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We Drifted for Six Days on a Raft

Discussion in 'Merchant Navy During WWII' started by Jim, Nov 8, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Thirteen seamen who, after their ship had been sunk by a U-boat, withstood six days of privation on a raft have added another page of dogged courage and endurance to Britain's sea history. The story of their ordeal, as narrated below, was told by a survivor when he landed in England.

    After their ship was torpedoed on the morning of a Friday she sank, and the survivors were left in one lifeboat and on a raft. The position was a very long way from land, but the V-boat did not come to the surface or make any attempt to save life. Describing their subsequent experiences, one of the survivors said: The raft was taken in tow by the lifeboat and we paddled throughout Friday and that night. During Saturday afternoon the weather deteriorated and finally the tow parted. Before anything could be done to pass a new tow, the raft and the lifeboat had been driven far apart, and soon lost sight of one another. There was nothing we on the raft could do in the squally weather except put out a sea anchor. This was done and from a very small compass which one man had in the top of his fountain pen, we were able to glean some idea of the direction in which we were drifting.

    The survivors of the torpedoed ship being rescued by a British Destroyer, after they had spent six days on a raft in dtormy seas.​


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    On the raft were three rifles and some ammunition. During the night of Saturday we fired the tracer ammunition into the air in the hope of attracting attention. It was unavailing. On Sunday morning a liner was sighted, but those on board failed to see the raft in the rough sea and she went on her way. We were out of luck. By that time we had started to ration our water supply, allowing one milk tin full per day to each of the thirteen men on the raft, half the ration being issued about ten a.m. and the other half about ten p.m. Late on Sunday evening heavy swell was encountered, and the raft capsized, throwing us into the water. Two of the three rifles were lost, as was some of the scanty store of food, but fortunately all the men succeeded in regaining the raft, and the water store was not lost.

    On two occasions on Monday ships were sighted, but again we failed to attract attention. We had no means of making or lighting flares, and nothing which could be used as a mast on which clothing could be hoisted as a distress signal. From Monday to Thursday nothing at all was sighted. Nevertheless, all the men remained in good spirits. Early on the morning of Thursday a German U-boat appeared. It approached the raft to within twenty yards. We saw that on the bridge of the U-boat there was a machine-gun which was kept trained on us. We therefore ostentatiously threw overboard the one remaining rifle. The U-boat circled slowly close round the raft. Then the U-boat commander waved and went away. The thirteen of us had been clinging to the raft for nearly six days, and were suffering from privations, exposure, and salt-water sores. Yet we were relieved at not being taken prisoner, and celebrated by having a double ration of water. Later that day British destroyers appeared and rescued us from the raft.
     
  2. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Jesus. My grandad and some of his shipmates did a 17 day-long stint on a raft after being torpedoed. The longest I have heard of was about 50 days ... :wtf:
    In the story you reproduce here Jim, I wonder if it's possible the U-Boat that circled the raft gave away their position so they would be picked up... :fag: ...probably not I guess...
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    I doubt it Dave, they would have put themselves in danger giving away their position, i am certain that a sub-commander wouldn't have wanted that. :p

    6 days in relation to your Grandads 17 makes this look like a swim in the park lake. ;)

    Did your Grandad talk about this to you Dave?
     
  4. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Ha ha yeah another howler from me. Imagine aswell the U-Boat Captain's broadcast:
    "Dear Allied shipping ! Please be in this position to pick up some of your floating country men. This is not a trap, honest!" :D

    As for my grandad, no, he used to tell the story in a joking way that made him look like James Bond. All the adults would laugh, but I was a kid so I thought it was a big joke. As it turned out it wasn't a joke at all but he's long gone so I can't ask him now. Merchant ship SS Wayfarer out of Liverpool is about all I know.
     
  5. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    I understand how that bakki effects the mind... :pound:

    The old saying comes to mind here.."I wish i took more interest and got to know more before he died" Its sad that we are loosing so much information from these guys and many of them take it all with them as they never could talk about it.. :(
     
  6. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    lol :tape:

    Anyway after some prompting from my friends here at War44 I have renewed my efforts in researching this. I found this new site which is excellent in all ways but one, that way being a $45 annual subscription to access the bulk of the research they have done ! :(
    This particular page is of great interest to me as it is dedicated to the SS Wayfarer. Note that the info comes from German records.

    http://uboat.net/allies/merchants/3322.html

    Browse the site to find photos of U-534 at Birkenhead, and U-505 intact in Chicago, and a staggering amount of info & pictures. I was lucky enough to be allowed to photograph the former boat at will, inside and out, as I viewed it at a time when the vessel's curators were in receivership and the guide did not care what we did. I will share these photos as soon as I get organised. I am also tempted to share these photos with UBoat.net, in exchange for free subscriptions maybe.....:D
     

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