REPORT OF SURVIVORS FROM ONS. 5.
 
   
          At 0024/Z on May 4th, 1943, while moving from position 5 in DE.8 to position H in NE.6, the S.S. "NORTH BRITON", a straggler, was torpedoed.  This ship had a defective boiler and the defect had just been made good and speed increased to rejoin the convoy when the torpedo struck aft; the ship went down stern first in about two minutes.  Observant was carried out around the spot without gaining contact.  At first it was thought there were no survivors as no boats or lights could be seen and a signal was sent to H.M.S. "TAY" to that effect.  
          At 0055/Z, however, some lights were seen and at 0105/Z we commenced picking up survivors from a raft and a waterlogged lifeboat.  The lifeboat was brought alongside time and time again but the occupants did not make much effort to get out and the line parted after about five or ten minutes.  Eventually at 0230/Z 10 survivors from the boat and 1 from the raft were on board.  There was still one light in the water and course was altered towards it and the ship was just steadied up when it disappeared and no sign of any of the survivors could be seen.  
          Course was set to pick up survivors from two other ships that had been sunk, but as it turned out there were three that had gone down.  At 0305/Z a red light was sighted and we closed, but the light disappeared very shortly and after searching nothing was found.  This may have been the wireless operators from S.S. "HARPERLY" on an upturned boat.  There was no sign of them when daylight came.  
          At 0415/Z further lights were seen and survivors were picked up off a raft from S.S. "HARBURY" and ten minutes later further survivors were picked up from one of the "HARPERLY'S" boats.  
          At 0455/Z a lot of lights were seen to the southward which turned out to be other survivors from the "HARBURY", "HARPERLY", and a U.S. ship, the "WEST MAXIMUS."  The "HARBURY" was still afloat as well.  
          Until 0800/Z we were engaged in picking up survivors from boats and rafts which had spread out from each other.  
          The Master of the "HARBURY" was asked if his ship was salvageable; he stated that it was not but volunteered to go back aboard and make sure.  At 0900/Z a boat was lowered with the First Lieutenant, (Lieut. L.P. Lee, R.N.V.R.) in charge and the Master and Chief Officer of the "MARBURY" aboard.  
          While they were making the survey the crew of the boat replenished our dwindling stock of potatoes and flour.  At 1000/Z everybody returned on board and the Master of "MARBURY" said that she would not stay afloat, that the water had reached a height of ten feet in the engine room and was above the dynamos.  As all confidential books had been destroyed she was left afloat and course set to rejoin convoy.  
          The "NORTHERN SPRAY" had now picked up one hundred and forty three survivors, 43 from S.S. "HARBURY," 51 from S.S. "WEST MAXIMUS," 2 from S.S. "NORTH BRITON," 38 from S.S. "HARPERLY," and I was beginning to wonder where to put others if there were any more, as the mess decks and ward room and all cabins were jammed tight.  The crew of H.M.S. "NORTHERN SPRAY" slept on deck the first night.  
          At 1630/Z/5 we were ordered by H.M.S. "TAY" to proceed to St. John's.  That evening while the highly successful action was at its height, "NORTHERN SPRAY passed at an estimated distance of ten miles from the port beam of the convoy.  Unfortunately no U-boats were sighted or contacts gained.  St. John's was reached without further incident at 0750/Z/8.  
          There were only six men among the survivors who were injured, and they had slight injuries.  One man fell between a lifeboat and the ship and was pushed up against the side, but he recovered in a few hours and required no further medical treatment.  
     
                                                                                                                 /The  
     
     

 

 
 
     
 
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          The Ship's Company did everything possible to get survivors aboard, and to get them below into dry clothing.  Among those who were outstanding in their initiative were:  
 
Engineman Cuthbert Leighton, KX.101653.
Sea. Robert Stewart, X.20990A.
Sea. Edward George Stubbs, D/JX.170597.
Herbert Arthur Damsell, Cook. MX.86236.
 
          Damsell served in the region of 300 meals at lunch the first day.  By this time all the survivors had recovered from the effects of exposure and all had healthy appetites and they asked for, and got, two or three helpings at lunchtime.  Our galley was totally inadequate for the number aboard but Damsel contrived somehow and refused help from the cooks of the torpedoed ships, saying "I don't want any strangers in my galley."  
          After the first 24 hours the crews from the various ships turned to and cleaned up the messdeck as best they could without using water which had at last to be rationed.  The crew from the "WEST MAXIMUS" went up and cleaned our 4" gun.  
          Mealtimes were organised and each ship's company was piped to the galley separately at intervals of half an hour.  
          It is suggested that ring bolts or cleats are fitted to rafts on merchant ships so that line can be made fast.  Several attempts had to be made to get rafts alongside with the heavy swell that was running at the time because the survivors were too exhausted to hold on.  
     
     
     
     
                                                                     (Sgd.)        J. DONNER  
     
                                                                                            COMMANDING OFFICER  
                                                                                                    Lieut., R.N.R.  
     


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