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Empire Lakeland  loss in WW2..

Empire Lakeland loss in WW2..

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A very sad incident in WW2..
I was in Viking Star of Blue Star Line when we were sunk by three torpedoes from
U 130 on 25th August 1942..Captain Mills and seven crew were killed.
We were 180 miles SW of Freetown..
36 survivors (including myself) sailed a lifeboat to the coast of Sierra Leone in 6 days.
Walked through the jungle a few days and got to Sherbro where we were taken in an
MTB to Freetown..and eventually home in Otranto..
17 other survivors were on 3 rafts and drifted ashore on the coast of Liberia after 12 days.
They suffered terrible agonies of sunburn and salt water boils.
Three of the survivors were 2nd Engineer W.Belford - Bosun W.Wilkinson and Cadet G.Patterson.
Following their leave all three joined newly built Empire Lakeland -MOWT - Blue Star Managers
Sailed in convoy and then in atrocious weather conditions the ship began to break up.
Captain Gudgion decided to return to the Clyde for repairs...Sailing again in the New Year they went to New York- loaded and joined convoy SC 121 for UK..
Again lost the convoy and was torpedoed by U 190 - there were no survivors from her crew of
56 plus 6 DEMS gunners..
It was considered by many that the bad workmanship by shipbuilders were largely responsible
for this tragedy..If the ship had not been forced to return to port which had completely changed her schedule,she may have survived the war..Her builders were John Readhead - South Shields.
This was another example of incompetence and a couldn't care less attitude which unfortunately
existed in British industry during WW2..
Strikes in factories producing vital war materials - strikes in shipyards -strikes in docks but never a strike by merchant seamen..
If they had gone on strike the consequences would have been catastrophic..
Think about it !!
Stan
 

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"It was considered by many that the bad workmanship by shipbuilders were largely responsible
for this tragedy..If the ship had not been forced to return to port which had completely changed her schedule,she may have survived the war..Her builders were John Readhead - South Shields.
This was another example of incompetence and a couldn't care less attitude which unfortunately
existed in British industry during WW2..
Strikes in factories producing vital war materials - strikes in shipyards -strikes in docks but never a strike by merchant seamen..
If they had gone on strike the consequences would have been catastrophic."


That is a really harrowing tale Stan which shows some of the horrors endured by you and your shipmates during the war years.
I must admit you have opened my eyes somewhat regarding the strikes and attitude of British workers during this period of war.
I was just a child and all I heard was that the nation was solidly pulling together and giving all for the war effort. Apparently this was not completely true.
After the war many of the union heavies migrated to Australia and joined our maritime unions with disastrous consequences.
 

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I'll say it again Stan, were it not for your generation I would never have had the opportunity to go to sea under the red ensign. Big, big thanks.
 

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Thank you Barry..
John - I think the blame can be put on the owners of the shipyards.
In this country and in the US the workers were promised bonuses for
building ships quickly - consequently shoddy workmanship..
I sailed in two WW2 built ships Cape Howe and Freecrest ex Empire Austen.
In Cape Howe we experienced atrocious weather conditions in the North Atlantic
which caused damage to the ship..In Freecrest we were in a hurricane for three days
and she also suffered much damage but they both survived it - both were sturdy built ships..
And both were built by Lithgows Port Glasgow.
Regards,
Stan
 

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That was very sobering Stan. The merchant fleet and their crews deserve a great deal of respect and thanks for what you all done for the war effort and for helping to keep the UK going. Your bravery and fortitude should be recognised officially.
Thank you Stan.
 

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Hello Stan,

Thank you for your recent e-mail. Happy new year to you and yours as well. It must have truly been a very proud day for you and your family to be honored in such a way, congratulations to you. My original sentiments reflect recent stories in the media that the guys that sailed on the Arctic convoys have not been adequately recognized by the nation and that there is a campaign gathering speed to address this by way of a dedicated medal.

Thank you once again Stan.

Kind regards,

Chris.
 

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