Rescue ship Walmer Castle bombed in Atlantic

The Walmer Castle was requisitioned by the Admiralty, provided with rudimentary armaments and used on convoys as a rescue ship to collect sailors who had to abandon ship.

Convoy OG 74 left Liverpool on 12th September bound for Gibraltar. Its route took it way out into the Atlantic in the hope of avoiding German spotter planes and U Boats. Somewhat unusually, if this didn’t work there was a ‘rescue ship’ – the Walmer Castle – sailing with them.

Late on September 20th the Walmer Castle was able to rescue fifty-eight men from the Empire Moat and Baltallinn after they had been torpedoed. Captain Clarke hoped to rejoin the convoy the next morning.

The Walmer Castle proceeded on her zig-zag course at 12 knots, until suddenly, at 11.55 a.m., an enemy aircraft was seen directly ahead rapidly approaching from the west. Action stations was immediately sounded and fire was opened before the enemy was overhead. The aircraft swooped down, in a fore and aft line, over the Walmer Castle, but the captain put the helm hard over, and the first bomb fell into the sea.

Three more attacks followed when the ship was machine gunned and bombed. On the third attack Clarke was shot in the stomach but remained at his post. He was killed when a bomb hit the bridge on the fourth run of the Focke Wolfe:

The chief officer, Mr. A. Lawson had to take over, and he was later to report on the subsequent events:

The chief engineer escaped from engine room with severe burns and died later. Third engineer, on duty below, lost. Many survivors in fore ´tween decks killed by gunfire and blast; ladders, hatches and accommodation reduced to matchwood. Remaining survivors and wounded were got on deck and placed on rafts and no.3 lifeboat.

Motorboat blown away, no.2 port lifeboat badly holed and foundered. Fire raging throughout midships accommodation and on boat deck, effectively isolating fore end of ship from aft soon after bomb explosion. Bridge searched for survivors, and accommodation above and below decks, as far as possible, fire having taken firm hold of port side and accommodation on starboard completely wrecked.

No.4 port boat badly holed and awash on launching. Injured and some survivors taken away. Two remaining rafts reserved for injured. A. Davies, Bos´un, and J. Piccilliro, 2nd stewd Barrett, R.N. Gunner, together with 3rd officer, Mr. T.A. Morris, did excellent work getting injured men on to these rafts. These cast off, with men in charge, as ship´s plating was blistering with heat. Thirteen men remained including two badly injured and one aged man.

I felt the wisest course in these circumstances was to remain on board as long as possible, having in mind also, that only one buoyancy float remained. This we did, commending ourselves to God and wetting down the poop deck from time to time to prevent it firing.

The corvette HMS Marigold later took off the remaining thirteen survivors, and the white hot hulk that had been the Walmer Castle was sunk by gunfire.

This report originally appeared on Union-Castle.Net – currently offline.

Details of Convoy OG 74 come courtesy of Warsailors.

Convoy number OG 074 LIVERPOOL 12/09/41

ALHAMA 032 Br 1,352 38
ARIOSTO 041 Br 2,176 40
BALTALLINN 051 Br 1,303 20 SUNK BY U 124
BENWOOD Nor 3,931 10 COLLISION OFF HOLYHEAD WITH HARPERLEY
CARA 033 Br 1,760 29
CARSBRECK 062 Br 3,670 36
CITY OF WATERFORD 022 Br 1,017 79 SUNK IN COLLISION WITH THAMES 19.9.41
COMO 043 Br 1,295 10
EMPIRE BAY 011 Br 2,824 40 HUELVA
EMPIRE BROOK 054 Br 2,852 41
EMPIRE MOAT 063 Br 2,922 41 SUNK BY U 124 ABANDONED ON 20.9.41
EMPIRE SNIPE 031 Br 2,497 19
FIDRA(Br) 052 Br 1,574 36
HARPERLEY 012 Br 4,586 30 COLLISION 12.9, REMAINED WITH CONVOY
HMS CORINTHIAN 045 Br 3,122 38
HMS LAUREL 034 Br 590 30
LISSA 013 Br 1,511 27 STRAGGLED, SUNK BY U 201
MERKLAND 042 Br 1,363 34
PACIFIC 061 Br 2,816 23 CADIZ
RHINELAND 044 Br 1,381 22 STRAGGLED, SUNK BY U 201
RUNA 014 Br 1,575 30 STRAGGLED, SUNK BY U 201
RUTH I 024 Nor 3,531 00
THAMES 023 Du 624 38
ULEA 053 Br 1,574 36
WALLSEND 021 Br 3,157 37
WALMER CASTLE 035 Br 906 36 RESCUE SHIP, 1st VOYAGE, SUNK, 31 DEAD

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

bernard hill May 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

Since my earlier comment,I have learned that he received the Lloyds Medal for Bravery for saving the chiefs stewards life. Sadly this happened in the year before I was born,and as my own father (his brother died in 1952) it is only in the last year that I have been able to find anything about my relatives on my fathers side.
I have been attempting to discover when he joined the Union Castle Line as he had spent 14 years prior to that with the Ellerman Wilson line sailing out of Hull to New York.
Any information would be most appreciated

bernard hill May 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm

My uncle,Herbert Vincent Hill was the ships cook on this vessel

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