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Stars and stripes went to the rescue

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Stars and stripes went to the rescue

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Stars and stripes went to the rescue.
On 21 October 1939, the United States ship Independence Hall, steamed into Bordeaux harbour, crowded with 300 people rescued from the British liners Yorkshire and City of Mandalay, which had been torpedoed almost simultaneously. Poignant stories of the sinking as told by eyewitnesses are here reprinted from, The Daily Telegraph, Surrey Comet, and Reuters.

Captain Mackenzie, commander of the Independence Hall, said, I heard the SOS from the Yorkshire, and raced to the position given just in time to see the City of Mandalay. Apparently standing by to help the Yorkshire. But suddenly the City of Mandalay herself broke in two and sank. It took only nine minutes for the City of Mandalay to sink, but the Yorkshire took 45 minutes to sink. The captain of the U-boat came close and speaking English, thanked me saving the survivors. Then the U-boat disappeared
Two American passengers on the Independence Hall, Mr R. Phillips and Mr Jack Thomas, describing rescues from the City of Mandalay said we were off the coast of Portugal. When the steamer received an SOS from the Yorkshire, which had just been sunk by a German submarine. The Independence Hall went to the scene of the disaster as soon as possible, but on the way at 600 hours. A second message was received, this time from the City of Mandalay, announcing that she also was sinking. When we approached the City of Mandalay, a terrible spectacle confronted us We saw that doomed steamer sink into the sea. There were four small boat packed to breaking point. Men were swimming, and we heard the cries of children rise from the scene. Two lifeboats from the sinking ship were full of water, and the passengers were barely able to keep afloat. An expectant mother was among those rescued, but her husband was lost. A weeping mother sought disconsolately for her missing children A man hoisted himself aboard holding carefully a small bundle, containing his six-month-old baby, whose mother was lost.

War once more against women and children.
The officers of the British ships were sublime. Only two of them escaped all the rest went down with their ships. With blood streaming down his face, and although seriously wounded, the second officer of the Yorkshire coolly gave orders to abandon ship. He continued at his post with other members of the crew who perished.

Among the survivors of the Yorkshire was Miss Crowder, of Moseley. Here is her vivid account of the experience. The attack took place at 1530 hrs in the afternoon, she said. I was asleep in my cabin at the time and was awakened when the radiator and a wash basin were hurled onto my bed. The first torpedo had struck us. It was immediately followed by two others. The din from the explosion was terrific unbelievable. Seven minutes later, the ship had sunk and for seven and a half hours in an open boat, we were tossed about in a violent sea, for most of the time in the dark. We have all given up hope, long before we saw the lights of the Independence Hall.
The most harrowing thing about it all was to see people whom you were unable to help. All the lifeboats on the starboard side were out of use, either destroyed by fire, or smashed by the concussion, and the result was that the port side boats were terribly overcrowded. The one I was in was built to take 17. There were 52 of us in it, and it was a terrible thing to see people clinging to bits of wreckage or floundering in the water begging in vain to be taken aboard. And there were the other terrible things. One woman in boat had lost her four children. She was demented with grief, and we had to look after and tried to console her as we tossed about helplessly in the darkness. It became dark at 1730 hrs, and the seven lifeboats were tied together and from then until they were picked up five and a half hours later, they sent up a flair every half hour. High seas were running and one minutes passengers in the boat would look up and see the neighbouring boat, riding, high above them on a wave in a trough. With the exception of one, who was washed overboard, all the ship's officers were lost, and two stewards took charge. Without them and their amazing courage, Miss Crowder said, everyone would probably have been drowned. The soldiers, too, were helpful, particularly in keeping people's courage up. They sang, the Lambeth walk, and when the Independence Hall drew near, they struck up. The Yanks are coming.

The British liner City of Mandalay was sunk by U-46 commanded by Herbert Sohler and the British liner Yorkshire was sunk by U-37 commanded by Werner Hartmann

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British liner City of Mandalay picture 1

U-37 picture 1

British liner Yorkshire picture 1

U-46 picture 1

United States ship Independence Hall picture 1

United States ship Independence Hall picture 2

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Sources

The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

2194 Days Of War.
ISBN-10: 086136614X

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