken to Newfoundland. The sixteen men in the other lifeboat, including Second Officer Arthur G. Hawkins and Chief Engineer Charles Pollard, drifted for 24 hours when they sighted a burning ship. To their surprise, they discovered that it was their own ship, San Demetrio.

    The crew had to decide whether to risk death by exposure or to re-board and risk the fire. In the end they chose to remain in the lifeboat because the fire was too great and the weather too hazardous to attempt boarding.

    At dawn, 7 November, the San Demetrio was about 5 nautical miles downwind so the crew set sail toward her and re-boarded. They fought the fire, repaired the port auxiliary boiler sufficiently to restart the ship's pumps and dynamos and repaired the auxiliary steering gear.

    No charts or navigational instruments had survived so the crew estimated a course back to Scotland, by glimpses of the sun.

    On this day, 16 November, she hobbled into the Clyde, after having braved a further 9 days of enemy U-Boats. There was one fatality, John Boyle.

    SAN D.jpg

    Painting "The Crew Reboarding the Tanker 'San Demetrio', 7 November 1940" by Norman Wilkinson (1940), Imperial War Museum Collection.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: Merchant Vessel San Demetrio

    Great men. Should we need the like of them again - will they be there? Let's hope so. . .
    Harry Nicholson

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    Default Re: Merchant Vessel San Demetrio

    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
    Great men. Should we need the like of them again - will they be there? Let's hope so. . .
    The men will be there , I believe; whether there would be British registered ships is another question.

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    Default Re: Merchant Vessel San Demetrio

    "A different breed of men"

    K.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: Merchant Vessel San Demetrio

    We are still here , keith

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    Default Re: Merchant Vessel San Demetrio

    Keith, I have in my possession a lot of info on the San Demetrio, From an old boy who was a regular on all the M.N. Forums The late Stan Meyes. stuff you wont find online I will go through my heap tonight and look up what I have and post, I am sure all will find it of interest Regards Terry.
    {terry scouse}

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