Tug Simla May and June 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, Dec 4, 2018.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Extracted from Dunkirk by A D Divine

    Mr G D Lowe, the Master of Simla reports:

    The fortnight commencing the 20th May 1940 at the time of the evacuation, the tug Simla assisted inside and outside of Dover Harbour, 140 odd ships. The crew and myself were practically on our feet night and day. I have great praise for my crew. Never a grumble, but carrying on with the good work, all longing to help as much as possible, to see our soldiers home safe.
    On May 22nd, when attending harbour work, I received a signal, that a French ship, the SS Themsen, with refugees on board, had been in collision with a British ship, the SS Efford, three miles south-west of Dover. On arriving there, the Efford had sunk, and the crew on her were in one of her lifeboats which I picked up. I then found out from the Captain of the Efford that all his crew were saved, and that the Themsen had cut right into his ship.
    The tug Simla took the SS Themsen in tow, and I went onboard her, while my mate took charge of the tug, for the captain on her was in such a nervous condition that he could not take charge of his ship. He had just come from Dunkirk after being bombed all day, and asked me to take charge of his ship. I anchored off Dover under naval orders. I then landed the crew of the Efford at Dover.
    The tugs had orders to shift two destroyers from Admiralty Pier on May 24th, in the early hours of the morning to buoys in the harbour, to make room for other ships to birth. They were HMS Whitshed and Vimy, but the crews of the destroyers were so tired and exhausted from their recent experience of Dunkirk that we let them sleep on, and shifted the destroyers without them. I expect that when they turned out from their much needed sleep, they were surprised to find their ships in a different position, but were fresh to go to sea again and carry on the good work.
    During the very dark night of May 24th, the SS Kohistan (5,884 tons) was outside, waiting to berth at Admiralty Pier. She had about 6,000 troops on board. The naval people wanted her to birth as soon as possible on account of enemy planes coming over. The job of berthing her was not an easy one, for the harbour was full of other ships, no one allowed to show any light. The tugs Simla and Lady Brassey decided to do the best they could. It was just like going into thick fog. You could not see the other ships or buoys in the harbour, and it was a great worry trying not to hit other ships. First we would scrape along one destroyer, then miss another one by a few feet. Well, with great care, I for one was pleased to get that ship on her berth without any mishap, and to know the soldiers got ashore safely.

  2. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Andy's post caused me to reread A D Divine's excellent book Dunkirk again. On page 242 he writes:
    "Then they were taken off to the stations, and the Southern Railway took over. There again was a masterpiece of organisation. Almost at an hour's notice the Southern Railway adapted its schedules to take on a stream that amounted to as many as 60,000 men a day. Normal Passenger services were ruthlessly truncated. ... The railways' contribution was a tremendous one."
    He goes on to describe the contribution of Southern's ships, and ends about their overall service:
    "These things have small glory, but they were an integral part of Dunkirk - a necessary, a vital part."
    Drew5233 likes this.

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