The Crested Eagle and Devonia. Dunkirk's 1940 Ship Wrecks

Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive








    Provided by AnGem

    005 TAYLOR H C/J 42331 HMS CRESTED EAGLE 03/06/1940 ROYAL NAVY
    geoff501 likes this.
  2. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Excellent photos and a very nice tribute - well done, Andy.
    Least We Forget.


  3. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Nice thread Andy. You did a great job.
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Most excellent , Andy.
    Pics showing up well.
    Some hard work into research put in for this thread.
  5. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Well done Andy
    thank you
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Signalman Leslie Rashleigh joined the paddle minesweeper Devonia on New Year's Day in 1940. Five months later he abandoned her on the beach at La Panne when Operation Dynamo was at it's height. This is his story:

    Devonia at Milford Haven shortly after being commissioned as a minesweeper in December 1940.

    The Devonia was on passage to the Firth of Forth from Milford Haven, where she had been fitted out as a minesweeper, when I joined her, my first ship, on 1st January 1940 in West Hartlepool. With the minesweeping gear fitted aft, Devonia had a single 12-pounder gun on the forecastle and Lewis gun mountings on each paddle sponson. When it came to accomodation, the ward-room was aft and all other personnel in two messes in what had been the forward saloon, seamen on the starboard side and the Maltese engine room and stokehold hands to port. On the lower deck were the Petty Officers and leading hands, plus additional sleeping accomodation for the seamen's mess. We were on canteen messing but the Maltese maintained a seperate scheme with their own unofficial chef - who always seemed more competent than the ship's real cook!

    Life onboard was quite monotonous. We were in harbour most nights, which was fortunate as on the few occasions we anchored outside we usually found the odd mine floating nearby, having broken adrift from our own field. We swept daily following a regular routine and usually paired with Devonia's sister ship Brighton Queen. After leaving harbour at Granton and passing through the boom defence from Inchkeith Island to the north shore of the Forth, we proceeded to just off Methil, a rendezvous point for the East Coast convoys. There we streamed sweeps and followed the shipping channel. Sometimes Brighton Queen, also to be lost at Dunkirk, broke off and went north of May Island but we always took the southern channel past Bass Rock towards St. Abbs Head before it was 'in sweeps' and home.

    Devonia operating in the North Sea from Granton on the Forth. This shot is of her stern with 'Sweeps out' with her two floats being streamed.

    In view of the tricky entrance to the harbour at Granton, our skipper was always anxious to get back while it was still light. This called for full speed which, in Devonia's case was quite considerable, and she must have made an impressive sight with two funnels giving forth vast clouds of black smoke and occasional tongues of flame. The heat inside the funnels was intense and, with the paint on the outsides bubbling like lava, passing them ment hugging the ship's rail to avoid being scorched, I got no further than easing open the airlock door before being driven back from the heat below.

    The First Lieutenant, Chas Cox, surveys the sea from Devonia's starboard paddle box.

    In my time with Devonia we never swept a single mine, not even in our own field, the vessels cutters seeming somehow to be inadequate. Once or twice we stayed out for the night, anchoring inside the Farne Islands, and on once such occasion at the end of May I was roused from my hammock by the lookout who had seen a light flashing from the shore. I answered and received a curt: 'Please man your RT' instruction in return. Having awoken the telegraphist we received a signal for the captain's eyes only and, very early next morning, set off for Tynemouth for coaling. When the First-Lieutenant and couple of AB's began testing the Holman Projector by lobbing potatoes, we all wondered what was in store. We continued southwards along the coast in marvellous weather, with the sea to ourselves, and nothing eventful occurred until we had a couple of shots across the bows from the shore at Lowestoft. We were interrorgated by light signal and allowed to proceed after identification, but we were somewhat amused by the gunfire, all for an old paddle steamer on an otherwise empty ocean. We eventually tied up at Harwich, which was quite congested with vessels of all types, and a fresh arrival from Dunkirk came alongside and painted a lurid description of what was instore for us; and although we had never heard of the place, it was obviously not going to be a picnic.

    We coaled ready for another early start and sailed along the Essex and Kent coasts until reaching the swept channel across to France. By this time there was considerable two-way traffic, and in addition to tugs towing long strings of motor cruisers and launches, I recall a large French destroyer crossing to England stern first with heavy damage forward. After Dunkirk we continued along the coast toward La Panne where a hat-less, weatherbeaten commodore, who seemed to be running the show, came aboard. He briefed the captain below and went off in his boat again while we moved slowly in towards the beaches, which seemed alive with soldiers trying to get off in small boats. This was made very difficult by the surf, which tended to beach the boats and strand them. At some stage lorries had been driven into the sea to form a makeshift jetty, but this was not very successful, apparently.

    There was a lot of air activity, mainly bombing, and the Germans were also in Nieuport, in sight of the beaches, which they shelled spasmodically. We manned the 12-pounder and popped off a few shells and also the Lewis guns, which helped morale if nothing else. After passing a Clan Line freighter which had been hit and abandoned while at anchor, we launched our boat to make a couple of runs to inshore, off-loading on to the Hilda, a small, one hold, high poop Dutch coaster manned by a Royal Navy lieutenant with three ratings. Before long the bombing and shelling came too close for comfort and then we reeled from a stick of bombs immediately astern. This opened up Devonia's stern and before long the commodore re-appeared to see the captain.

    Because of the severity of the damage we were instructed to beach as far in as possible in the hope that the ship would act as a jetty for the troops - although at the time we were still too far out for the soldiers to wade. When orders came to abandon ship the Buffer passed among us with the rum jar and everyone was told to take a stiff tot in case we ended up in the sea. After we beached I took the ship's confidential books and papers to the stokehold to be burnt and only the second engineer remained to assist, and then opened the seacocks. I think he had already seen the Buffer several times, but he was not a happy man. We left Devonia - and her unfinished day trip to France - in style and rowed across to the Hilda, which was nearly full, and were then transferred with the troops to Scimitar, an old S Class destroyer which sailed late in the evening for Dover, when Dunkirk was like Dante's Inferno as we headed for home.

    Men of the Ulster Rifles waiting to be evacuated at La Panne. The abandoned Devonia can be seen in the background with the Thames paddler Royal Eagle seen in the far distance.

    The Ships That Saved An Army - Russel Plummer.
  7. Gsyfestung

    Gsyfestung Member

    You mention the Hilda I thought you may like to see photos of her she sank 28 juni 1990 Pos:18° 15' NB en 63° 06' WL. The first shot is her on launch in 1939, the next at Dunkerque the last at rest.
    Gsy Festung

    Attached Files:

  8. Gsyfestung

    Gsyfestung Member

    Three photo of the Crested Eagle.

    Attached Files:

  9. Gsyfestung

    Gsyfestung Member

    and a couple more of the Devonia

    Attached Files:

    Drew5233 likes this.
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Thats my Photograph ! :lol:

    I wonder if Paul knows this chap James Holland? Apparently he works for the BBC.
  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Franks account can be found in The Ships that Saved an Army along with many other nautical accounts from Dunkirk.

    Ordinary Seaman Frank Pattrick, Royal Naval Reserve onboard HMS Crested Eagle, 1940.

    A countermeasure to the menace of magnetic mines dropped by German aircraft consisted of current-carrying cables being fitted right round the sides of ships. This operation was top secret but the effect was to neutralise the magnetic field of the hull thus rendering it unable to affect the magnetic needle on the mines detonator. The system was known as ‘degaussing’ and it was responsible for the saving of many ships. To combat the laying of mines by aircraft along the shallow waters of the East Coast, the Admiralty decided to create a special fleet of anti-aircraft ships. They would be armed with ack-ack guns and carry hitherto unheard of Radar, but needed to be of shallow draft to operate among the shoals and sandbanks of the North Foreland and Thames Estuary. The plan was to anchor these ships in the narrow channels at night to track aircraft with radar and, hopefully destroy them. At least the mines dropped could be plotted and during daylight hours the ships would undertake contraband patrols and examine foreign ships that might be carrying prohibited raw materials.

    The ‘Thames Special Service Flotilla’ was duly formed with the pre-war passenger paddle steamers Crested Eagle, Royal Eagle and Golden Eagle which were sent to the Chatham Dockyard to be converted for their new roles. Being Southend born I had special affection for these ships as had most residents of the seaside towns around the Thames Estuary and, of course, the East End of London. I was delighted to be drafted as an ordinary seamen to Crested Eagle, a special favourite as she was one of the fastest paddlers to operate on the Thames. Going aboard for the first time among the tangle of cables and airlines, the ship was hardly recognisable. The luxurious dining saloon, one of the major attractions of these ships, and originally stretching right across the hull, with its imposing entrance directly opposite the wide main forward staircase was completely gutted, with a new central bulkhead built and the whole area forward converted into mess decks. The two main staircases were left intact but the large after saloon was completely rebuilt to accommodate the wardroom, a large diesel generator, extra fuel tanks and store rooms. Other peacetime cabins were utilised as ammunition stores, ship’s store, paint shop and so on. The deck heads were reinforced to accommodate the ack-ack guns and the arrival of the radar shack gave great cause for speculation. A large wooden structure, still in camouflage colours mounted on a heavy-duty wheeled chassis, it was topped by a large aerial and, as no-one had yet heard of radar the rumours was that it was a form of secret ray projector capable of stopping enemy aircraft engines in flight – a comforting thought!

    Gradually out of the chaos and confusion we saw the emergence of HMS Crested Eagle. Gone was the familiar yellow funnel, white upper works and black hull, instead everything had been re painted with the dull dark Navy grey. Two single Pom-Pom guns and the radar stack adorned the after deck whilst more Pom-Poms were mounted forward. Carley floats replaced the peacetime deck seating, deckchair lockers were now steel ready-use ammunition lockers and the old licensed bar now held stocks of paint, rope, deck scrubbers and other less glamorous stores. Our peacetime paddler was almost ready for the task ahead. During the time the conversion work was being carried out, we were billeted in the Chatham Barracks and had grown accustomed to the noise, bustle and confusion of a naval dockyard and looked forward to working about the ship during the day.

    This was soon to change. Gradually the shipwrights, welders, riveters, armourers, electricians and carpenters completed their various assignments, gathered up their paraphernalia and literally vanished overnight. We then officially commissioned the ship and everything was soon made habitable and, after last-minute checks of equipment, final deliveries of stores and spares we finally cast off and made our way down the River Medway for a shake-down routine. Eventually Royal Eagle followed us and Golden Eagle came some time later as she required much more structural reinforcement due to her age and size. On all three ships a surprise was the selection of Army personnel to man the radar and considerable friction resulted.

    Lieutenant Commander Booth RNR was given command of Crested Eagle and he was supported by other RNR officers. We had no regular Navy personnel but our Petty Officer and ratings were pensioners who had been recalled from retirement. Their experience was invaluable and they did an excellent job. Our first main task was to swing the compass, which entailed our sailing to a fix spot in the Thames Estuary and spending several hours lining-up with special bearings on land, under the supervision of experts. This done, all that was left was to try out the guns. Our armament was mainly two pounder Pom-Poms built in 1916 and the first time they were fired we expected the ship to go straight to the bottom – the terrific noise and huge vibration was quite frightening! But we soon became used to them and took no notice. We did hear that when Golden Eagle did her trials with less guns than we had, she had to return to Sheerness for the decks to be recaulked!

    We settled down to the dull routine of patrolling the North Foreland during the daylight hours, stopping foreign ships and sending boarding parties to check cargo manifests. At dusk we would anchor in the narrow channels between the shoals and the Army would keep watch with the radar, but being a completely new innovation it was continually breaking down. At that time, when a plane was picked up on the scanner, there was no way if we could tell if it was friendly or not. Thus every time an aircraft took off from nearby Manston ‘action stations’ would be sounded. It was fun initially, but after the alarm started to sound every five minutes or so the popularity of our Army comrades grew less and less. So it went on until, on 10th May 1940, the Germans launched their major offensive against the Low Countries. During the next few days it became evident that things were very serious on the other side of the Channel.

    On Saturday 25th May we were on patrol when ordered back to Sheerness with Royal Eagle. The ship’s company was mustered and informed that orders had been given for all the Army personnel and those crew members who were not essential for the actual running of the ship, including gunnery ratings, to be put ashore without delay.

    In hindsight, this was a serious mistake for the latter were sadly missed later on. Those of us who were retained spent the next two days wildly speculating just what lay ahead until, on the morning of Tuesday 28th May, we slipped our mooring and went alongside Sheerness Dockyard wall. Lorries were already unloading hundreds of life jackets and a working party then proceeded to throw these onto our decks. Several hundred had been loaded and stowed when we were ordered to cast off. No sooner than we had started to pull away from the wall when an officer shouted from the dockside for us to return immediately. This we did and more life jackets before, yet again, we were told to leave. This farce continued twice more before Lieutenant-Commander Booth decided enough was enough and, to the accompaniment of shouting from our officer friend ashore, we headed out in to the Thames.

    To coincide with our departure the heavens opened and we left in a violent thunderstorm which took a heavy toll of the barrage balloons, many of which were set ablaze by the lightning. We set course for Dover which was reached by nightfall. The following morning we were briefed on the role we were to play in a major operation to be known as ‘Dynamo’. Royal Eagle and ourselves would sail in the afternoon to arrive off the beach at La Panne by nightfall. We would beach and wait for the tide to go down, when as many troops as possible would be loaded before re-floating on the rising tide and return to Dover. The operation would continue as necessary. Our course was code named ‘Y’ and took us due east and soon we were passing many other vessels including tugs towing clusters of naval whalers and cutters. To the south we could see a huge pillar of smoke reaching skywards as Dunkirk reeled under continuous attacks from German artillery and Stuka dive-bombers. We reached a point north of La Panne at about 11 a.m. and altered course for the beaches. Then we were told to part company with the Royal Eagle and proceed instead to Dunkirk Harbour to pick up wounded for the East Mole. Royal Eagle continued towards the beach and we saw no more of her. She was to make several successful trips during that week and went on to achieve a distinguished war record for the duration.

    About a mile from the Mole we had our first real taste of fire in the form of a salvo from the German shore battery which had wreaked so much havoc on the harbour the previous night. We survived but the transport Clan MacAlister was set on fire and beached about a quarter of a mile from the harbour entrance. We went alongside the seaward side of the Mole. It had not been designed for berthing and as there were no bollards on which to tie up, we utilised a concrete fence which ran the entire distance along the jetty and managed to berth with our bow tied up and an after line from the paddle box. This left the stern projecting out and away from the Mole, a position that was to save us from two direct hits shortly afterwards.
    The harbour had suffered heavily during the night and storage tanks were blazing furiously. The French destroyer Mistral was sunk inside the harbour together with the British destroyer Sabre and many other vessels. It was at this time that we took our first casualty, the coxswain being badly wounded by shrapnel. The destroyer Grenade was just about to leave for Dover so we rushed him across on a stretcher, just in time to hand him over Grenade’s bow guard rail as she inched astern to line up with harbour entrance. She never made it. Just as we turned to return aboard, the Stukas attacked again, we dived for cover and heard the bombs explode. As we got up, we saw to our dismay that Grenade had been hit amidships and was on fire and sinking. Our coxswain could not have stood much chance.

    More Stuka attacks followed and the Isle of Man ferry Fenella, berthed directly astern of us, was hit and destroyed. During the attacks two bombs were seen to fall between the Mole and our stern. Had we been able to berth Crested Eagle normally we would have joined the rest of the casualties. Being the only seaworthy vessel left we were inundated with survivors from the ships in the harbour, in addition to the walking wounded and stretcher cases staggering along the Mole from shore. During all the bombing our radio operator worked non-stop in a vain attempt to drum up air support from Dover. Some twelve ships had been sunk in and around the harbour already and we had seen no sign of the RAF.

    Suddenly the air attacks eased off, the Germans must have thought they had sunk all the harbour shipping and we took full advantage to speed up the loading unmolested. All available space was gradually filled, stretcher cases were carefully packed along the catwalk alongside the engine room, a favourite observation spot in peacetime. More stretchers filled the mess decks, and the wardroom and every other inch of space was packed with walking wounded and other survivors.

    Finally, at 6 p.m. the order was given to cast off, this being done to the accompaniment of loud cheers from the troops and murmurs of relief from the crew. The throb of the engines and the thump of the paddles gave us renewed hope and a fresh breeze was almost welcome as we swung clear and left for the trip back to Dover. Around the time we left, the Stuka squadrons were about to launch a new raid. A report released after the war records that their leader had decided to switch his attackfrom the harbour to shipping which had been reported on the way to the beaches further east. Due to the falling tide we were compelled to head due east running parallel to the beach which was packed with troops who had been arriving all day.

    The Stukas flew in at high altitude. At first we thought they were Spitfires arriving at last, but our joy was short lived and we watched as they peeled off. The same report states that the leader had reported as sighting a cruiser. Paddle Steamers make a wake twice as wide as a normal ship and we must have presented him with a perfect target. As we came abreast of Malo-les-Bains the bombs fell and we managed to avoid the stick with an alteration of the helm but, with our guns continually jamming we were at their mercy. Unhindered, they dropped from the sky pulling out of their dives just above mast height, where we could clearly see their crew through the transparent cockpit cover. And for good measure the rear gunner raked us with their machine gun as they sped away. Suddenly we felt the ship shudder, as if some giant hand had picked us up, when a bomb struck home just aft of the bridge. It was followed by two more further aft which ripped into the oil fuel and the diesel tanks and immediately everything from the bridge to the stern was an inferno.

    As we rushed aft we saw men running with skin blasted from their faces and arms, some scalded and badly wounded and our First Lieutenant only recognisable by the emblem on his steel helmet. The decks had been packed when the bombs struck home and many had little chance. To make matters worse, the areas where stretcher cases were stowed below received direct hits and, as we made for the main stairway, we found everything a sea of flame and nothing could be done for them. Meantime, those who had survived on deck were getting over the side on ropes to reach the many small boats which were converging on us. Others leapt straight over, still wearing their full packs, some even clutching rifles.

    It was only when they reached the sea that they realised that the oil was laying some inches thick on the surface, it had not had time to disperse and they were unable to get their heads high enough to breathe. Others clutched desperately at the rescue boats and several of these capsized, adding their occupants to those already in the water. Lieutenant-Commander Booth somehow managed to run the ship aground and the last survivors crammed the forward deck as the fire gradually crept along, the ammunition lockers and the tanks containing flares and rockets exploding sending their contents high into the air to add still more to the chaos and confusion. Somehow we eventually got the remainder of the men, the same men who had boarded us earlier that day, back into the sea; as we gazed down we saw them mingle with bodies still being kept a float by life belts, hampering them as they struggled for survival towards the rescue boats. True losses will never be known but the Crested Eagle’s destruction must have been the biggest single loss of life of any ship throughout the evacuation.

    Eventually only three of us remained on board, the Sub-Lieutenant in charge, another seaman and myself. The fire had crept to within 15 feet when we left. Being a non-swimmer I went down a rope directly over the bow and will never forget the scene all around. Looking down from the height of the deck was bad enough, but seeing everything from the level of the water and experiencing the choking oil was horrifying. I clung desperately to the greasy rope until eventually a carley float drifted close enough to get a hand hold.

    It was most difficult to maintain a grip on the overcrowded float because of the oil. It was to be a grim two hours later when a small dinghy headed towards us, rowed by a stoker with a colleague standing in the bow who, wielding an oar announced in no uncertain terms that if anyone should raise a hand to grab the dinghy, he would not hesitate to knock it free. The float was taken in tow and our rescuers hauled us slowly out to where the minesweeper HMS Albury was waiting. We could see the Crested Eagle still burning, her still hull glowing red hot in the darkness. As we came alongside the Albury those fit enough were able to clamber up the rope netting that had been put over the side. The exertions of the day had proved too much in my case and I was lifted up with a bowline under my armpits to be greeted, as I reached the guard rail, with a mug containing neat rum. I gulped it down and remembered no more until I was shaken and told that we were about to land in Margate.
  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Copies of original documents held on my hardrive if anyone wants to see the original paperwork. All accounts taken from WO 361/19 at the National Archives.

    Private William Wilson, RASC.

    Of the RASC personnel known to me on the SS Crested Eagle I can say definately that Private James Hislop came back to England and entered East Grinstead Hospital.

    His Brother Pte. John Hislop, with Sgt. McKinnon and M.S.M. Smithson, I know to have been aft of the boat near where she was hit by a bomb. I was forward when she was hit and fire prevented me from going aft to look for them so I do not know whether they were saved or not.

    Dvr. Robert Cooper and T/84428 - Pte. Andrew Cowie were on the boat andare known to have been saved.

    L/Cpl. Young, who was below when the ship was hit, had his leg trapped under a heavy beam. I lifted the beam and extricated him. His leg was broken. I took him above deck and put him under the shelter of the bridge since there was a good deal of machine-gun fire from the air. After putting a life-jacket on him I left him in the care of a sailor.

    As I was swimming away from the ship, towing another man who was hit in the shoulder, I looked back towards the ship and saw L/Cpl. Young being lowered into the water by the sailor.

    All the men referred to were of the 8 Sub-Park Ammunition Corps. Royal Army Service Corps.

    87431 Sergeant Ronald Andrew McKinnon RASC
    CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

    T/33414 Warrant Officer Class I Robert Joseph Smithson RASC
    CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Private A.E. Chidwick.

    During the morning of 29th May, 1940 L/Cpl. Phillott, Pte. Challis and myself volunteered for Stretcher Bearing on Sands about 2 miles North of Dunkirk.

    We carried wounded for about a mile where they were transferred to lorries.

    When this job was finished we three joined a party of soldiers and boarded a Steamer, which was lying by Pier at Dunkirk.

    This Steamer was hit by Enemy Action and therefore we three got off and boarded a second Steamer.

    All were ordered below and in the crush L/Cpl. Phillott was seperated from Pte. Challis and myself. I definately saw L/Cpl. Phillott on ship going below and this was the last time I saw him.

    This Steamer commenced to sail, but was hit amidships after going about 1/4 mile. I was badly burnt and many men were casualties.

    All were ordered on deck when Steamer caught fire, and then I was seperated from Pte. Challis.

    Enemy planes machine-gunned deck. Orders to abandon ship were given and I was picked up by a sailor, taken ashore, and at dusk boarded a third Steamer and thus to England.

    My supposition is that L/Cpl Phillott was:-

    (1) Killed outright when Steamer was hit.
    (2) So badly wounded that he could not leave the ship.
    (3) If he was successful in abandoning ship, was drowned.

    Private F.A. Challis.

    With regard to your enquiries about the above named soldier, I am afraid I can give you know further definite information than you probably already have had from Pte. A.E. Chadwick.

    L/Cpl Phillott, Pte. Chadwick and myself were carrying some of the stretcher cases from the hospital to Dunkirk Pier that is how we were seperated from the rest of our company. All three of us got on the 'Phenella' an Isle of Man boat, this boat was put out of action by bombing and never started, everybody was ordered off and onto the 'Crested Eagle' on which both Chidwick and myself were wounded, whether L/Cpl Phillott got off the first boat I'll never know. So I am sorry to say that I can give you no more definite information than that.

    7589930 Lance Corporal Teynham Fuge Phillott RASC
    CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Sergeant W. Clarke.

    Whilst employed as a Corporal Clerk in the office of DDMS 3 Corps, BEF, I embarked from Dunkirk on 31st May, 1940 at, I believe 1500 hrs, though I am not altogether certain of times. The boat I think was the Crested Eagle, but as I had previously been bombed off one ship while lying in the harbour and had to make a frantic dash along the jetty for the first available boat I am still not sure about this.

    I did not see Pte. Newell until we were about 300 yards out from the jetty. Then a bomb fell very close to the boat. I was on the lower deck at the time when I heard a cry and Pte Newell came stumbling towards me, his face and hands covered in blood. From his rather incoherent remarks I gathered that he had been standing near a hatchway when the bomb fell and had received the full blast from it. His face appeared to be a mass of pulp. With the help of another fellow, a stranger to me, I succeeded in patching him up a bit with the field dressings available. He then sat down beside me and I managed, by talking with him in as cheering a manner as possible, to allay his fears a little and put him in a better frame of mind, though almost all the whole time he was whimpering like a child.

    We were about half a mile out when we were hit by incendiaries and fire rapidly gained control of one end of the ship. A cry then came from the upper deck - "Get the wounded on top." Pte. Newell, in company with several other disabled men, was then dragged up through the hatchway but the press and throng of the crowd was so great I was unable to keep with him, nor did I see how the wounded were eventually disposed of. It was some considerable time afterwards (I think about 15 minutes) before, through the smoke and falling woodwork, I myself managed to gain the upper deck. The boat by this time was well ablaze and I had to jump into the water and swim about 200 yards before finally being picked up by the Minesweeper "Oldbury." I never saw Pte. Newell after he left me on the lower deck and although I made several enquiries among the personnel (all strangers) picked up by the "Oldbury" nobody else seems to have seen him or to have known the final disposal of his wounded comrades.

    534973 Private Charles T. Newell RAMC
    CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Private I.R. Ritson RASC

    On Wednesday 29th May I boarded a ship from the Mole at Dunkirk, which I believe was the "Crested Eagle". I saw Dvr. Wheeler, G.C. board the ship and go down to a lower deck. Soon after leaving the Mole, the ship was struck by a bomb and caught fire, and was beached at La Panne about 1 1/2 miles from the shore. The magazine caught fire and the order was given to abandon ship. The survivors were picked up by boats which were sent from destroyers in the vacinity, and taken to other ships nearby. I did not see Dvr. Wheeler amongst the survivors. Later the ship's magazine blew up. At the time the bomb hit the ship many were killed and it is probable that Dvr. Wheeler was killed at that time. To the best of my knowledge no survivors reached the shore.

    T/113280 Driver George Wheeler RASC
    CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Signalman F.W. Cleverly, RCS

    After several unsuccessful attempts to embark had been made at Gravelines and St. Malo-le-Bains, which lasted approximately 2 days, we were ordered to the beach infront of Dunkirk, and there organised in parties of 50 to embark from the Mole.

    During this time I was in the company of Sigmn. Booker and Sigmn. Nolan (Now L/Cpl Nolan, 1 Command Signals). Our party boarded the SS Fenelea, which was shortly afterwards attacked by 'Dive-Bombers' which damaged the Mole and holed the ship. We were orderd to board the SS Crested Eagle, then just leaving the Mole. The ship immediately put out to sea, and, when it was about 1 mile out, this ship was also attacked by dive and high-level bombers. Sigmn. Booker by that time had left us to find shelter about 20 yards away. Several bombs struck the ship, and started a fire in the engine room. We attempted to extinguish the blaze with appliances, but were unsuccessful. One of the bombs fell as near as could be judged where Sigmn. Booker would have been, but it was impossible for us to get through the smoke and steam to find out. The boat by then was blazing and had hit a sand bank and was heeling over. Sigmn. Nolan and I both dived into the water and from then on I lost him, in the confusions, he, I believe went back to the beach, while I assisted as much as possible in helping the injured to the boats. After some time in the water, I decided to swim to a sloop out to sea and was picked up by this ship, which eventually docked at Margate, next morning.

    As well as I could see, Sigmn. Booker must have been killed instantly. Sigmn. T. Nolan is now Pay NCO at 1 Command Signals.

    2330715 Lance Corporal J. Nolan RCS

    To the best of my recollection and knowledge, the following statement is correct.

    After boarding the SS Crested Eagle, Sigmn. Cleverly and myself were seperated from Sigmn. Booker. Cleverly found him a few minutes later, and told me that he (Booker) was going to stay where he was, about 20 yards away from us. During the attack on the boat, I went in the direction of where Booker was, but got no further than about 12 yards when I was blown back again by a bomb that burst infront of me. Fire broke out after that, and it was impossible for us to reach that part of the ship where Booker was known to be, so Cleverly and I went on deck and jumped for it. I feel sure that if Booker was alive and uninjured, he would have come off the ship as we did. It is possible that the bomb that knocked me over was instrumental in preventing him from leaving.

    We three were the only members of 63 TO Section on board, and with regard to the personnel of other units, I cannot say.

    2330670 Signalman Ronald Alfred Booker, RCS
    CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Original Document posted due to sketch on first page.


  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    That is the first, first hand account I have read of a soldier being refused access to a ship to be evacuated.
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Major T.A. Darling RCS

    I have your request for any informationwith regards to "SS Fenella" and the "SS Crested Eagle" I have know information of the "SS Fenella".

    The "SS Crested Eagle" left the Mole at Dunkirk about mid-day on a Wednesday, (The date I do not remember). I personally was still on duty on the beaches but I had evacuated a small party of despatch riders and the two French Liasion Officers attached to my Regiment. I did not see the ensuing action, but I heard on my return to England from other members of my unit who were in the La Panne district that the "Crested Eagle" had been bombed and was on fire and had been beached and abandoned. As I am no longer with 3rd Corps Signals I am unable now to check up the exact numbers of personnel who were on board the "SS Crested Eagle". The following personnel I can give particulars of from memory.

    Lieut. Lemettre, French Liasion Officer, 3rd Corps Signals was on the ship at the time of the bombing. He was severely burned on the face and hands and when the ship was abanboned swam approximately three quarters of a mile to a British destroyer that was standing by. He was brought back to England and after nine months in hospital was given a commission in the Royal Corps of Signals, British Army. He changed his name to Lieut. McMaster. Particulars of his address may be obtained from 10th Corps Signals or from the School of Signals Catterick where I believe he is at present undergoing training in British Signals methods.

    Corporal Bassee, Liasion Officer, 3rd Corps Signals, was also on the " Crested Eagle" when it was bombed. This officer was slightly wounded in the action and swam to the above mentioned destroyer with Lieut. Lemettre. He remained in England in hospital for a few weeks and was evacuated back to France.

    With regard to the Despatch Riders from 3 Corps Signals who were also onboard the "Crested Eagle", I cannot remember the exact names and casualties, though at least one man was killed and one or two others wounded. This information could be obtained from OC 10th Corps Signals.

    NOTE 3rd Corps Signals is now 10th Corps Signals.

    If there is any other information which I can give, I shall be pleased to do so, but in cases of this sort as you realise, although men were evacuated in small parties, actually it was impossible for CO's to know on which of a number of ships they had actually boarded.

    Survivor Statement of Corporal P. Carman Royal Signals

    Corporal P. Carman RCS

    I embarked at Dunkirk with a party led by Major Darling. 2 i/c 3 Corps Signals. Major J. Bamber O.C. 2 Coy. 2/Lt. P.P. Ayre. O.C. DR Section, M.P. Bassett and M. Lemaitre, French Liasion Officers, Cpl. Goss, E, Sigmn. Wigley W.H. 6 D.R. Section. Sigmn. Collier, S. 4 D.R. Section completed the party.

    We went aboard the "SS Fenella" which was shortly afterwards bombed, during a particularly heavy air attack & she started to sink alongside the pier. We were ordered to drop everything and dash for the S.S. Crested Eagle just astern &also at the pier. I then found myself in the company of Sigmn. Wigley & Sigmn. Collier, in a saloon between the paddlewheels. The boat finally sailed & had been under way about 10 minutes when we heard a stick of bombs coming, we knew they were ours & dropped flat a second later a bombed seemed to burst right on the ships bottom. The lights went out and there was a terrific scorching blast of hot air, then the room filled with choking fumes & smoke as though from the wrecked funnel. The boat kept going & was run aground in shallow water. There was a first blind rush for the one stairway & a fightto get out until someone started to sing "Roll out the Barrell" & amazingly enough it had the effect of bringing commonsense to bear it wasn't long then before we were all climbing out. Only to find ourselves in another saloon now well alight. However, an axe was found by the sailors & through the aperture we clambered to find planes still overhead & the sea dotted with men. I know Wigley and Collier got out of the saloon before I did as they called to me. I did not however see them or any of our party. I took to the water & was able to swim to a destroyer's boat & was taken aboard, after an hour or so's immersion. I met M. Lemaitre in Farnborough (Kent) Hospital, & M. Bassett in Arlesey (Beds) Hospital. I have heard from the others except Sigmn. Collier, whom they say is missing.

    2593050 Signalman Richard Frederick Walter Collier, RCS
    CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

Share This Page