We tried to save half ship.
When the 17,000 ton, London tanker San Alberto was torpedoed
on 9 December
, the vessel broke in half. Members of the crow, who
had escaped returned to their ship and raised steam, in the
hope of getting the floating half to port. Their eventual
rescue, as described by one of the officers, is here reprinted
from the pages of News Chronicle.
The San Alberto was hit at 615 hrs in the morning. The explosion
blew the skipper into the air and in falling he broke his
wrist. He was the only one injured. The torpedo tore up 60
ft of deck, and the fore part of the ship was totally isolated
from the after part. All the officers were in the fore part,
where their quarters were, and the men were in the after apart.
This resulted in there being no officers aft to direct the
manning of the lifeboats. The boson, Malcolm Bain of Greenock,
as a senior petty officer, took charge, and his splendid work
in seeing that the men all got away safely cost him his life.
He was a first-class seaman and a man of unflinching courage
and discipline. He left himself until last. Unfortunately,
there was not much time left, and then jumping into the last
boat he missed and was lost. When daylight came, we discovered
that one of the boats containing three of the crew and a passenger
had got lost. This boat we never saw again. Actually it was
adrift in five days and four nights, and though the men had
plenty of food. All was suffering from exposure and trench
feet. When they landed at south coast port. All are now recovering.
The rest of us. After 10 or 12 hours decided that the after
part of the ship would probably remain afloat a long time,
so the whole of the crew returned. The engineers broke up
accommodation fittingsto raise steam on the auxiliary boilers.
So that they could get, the main motor started. They did a
magnificent job of work throughout. By keeping the engine
is going slow astern. The crew prevented the seas from tearing
the front part of the San Alberto's remains to bits, but every
time she came head to sea great strips of plating were torn
away. We had lights and heating in the accommodation and hot
meals all in a mere fragment of a ship. We made a fire on
the poop in the hope of attracting a patrolling aeroplane,
but after a time this was put out in case it should only bring
another submarine. There was no radio, of course, and when
the Belgian steamer Alexandria Andre came along. We signalled
to her with a pocket torch. They sent out a boat, but the
sea was too rough for it to get near. Two men did jump. The
first landed safely, but the other missed and in a few minutes
had drifted fully a mile away. Then the skipper of the Belgian
ship showed the man he was. He backed up his ship and pick
the man directly out of the water without the assistance of
a small boat. In such a gale, it was a superb piece of seamanship.
All rescue efforts were then abandoned until the morning,
and the Alexandra Andre began a vain search for the missing
boat. She stood by all next day until destroyer came in response
to her radio call. The sea was still too rough for rescue
efforts, and the destroyer stood by all the second night,
that the only way to transfer the crew was by Carley float.
The ship was sinking rapidly and there was not a minute to
spare. When the last of the men had been transferred. They
all had to jump into the icy water, and be dragged onto the
float. It was bitterly cold and the gale was blowing even
worse. Yet three of these men were at sea for the first time
in their lives and could not swim a stroke. There was another
passenger who had originally got away from the ship in the
captain's boat. He two like everyone behaved as though sailing
in the remnant of a sinking ship was quite an everyday occurrence.
The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton
The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton
2194 Days Of War.
For a complete list of sources