Honolulan


 Introduction


The Honolulan that served in World War Two was the third and final vessel by the name in American-Hawaiian service.

The first Honolulan was built in 1910 by Bethlehem Steel - Sparrows Point, MD and served with American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. under the name until 1916. Sold that year to a Norwegian shipping company and renamed Thorvald Halvorsen, sold again in 1921 and renamed Argentina, and finally sold to Luckenbach Steamship Co. and renamed Jacob Luckenbach in 1922. She was wrecked off the coast of Costa Rica in May of 1927 and scrapped at Baltimore, MD in August 1927.

The sec
ond Honolulan was a brief name change of the first SS American (built in 1900) toward the end of her career. Late in 1925 American was renamed Honolulan simply to free her name for the newly acquired Santa Barbara. In 1926, Honolulan was sold for scrap and taken to Osaka, Japan, and broken up some time after her arrival there in November of that year.


The third Honolulan, which relates to this story, was originally launched as West Faralon on April 19th, 1921 at yard number 32 by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., San Pedro, California, under contract for the United States Shipping Board (USSB). Her keel was laid seven months earlier on September 27th, 1920, and she was delivered on or about July 15th, 1921.

West Faralon was the second of five vessels built to this very unique design, to which the Emergency Fleet Corporation (EFC) assigned their last known Design Number, 1133. The other 4 vessels being:
  • West Lewark – Delivered to the USSB June 1921. Taken over by the Navy and renamed USAT Meigs in 1922, she was sunk by Japanese aircraft during their raid on Darwin, Australia on February 19th, 1942.
  • West Greylock - Delivered to the USSB August 1921. 1923 renamed Greylock by Seas Shipping Co Inc, New York. Sunk by U-255 on February 3rd, 1943.
  • West Prospect - Delivered to the USSB September 1921. 1927 renamed Golden Sun by Oceanic & Oriental, 1938 renamed Mokihana by Matson Navigation Co., 1948 renamed Frixos by Cristobal, 1954 broken-up in Osaka, Japan.
  • West Chopaka - Delivered to the USSB November 1921. 1927 renamed Golden Dragon by Oceanic & Oriental, 1938 renamed Mahimahi by Matson Navigation Co., 1948 renamed Mongibello by Unione, 1949 renamed Polifemo by Unione, 1959 broken-up in Osaka, Japan.
EFC Design 1133 was unique in several ways. First and foremost, the design did not have traditional centerline masts fore and aft like most other freighters of the day. In their place it utilized seven pairs of extra large King Posts, four located forward of the deckhouse and 3 after. The second and sixth pair of King Posts had a topmast mounted at the center of a large truss that bridged the pair of posts and included a catwalk on top. To these were mounted an impressive 23 loading booms. It is believed this was somewhat of an experimental design, and that by locating these King Posts where they did they could load and unload cargo more efficiently on both sides by the crew themselves if need be. According to her future crew member Harold Small; “King Posts present better load bearers for heavy lifts than standard 5 ton mast supported booms. The heft of the weight is vertically closer to both the dock and the direct drop into the cargo hold.No other Emergency Fleet Corporation designs that I’m aware of incorporated the all King Post design. I only found two USSB requisitioned designs (vessels already in production before the EFC was established) that utilized all King Posts, which were:

  • Walter A. Luckenbach launched in June of 1918 by Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company. Single vessel originally intended for Luckenbach Steamship Company.
  • South Bend, Marica, Edellyn, and Sol Navis all launched in 1919 by Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Chester. PA. All also originally intended for Luckenbach Steamship Company.
Twenty plus years later in World War Two, some Liberties and C-4's were built as tank carriers with all King Posts rigged.

The second design characteristic of note was that it was a flush deck design with a smaller than usual after house and an extra deck between the shelter deck level and the boat deck level. 

The National Archives had a basic set of plans from the USSB catalogue, but unfortunately the original high resolution paste-ups on card stock, such as I was able to find on Arkansan, could not be found and are presumed lost. As you can see below, much of the detail concerning her deckhouse and engine room is incomplete, but most of the information on her cargo holds and handling is intact.


EFC Design No. 1133 General Specifications:
D.W.T. (Dead Weight Tons) 10,950 - 10,981 Fuel Capacity:
Gross Tonnage 7,451 - 7,460    Permanent Bunkers - Oil (Tons) 1,080
Net Tonnage 4,507 - 4,520    Reserve Bunkers - Oil (Tons) 574
Number of Decks 3 Approx. Normal Sea Speed (Knots) 11
Length Between Perpendiculars 430' - 4 1/2" Est. Daily Fuel Consumption (Tons) 39.5
Beam 54' Normal Steaming Radius (NM) 11,088
Depth 38' - 3" Number of Holds 5
Draft, Loaded - Summer 29' - 10 5/8" Number of Hatches 6
Number of Boilers (Scotch) 3 Largest Hatch 36' x 24'
Boiler Pressure (psi) 200 Number of Booms 23
Boiler Heating Surface (Sq. Ft.) 9,729 Number of Winches 22
Engine Type Triple Expansion Heaviest Lift (Tons) 30
Indicated Horsepower 3,150 Freeboard at Summer Draft 9' - 7 1/2"
Diameter of Cylinders
28 1/2", 47", 78" Type of Construction Transverse 
Cylinder Stroke 48"
Framing
Bale Cargo (Cu. Ft.) 521,322

Grain Cargo (Cu. Ft.) 571,701


West Faralon’s maiden voyage was noted in the January 10th, 1922 edition of the 'New York Shipping' periodical as follows: West Faralon’s Staunch Construction Tested – The West Faralon, after her first European round trip of approximately 20,000 miles, returned to her home port at Los Angeles, abundantly proving the staunchness of her construction and the reliability of her machinery by her splendid behavior when forced to stand and take the most severe hurricane recorded in the Caribbean for some years past. On her outward journey, just southwest of Puerto Rico, while too close to land to be able to run away from the hurricane, she was hit by a fierce blow which lasted twelve hours, mountainous seas breaking over her, sweeping the decks and testing her every rivet, plate and frame. At the end of the blow her bilges were sounded and found to be entirely dry. Her damage consisted of some bent deck gear, the loss of a boat or two and the breaking-in of some of the doors of the crew’s quarters along the main deck. Nineteen barrels of lubricating oil on her deck were torn from their lashings, smashed and carried overboard, the oil serving to materially calm the seas around her. From Antwerp to Los Angeles the vessel averaged twelve knots. Her main engines were never stopped between ports during her entire round trip and Captain L.A. Waters, in command of her, is emphatic in his credit to the Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, her builders, for the quality of material and work they put into her.

The storm they reference was probably the October 1921 Category 4 Hurricane that eventually hit Tampa Bay, Florida as a Category 3.

 

Other than the European voyage described above, West Faralon was contracted by Struthers & Barry (who also acted as Agents) in late 1922 or early 1923 and served the transpacific routes between San Francisco and various ports in Japan, China, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, and Straits Settlements (i.e.; Singapore). Her first Master under this arrangement appears to have been M.M. Walk, followed by George Winkel in 1924. In early 1925 her crew lists identified her as being operated by American Far East Lines, also with Struthers & Barry as Agents. In 1927 Murvin Elwood Shigley took over as Master. He was born in California in 1899 and had served as West Faralon’s Chief Mate since 1923. Edgar S Sutton would take over the Chief Mate’s position soon after.


In early 1927, operations were taken over by American Australia Orient Line, Swayne & Hoyt Inc., Agents. The USSB remained the owners, and West Faralon continued in transpacific service. I was able to locate the following sailings for West Faralon:

Arrival Date Port of Departure Port of Arrival Master Chief Mate
02/03/23 San Francisco, CA San Francisco, CA MM Walk Unknown
07/03/23 Manila, PI San Pedro, CA Unknown Unknown
10/21/23 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA MM Walk Murvin E. Shigley
06/18/24 Manila, PI San Francisco, CA George Winkel Murvin E. Shigley
09/27/24 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA George Winkel Murvin E. Shigley
01/07/25 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA George Winkel Murvin E. Shigley
05/05/25 Yokohama, Japan Cebu, PI George Winkel Murvin E. Shigley
09/18/25 Kobe, Japan San Francisco, CA George Winkel Lawrence Petersen
01/16/26 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA George Winkel Murvin E. Shigley
06/11/26 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA George Winkel Murvin E. Shigley
01/13/27 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA George Winkel Murvin E. Shigley
05/09/27 Otaru, Japan San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Hendrick Jorgensen
09/06/27 Hong Kong, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edgar S Sutton
12/12/27 Otaru, Japan San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edgar S Sutton
04/29/28 Amoy, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edgar S Sutton

 
In the spring of 1928, the freight service of Swayne & Hoyt between San Francisco and the Orient was sold to the newly formed Oceanic & Oriental Navigation Co., the joint venture between American-Hawaiian and Matson Navigation, and West Faralon was renamed Golden Hind. Some sources state the transfer occurred in 1927, but while this may be when the sale was finalized, crew lists show that she remained as West Faralon under Swayne & Hoyt’s control until early 1928, arriving April 29th, 1928 from Amoy, China (present day Xiamen). Matson’s vessels served the southern Pacific routes such as Australia and New Zealand, and American-Hawaiian’s (including Golden Hind) served the northern Pacific routes such as China and Japan.


Golden Hind continued on as before plying the transpacific routes between San Francisco and the northern Orient, still under the command of Shigley, with Sutton as Chief Mate. Shigley was a fixture on the Golden Hind and would command her throughout her ten year Oceanic and Oriental career. Sutton left in mid-1929, probably to take command of his own vessel, but he would return.

Arkansan’s Paul R. Jones actually took over from Shigley briefly for four voyages between mid-1935 and mid-1936. I was able to locate the following sailings for Golden Hind:

Arrival Date Port of Departure Port of Arrival Master Chief Mate
09/07/28 Hong Kong, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edwin S. Sutton
02/19/29 Hong Kong, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edgar S Sutton
06/30/29 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Oscar Overland
11/19/29 Shanghai, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Oscar Overland
03/30/30 Hong Kong, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Oscar Overland
07/15/30 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Oscar Overland
10/28/30 Yokohama, Japan San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Robert Pierce
03/13/31 Shanghai, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edward Hassell
01/09/34 Port Real, PI San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley John Zimmerman
06/02/34 Manila, PI San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley John Zimmerman
01/30/35 Darien, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edson Cates
05/10/35 Tsingtao, China San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Edson Cates
08/21/35 Darien, China San Francisco, CA Paul R. Jones Edson Cates
11/15/35 Darien, China San Francisco, CA Paul R. Jones Edson Cates
03/06/36 Darien, China San Francisco, CA Paul R. Jones Edson Cates
06/15/36 Darien, China San Francisco, CA Paul R. Jones Edson Cates
10/03/36 San Diego San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Andrew D Oglivie
04/30/37 Otaru, Japan San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Hollie Tiedermann
8/28/37` Kobe, Japan San Francisco, CA Murvin E. Shigley Hollie Tiedermann

At the end of 1937 when the Oceanic & Oriental venture ended, American-Hawaiian took full ownership of Golden Hind and renamed her Honolulan. It would seem logical that Honolulan changed to the intercoastal service that American-Hawaiian focused on, however there is little evidence of this at this time.

Shigley continued as Master until late 1940, one of his last voyages on Honolulan being a trip to the Persian Gulf with Larz Neilson aboard. This amounted to 18 years on the same vessel.


The trip to the Persian Gulf was an interesting one. Besides their cargo including Ford automobiles, they had a mysterious passenger on board; a Muslim man who had just graduated from an American college, and could speak several languages, including English. This was somewhat unusual for the time. They simply referred to him as Ali. As the story goes: “The second deck had a number of rooms. Larz and Ali would be near each other on that deck. Another room, about 15 feet in diameter, was designed to be a wheel house, below the main deck. In that wheel house, Larz would have a large piece of cardboard, cut to the shape of an arrow which would be constantly pointing at Mecca.” Larz would update the position whenever he took sightings so his new friend would know which way to face when he prayed. They played chess every afternoon during the voyage. Once they arrived in Basra Iraq, Larz noted: "Ali remained on board for several days before he could organize a trip back to his home area. He had to get a few cars to accomplish that.

Ali had a party for the officers of the ship the night before he was to leave. All the officers were invited, and the party was in a nice hotel. The surprise of the evening was the Muslim women. They were dressed in clothing which was strictly 'New York', just as they might have been if the party had been held in Paris. It was a nice affair and everyone enjoyed it."


Edgar S. Sutton returned to Honolulan as her new Master in early 1941, making a couple of voyages to Singapore and back, the last of which departed October 15th and arrived back in New York via Trinidad on December 29th, 1941, just weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

According to the book "Iron Jaw: A Skipper Tells His Story - Captain Charles N. Bamforth (1895-1975)", Charles A. Bamforth and Richard A. Bamforth, Editors, Published in 2002, Dorrance Publishing Co. (Pittsburgh, Pa), ISBN 0805954171, Sutton was preparing Honolulan to depart for the Persian Gulf February 7th, 1942 when American-Hawaiian learned that Sutton had injured his leg. The company asked Charles N. Bamforth, a long-time American-Hawaiian Master who had become a Coastal Pilot to investigate whether Sutton was fit to sail. Sutton was eager to stay with Honolulan, but upon examination it was discovered that Sutton had a fractured fibula. Bamforth was selected quite literally as a last minute replacement. They sailed that same evening.

In fact, so sudden was the decision, Sutton did not apparently have time to pack his belongings. According to Bamforth’s diary, Charles spent the Sunday morning before the eventual attack five months later (July 19th) packing Captain Sutton’s things in anticipation of arriving safely in Baltimore.


Shigley would survive the war, but unfortunately Sutton would not.


Shigley served as Nevadan’s Master from late 1941, moved on to the new Liberty Ship Marion McKinley Bovard in 1943, and beginning in mid-1944 through the remainder of the war, served as the new C3 Type Sea Ray’s Master in the Pacific theater. It is believed he served with American-Hawaiian until the bitter end, last serving as the new Panaman’s Master in 1955. He passed away in California in 1964 at the age of 65.

Edgar Stacey "Red" Sutton (the nick-name coming from his auburn hair) returned to San Francisco on November 9th, 1943 from a voyage to Brisbane Australia as Master of the Liberty Ship S. Hall Young. On December 22nd, however, he died of a heart attack at the age of only 55, the specifics of which I had only recently discovered. He had served with American-Hawaiian for 16 years and had spent 37 years in total at sea.

Harold Small remembers Red Sutton fondly, and admired him as an officer. Small recalls that after he got his 2nd Mate's license he had actually requested an assignment with Sutton from A-H, but was informed he had passed away. In rough weather, Sutton would pay Small, an A.B., overtime to steer the ship ahead and come on his watch and talk to him. Small considered him a true gentleman officer.

I will likely profile Sutton and Shigley in detail at a later date in my ‘Masters, Mates & Pilots’ section.
 
Note: The book ‘Iron Jaw’ is currently out of print, however, available from Richard A. Bamforth, P. O. Box 5068, Augusta ME 04332,
prbamforth@gmail.com

 The Attack


The accounts you are about to read from Master Bamforth’s perspective are from his book "Iron Jaw: A Skipper Tells His Story - Captain Charles N. Bamforth (1895-1975)", Charles A. Bamforth and Richard A. Bamforth, Editors, Published in 2002, Dorrance Publishing Co. (Pittsburgh, Pa), ISBN 0805954171.
This copyrighted material is used with permission of the Bamforth family. I have also used the recollections of Harold L. Small, O.S. at the time, where appropriate.

The unarmed, unescorted Honolulan was on her return leg to Baltimore from Basra, Iraq and Bombay, India via Cape Town South Africa and Trinidad B.W.I. under the command of 47-year-old Master Charles Nathaniel Bamforth.

As noted above, they had left New York at the beginning of February, just as the first wave of Operation Drumbeat, the first German U-Boat offensive on the American east coast, was heading home. They had sailed south, stopping at Port-of-Spain Trinidad February 16th, just missing the attacks on that port by U-161 and the other Operation Neuland attacks deeper in the Caribbean. Next, they made their way down the east coast of Brazil before turning east to cross the Atlantic to Cape Town, at which they arrived on March 14th. They reached Basra, Iraq on April 7th and discharged grain plus nine Boston bombers they had on deck. Many of the crew became ill there from dysentery and malaria. On April 19th they reached Abadan, Iran and discharged oil pipe. On April 29th they returned to Basra and discharged more cargo. On May 4th they sailed for Bombay, India which they reached by May 11th. Once again their luck would put them on the right side of an enemy offensive in their area. Ten vessels were sunk off the west and south coasts of India in April by the Japanese, including American-Hawaiian’s own Washingtonian.


There were only two attacks in the Indian Ocean in May, the quietest month since December of 1941. These were down at the northern end of Madagascar at Diego Suarez, which the British had just taken from the Vichy French on May 7th while Honolulan was on her way to Bombay.



Bamforth had to put up with a number of illnesses along with some Union troubles by his crew in Bombay. He took the opportunity to have Honolulan chipped and painted by local laborers. On May 31st they finally started loading their cargo of manganese ore, and on June 4th they started loading bales of jute. By June 6th they finished loading 8,329 tons of ore and jute and set sail for Cape Town.


The Japanese launched a major submarine offensive in the Mozambique Channel in June, sinking the most vessels of any month to date in this theater, sixteen, between June 5th and June 30th. Honolulan entered the Channel on June 21st. Amazingly, she ran the gauntlet unscathed, and Bamforth apparently was unaware of the carnage that was happening all around them. See map below for Japanese submarine attacks in the vicinity for April, May and June of 1942.



They reached Cape Town on July 1st. Unfortunately, they had to stay anchored outside the harbor for several days because of a back-log of unloading vessels. This delay would prove crucial. After taking on fresh provisions, they sailed for home on July 5th. Rather than take a similar route back across the Atlantic, British authorities in Cape Town directed them to follow the African coast north for 4,000 miles before heading west to Trinidad where she would join an American convoy heading north to Baltimore. This would be a fateful decision, one that would place her in the path of several German U-Boats operating off the west coast of Africa.


The Type VIIC U-582 under the command of 29-year-old Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant-Commander) Werner Schulte had been operating off the west coast of Africa since July 3rd with Group/Wolfpack Hai (Shark). Along with U-582, this Wolfpack consisted of the large Type XB U-116 (Schmitt), which also acted as a supply boat to the other smaller Type VIIC’s, which were; U-136 (Zimmermann), U-201 (Schnee), U-572 (Hirsacker), and U-752 (Schroeter).


The group successfully attacked the recently dispersed British convoy OS-33 south of the Azores on July 12th. U-116 struck first, damaging the Cortona, which was finished off by U-201. A little over an hour later Schulte’s U-582 struck the Port Hunter, which was carrying ammunition. According to uboat.net: “The torpedo ignited the cargo of ammunition and the vessel disappeared after several heavy detonations, which were seen as flashes at the horizon by other ships of the dispersed convoy. A lot of debris was blown into the air and hailed down on the nearby U-Boat, forcing it to dive immediately. In the meantime, the ship listed heavily to port and sank within two minutes. The motor launch HMNZS ML-1090 was also lost with the vessel. When the U-Boat surfaced again after 20 minutes, only burning fuel oil and wreckage were spotted at the sinking position. At daylight, the Germans examined U-582 and discovered that the net deflector had been torn away when hit by a side plate of the steamer. The side plate was found on deck together with parts of guns and ammunition and an anchor chain hanging over both sides. The falling debris had ruptured the deck at several places and opened leaks in a fuel tank, causing a trail of oil for a while.” This was clearly a memorable event for Schulte and his crew and would affect his tactics going forward, injecting a little caution.



Two and a half hours later U-201 sank Siris, followed by Shaftesbury five and a half hours later by U-116. The battle continued the following day when U-201 sank Sithonia. Finally on July 15th OS-33 lost her sixth and final member, Empire Attendant to Schulte and U-582.


It didn’t all go the Germans’ way, however, and U-136 (Zimmermann) was lost with all hands on July 11th by depth charges from the Free French destroyer Léopard, the British frigate HMS Spey and the British sloop HMS Pelican as I assume he was preparing to attack convoy OS-33 with the others.

On July 20th Group Hai was disbanded and U-582 was instructed to head southwest to be the first U-Boat of the group to be re-supplied by U-116 on July 23rd. U-116 could provide fuel oil, lubricating oil, fresh water, and food, but not torpedoes. U-201, U-572 and U-752 headed southeast to operate off Freetown and were to be resupplied by U-116 at a later date.

On Wednesday July 22nd U-582 was proceeding southwest towards the rendezvous when at dawn she spotted Honolulan on the horizon heading north-northeast (Course 320 degrees). Schulte quickly plotted an intercept course and planned for a submerged daytime attack. Two hours later U-582 was in position and submerged for her attack run. At 9:27am local Schulte fired a double fan shot from tubes I and III at the starboard side of Honolulan from about 800 meters away. Schulte had overestimated Honolulan’s speed by two knots and misinterpreted a course correction. The errors caused both shots to miss forward. Honolulan moved along as before, oblivious to what had just occurred. At 1:00pm Bamforth held fire and boat drills, her boats having been swung out ready for lowering most of the voyage.


At 10:27am U-582 surfaced to begin their overtaking maneuver once again. By 3:34pm Schulte was in position and submerged for his final run. Wind was light from the southwest and it was overcast but the sea was calm and visibility was good. At 5:00pm Honolulan’s crew and junior officers were at supper, to be followed by the senior officers at 5:30pm. Bamforth was in his cabin checking timesheets before dinner.

At 5:12pm local, Schulte gave the command to fire a single G7e torpedo from tube V at the middle of Honolulan from a distance of 1800 meters. It appears he had calculated his firing data based on using one of the forward torpedo tubes and had to change at the last minute for some reason. This delay caused the torpedo to hit farther aft than planned, but the desired effect was achieved anyway.


After a run time of one minute and fifty-seven seconds the torpedo slammed into the number five hold, under the aft mast, at 5:14pm local. Bamforth was thrown back in his chair, his desk ripped from the wall and overturned, and papers scattered everywhere. Honolulan settled aft but still made some head-way.

The steam whistle on the stack started screaming immediately and continuously. There are several explanations in various sources, but according to Bamforth, when the engines were shut down the boilers continued to build pressure and blew the safety valve. The sound was deafening, but the well drilled crew immediately went to their abandon ship stations and prepared to launch the boats.

According to Bamforth “The radio officer, Mr. Sullivan [ES: Charles Sullivan], had the SOS message already prepared and only needed to insert our position, which the officer on watch gave him immediately. The message read: “AMERICAN STEAMER HONOLULAN. SUBMARINE ATTACK. POSITION 8-41 NORTH, 22-12 WEST. VESSEL SINKING. MASTER.”” After the boats were away, Bamforth returned to the radio shack to make sure the SOS was transmitted, thinking he and Sullivan were the only two left onboard. Sullivan asked him to verify if the antenna was intact, which it was. Bamforth noted “From that high position in the radio shack I saw that the after deck was settling, awash. Much of the deck gear in the area was broken and adrift. However, I hoped that she might not settle any further. There was still a possibility of bringing the crew back aboard, a more comfortable place to await rescue than in lifeboats.” Perhaps the fact that Schulte had not yet surfaced and challenged the SOS with gunfire or another torpedo gave Bamforth a false sense of security.

Rather than abandoning ship at that point he proceeded to the officer’s mess to gather some food since his and the crew’s dinner was interrupted. Into one white enamel bucket “From the icebox, I dropped in a dish of hard-boiled eggs, some cheese, and a dish of sliced cold meat. On top of these I put in a dish of sliced jellyroll from the supper table. Into a second bucket I put two loaves of bread”. He ran this forward and bumped into his Chief Mate, Gardner Coas, and together they began to rig a line to pass the food to the nearest lifeboat.

Ordinary Seaman Harold Small had a slightly different recollection; “I was up on the flying bridge wings releasing securing bridle pelican hooks on 2 rafts. Returning to boat deck found life boat a pile of torn-up tin [ES: Boat 3]. All boats rowing away. Called out to nearest boat which turned around and came down the side of the ship. As it rowed past a hanging boat fall, I jumped overside, onto a boat fall, slid down to the bottom block and dropped into the boat with burnt hands. Shortly thereafter I saw Bamforth & Sullivan run out onto the boat deck and step onto one of the rafts I had released.

This must have looked quite odd to Schulte if he could even see it through his periscope from his vantage point. U-582, still submerged, fired a finishing shot at 5:40pm from tube II at a range of 1,090 meters (perhaps with Port Hunter still on his mind). After a run of one minute, ten seconds, the G7e struck forward of the bridge on the starboard side.

The whole vessel was quickly awash and Bamforth and Coas dove in and swam for the nearest boat, the buckets of food lost to the depths. Radio Officer Sullivan nearly made it off completely dry. He stepped from the boat deck onto a raft, but as the Honolulan sank something struck the raft and Sullivan went under. O.S. Small noted: "The stack nudged the raft as the ship listed to port as it sank by the bow, its propeller slowly turning. Something fouled the whistle lanyard and she gave a farewell blast. Grand old girl". Honolulan slipped beneath the surface within three minutes of the last torpedo hit, or thirty minutes after she was first hit. At least the steam whistle was finally silenced. Moments later Sullivan popped to the surface along with several hundred bales of jute, and one of the lifeboats maneuvered over to retrieve him.

At 5:47 Schulte finally surfaced the U-582 near the number 4 lifeboat. Bamforth recalls: “Four minutes later a submarine, painted gray with no visible identifying marks, rose from beneath the surface near number four boat. The submarine commander and eight men emerged from the conning tower and ordered the boat alongside. They were all young and suntanned – they must have had a secret base somewhere in the South Atlantic”.

Another popular belief among Merchant Mariners, that the Germans had secret bases, was of course, false. They were all sun-tanned because they spent most of their time on the surface, not because they were staying on land. U-Boats spent most of their time on the surface at this stage of the war, as U-582’s log attests; 598 nautical miles surfaced and 14.35 nautical miles submerged in the 72 hours before, during and after the attack. U-Boats were usually re-supplied from homeward bound U-Boats, special supply U-Boats (like the U-116 and other more specialized boats), or surface vessels like blockade runners and armed merchant cruisers.

Bamforth continued: “The men manned three guns on the afterdeck, one on the forward deck, and one in the conning tower. Another man held a machine gun and another a movie camera. All these devices were aimed directly at us. I let the weighted bag of secret codes slip to the bottom.

Having the guns manned would have been standard operating procedure for the Germans, a show of overwhelming force to protect themselves and their boat from any foolish behavior from the survivors. There were cases where survivors brought firearms with them. U-582 would have at least had their 20mm machine canon on the wintergarten manned for anti-aircraft defense, as they likely knew they were within range of the RAF in Bathurst. This was manned by one gunner and two men to help re-load ammunition. Besides commander Schulte, the Second Watch Officer would be topside acting as the gunnery officer. There were probably 2-4 men with binoculars ignoring the survivors and constantly scanning the horizon and sky for any sign of danger. Most of the men pointing weapons at the lifeboats would have been armed with small arms, either standard issue Schmeisser MP-40 sub-machine guns or perhaps even Mauser Kar-98 rifles.There were no mounts for machine guns on the forward or aft deck (These men likely had the aforementioned MP-40's) but there was on the conning tower. There they likely mounted a light machine gun called an MG-34, which could have been used to cover the lifeboats or for anti-aircraft defense. In Bamforth's original notes he also mentions a count of 17 men, which could indicate that the main 88mm armament was manned as well.

The comment about the man with a movie camera really intrigued me. A still camera would be one thing, and might have been carried by an officer, but a movie camera suggests something more official or propaganda related.


The Germans utilized war correspondents, as did we, with front line units. In the Germans’ case these men were called “Kriegsberichter”, and they had basic training and were given a junior officer’s rating like “Leutnant”, or Lieutenant j.g.. These men were typically (but not always) writers and/or photographers before the war, and were drafted into these “Propaganda Kompanies” (P.K.). They would collect information which would then be sent higher up the chain of command in the Propaganda Ministry, which would then massage the information for publication. The most famous of these men that joined a U-Boat patrol was no doubt Lothar-Günther Buchheim. He joined U-96 for a patrol in the fall of 1941. After the war he would later convert his notes into a short story, which became the basis for his epic novel “Das Boot” in 1973, which in turn was adapted to a movie by the same name in 1981, garnering six Oscar nominations.

The vast majority of Kriegsberichter did not enjoy the same level of fame and were quite anonymous, such as the man that joined U-582 on this patrol, 30-year-old Arnold Prokop. Three of his photographs (used throughout this page) did make it into the propaganda periodical 'Hamburger Illustrierte' (Hamburger Illustrated magazine) named after the northern German City where U-582 was built. It would be fascinating to know if any of his other photographs survived, or perhaps even the movie of Honolulan’s survivors being questioned.

Bamforth goes on to describe the encounter between U-582 and number 4 boat as follows: “The U-Boat commander asked Mr. Nelson [ES: 43-year-old Second Mate Oscar Nelson], commander of number 4 boat, “What is the name of your vessel?” He spoke English well. Then he asked, “Of what nationality? From what port did you sail? Where were you bound?” After receiving Nelson’s answers, he asked, “Where is your captain? Are he and the others all right? Do you have food and water? Do you have cigarettes? With a negative response to the last question, the commander handed down two cartons of Overstoltz cigarettes and a bag of matches. Then he gave Nelson a bearing of 337 Degrees to the neutral Cape Verde Islands. He advised the boat to shove off to avoid being hit by the sub’s propeller, and called, “Good luck.” In great relief [ES: they probably thought they would be machine gunned, not assisted], all those in Mr. Nelson’s boat shouted, “Thank you, and good luck to you!” The submarine disappeared over the horizon to the south”.

Schulte described it similarly in his war diary, which translated reads: “The crew of one of the three lifeboats was asked about the name of the ship. It was the North American steamer "H o n o l u l a n" of 7493 tons of the American Hawaiian SS Co / New York on the trip from Capetown to Baltimore.”, and “The lifeboats were well equipped, the crew did not need water and provisions; they asked for cigarettes which they received from us. The course to the Cape Verdes was shouted to them, they hoped to be picked up soon. Afterwards ran off to the meeting place with U 116”.


Harold Small recalls "The German sub came alongside our boat, with a  young and healthy tanned crew. The young skipper queried our condition and offered a hot cooked meal before leaving and tossed over a case of German Overstoltz cigarettes. His parting remark was 'Sorry gentlemen, Fortunes of War'. No fanatic Nazi apparently." Small went on to say "I do not remember if the subs big guns were manned. Only recall small arms directed at us. Machine pistols and other small arms. But not real menacing. They seemed to be having a helluva good time. No exterior marking noted.

When the sub came alongside we almost grounded on the subs side bulge [ES: saddle tanks for storing fuel]. Surprising that no one in our boats panicked.  Mariners not made of the same stuff as Marines.  To me, a witless kid it was high adventure on the high seas.  I was disappointed that we did not sail up the Gambia River to Bathurst."


One detail which I found to be quite remarkable is that Schulte actually took the time in his report to comment on Honolulan’s unique design: “It was a flush-decker with a straight bow and old style stern. Bridge and stack were not separated and stood out from a short low superstructure. In total the steamer had 7 double king posts which were higher than the bridge, 4 before the superstructure and 3 behind it. The 2nd and 6th king posts each had a truss with a topmast in the middle.


At 6:50pm, Schulte radioed headquarters: “Honolulan sunk, 320 degrees, 8 knots,
Marine Quadrant ES 3457: 1 plus 2 eels -Schulte- ”. “Eels” is the German nickname for torpedoes.


 Rescue and Repatriation


Once the U-582 left, the lifeboats gathered closer and took a roll call. Only then did they discover that Oiler Clarence McMaster was missing. They spread out and began to search amongst the debris, but McMaster could not be found. The men, fearing the worst, asked Bamforth to say a few words for McMaster. With dusk approaching they took stock of their situation:

They were 500 miles from the nearest land, missing one man, but their lifeboats were well supplied, and they had managed to get their distress signal off in time. Bamforth thought it best to stay in the area for the time being with approaching weather and had the boats moored together and sea anchor deployed. It was a miserable, rainy, rough first night and most of the survivors became sick. Once an hour they shot a rocket into the air.

The next morning, Thursday July 23rd, Bamforth noted: “At daybreak we saw a four-motored plane patrolling the area. At 9:30 it dropped a yellow package nearby, which proved to be a lifejacket and a container with chocolate, a smoking pipe, tobacco, and a message reading: “CORVETTE BE OUT AT 6 AM. MAN IN YELLOW LIFEJACKET 1 ½ MILES UPWIND. MUST LEAVE, SHORT OF FUEL. SERGEANT FELLARD [sic], BATHURST.


The direct quote from Bamforth’s actual diary reads “Daybreak 4 motored plane KGE circled & Patroled [sic], 930 A.M. planed dropped package containing chocolate, Tob & pipe marked Sargent Folliard [the original diary, as it would turn out, had the name correct!] of Bathurst & message saying Corvet [sic] be out at 6 am and that a man was adrift 1 ½ miles to windward. Message further stated That he was short of Petrol.

Seeing the message in its original context, one wonders if the package or the actual pipe was marked with the good sergeant’s name. Did the lack of cigarettes cause him to sacrifice his personal property to the survivors to provide them some comfort? Bamforth himself did not smoke (nor drink alcohol, contrary to the merchant seaman stereotype), so it was likely passed around amongst those in the lifeboat that did. I also wonder what became of the pipe, and whether one of the crew hung on to it as a keepsake.

In any event, the '4 motored plane' was a Short Sunderland Mk. I flying-boat KG-E T9070 of RAF No. 204 Squadron operating out of a base at Bathurst, The Gambia. The aircraft, referred to as E/204 by the squadron, reported the encounter as follows: “23/7/42: E/204 was airborne at 0252 hours and at 0710 hours located three lifeboats and three rafts holding about 25 survivors in position JKDF 3816 and also one man clinging to wreckage about 1 ½ miles away. A “Mae West” [slang for life-jacket] and Dinghy were dropped to him and a lifeboat directed to him, cigarettes etc. were dropped to the lifeboat. At 1118 hours a Dutch merchant vessel was sighted in position JKDF 5958 – 340 [course] – 9 knots. The aircraft returned at 1447 hours.

According to British records on RAF No. 204 Squadron, along with Sergeant Folliard, the entire crew of E/204 for this flight consisted of:

S/Ldr. Wood

F/Lt. Dagg

P/O. Bradley

Sgt. Hester

Sgt. Herbert

Sgt. Carey*

Sgt. Dujay

Sgt. Jellie

Sgt. Crawford

Sgt. Folliard

L.A.C. Farmer


*Sgt. Carey was Harold Carey (WOP-AG), according to his son Richard, who contacted me after discovering the website. Unfortunately, he had no further details to share from his father or the air crew’s perspective.

The report seemed to suggest that survivors were still on rafts the morning after, although Bamforth’s account suggests they had distributed the men evenly into the life boats by this point. Bamforth’s account would be more logical as the lifeboats would have been much safer to ride out the bad weather than the exposed rafts. Other possibilities are that since they tried to stay in the vicinity of the sinking, the rafts were simply still around them, though unoccupied, or perhaps in the morning some men were transferred to the rafts to scavenge the supplies they had on board. I found it somewhat surprising that the estimated number of survivors was so far off; 25 versus the 38 actual (not including McMaster).

The Dutch steamer that appeared to be in close proximity is somewhat of a mystery, and I have not been able to identify her. Exactly how close they were is difficult to tell. Despite the Sunderland finding her 3 hours and 8 minutes after the survivors, it’s impossible to know how far away they were without knowing the Sunderland’s course(s) and speed(s) between those two milestones. The crew noted both locations in their report, but they used localized codes rather than straight longitude/latitude coordinates, unfortunately something they had just started doing in June. The fact that the alpha characters matched (i.e.; JKDF) is promising, however unlike their German adversaries who consistently used a global quadrant system and relied on their enigma code machines for security (foolishly, as it would turn out), these remote bases used more localized maps which they updated regularly, and without the map itself and the current key, it’s impossible to go back and translate the coordinates into longitude, latitude. I ran into the same difficulty on the Montanan’s story which involved two different RAF squadrons apparently using two different maps/systems. It may not be the last we’ll hear of this vessel though as you read on.

The fact that the Sunderland had found the survivors after nearly 4 hours and 18 minutes of flying and would not land for another 7 hours and 37 minutes, for a total of  11 hours and 55 minutes airborne is quite amazing. How grueling it must have been for these brave young crews. From the account it appears they did not have much loiter time over the survivors, although based on their flying time after contact, fuel was obviously not their only consideration. Perhaps they decided a better use for their fuel was to sweep the vicinity in the hopes of catching a Jerry U-boat napping on the surface, and eliminate the threat altogether.

There really was not much more the Sunderland crew could do for them. Just being there though seemed to be invaluable to the survivors moral. Simply knowing that someone outside their little group knew where they were and were sending help meant so much. I initially wondered why the Sunderland did not just land, but besides the rough sea conditions, an article on uboat.net by Emmanuel Gustin points out that “Like other flying boats, it could land and take-off only from sheltered coastal waters. From 1942 onwards, landings in open sea were expressly forbidden, except in special circumstances and with permission.” Sunderland’s and their crews were a precious resource. There simply were not enough of them to go around, and definitely not worth risking a landing in bad weather with other resources available.

The corvette they were referring to is believed to be the flower-class corvette HMS Woodruff (K 53) commanded by Lieutenant Francis Harden Gray RD, RNR. According to the British Admiralty War Diary for this period, on the 23rd of July Woodruff was in position 008° 40’ N, 019° 20’ W (a little over 170 nautical miles away from the sinking location) when she was tasked with searching for the survivors.

As the Sunderland flew off into the distance, the lifeboats immediately started rowing in the direction they hoped to find McMaster, but the weather did not cooperate. It was 3:00pm before the first boat (ES: Chief Mate Coas’), found McMaster floating and hauled him into their boat. Bamforth goes on to describe the situation:


McMasters [sic] had been in the water for nearly twenty-two hours. He had managed to put on the life jacket dropped to him by the plane, but otherwise he was wearing nothing but shorts pants and a singlet. He had been walking on the after deck just as the torpedo hit and was blown overboard into the sea. Treading water, he had watched the ship travel away from him and had seen the dust fly from the ports when the second torpedo hit. Nearly spent, he had found a floating hatch plank to hold on to. The water was warmer than the air so he kept himself shoulder deep. He had been surrounded by sharks and had several times struck out at them. Once he had pulled a small fish from his leg. We found that the flesh had been stripped from his heels and toes and a hunk of meat had been gouged out of his thigh. His courage, stamina, and will to stay alive and afloat all night without the aid of any lifesaving equipment was hard to believe possible. He had lost a lot of blood, but the wounds had been cauterized by the seawater, and he bled little after rescue. The men made a bed for him using the kapok from two of the boat’s metal air tanks.

That evening they heard another plane, but still no corvette arrived. They took some comfort in knowing their distress call had been received.



This second plane was KG-M L2158 (aka M/204). Their report read as follows: “M/204 was airborne at 1617 hours sighted an unidentified vessel (GZSR) in position JGDF 2430 – 340 – 10 knots, the position of the lifeboats was signaled to the vessel which altered course to attempt rescue. At 2103 the vessel gave a visual signal to the effect “Too dangerous to remain in area. Am leaving”. At 2134 the aircraft located the lifeboats in position JKDF 3218. At 2221 again sighted the vessel and signaled the position of lifeboats, but the vessel would not reply to signal. The aircraft returned to base at 0420 hours.

According to British records, M/204’s crew consisted of:

P/O. Inglis

P/O. Horner

F/O. Gow

P/O. Morris

F/Sgt. Jackman

Sgt. O’Meara

Sgt. Davis

Sgt. McConnell

Sgt. Connell

Sgt. Gould

Sgt. Stevens

Another lost opportunity for rescue. It’s unclear if this was the same Dutch steamer or another vessel. The ship’s Master was responsible for the safety of his own crew of course and had no way of knowing that the U-582 had already moved to the southwest to rendezvous with their supply boat, U-116.

Note also that this was another roughly 12 hour flight, and mainly in the dark.

According to Bamforth; Friday July 24th they continued to wait and saw nothing. The rough seas and pelting rain continued throughout the day, adding to their overall misery.


That morning another four-engine patrol plane showed up and circled them for nearly three hours. It dropped some food and another note, which read: “CORVETTE 50 MILES AWAY. SHOULD ARRIVE IN 3 OR 4 HOURS. WE ARE LEAVING. SHORT OF FUEL. HEREWITH DISTRESS SIGNALS AND SOME CHOP. BEST OF LUCK FROM CREW H 204”. The distress signals must have been lost in the drop, but they did get the cans of stew.
Bamforth conferred with the 2nd Mate, Oscar Nelson, who calculated that they had drifted approximately seventeen miles northeast of where they were the day before.

Bamforth’s original note read as follows: “Daybreak 4 motored plane K.G.H. out at daybreak, circled this area. 10am dropped package containing 5 cans food & message saying Corvet [sic] 50 miles away. Should arrive in approx 3-4 hours. We are leaving, short of Petrol. Herewith Distress signals (lost) & some chop. Best of luck from crew H/204.

This third aircraft was RAF No. 204 Squadron Short Sunderland KG-H N9024 (aka H/204). 
Harold Small recalls the seas were too high for the Sunderland's to attempt a landing.


H/204’s report read as follows: “24/7/42: Sunderland H/204 was airborne at 0348 hours and at 0424 hours sighted one merchant vessel in position FSMF 5247. At 0729 the aircraft was over the lifeboats, food etc was dropped to the survivors. At 1115 hours the aircraft left the lifeboats in position WBDF 1050, the corvette which was to pick them up was then 50 miles away. The aircraft landed at base at 1440 hours.

According to British records, H/204’s crew consisted of:

F/Sgt. R.E.J. Gough

F/Sgt. Boon

P/O. Lean

P/O. Dlin

F/Sgt. Lob

F/Sgt. Cawthorne

Sgt. Smith

Sgt. Bladon

Sgt. Mosley

Sgt. Glover

Sgt. Kennedy

Again, they were so close to rescue, with the corvette closing to within 50 miles.

Friday night Bamforth noted: “6pm. Heard & saw plane in distance. It was dark we shot flares but no response. Plane morsed “Corvet is coming”.

British records show that this must have been Sunderland KG-E T9070 again, however, the aircraft reported the encounter as follows: “24/7/42: E/204 was airborne at 1223 hours and searched for the lifeboats, but failed to locate them, and returned to Base at 2359 hours.

The crew for this flight was same as the original, sans Squadron Leader Wood:

F/Lt. Dagg

P/O. Bradley

Sgt. Hester

Sgt. Dujay

Sgt. Herbert

Sgt. Carey

Sgt. Crawford

Sgt. Jellie

Sgt. Folliard

L.A.C. Farmer

No. 204 Squadron appears to have tried their best to keep in contact with the Honolulan survivors and for several days they always had one flight on the way out when one was on its way back.

The survivors waited into the afternoon Saturday the 25th, and still no corvette was in sight. Finally, the men had had enough and started to protest. Bamforth announced loud enough for all to hear that the other two boats were free to go, but the officers in charge of those lifeboats took control and they stayed together

On Sunday, July 26th, three days after the sinking and still with no rescue in site, Bamforth finally decided enough is enough, and the three boats set sail in a “V” formation. They sailed through the rain all night, collecting what they could for drinking water.

Harold Small remembers it a bit differently: "Admiralty Law dictates that each lifeboat is individually under command of the senior officer occupying the boat. CNB [Charles N. Bamforth] attempted to control all 3 boats, however, the Bos'n [Bill Bussey] and crew in Oscar Nelson's boat were anxious to utilize fair winds/currents pushing them into West Africa and not await a chance rescue. CNB finally acceded to the crew's demands."

Small also offered a few more details about their time in the lifeboats and about the food;

"The food in the lifeboats was inappropriate with sweet Horlicks milk tablets and the water in the wooden water breakers was swimming with little wigglers.  This was thrown away and we used rain water trapped in the sails.   The aircraft food was tinned fruit in thick syrup, Very sensible.  We later advised the USCG to throw away the milk tablets and Pemmican which had a nauseating effect.  Our other recommendations ref. lifeboat fittings were, amazingly, followed.  The Sunderland flew away and was not seen again. 

After CNB’s ‘Mutiny’ we set sail and had a jolly Nantucket sleigh ride, running wing and wing before the sea.  We followed the kerosene light of the boat ahead.  In the morning the boats would raft up and have a nice repast of our food.  

One morning I was awaken by CNB hurriedly climbing aboard the boat with a tiger shark just behind him.  Nice bath.  Another night we heard cries and voices from another boat.  Seems Bussey was steering when a shark rolled over near the rudder and grabbed for his T-shirt hanging over the side.  The crew drove it off with hatchets and a boat hook.   Jolly.   Unfortunately, the boats were not equipped with fishing gear which would have helped if we had run out of provisions. 

Generally felt that the crew handled their situation with but little of the customary seaman’s grousing.  We were extremely fortunate to be in flying fish latitudes with warm balmy weather.  At the same time my twin brother [ES: Gordon P. Small, an Assistant Engineer during the war] was on the S.S. Ironclad cruising around the Arctic Circle [ES: The Waterman Steamship Co.'s SS Ironclad was part of the infamous convoy PQ-17. Small and the crew survived the disaster and tried to put into the port of Moltovsk, near Archangel, Russia but grounded in the harbor. They ended up being repatriated on the Queen Elizabeth]Was lucky.

It is clear throughout the book that Bamforth had amazing ingenuity and loved to tinker with and build things with his own hands. The ultimate example had been a 12-foot sloop he named the Sea Jack he hand-built during his off-time while commanding the Pennsylvanian. To help improve morale, Bamforth devised a way to make hot chocolate and distributed it amongst the boats. It helped greatly.

Bamforth wrote: “Just before daybreak I woke the chief steward, Mr. Rocomonte, and asked him if he would make hot chocolate if I made a fire. Soon all thirteen men in my boat were intensely busy under the direction of Mr. Dancy, the third mate. One of the men chopped a hard ash oar into short lengths. Each piece was then cut into slivers by those who had knives. We transformed a metal breaker into a stove by chopping a hole in the bottom for a flue and another hole in the side through which an empty rocket can was inserted as a kettle. We set the whole thing up on the stern so that the wind would make a draft through it. Using waxed paper from chocolate bars, we started a fire, then added the slivers of wood. This made a lot of visible smoke. Cheers went up from the men in the other boats as they realized something was cooking. We soon dissolved shavings from the chocolate bars in water in the makeshift kettle. We had difficulty dissolving our milk tablets, but we finally solved the problem by shaking a few tablets at a time in a jar with water. We ended up with a thick, creamy syrup, which we boiled and diluted with more water. Using boathooks and buckets, we passed a share of the hot chocolate to the other boats. It was not safe to allow the boats to come too close to one another in the running sea. Then we made a second bucketful of this sweet, hot liquid for ourselves. The first hot drink in three days put new life into all of us. Frowns turned into smiles.

That day as well, No. 204 Squadron sent out two search flights; M/204 (P/O. Inglis) from 0355 to 1534 and L/204 (F/Lt. Douglas) from 1435 to 0101 on the 26th. While the first flight found the Corvette (in position WBQN 3304) and both flights spotted other escorted merchants, no sign of the survivors were found.

The squadron now also had the pressure of several convoys moving through their area, WS 19 PQ and OS 34 on the 26th, and SL117 on the 27th, plus several independents.

Complicating matters further, another vessel was torpedoed in their area the afternoon of the 25th, the Norwegian Motor Tanker Tankexpress by U-130 (Kals) in position 10° 05'N, 26° 31'W (approximately 269.5 nautical miles WNW from the Honolulan sinking position). See here and here for more info. RAF No. 204’s L/204 (F/Lt. Douglas) was in the air when Tankexpress was hit, their report reading: "25/7/42 – L/204 was airborne at 1435 hours, at 1555 hours sighted one merchant vessel with 3 escort vessels in position TWUD 5342 – 035 – 8 knots. At 1650 hours a message was received from Base “Ship torpedoed position GQDF 2052 at 1505. Square search for survivors and direct “Woodruff”. At 2153 hours met the “Woodruff” in position GQDF 2052. The aircraft returned to Base at 0101/26.

The limited resources of No. 204 Squadron’s Sunderlands including M/204 (P/O. Inglis) and the anti-submarine vessels in the area including HMS Woodruff were diverted to that rescue the morning of Sunday, July 26th.

The Honolulan’s survivors were now truly on their own. Fortunately, Tankexpress’ entire crew of 39 successfully abandoned ship and all were rescued by HMS Lightning (G 55) (Cdr R.G. Stewart, RN) on August 1st.

At daybreak on Sunday, July 26th, the one bit of good news was that the weather finally cleared and the Honolulan’s survivors saw the first sun since the sinking.

They continued to sail all day Monday, July 27th, McMaster becoming a growing concern. At noon Monday Nelson was able to take sightings and determined that since abandoning ship they had traveled 242 miles to the east-northeast. They figured they were still some 250 miles from Bathurst, Gambia.


At dusk Bamforth noted: “During our routine securing the boat for the night, the second cook [ES: Filipino Solficio Diana] suddenly startled us by shouting. “Ship! Ship! Ship ahoy!” Amazed, we looked aft and stared. It was no mirage. There she was, over the horizon, hull part down, a beautiful ship heading at right angles to our course. Apparently her lookouts had not yet seen us. Immediately we fired our remaining rockets. Such excitement, so sudden. The ship turned toward us. This was the moment we had been waiting for, and it came when we least expected it. Most of us had given up on rescue, and we were resigned to saving ourselves.



Their salvation was the large British transport M.V. Winchester Castle, of the Union-Castle Line, commanded by 61-year-old Royal Navy Reserve Captain Sebastian Francis Newdigate (aka: S.F. Newdigate).


Winchester Castle was built in 1930 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 20,109GRT. She had a service speed of 20 knots. On March 23rd, 1942 she became the Head Quarters ship in Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Vichy French held Madagascar. She took part in a successful assault at Diego Suarez on May 4th and 5th with
No. 5 Commando using her life boats to approach the coast through a minefield. They had to leave her boats behind, so all they had on board were rafts for 277 crew (Bamforth noted 470) plus their 39 new guests. Winchester Castle was on her way to the United States when she came across the Honolulan’s survivors.

One interesting anecdote I came across while researching the Sunderland squadron, was a report from an RAF Hudson of No. 200 Squadron that attacked and damaged a U-Boat in the path of the Winchester Castle on July 25th off Freetown, Sierra Leone. The U-Boat, U-752, was another member of the dispersed wolf pack and was only slightly damaged. There was no indication in U-752’s war diary that they even saw the transport, let alone were getting into a firing position.

Newdigate maneuvered his vessel to protect the survivors from the wind as best he could and Jacob’s ladders were dropped to the waters edge. A wire stretcher basket was lowered for McMaster, who was hoisted quickly and smoothly aboard. The Winchester Castle’s crew contemplated trying to hoist the lifeboats up as well, but since the hooks weren’t compatible, and they were in danger the longer they sat stationary, they left them behind.

Bamforth noted the location of their rescue as 10 52 N, 19 40 W, which was about 230 miles from where the Honolulan had been sunk, and roughly 270 miles from Bathurst.

Honolulan’s survivors were comprised of:

No. Last Name First Name Age Position
1 Balmy James 44 Oiler
2 Bamforth Charles N. 47 Master
3 Bowles Delmar 35 1st Asst. Eng'r.
4 Brown Irmel 45 A.B
5 Bussey William 27 Bosun
6 Coas Gardner A. 43 Chief Mate
7 Corsetti Emil 28 O.S.
8 Crockett Willis 43 A.B
9 Da Silva Adao Lopes 29 Fireman
10 Dancy Dan 34 3rd Mate
11 Dela Rosa Jose 22 Messman
12 Diana Solficio Gab. 35 2nd Cook
13 Geriak John 26 Wiper
14 Gill Jesus 46 Deck Engineer
15 Gubaton Margarito 42 Messman
16 Hagen Hans 48 A.B
17 Holt Jack Andrew 21 O.S.
18 Horn Erwin 24 Jr. 3rd Asst. Eng'r.
19 Iryzarry Sixto 33 Messman
20 Johnson Joe 43 A.B
21 Jonas John 48 Oiler
22 Kimball Nick 50 Fireman
23 Lander Abe 41 Messman
24 Lucas Edward F. 27 Purser
25 Lunod Vidal 45 Chief Cook
26 Maguire Christopher 44 2nd Asst. Eng'r.
27 McMaster Clarence 36 Oiler
28 Nelson Oscar J. 44 2nd Mate
29 Petersen Frederick 19 Jr. 3rd Mate
30 Petersen Einar 56 Carpenter
31 Reeves George 34 Fireman
32 Ricamonte Jose Resquites 38 Chief Steward
33 Sandersen Christian 27 A.B
34 Sharp Vincent 20 Wiper
35 Shuckhart Josiah  56 Chief Engineer
36 Small Harold 21 O.S.
37 Sullivan Charles 42 Radio Operator
38 Thomson Wilbur 24 A.B
39 White Stanley 45 3rd Asst. Eng'r.

Their average age was 37.

Bamforth praised the professionalism and hospitality of Newdigate and his crew, especially Dr. C. Crawford, surgeon; Captain L.H. Harris, British Army quartermaster; and Mr. John Hughes Kirton, purser.

The fact that this was a transport with a medical team on board, and not just another freighter, likely made the difference in McMaster’s survival. He had lost a lot of blood that first night and the poor nutrition and exposure since then did not help matters. Dr. Crawford was credited with saving his life. There was also hospital attendant W. Sanford.

The medical team also took care of the more minor injuries sustained by the rest of the crew, such as fractured ear drums of those below decks when the torpedo hit, broken toes from climbing the Jacob’s ladders barefoot, and sunburns and other exposure issues.


The men were able to get cleaned up, were provided new British issue clothing (courtesy of Quarter Master L.H. Harris), and their first hot meal in a week.

The remainder of the voyage was uneventful, despite the heavy U-Boat activity at this time on the American east coast. Bamforth caught up on paperwork and payroll during the day, and visited McMaster in the evenings.

Friday, August 7th 1942 at around 9:00am they finally arrived in New York. They had to pass quarantine, and then McMaster was sent to the U.S. Marine Hospital on Staten Island, where he eventually made full recovery. The rest of the crew were debriefed by Naval Intelligence on board, then finally landed at 5:00pm and marched to American-Hawaiian’s offices, looking like quite the motley crew with their variety of British Army issue clothing.

In September of 1942 Bamforth was told to report to the US Maritime Service Training Ship American Seaman to take command, but due to a misunderstanding, the assignment fell through. You can read more about Bamforth’s life and career prior to and after the Honolulan’s sinking in his biography section below.

Chief Mate Gardner Andrews Coas, from Gloucester
Massachusetts was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on May 22nd, 1945 for his actions aboard the Honolulan. The certificate read:

When his ship, the SS Honolulan, was torpedoed and her crew had abandoned ship, he remained on board with the Master and Radio Operator to obtain extra food and equipment for a lifeboat which was standing by close aboard. Just as this task was completed, a second torpedo struck and the ship began to settle rapidly. In company with the Master and Radio Operator, he jumped over the side and swam to the nearby lifeboat. During the six days the lifeboat was adrift he displayed great fortitude in caring for the physical and mental comforts of the members of the crew, and rendered invaluable assistance to the Master in keeping the three lifeboats together until picked up by an English steamer.

Coas activated his Navy Reserve commission and became a Lt. Commander. Ironically, at the beginning of 1944 he became commander of the US Maritime Service Training Ship American Seaman, the ship Bamforth almost commanded in 1942. He served in the Navy for the remainder of the war and appears to have worked for Grace Lines after the war. He passed away in Florida in April of 1975.

Radio Operator Charles E. Sullivan was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. He had previously served on Honolulan’s sister, the Greylock in 1941, and served on the William Few in 1943 and survived the war.

O.S. Harold L. Small had an amazing career as well. He literally worked his way up through the ranks; from a wiper all the way to ships’ Master. He first served as a wiper on
the Kansan just prior to WWII. After Honolulan he served as Second Mate on the liberty ship William A. Jones in 1943, ending the war as Chief Mate of John Colter in 1945.
After the war he served as a Master with States Marine/Isthmian.

Winchester Castle
was back in Scotland by September and under Captain Newdigate’s
command she would take part in several key amphibious assaults later in the war, including; Operation Torch, Operation Avalanche, and Operation Dragoon. She returned to her regular civilian service after the war, until she was sold for scrapping in 1960, being replaced by Windsor Castle.

I have not yet been able to find out what became of Dr. Crawford or Captain Harris, however purser John Kirton appears to have died in October of 1944 at the age of 41, which was soon after Operation Dragoon.

Captain S.F. Newdigate survived the war, but passed away in 1954 at the age of 73. He was survived by his wife Patricia, and daughters Anne and Lilah.


Captain Newdigate was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross "For bravery and enterprise while serving in H.M. Transports in the successful operations which led to the surrender of the important base of Diego Suarez." He was also awarded the Reserve Decoration.


 RAF No. 204 Squadron


When I first added this page on the Honolulan to the site in December of 2011, there were not any books I could find written specifically about No. 204 Squadron, only passing references, a paragraph here or there. Nor were there any tribute websites created by families. The best suggestion anyone could offer was to order what was referred to as ORB’s, or Operations Record Books for the squadron for the month in question from the British National Archives. At the time, however, this was not an easy task if you did not live in the U.K.

Just a few months later in 2012 while I was researching for my page on the Montanan (which involved two RAF squadrons), I discovered the process for ordering the ORB’s had become much easier, and you can now order the records on-line for a reasonable price through the National Archives website and have a digital copy within minutes. I had moved on to other topics with my research, but I made a promise to myself to order the No. 204 Squadron ORB’s and one day circle around to complete this aspect of the Honolulan’s story.

In the intervening years there were still no new books written about No. 204 or family websites, but I was able to purchase a number of those No. 204 Squadron records from the British National Archives, which as promised, provided a great deal of insight on their operations. These included; Operations Record Books for the period from July 1st to 31st of 1942, Detail of Work Carried Out for the month of July, 1942 and Operations Record Book Appendices for the period from March 1st, 1942 to May of 1945.

While it won’t be possible for me to give a thorough accounting of their entire wartime history here, I thought it would be useful and interesting to at least provide a snapshot of their activities for the month of July and a broader summary of their time in West Africa wherever possible.

Hopefully this information will prove useful to future researchers and historians. It is also my hope that by including this information, living members of the squadron and/or their descendants, will find this site and be able to one day provide more details on this search and rescue effort and the brave men who took part in it.

As I also discovered with my research into the Montanan’s loss, there were so many of these RAF squadrons scattered around the globe. Often based in very remote locations, operating under extremely difficult circumstances with too much to do, too little to do it with, and with little confirmation that all their hard work was making any difference. Man and machine were pushed to their limits.

The records indicate No. 204 Squadron was no exception.

After spending the early years of the war patrolling the North Atlantic for U-Boats from various bases in southern England, northern Scotland and Iceland, and dangerous reconnaissance missions over Norway, the Squadron moved to RAF Half-Die at Bathurst (present day Banjul), The Gambia, West Africa on August 28th, 1941. The squadron would spend the remainder of the war there. The rather ominous sounding ‘Half-Die” was not a contemporary description, but named for a cholera epidemic that wiped out a large portion of the population in the mid-1800’s, and the name stuck.

Note that the date the squadron moved to West Africa was a little over 3 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that would draw America officially into the war. The squadron was sent there as a response to increased German U-Boat activity and successes in the area. In the latter half of 1940 the U-Boats had claimed only 10 vessels in this region. There was only one loss in January of 1941, none in February, but starting in March of 1941 the situation took a drastic turn for the worse, and the allies lost 68 vessels in only five months. Six more vessels would be lost from August to December of 1941, bringing the year’s total to seventy-five.


One of these would be the Lehigh at the end of October, 1941 to Arkansan’s nemesis, U-126 (Bauer). The Lehigh was significant as she was American flagged and therefore still a neutral at this point, one of six neutral American merchant vessels that would be lost prior to our entry in the war. In fact, four of the six (in addition to Lehigh were the Robin Moor, Astral, and Sagadahoc) were lost somewhere off the west coast of the African continent.

The squadron also detached aircraft to operate from Jui near Freetown, Sierra Leone from time to time during their stay and later, beginning in January 1943, from Port-Étienne (present day Nouadhibou), Mauritania after Vichy controlled French West Africa fell in November of 1942.

The closest friendly forces in the summer of 1942 were a Lockheed Hudson Squadron, No. 200, and another Sunderland Squadron, No. 95, which had a Hawker Hurricane fighter wing (necessitated by the Vichy French presence) which eventually became No. 128 Squadron. All of which were based near Freetown, Sierra Leone, 420 miles to the south, as the crow flies. From the ORB’s this appears about a 3 1/2 hour flight one-way from Bathurst, although at a bare minimum according to the ORB’s, No. 204 usually conducted reconnaissance over Vichy territory or searched for U-boats along the way. They often helped escort convoys as part of the move, heading out deep into the Atlantic, resulting in the typical 11-12 hour flight.

No. 95 Squadron eventually moved to Bathurst as well in March of 1943. There is a wonderful website on No. 95 Squadron, which includes many pictures of Sunderland operations at Bathurst which you can view here. These photos provide great insight on the men and the conditions they worked under.

Other than that, the closest allies were over 1,700 miles, 13 hours flying time (right at the limit of the Sunderland I’s range) to the north at Gibraltar, with a vast expanse of Vichy controlled French North and West Africa between them. Between Gibraltar and England the Sunderland crews also had to brave German long-range fighters over the Bay of Biscay.

The Vichy French in West Africa, for their part, seemed to have held to the principal of armed neutrality, despite the debacles of Mers-el-Kébir in July of 1940 and Dakar in September of 1940. Bathurst and Freetown were largely left alone by Vichy French Navy and its air arm (Marine Nationale and Aviation Navale, respectively), and Air Force (Armée de l'Air de Vichy) based in Senegal and Guinea.

I could only find a hand-full of examples of Vichy French aircraft shot down over British territory. These were not overt offensive attacks, but solo reconnaissance missions involving American made Martin167’s provided before the fall of France.

On June 13th, 1941 a Martin flown by the commander of the French Navy Squadron 5B, Lieutenant Brard was shot down over Sierra Leone (unclear if by ground fire or a RAF Hurricane). Brard and EV Eschbach survived and became POW’s, PM Lemoine and SM Schreyeck were killed.  According to ‘Hurricane Aces 1941-45’ by By Andrew Thomas, John Weal (Osprey Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 1472801709, 9781472801708): “In West Africa, the British territories of the Gambia and Sierra Leone were surrounded by potentially hostile Vichy French-controlled colonies. Martin 167 bombers from Dakar, in Senegal, were able to reconnoitre the anchorage at Freetown, and it was thought that this information was then being passed on to the Germans [subject to debate]. Accordingly, in June 1941 the Freetown Defense Flight was organized as part of the resident flying boat unit, No. 95 Sqn. One of the original pilots was Battle of Britain ace Flt Lt John Kilmartin. On 22 August Sgt Arthur Todd [flying a Hurricane Mk I Z4484] brought down a Martin [Nr 141, crew consisted of LV Morange (who had replaced Brard), IM Koch, SM Carpier and QM Rabathaly – all killed and buried with full military honors by the British] near Hastings. The flight duly became No, 128 Sqn on 7 October, and a week later its new CO, Sqn Ldr Billy Drake, arrived. He recently told the author that, ‘Hastings was a tatty runway from which we took off towards the jungle-covered hills. The unit duties were convoy protection and the defense of Freetown, as well as countering any Vichy reconnaissance aircraft that ventured near.’

Success for the new squadron soon came, and Drake described this rare action in his autobiography; ‘They had some Glenn Martin 167F attack bombers at Dakar, which were quite fast and were flown, I understand, by airmen of the French Navy. One of these would occasionally stray into our airspace on a reconnaissance flight. On 13 December 1941- a Sunday – I had been scrambled on the approach of one such intruder, and was patrolling over the harbor when he appeared. I flew up alongside him and indicated that he should land at our airfield, which he refused to do. This left me with no alternative but to do my stuff and shoot him down – which I did, although I did not like having to do so at all.’” Drake describes the incident in an IWM interview conducted by Richard McDonough, which you can listen to here, Reel 5 of 11.

Drake’s Hawker Hurricane Mark IIB (BD897) had shot down a Martin M-167F (aka ‘Glenn’) over Freetown harbor. Rather than French Air Force units from Dakar, these were actually French Naval Aviation aircraft from Flotilla 5BR operating from Conakry, Guinea. The crew of the Martin is not known at this time.

As Drake mentioned, the French also had four Groups (or Groupes de Bombardement, i.e.; GB) of the Glenn’s based at Thiès, Senegal, just inland from Dakar; GB I/62, GB II/62, GB I/63 & GB II/63. I don’t believe these were ever used to recon Sierra Leone, and there is no mention in the ORB’s I have of them being used to recon Bathurst.

Sgt Arthur George Todd (754247) RAFVR - (later 119873 W/C., DFC) mentioned above would later be rescued on May 10th, 1942 in a rare water landing by No. 204 Squadron. The exception was likely made because of the proximity of Vichy forces and the possibility of the pilot being captured. Sunderland B/204 happened to have been sent to Freetown the previous day for temporary duty. According to a forum posting I came across on forum12oclockhigh.net, Todd had taken off on reconnaissance mission (accompanied by the Commanding Officer of No.128 Sqn., Squadron Leader John 'Killy' Kilmartin, also mentioned above), searching for a missing American B-25. They overflew Conakry airstrip in Guinea and Todd’s Hurricane IIB (BH146) was hit by stray rifle fire. Todd was forced to ditch in a coastal marsh.

According to the No. 204 Squadron ORB; “10/5/42: SEARCH. B/204 was airborne from Freetown to search for and rescue a Hurricane Pilot who had forced landed in the sea. At 1024 hours B/204 alighted 2 ½ miles off the coast – Matakong Island [a little more than half-way from Conakry to the Sierra Leone border], where the Pilot was sighted in a dinghy. The Sunderland anchored and launched its dinghy and at 1225 hours it took-off with the Hurricane Pilot on board. B/204 returned to Freetown at 1328 hours.

Most RAF flights between Gibraltar and Bathurst and vice versa over Vichy territory appeared to have been uncontested and encounters were rare. Even though these flights also served a dual purpose and reconnaissance was conducted. No. 204’s Sunderland’s also performed dedicated reconnaissance flights from Bathurst over Vichy territory according to the ORB’s. There were only two skirmishes involving No. 204 Sunderland’s that I could find with an exchange of gunfire, although neither leading to any confirmed casualties (claims were made by both sides) in men or machine.

I will detail the second involving X/204 a bit later in this article, but the first occurred in the early days of the transfer to Bathurst on September 29th, 1941. Sunderland N.9044 C/204 was attacked off the coast of Senegal by GC I/4 (Groupe de chasse, aka fighter group) flying Curtis 75 “Hawks” based at Dakar-Ouakam. The Curtis 75 was also known as the P-36 Hawk, the predecessor to the P-40 Warhawk, sold to the French before hostilities began. Sergent Chef Georges Lamare flying No. 9 (s/n 295) managed to take out one of the Sunderland’s engines but defensive fire from the Sunderland’s crew eventually drove Lemare off before he could complete his task.

The name of the Sunderland pilot is currently unknown, however according to ‘Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2’ by Jon Lake (Osprey Publishing, 2000, ISBN-13: 9781841760247), the co-pilot was Ray Gough, quite possibly the same Flight Sergeant R.E.J. Gough that flew N.9024 H/204 during the Honolulan search and rescue, and which dropped supplies to the survivors on the 24th of July.

As if the situation of having a French pilot attempt to shoot down a British aircraft with an American aircraft was not bizarre enough, after the fall of French West Africa Lemare became part of the Free French Airforce and according to Jon Lake was trained by Gough on the very same N.9044! Lemare, a fighter pilot at heart, apparently did not stay with the Sunderland for long and transferred to a special French fighter squadron called Normandie-Niemen, flying Russian Yak fighters on the Eastern Front against the Germans. He survived the war after becoming an ace with a total of 11 kills plus 2 probable (allied and axis) but died in a crash while an instructor in 1948. Other than damaging the Sunderland, his one allied kill was a British FaireySwordfish from HMS Ark Royal during the failed British attack on Dakar in September of 1940.

The engagement with Sunderland C/204 was depicted by aviation artist Iain Wyllie for the cover of ‘French Aces of World War 2’ by Barry Ketley and Mark Rolfe (Osprey Publishing, 1999, ISBN-13: 9781855328983):


Getting back to the U-boat threat, 1942 started out fairly calm with only four vessels lost in the first six months. The end of July would herald another large wave of allied losses, beginning with Honolulan. Forty-one more vessels would be lost by year end, bringing the year’s total to forty-six. In fairness, many of these were at or just beyond the effective range of No. 204’s Sunderland’s. No vessels are known to have been lost in convoy under No. 204’s protection. However, many vessels, such as the Honolulan, traveled independently. There were simply too many to escort over such a vast area.

There were nine German Kreigsmarine grids that overlapped No. 204’s operational area: to the north were DS, DT & DU, to the west were EH, EJ & EK, and finally to the south were ER, ES & ET (see map below).



As you can see from the attacks in the latter half of 1942, most of the activity was either centered off Freetown, Sierra Leone, where the Germans were much more aggressive at attacking close to shore, and along a long arc sweeping to the northwest, to the west of the neutral Portuguese Cape Verde Islands. This kept our vessels away from the unpredictable Vichy French forces along the French West African coast but funneled them closer together along the eastern edge of the mid-Atlantic gap/western limit of No. 204 Sunderland’s range.

One of the few things that Bathurst appeared to have going for it was the climate. It is sub-tropical and the temperature remains amazingly consistent throughout the year, varying less than 10° F between the mid-70’s and mid-80’s during the day. There are distinct dry and rainy seasons, the later running from June through October, and peaking in August at an average of 18 inches, resulting in about 80% humidity during this period. There is nearly no precipitation in the dry months. The Honolulan sinking occurred right as the precipitation was ramping up at the end of July, which explains all the rain the survivors had to endure in the open lifeboats. Only one sortie was noted as being impacted by weather during the month of July. Despite the pleasant temperatures, there was, however, also always the constant risk of catching malaria or Blackwater fever in this area, which may explain some of the single casualties the unit suffered.

According to the ORB’s, No. 204 squadron started the month of July 1942 with the following personnel:

  29 Officers

    2 Warrant Officers

  19 Flight Sergeants

  55 Sergeants

273 “Other Ranks”

378 Total

They ended the month of July 1942 with the following personnel:

  19 Officers

    1 Warrant Officer

  13 Flight Sergeants

  30 Sergeants

166 “Other Ranks”

229 Total

For the month, they flew 19 convoy escort sorties (2 aborted), 2 reconnaissance sorties (1 move from Gibraltar) and 9 search and rescue sorties for a total of 30. They also performed two test flights after repairs were made. Of these, 23 sorties involved either night take-off or landing. They would log 270 flight hours for the month.

Their commanding officer at this time was Wing Commander J.P. Cecil-Wright. Cecil-Wright flew back to the U.K. on Sunderland E/204 March 3rd, 1943.

Per historian/author Ross McNeil and other sources on the RAF Commands website, Cecil-Wright was:

John Patrick Cecil-Wright (26176)
Born: March 9th, 1911
Entered Wrekin College (RAF) in January 1929
Commissioned: December 20th, 1930
Flying Officer:  June 20th, 1932
Flight Lieutenant: April 1st, 1936
Squadron Leader, No. 201 Squadron: April 1st, 1939
He was with 201 Squadron on January 21st, 1941 when his Sunderland made a force landing off Uist, Shetland Islands.
Wing Commander: Dates unknown, however with No. 204 Squadron at least from July of 1942 through March 3rd, 1943.
Group Captain: July 1st, 1950
Retired: GD January 28th, 1951,
Died: April, 1992, age 81.

Flight Commander was Squadron Leader C.A. Wood, who as noted previously, flew on the first aircraft to find the Honolulan’s survivors. Unfortunately, to date I have not been able to locate any additional information on Wood.

No. 204 Squadron Sunderland’s flown in July (number of flights):

L.2158.M (8)

N.9024.H (9)

T.9070.E (8)

T.9074.L (7)

I was somewhat surprised that they only had four aircraft to work with.

The Short Brothers S.25 Sunderland was an amazing aircraft, clearly one of the best flying boats of the war. At this time, all the aircraft operated by 204 Squadron were of the original Mk. I variety.

These aircraft were lightly armed with a single .303 machine gun in the FN.11 nose turret, a quadruple .303 mount in the FN.13 tail turret plus two more handheld .303’s mounted high on either side of the fuselage in blisters just behind the wing. The latter operated by the wireless operators like Sgt. Carey. In addition, they carried up to 2,000 lbs. of bombs or depth charges mounted on unique racks inside the fuselage which were cranked out under the wings through doors on each side of the fuselage when needed. It’s unclear whether these aircraft at this time would have had the most primitive ASV (Airborne Surface Vessel) Mark I search radar, or had been upgraded to the improved Mark II. Besides improvements in search radar, armament and fuel capacity (and therefore range) were also improved as the war went on.

L.2158 M/204 was built at Rochester  and was actually the first production Sunderland, first flown April 21st, 1938. Sadly, she would not survive much longer as I will detail a bit later.

N.9024 H/204 was built at Rochester in April 1939 and struck off charge August 16th, 1944.

T.9070 E/204 was built at Rochester, delivered December 9th, 1940. It blew up at its moorings at Half Die, Gambia August 16th, 1942.

T.9074 L/204 was built at Rochester, and delivered sometime between July of 1940 and March of 1941. Final fate unknown. Was likely a Sunderland forced to ditch ahead of Convoy SL.123 due to engine trouble on September 24th, 1942 and towed to Freetown by HMS Cowslip. L/204 was not mentioned again until February 20th, 1943, having flown in from Gibraltar. It’s unclear if this was the same aircraft after an overhaul, or its replacement.

It appears reading the ORB’s that their schedule, at least for 1942, was pretty repetitive. Usually one to two flights a day, morning and night every 2 to 3 days to provide round the clock coverage for their primary focus; the constant stream of SL (Freetown to the U.K.) and OS (U.K. to Freetown) convoy’s passing through their operational area. Engine failures were quite common, but in most cases the aircraft made it back to base safely. Depending on the timing and what else was going on, they would send a replacement aircraft out. They would occasionally escort the odd independent passing through if the timing was right.

204 Squadron had just lost Sunderland T.9041 V/204 in June. The aircraft had to ditch, presumably due to engine failure, on June 28th while escorting convoy OS.31.

The month of July continued where June left off, with flights searching for their mates from V/204. The survivors had been spotted in their raft by Lockheed Hudson E/200 on the 30th of June. No. 204 Squadron’s H/204 was in the vicinity at the time but was specifically instructed not to land and return to base. Pilot J. M. Ennis and most of the crew were picked up by the destroyer HMS Velox two days later on July 1st. Two men were lost (noted in the table below). Ennis was hospitalized for a fractured vertebrae and it is unclear if and when he may have been able to return to service. P/O Dlin was hospitalized for exposure, but returned in time to take part in the Honolulan search and rescue flights.

The squadron was actually down to three aircraft for a couple weeks until Sunderland T.9074 L/204 was flown in by F/Lt. Douglas and F/O Cockburn on July 10th, 1942 from Gibraltar to replace V/204. They had departed RAF Mount Batten on July 7th.

At the time of the Honolulan attack there were actually no No. 204 Squadron Sunderland’s in the air. In fact, the squadron appears to have stood down for several days, possibly as a result of a heavier than normal schedule the previous week escorting Convoy’s OS.33, SL.116 and Force F. The squadron had last flown on the 19th, when the newest addition, L/204, helped escort convoy SL 116 and elements of Force F. This was a Royal Navy task force comprised of the battleships HMS Rodney, HMS Nelson and the destroyers HMS Derwent, HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and HMS Quintin which had sailed from Sierra Leone on July 17th bound for the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow. Ironically it would be the dispersed elements of convoy OS.33 that were so badly mauled south of the Azores by U-582 and her compatriots from July 12th through the 15th once they were beyond the protective reach of No. 204. 

No. 204 Squadron personnel who flew in July (number of sorties):

Wing Commander Pilot Officers Sergeants Corporals
Cecil-Wright (2) H.V. Horner (7) * K. O’Meara (7) * Mathews (1)

K. Morris (7) * W.A. Davis (7) * + Downs (1)
Squadron Leaders G. Lean (7) * W.D. McConnell (7) * + Brickwood (1)
Wood (4) * Arundel (5) W.A. Gould (6) * Pilkington (1)
Clarke (1) Bradley (7) * Ernie H. Connell (7) * +

Cooper (7) * D. Stevens (7) * Leading Aircraftmen
Flight Lieutenants  Inglis (6) * D.H. Smith (5) * Webb (2)
E. Dagg (10) * Bell (6) * N.A. Bladon (9) * Farmer (5) *
Spain (3) Dlin (2) * D.A. Glover (9) * Jennings (1)
A.H.N. Gooch (1) +
A.M. Kennedy (8) * McKane (1)
Douglas (7) * Sub-Lieutenants Hester (9) *
Cameron (1) Ramsey (1) Dujay (9) * A.C.
Ward (1)
R. Herbert (9) * Ashford (1)

Warrant Officers P.A. Herbert (5)
Flying Officers Shakes (1) Folliard (9) * "Mr. Pithers" (1)
Gow (4) *
Carey (9) *
Burnell (1) Flight Sergeants Jellie (9) *
Cockburn (1) E.C.G. Jackman (7) * + Brown (1)

Gough (9) * Crawford (7) *

Boon (9) * Taylor (7) *

D. Lob (8) * Miller (7) *

M.D. Cawthorne (8) * Lean (7) *

North (7) * Mosley (7) *

Mulvey (7) * Cameron Reid (2)

Robinson (7) * Cameron (2)

Mercer (7) *

Notes:

* indicates men that took part in S&R flights for the Honolulan.

+ indicates men Killed in Action

I assume “Mr. Pithers” was a squadron mascot, possibly of the feline variety. Whatever his genus, he appears to have earned his wings on an actual eleven plus hour convoy escort mission (WS.19.PQ) on July 25th.

A summary of sorties for the month included:

No. Date Aircraft Pilot  Up Down Duty
1 July 1, 1942 L.2158.M  Dagg 2145 1220 Search for V/204
2
N.9024.H  Gough 0745 1225 Search for V/204
3
L.2158.M  Gooch 1405 1545 Escort Convoy WS.20 Aborted due to engine trouble
4 July 5, 1942 N.9024.H  Gough 1050 1200 Test flight and stick bombing
5
L.2158.M  Dagg 1130 1945 Escort Convoy OS.32. Wing Commander aboard.
6 July 7, 1942 T.9070.E  Dagg 0935 1000 Test flight
7
T.9070.E  Dagg 0430 1515 Escort Convoy OS.32. S/Ldr Wood aboard.
8 July 10, 1942 T.9074.L  Douglas 0720 1919 Move & Reconnaissance from Gibraltar
9 July 16, 1942 T.9070.E  Dagg 0345 1600 Escort Convoy OS.33
10
T.9074.L  Douglas 1145 2255 Escort Convoy OS.33
11 July 17, 1942 L.2158.M  Inglis 0440 1640 Escort Convoy SL.116
12
N.9024.H  Gough 1200 1430 Escort Convoy SL.116. Aborted due to engine trouble
13 July 18, 1942 T.9074.L  Douglas 0500 1555 Escort Force F
14
L.2158.M  Inglis 1140 2150 Escort Force F
15
T.9070.E  Dagg 1105 2215 Escort Convoy SL.116
16 July 19, 1942 T.9074.L  Douglas 0340 1410 Escort Force F
17 July 23, 1942 T.9070.E  Dagg 0245 1450 Search for Honolulan survivors. S/Ldr Wood aboard.
18
L.2158.M  Inglis 1610 1420 Search for Honolulan survivors.
19
N.9024.H  Gough 1545 1745 Photo Reconnaissance
20 July 24, 1942 N.9024.H  Gough 0335 1440 Search for Honolulan survivors.
21
T.9070.E  Dagg 1215 0015 Search for Honolulan survivors.
22 July 25, 1942 L.2158.M  Inglis 0330 1545 Search for Honolulan survivors.
23
N.9024.H  Gough 1150 2220 Escort Convoy WS.19.PQ
24
T.9074.L  Douglas 1435 0120 Search for Honolulan survivors.
25 July 26, 1942 L.2158.M  Inglis 0330 1700 Search for Tankexpress survivors.
26
T.9074.L  Douglas 1315 2355 Escort Convoy OS.34
27 July 27, 1942 T.9070.E  Dagg 0345 1425 Escort Convoy OS.34
28
N.9024.H  Gough 1130 1930 Escort Convoy SL.117
29 July 28, 1942 T.9074.L  Douglas 1120 2140 Escort Convoy SL.117
30
T.9070.E  Dagg 1150 2130 Escort Convoy SL.117
31 July 29, 1942 N.9024.H  Gough 0440 0540 Escort Convoy SL.117. Aborted due to engine trouble
32
N.9024.H  Gough 1445 2300 Escort Convoy SL.117

July 3rd marked the opening of the Airmen’s Recreation Club at the marina. A place for the weary crews to take a break from the war. According to the ORB, this was “complete with picture projection room, gramophone pick-up and amplifier, stage, and seating accommodations for 140 persons. Weekly programmes of pictures (2 nights), debating and dramatics, tombola, whist drive [types of games], and informal concert being maintained. Library opened 28/7/42, adjacent to Education Room opened 16/7/42.


As I alluded to earlier, unfortunately Sunderland L.2158 M/204 was lost the following month. On August 17th, 1942. According to the ORB Appendices, the “Sunderland “M” was airborne at 0545 hours to carry out escort to Convoy SL 119. The flying-boat made contact with the Convoy at Dawn, but disappeared and was not seen again. No messages received.

Five search flights were made between August 18th and 20th, but nothing was sighted. Most of the crew (all but Quinn who was new) on M/204 had taken part in the search and rescue operations for the Honolulan. They were on the plane the survivors heard but could not see their second night after the sinking. M/204’s crew of nine consisted of:

P/O J Quinn

P/O H Horner

F/Sgt E C G Jackman

Sgt J James

Sgt K O'Meara

Sgt W A Davis

Sgt W D Maconnell RCAF

Sgt E H Connell RCAF

Sgt D Stevens

Five of the nine men survived; Quinn, Horner, James, O’Meara and Stevens.

Co-Pilot Harold Vincent Horner (406595) was singled out for his actions in the ORB Appendix and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His commendation read as follows:

ACTING FLIGHT LIEUTENANT HORNER, D.F.C., R.A.A.F.

This officer has completed over 850 hours flying with No. 204 Squadron. His flying is of a very high standard and he has been called upon to undertake sorties calling for great care and endurance.

On the 17th August, 1942, Flight Lieutenant H.V. Horner, was second Pilot on an Aircraft which landed at sea and broke up. The five survivors spent 105 hours in a rubber dinghy before landing in Neutral Territory. During this time, he was greatly responsible for the continued good health and the moral of his companions. On shore, until rescued two days later, it was due to his efforts that the physical condition of all concerned remained of a high order under arduous tropical conditions.

He has shown much enthusiasm in his Station duties and has done much for the welfare of the men. The standard of efficiency maintained by his Crew has been a good example to the other Pilots of the Squadron.

The four casualties, sadly all of which had taken part in the Honolulan search, included:

  1. Flight Sergeant Edward Charles George Jackman (521691), age unknown, RAF, home location unknown.
  2. Flight Sergeant Eugene “Ernie” Hastings Connell (R/76031), age 20, RCAF, from Granville Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada
  3. Flight Sergeant Walter Douglas Maconnell (R/71384), age 21, RCAF, from Field, British Columbia, Canada.
  4. Sergeant William Arthur Davis (976636), age 22, RAF, from Bedford U.K.

All four consistently flew with Horner, so he would have known them well. According to a newspaper account, the survivors were assisted by natives.

Horner was born on January 20th, 1911 in Midland Junction, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia. He was educated at Perth Modern School and went on to earn his B.A at W.A. University where he was a top lacrosse player. Prior to the war he was a teacher at the Central School, Midland Junction. He enlisted in the RAAF on February 3rd, 1941 at the age of 30. His flight training was conducted from July 15th to September 25th, 1941 on the twin-engine RCAF Avro Anson as part of Course 33, No. 7 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada.

Harold married local girl Doris Balinski (1919-unknown) while home on leave August 23rd, 1944 and they had a son named Neil. Doris was serving as a corporal in the W.A.A.F. at the time. They had been engaged before the war. Harold’s younger brother Arthur (who also jointed the RAAF) married Doris’ sister Irene.

Harold was discharged from the RAAF on March 12th, 1945, at which time he is assumed to have resumed his teaching career. He passed away in 2001.


The replacement for L.2158 M/204, X/204 was flown down from Gibraltar on September 2nd. As alluded earlier, unlike most of the other replacement flights which arrived unscathed after flying hours and hours over enemy held territory, X/204 had the misfortune of passing through when the French were apparently again in a sour mood and became the second No. 204 Sunderland I found that was engaged by the Vichy Air Force. As the ORB reads: “2/9/42: MOVE: Sunderland X/204 was airborne from Gibraltar at 0541 hours for Bathurst. At 0724 hours in position DTSU 5350 while flying at 900 feet, the Sunderland was attacked by three Vichy Curtis 75A fighters. One Enemy aircraft came in from the port bow, then swung away and returned to attack with two other fighters, one considered a Dewoitine 520. One enemy fighter carried out starboard beam attack opening at 500 yards, and as it turned away the Sunderland rear gunner gave two bursts of a 100 and 50 rounds which appeared to go well home, the enemy aircraft was seen to stagger and was last seen flying very low towards the coast. The other two enemy aircraft made further dummy attacks before the Sunderland managed to evade them in cloud cover. When the Sunderland was waterborne at Bathurst it was found that there were approximately 24 holes in the fuselage as a result of the combat.

I was somewhat surprised to discover from the ORB’s  for July that there were a large number of civilian flights taking off and landing at Bathurst at this time as well. See list below.

No. Date Time Aircraft Type Notes
1 July 1, 1942 0623 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal
2
1640 BOAC Cathay Short S.30 Arrived from Freetown, Sierra Leone
3
1910 BOAC Cathay Short S.30 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
4
1102 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Departed for Freetown, Sierra Leone
5 July 3, 1942 1220 BOAC Clipper 18605 Boeing 314A? Arrived from Fisherman's Lake, Liberia
6
1350 BOAC Clipper 18605 Boeing 314A? Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
7 July 4, 1942 0650 BOAC Golden Hind Short S.26 Arrived from Lagos, Nigeria
8 July 5, 1942 0135 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal
9
0418 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Departed for Lagos, Nigeria
10
1850 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Arrived from Freetown, Sierra Leone
11 July 6, 1942 1825 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
12 July 8, 1942 0655 BOAC Golden Hind Short S.26 Departed for Freetown, Sierra Leone
13
1640 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Arrived from Lagos, Nigeria
14
1720 BOAC Golden Hind Short S.26 Arrived from Freetown, Sierra Leone
15
1928 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
16
1953 BOAC Golden Hind Short S.26 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
17 July 12, 1942 0650 BOAC Cathay Short S.30 Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal
18 July 13, 1942 0508 BOAC Cathay Short S.30 Departed for Freetown, Sierra Leone
19 July 14, 1942 0630 BOAC Berwick Boeing 314A Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal
20
1945 BOAC Clare Short S.30 Arrived from Freetown, Sierra Leone
21 July 15, 1942 0500 BOAC Berwick Boeing 314A Departed for Lagos, Nigeria
22
0908 BOAC Berwick Boeing 314A Returned due to engine trouble
23 July 16, 1942 1820 BOAC Cathay Short S.30 Arrived from Freetown, Sierra Leone
24 July 16, 1942 1740 BOAC Cathay Short S.30 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
25 July 18, 1942 0635 BOAC Clare Short S.30 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
26
1307 BOAC Clare Short S.30 Returned due to engine trouble
27
1155 PAA NC.05 Boeing 314A? Arrived from Fisherman's Lake, Liberia
28
1320 PAA NC.05 Boeing 314A? Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
29 July 19, 1942 0715 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal
30
0958 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Departed for Lagos, Nigeria
31
1221 BOAC Berwick Boeing 314A Arrived from Lagos, Nigeria
32
1718 BOAC Berwick Boeing 314A Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
33
1800 BOAC Berwick Boeing 314A Returned due to engine trouble
34
2338 BOAC Berwick Boeing 314A Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
35 July 21, 1942 0717 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal
36
1030 BOAC Golden Hind Short S.26 Departed for Freetown, Sierra Leone
37
1505 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Arrived from Lagos, Nigeria
38 July 22, 1942 0510 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Departed for Freetown, Sierra Leone
39
0620 BOAC Clare Short S.30 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
40
1646 BOAC Bristol Boeing 314A Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
41 July 25, 1942 1135 PAA Clipper NC.04 Boeing 314A? Arrived from Fisherman's Lake, Liberia
42
1315 PAA Clipper NC.04 Boeing 314A? Departed for Bolama, Guinea-Bissau
43
1848 BOAC Golden Hind Short S.26 Arrived from Lagos, Nigeria
44 July 26, 1942 1816 BOAC Golden Hind Short S.26 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
45
1840 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Arrived from Freetown, Sierra Leone
46 July 27, 1942 1645 BOAC Champion Short S.30 Departed for Lisbon, Portugal
47 July 29, 1942 0715 BOAC Golden Horn Short S.26 Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal
48 July 30, 1942 0640 BOAC Golden Horn Short S.26 Departed for Lagos, Nigeria
49 July 31, 1942 0735 BOAC Cathay Short S.30 Arrived from Lisbon, Portugal

Apparently Bathurst was a major hub for flights transiting between Europe and the African continent. Most of these were British Overseas Aircraft Corporation (BOAC) Short Empire series flying boats (Types S.26 & S.30), cousins of the Short Sunderland, but also many Boeing 314A Clipper Flying Boats provided by the Americans. You’ll note there were a couple flights by Pan American Airways Clipper flying boats as well.

Sadly, one of the Short Empire series flying boats, Clare was lost on September 14th, 1942 in transit from Bathurst, Gambia, to Britain via Lisbon, Portugal. According to Volume One of ‘For Your Tomorrow’: “S.30 Empire Flying-boat G-AFCZ (named Clare) - took off in the evening captained by Fg Off G B Musson, RAF, and little over an hour later signaled it was experiencing engine difficulties. About 20 minutes later there followed an emergency call of  “fire, fire, fire!” Clare’s fate remained unknown until the 16th, when searching Catalina G-AGDA located wreckage and six bodies floating in the water off the Senegalese coast at position 1420N:1732W. Clare’s six crew and 13 passengers all died; amongst the latter were at least eight tour-expired 37 Sqn personnel being repatriated to Britain, including a New Zealand navigator. The bodies of two RAF members of the Squadron were recovered and buried at Faraja in Gambia, the remainder of their comrades and at least five of the Clare’s crew being commemorated on the Malta Memorial. The other five passengers were apparently Army, Navy or civilian personnel. Operating at the limit of their range, with minimum safety margins, the other S.30s were promptly withdrawn from the route following Clare’s loss.

L/204 and A/204 were sent to search for Clare, but neither were able to find any trace of her. Per the ORB Appendices: “SEARCH: Two Sunderland aircraft were detailed to search for the missing B.O.A.C. Flying Boat “CLARE” from which an S.O.S. message had been received at 2007 hours on the 14/9/42 to the effect that the aircraft was on fire.

L/204 was airborne at 2220 hours and carried out a search of area ZWMF 2910 – ZWMF 2940 – HYMF 2610 – HYMF 2640. No trace of the “CLARE” or any survivors seen. 1 M/L was seen in position ZWMF 0530 at 0038/15. The aircraft returned to Base at 0724 hours 15/9.

The second Sunderland A/204 was airborne at 0707 hours on the 15th, and searched area HYKE 4500 – HYUD 4540 – ZWUD 5040 – ZWMF 1527 – ZWKE 1500. No trace was found of the “CLARE” or any survivors. At 0752 hours 1 M/L was sighted in position ZWMF 1329. The aircraft was waterborne at 1832 hours.

                                                                                                                                   GAM/33, 38/15/9.

In November of 1942, No. 204 Squadron Sunderland’s flew in support of Operation Torch, the allied invasion of North Africa, keeping an eye on Vichy shipping movements. Only one of these flights appears to have been challenged. On November 11th, 1942, Sunderland D/204 was one of four flying boats shadowing the Vichy shipping. They reported: “At 0945 hours one Convoy believed VICHY was seen in position QWDX 0020 – 130 – 10 knots, consisting of one merchant vessel of 12,000 tons, single fawn funnel, one goal-post mast, fore and aft, appearance similar to “Champlain”. One merchant vessel of 10,000 tons black funnel, appearance similar to “CHANTILLY”, another two merchant vessels of 6,000 and 2,000 tons respectively, also one possible escort vessel, also one Latecoere 302 aircraft.  The Convoy was inside Vichy territorial waters, showed no flags or colour. This Convoy was sighted from over 3 miles, as it [D/204] approached to investigate the Latecoere aircraft came up to 1,500 yards and D/204 sheared off, and returned to Base at 1405 hours.

                                                      GAM/076, 77, 78, 79/11/11.”  

While it would have made for an interesting dogfight, everyone behaved themselves, and in this case no shots were fired.

In all, judging by the information on the Common Wealth Graves Commission website, No. 204 Squadron appears to have lost at least 91 men during the war. I say ‘at least’ because during the course of this research I was able to identify five more men that were not correctly identified as having served with No. 204 Squadron, so there could still be more.

In addition to the 91 personnel, the squadron lost 18 Sunderland’s during the conflict:

 

As you can see from the list, the conditions under which they operated caused more casualties than the enemy. Of the 18 aircraft lost, 8 were lost either during take-off or landing, 5 ditched, 3 were shot down, 1 was lost to an accident while moored and 1 to unknown causes. It appears that often when the aircraft would ditch the depth charges would explode as the aircraft sank, resulting in high loss of life. Reading through the ORB’s, in the last year of the war it became standard operating procedure to jettison the depth charges and in some cases fuel on return, whether the aircraft was in distress or not, just to be on the safe side.

As noted, Sunderland N9028 KG-A, which was shot down over Norway on July 21st, 1940 included American Gerald Edwin MacDonald. MacDonald was actually born in Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada on May 5th, 1921. His father Samuel was born in Manitoba Canada and his mother Hazel was born in Bay City, MI. They had only immigrated to Washington State in July of 1939 and became U.S. Citizens, retiring to a farm outside Edmunds, WA, just North of Seattle. His father Samuel registered for the draft in April of 1942 at the age of 62, but is not believed to have been called up. Gerald’s U.S. citizenship has been called in to question as he had so recently immigrated. An official ‘REPORT OF THE DEATH OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN’ was filed (see below), and it was noted a year after he went missing that he was “Believed to be an American citizen”. His body was never recovered and sadly his parents held out hope for a year that he would be reported as a prisoner of war, until the RAF updated his status to “presumed killed in action”. Besides his parents, Gerald left behind two older brothers, Glenn and Vernon, and two sisters, Grace and Hazel.


No. 204 squadron was not credited with any U-Boat kills, however overall, Sunderland’s accounted for 26 U-Boats during the war. U-Boats claimed 11 Sunderland’s, although none from No. 204 squadron.

The only direct action against U-Boats that I could find for 1942 was in April. The ORB read: “18/4/42 CONVOY ESCORT. Two Sunderlands were detailed to escort Convoy “SL.107”.

The first Sunderland C/204 was airborne at 0458 hours to carry out the escort of “SL.107”. At 0701 hours the aircraft sighted a Submarine in position, 10.15.N 18.48.W., which had submerged before the aircraft could arrive overhead. A sighting report was sent to base at 0715 hours, but by this time there was no further sign of the Submarine and a search was commenced. At 0752 hours another sighting was made with the submarine on the surface, course 010 – 8 kts., and an amplifying report was transmitted to base. At 0800 hours the aircraft advised base that it was resuming the search for the Convoy, at the same time submitting a weather report to base. Base signaled the aircraft at 0855 hours to return to the U-boat position after meeting the Convoy. At 0922 hours the Enemy Submarine was again sighted and two D.C.’s were dropped as submarine appeared to dive. Oil streaks were observed near the spot where the D.C.’s struck the surface; the course and speed of the submarine were – 290 – 8 kts., visibility  - 6/8 miles. A message was received by the aircraft from Freetown, “You will be relieved by D/95 at 1240 – return to Convoy.” C/204 replied to this message at 1010 hours with, “Have attacked U-boat – oil observed, 2 D.C. left, continuing search for Convoy.” The Convoy “SL.107” was met at 1200 hours in position, 10.00.N 19.10.W. The Convoy comprised, 29 Merchant Vessels and 2 Escort Vessels, 2 Destroyers having been detached from the Convoy to search for the U-boat. Another message was received from Freetown; “Return to U-boat position periodically until D/95 arrives.” At 1416 hours the Convoy was left in position, 10.07.N 10.32.W. – 289 – 7 ½ kts. C/204 was waterborne at base at 1648 hours.

The U-boat that C/204 had attacked was U-505 (KrvKpt. Axel-Olaf Loewe), which was returning to its base in Lorient, occupied France after its successful second patrol, during which Loewe had sunk four vessels off Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. The damage was termed “minor”, and the U-505 made it safely back to base on May 7th, after a patrol of 86 days.

According to an article on History.net, crewman Hans Goebeler who was aboard at the time of the attack described it as follows; “At one point, a technical failure caused the relief valve on diving tank No. 7 to stick in the closed position. The resultant imbalance of weight caused the U-boat to float on the surface with its stern sticking up into the air at a 40-degree angle. The crew experienced several anxious moments before Loewe could get the boat on an even keel and dive to escape an approaching British Short Sunderland flying boat. Loewe’s handling of the incident impressed Goebeler. ‘This was one time when a Kapitän would have been justified for yelling, but he remained cool and calm,’ Goebeler recalls. ‘We had a lot of respect for the Kapitän‘s self-control, even though our boat looked like an ostrich, with our head buried in the water and our tail up in the air!’

Loewe made one more patrol on U-505 before being promoted off the boat to a shore position. Over his three patrols he sank seven vessels totaling 37,832 tons. He survived the war as passed away in 1984.

The U-505 (then under the command of Oblt. (R) Harald Lange) was famous for eventually being captured off Mauretania by a USN hunter-killer group two years later on June 4th, 1944 during which her four rotor enigma code machine was retrieved. Goebeler was still serving aboard the U-505 and was the man that opened the main sea valve in a desperate attempt to scuttle the U-boat before the allies could capture her. The U-505 is currently on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science andIndustry. I highly recommend a visit if you have an opportunity to do so.

The only other potential attack on a U-boat I could find in the set of records I received occurred on March 9th, 1943. The report reads: “9/3/43: BLOCKADE RUNNER: Sunderland C/204 was airborne at 0314 hrs. on BLOCKADE RUNNER SEARCH. At 1142 hrs. a Submarine on the surface was sighted, on Port Bow 2 miles distant, in position [unreadable] – 190 – 12/15 kts. The aircraft lost height preparatory to attacking but came too close and at too great an altitude to warrant a successful attack, so circled again losing height. The Submarine took no evasive action and no apparent offensive action causing doubt as to whether allied or enemy. At this point the Port outer engine failed, causing the aircraft to bank steeply to Port and preventing further investigation. Two bullet holes were subsequently found in the forward rear turret. At 1115, the aircraft maintaining height on three engines [the next two lines were typed over each other making it difficult to read, however the gist of it appears that they attempted to get in position for another attack. It continued:] Flight Engineer having remedied defects. At 1232 the French Cruiser George LEYGUES was sighted in position [unreadable] – 030 – 18kts. The Cruiser was asked by Aldis Lamp if there was a French Submarine in the area and replied “No” [The French submarine La Sultane was attacked on January 6th]. At 1240 course set to search area to extreme limit of endurance. Search concluded at 1311 hrs. and course set for base. Waterborne at 1710 hrs.

Sunderland A/204 took off at 1410 to continue the search, but nothing was found. The Flight Engineer mentioned in C/204’s failed attack was Sergeant W. McTaggart, who received the Distinguished Flying Medal for that and two other occasions when he climbed inside the wing to affect the engine repairs in-flight. C/204 was noted as being only 100 feet above the water when “Sgt. McTaggart without hesitation succeeded in entering the Wing and repairing the engine”.

It is unclear from the ORB where C/204 was flying from, but it was sent to Port Etienne on February 16th. If from Bathurst, there were no U-boats within the nine KM grids within range. If C/204 had been detached further to the north at Port Etienne, then four U-boats were within range: U-66 (Markworth) and U-504 (Luis) in position DH71 (28°57'00"N, 022°54'00"W), and closer still, U-202 (Poser) and U-558 (Krech) in position DH77 (27°09'00"N, 022°54'00"W). Unfortunately, none of these U-boats list an air attack against them on this date in uboat.net’s summaries, nor do any of them mention it in BdU (headquarters) KTB’s for this time period.

Finally, one more notable action the ORB’s revealed occurred on August 12th and 13th of 1943 when No. 204 Squadron Sunderland’s H/204 and F/204 helped save 7 crewmembers of a German U-boat. The U-boat had been sunk by a No. 200 Squadron Liberator D/200 (they had upgraded from their Hudson’s starting in July of 1943). The Sunderland’s were actually searching for the survivors of D/200, when H/204 found a dinghy 7 hours into their patrol at 1451. They dropped two Lindholmes (self-inflating dinghies) which were picked up and they circled the dinghy for over 3-1/2 hours taking pictures. Before they left at 1835, they dropped emergency packs and two flame floats. Sunderland F/204 took off at 2323 to continue the search and rescue efforts. At 0445 they sighted the dinghy and guided the Flower Class Corvette HMS Clarkia (K 88) to the scene, which arrived at 0630 and signaled to F/204 that the survivors were German. This turned into somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as the entire crew of D/200 were lost in the attack and sinking of U-468, and the German’s were the only surviving witnesses to the battle.

According to uboat.net: “The B-24 pilot, Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg RNZAF, who sank U-468 but perished with his entire crew in doing so, was awarded the Victoria Cross based solely on the testimony of officers from the U-boat, including the commander, Oblt. Klemens Schamong. This was the only instance in the war of a statement from the enemy resulting in the award of such a high decoration. F/O Trigg pressed home his attack even though his aircraft was on fire and flying extremely low, an example of extraordinary bravery.” You can read more about the attack here.

No. 200 Squadron’s costly success against U-468 would be the RAF’s only success in the theater. Two more U-boats were lost off West Africa in 1943, U-105 in June and U-403 in August, both to air attacks by our new Free-French allies off Dakar.

1943 would see the shipping losses drop to twenty-four, mainly concentrated in the spring. The last allied loss in the area would be in November, when U-68 (Lauzemis) sank the French freighter Fortde Vaux off Monrovia.

After this the German’s seem to have largely abandoned the theater, and 1944 and 1945 saw the losses finally drop to zero. In 1944 the gap between No. 204 squadron and their compatriots in West Africa and allied units operating off the east coast of Brazil, in which the U-Boats had attacked with impunity earlier in the war, was finally closed by USN Hunter-Killer groups with escort carriers and teams of destroyer escorts. 1944 saw the loss of eight U-boats, including the critical capture of the aforementioned U-505.


 Charles N. Bamforth

Bamforth’s amazing life is eloquently detailed in the book; Iron Jaw: A Skipper Tells His Story – Captain Charles N. Bamforth (1895-1975) – ISBN 0-8059-5417-1. The book was compiled and edited by his two sons, Charles A. Bamforth and Richard A. Bamforth, from incredibly detailed handwritten diaries, logs and personal letters the captain kept.
This copyrighted material is used with permission of the Bamforth family. It was first published in 2002 by Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but is currently out of print. Copies can still be obtained by contacting Richard A. Bamforth at P. O. Box 5068, Augusta ME 04332 or prbamforth@gmail.com.

I actually obtained my copy a few years ago when I first met former American-Hawaiian officer Rodman Dickie at one of George Duffy’s Mass Maritime Academy luncheons. Rodman asked me if I had heard of the book, which I hadn’t, and suggested I pick up a copy since I was interested in American-Hawaiian. I found a paperback copy in great shape at an on-line used book dealer I had used before. I couldn’t put it down when it finally arrived in the mail. Bamforth must have either commanded or piloted virtually every vessel in their fleet at some point over the years. The copy I had included the e-mail address for Richard Bamforth, whom I contacted soon thereafter. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, and regular visitors to the site will recognize the passages from the book that Richard and his brother Allan have allowed me to include here and there that relates to Arkansan’s story.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in the Merchant Marine for the first half of the twentieth Century, including both World Wars. At 426 pages it would be impossible for me to cover everything here and do it justice, especially listing all his voyages, but instead I will hit the highlights, and recommend you get the book for yourself.


Charles Nathaniel Bamforth was born in 1895 and grew up in South Lincoln, Massachusetts. He left school while in the ninth grade at the age of 15 to go to work to support the family. At the age of 18 he decided he needed to find a way to make his own way in this world. He applied for and was accepted to the newly renamed Massachusetts Nautical School in the fall of 1913.


At this time the training ship was still called the Ranger, and under the command of 57-year-old retired U.S.N. Commander Charles Nelson Atwater, who had joined the school in April of 1911. According to the school’s annual report, Atwater “served on many naval training ships, and was superintendent of the Pennsylvania Nautical School, in command of the U. S. S. Saratoga and U. S. S. Adams for several years.” According to his obituary, he had entered naval service in 1873, and had been Executive Officer of the training ship Monongahela for four years. His last active duty was in the Intelligence Department of the Bureau of Navigation, which he retired from in 1905.


This was a time of great change and expansion for the U.S. Merchant Marine. During Bamforth’s first year in school, three significant events occurred:

  1. July 28th, 1914 the First World War broke out in Europe, although America remained neutral at first, which caused a huge spike in demand for American ships and crews.
  2. August 15th, the Panama Canal opened, greatly increasing the number of voyages that could be made between the east and west coasts.
  3. August 18th, an amendment to the Panama Canal act became effective, allowing foreign built ships, owned by American citizens, to be admitted to American registry for deep-sea trade. This caused an increased demand for American officers.
His first summer cruise, which began in May of 1914, was cut short when the Ranger’s crankshaft broke about 550 miles northeast of Bermuda. Perhaps a good thing considering what was about to happen in the Atlantic. They made it back to Boston under their own power, mostly sail, about two weeks later. The Ranger was out of commission the rest of the summer while a new crankshaft was made and installed. Their remaining training was done in port, followed by the usual winter term.

Due to the war in Europe and the threat this posed to vessels in the Atlantic, the summer cruise of 1915 was changed for the first time. Rather than cruising east across the Atlantic to northern Europe or the Mediterranean, they were to cruise south through the West Indies to the Panama Canal and back up the east coast of the United States (See Map below). This modified route was maintained until 1921, when Arkansan’s Master Paul R. Jones would benefit from the resumption of the European cruise.



Commander Atwater resigned at the end of April just prior to Bamforth’s 1915 cruise. He was replaced by Capt. P. W. Hourigan, U. S. N., retired. According to the school’s report, Hourigan was “the author of a manual for the handling of vessels under sail, which was adopted as a textbook by the United States Naval Academy, where he served a tour of duty as instructor in seamanship; for three years he was commanding officer at the Naval
Training Station at Newport, R. I., and a large part of his twenty-two years at sea was spent on board the sailing ships "Trenton," "Enterprise," "Jamestown," "Lancaster," "Alliance" and "Kearsarge."

Bamforth graduated in the fall of 1915 at the age of 19. At the time, men had to be at least 21 to sit for officer’s exams, and since most graduates were between 18 and 20 they served as Quartermasters when they first graduated.


Commander Atwater would later return when Hourigan became ill. He commanded Ranger, now re-named Nantucket, from August 14th, 1918, to April 22nd, 1919, when he died unexpectedly of a heart attack on deck. Nantucket was in port in Boston preparing for the 1919 summer cruise. Hourigan would pass away in 1920, and be replaced by Armistead Rust, who would train Jones and Bernard.


In an almost ‘Forest Gump’ way, Bamforth always seemed to find himself in the middle of some historic event. His first assignment was as a Quartermaster on the small laker, George Hawley, carrying supplies to Galveston Texas shortly after a Category 4 Hurricane devastated the city. On their way back they stopped in New York and Bamforth admired the well-maintained American-Hawaiian vessels Virginian, Alaskan and Mexican.


Soon thereafter he visited a couple of classmates who were serving as Quartermasters on the Montanan. That’s all it took. He applied for and soon received a position as Quartermaster on the Montanan. After several voyages to South America Bamforth earned his Second Mate’s license, but the timing was bad as American-Hawaiian had no openings for officers. Needing to find work, he briefly joined another company at the end of 1916. By the spring of 1917 American-Hawaiian had some openings and Bamforth joined the SS Californian as Third Mate and remained an American-Hawaiian man for most of his career. The day Bamforth first sailed on the Californian was April 6th, 1917, the same day America declared war on Germany and joined the fray on the side of the Allies.


The Master of the Californian was a man named Curtis, perhaps Frank E. Curtis who would later be Master of Iowan in 1920. He had previously been the Master of Columbian, which was stopped and scuttled under the Prize Rules by U-49 (Richard Hartmann) on November 8th, 1916.


From April 1917 to January 1918 Bamforth made three trips on the Californian between Baltimore and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On their return from his third voyage, the Army took over the ship and had them load war materials for France. Captain Curtis was reassigned to a USSB position in England, and Master Malman took over command of the Californian. They sailed for France in convoy at the end of February 1918, returning to the US in May.


Bamforth left the Californian at the end of this voyage and was assigned to the new West Eagle, commanded by 46-year-old Master Maynard A. Young of Hancock, Maine, and set sail for France on May 25th. His former ship, Californian, would hit a mine and sink in the Bay of Biscay on her next voyage on June 22nd, 1918, though all crew appear to have survived.


The West Eagle smoked badly and broke down several times on the way, but they finally reached France by mid-June. Several other failures occurred but they made it back home in early August. West Eagle was laid up for a month as the Navy added wooden bulkheads in an experiment to see if they could make her unsinkable. West Eagle had only been completed in March of 1918 by Ames Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. in Seattle, WA. Apparently not one of their best efforts. She was originally intended to be named War Cupid for the British, but was requisitioned by the USSB. She was eventually broken up in Philadelphia in 1924, a remarkably short career of only 6 years.

In September of 1918 Bamforth became Chief Mate of the West Hampton, also under Master Young, and they sailed for France on his 3rd trip of the war to Europe. The voyage over was fairly uneventful except for briefly losing their steering gear and falling behind for a time. The real challenge was making it home. They had collided with a stone pier in France, and although temporary repairs were made, heavy weather encountered on the voyage home caused the repair to fail and her pumps couldn’t keep up with it. To make matters worse, the flooding caused their cargo of pyrite to shift, making the vessel very unstable. Bamforth was instrumental in saving the ship. They eventually limped in to Halifax, Nova Scotia. While they were struggling to keep afloat and make port the war ended.



Bamforth made one more trip to Europe on West Hampton under Master Young, this time to start ferrying material back. Young transferred to the Alaskan, and Bamforth made one more trip on West Hampton. Bamforth re-joined Young on the Alaskan in October of 1919. On their voyage home in January 1920 Master Maynard Young died unexpectedly, and Chief Mate Bamforth had to assume command and get the ship home. Young was buried at sea.



After Alaskan he served as Chief Mate on the passenger steamer Mount Clay, operated by United American Lines, a subsidiary of American-Hawaiian. Mount Clay had a very interesting history.



She was originally launched in Stettin, Germany in 1904 as Prinz Eitel Friedrich, and served the next 10 years in Far East service with the German steamship company Norddeutsche Lloyd. She was in Tsingtao, China when the First World War broke out and quickly converted into an armed auxiliary cruiser. Her civilian Master was replaced by Korvettenkapitän Max V. Thierichens, formerly of the gunboat Luchs. She spent the next seven months working her way eastward across the Pacific, around Cape Horn and north into the Atlantic, sinking eleven vessels for a total of 33,000 gross tons in the process. Her victims included the first American flag vessel lost during the war, the schooner William P. Frye, thought to be carrying wheat to Britain. In March, low on fuel, engines in need of overhaul, and crowded with passengers from her victims she sailed into neutral Newport News and was interned. When America entered the war in 1917 she was seized, converted to a troop transport and renamed DeKalb. She carried the first U.S. troops to Europe, and over the course of eleven trans-Atlantic voyages, transported over eleven-thousand men to the war zone. See here, here and here for more information.


Bamforth served as Chief Mate on Mount Clay for nearly two years, from November 1920 through June 1922, running between New York and Hamburg. Bamforth also married Dorothy Allan during this time.


At the end of June, 1922 he finally became a Master, of the Nevadan at the age of 27. After Nevadan he would also command Ohioan, Dakotan, and then Arizonan. These voyages were all inter-coastal runs.


In September of 1926, he was assigned to the Pennsylvanian which he commanded for 12 years, with the exception of a few temporary assignments on Ohioan, Golden Tide, and Missourian. This period included the Great Depression of 1929, and later, several remarkable months during the winter of 1936-37 when he was strikebound in Seattle and took care of the vessel by himself. His ingenuity and resourcefulness was at its peak, and well documented in the book, including a letter to President Roosevelt. The Pennsylvanian would eventually be scuttled off the coast of Normandy to reinforce the artificial breakwater after the invasion. Rodman Dickie made seven voyages on her from May 1943 to June 1944, and was Chief Mate when she was scuttled.



Bamforth became a Coastal Pilot for American-Hawaiian in October 1938. Vessels he piloted during this time were the Virginian, Arkansan’s sister Alabaman, Montanan, Ohioan, Mexican, and Californian (II). During this period Germany invaded Poland, igniting the Second World War. In October of 1939 he had a trip to west coast as a relief Master of the Texan. At the beginning of 1940 he resumed his piloting with Oregonian, Missourian, Virginian, then two of Arkansan’s sister’s, Floridian, followed by Carolinian. There were likely many, many more. Rodman Dickie recalls that Bamforth piloted Arkansan for a portion of one of their voyages, though there is no mention in Bamforth’s book.


On July 1st, 1941 he was asked to take over as Master of the Illinoian for a voyage to India with war materials for the British. They were in India when Arkansan was bombed in Suez. They were on their way from New Orleans to Baltimore when they received the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and our entry into the war.


In January 1942 Bamforth briefly became American-Hawaiian’s Port Captain in New York, but in February had to relieve Honolulan’s Master Sutton for their fateful voyage detailed above.


After repatriation there was a Coast Guard hearing over Honolulan’s loss, and Bamforth was cleared of any wrongdoing. After a few weeks of rest & relaxation, with a shortage of vessels
(we had really taken a beating during the summer of ’42, and the flow of new Liberty ships had not yet caught up), Bamforth activated his Navy Reserve Commission and reported for duty. Due to a confusing misunderstanding, his assignment as Commander of the Training Ship American Seamen (a position he was ideally suited for) fell through. The Navy, in their infinite wisdom, then assigned this veteran ship’s Master Mariner to a shore position. He spent the winter of 1942-43 in Portland, Maine as Port Director, or as he referred to it, "as Stevedore". In April the Navy compounded the error when he was sent to Virginia to learn how to be a Seabee and took command of a Battalion. At the age of 48, he ran the obstacle courses with his men (most in their late teens and early twenties) during the day while studying his management and engineering at night.

Keep in mind he had dropped out of school in the 9th Grade to earn money for his family, and despite a decent education at the Massachusetts Nautical School, it had been nearly 28 years since he had graduated. Simply astounding determination to overcome the physical and mental challenges.

 

In October of 1943 Bamforth and his Battalion was sent to the Pacific theater and served the next six months of the war in a muddy, back-water supply depot on Banika Island in the Russells. In the spring of 1944 he was assigned to several camps in California to train for amphibious landings.


In September of 1944 he was finally recognized for his leadership on the Honolulan and awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. By October 18th, 1944 the Navy finally got it right and he reported for Duty at Pearl Harbor as a port pilot, where he spent the remainder of the war. He would pilot dozens if not hundreds of vessels in and out of port during this period.


Likely the most interesting vessel Bamforth ever piloted was the behemoth Imperial Japanese submarine I-401, at the time along with her sister I-400, the largest submarine in the world. Essentially a submersible aircraft carrier with three tandem seat aircraft, she had been surrendered at the end of the war and taken to Pearl for evaluation at the beginning of 1946. Bamforth piloted her into the harbor and then later back out (not an easy job with her off-set bridge) before she was sunk during weapons tests off the coast of Kalaeloa. See here and here for more information.


He left the Navy in June of 1946 and returned to the states, restarting his American-Hawaiian civilian career. His first assignment was Mount Tamalpais under subsidiary Mount Steamship Company. After several interesting voyages to the Black Sea port of Odessa and later to Belgium, he left in August 1947 to become a company Coastal Pilot again. He was eventually federally licensed for all waterways from Maine to Virginia.



He served in that capacity for the next five years until April 23rd of 1953 when American-Hawaiian finally ceased operations. He had spent thirty-seven years with American-Hawaiian. Luckily he was quickly able to find a position as a Coastal Pilot with Waterman Steamship Company. Waterman was taken over in 1955, however, and Bamforth next joined an independent Pilot’s agency.


By 1956, at the age of 60 he was in business for himself and working as hard as he ever did. He would pilot over 1,500 vessels between 1957 and 1975. His health failing, he allowed his license to expire in the spring of 1975.


Captain Charles Nathaniel Bamforth passed away in November of 1975 at the age of 80. True to form, he was working on a house repair at the time. An amazingly full and active life.


 U-582 and Werner Schulte

According to Uboat.net, Werner Schulte was born in Kiel, Germany on November 7th, 1912 (the year before Bamforth started his training). Kiel is located in the North of Germany on the Baltic Sea, and was one of the major naval bases and shipbuilding centers of the Third Reich. As such, it suffered heavily from Allied bombing raids during the war.


Schulte joined the Kriegsmarine in the spring of 1937 at the age of 24, and graduated with Crew 37a. His classmates included Siegfried Kietz, who was in command of Arkansan’s U-126 when she was lost with all hands, and Oskar-Heinz Kusch of U-154 that witnessed the loss.

From March 1938 to April 1940 he served as Gunnery and Divisional Officer on the light cruiser Köningsberg. During this time he was promoted to Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant-Commander). He then served on the staff of Naval Commander at Bergen, Norway (which had just been taken by the German’s that summer) until October 1940 when he joined the U-Boat force. His U-Boat training lasted from October 1940 to March 1941 when he began his U-Boat Commander training with the 24th flotilla at Memel, finishing the course in April.


In May Schulte was sent as ‘Commander in Training’ on one patrol on the U-98 (Robert Gysae), patrolling southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland. They sank the British Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Salopian (F 94), and the British steamers Rothermere and Marconi over the course of eight days for a total of over 23,000 GRT.


Schulte was then sent to U-boat familiarization (Baubelehrung) in July before taking command of his own boat, the new Type VIIC U-582, commissioned in Hamburg on August 7th, 1941. U-582 was attached to the 5th flotilla (Training) at Kiel upon commissioning and began tactical exercises. During this time period Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese and America entered the war. According to post-war allied interrogation reports, during U-582’s tactical exercises she was rammed by U-503 (Otto Gericke) and sustained slight damage. About this same time she helped search for survivors from U-583 (Heinrich Ratsch) which had been rammed and sunk by U-153 (Wilfried Reichmann). U-583 was lost with all hands.


First Patrol

U-582
left Kiel for its first war patrol on December 20th, 1941 proceeding through the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, into the North Atlantic. The next several days they proceeded tight along the coast of Norway and on Christmas Eve made their turn west.


On Christmas morning, U-582 was about 120 miles NNE of the Shetlands when they were ordered to proceed to Trondheim, Norway at once in order to “replace stud-bolts of exhaust valves”. Schulte had his mechanics check the bolts and they appeared fine, which confused them, but they reversed course and headed for Trondheim that afternoon. They planned to arrive there about 4:00pm the following day.


On their way they ran into a ferocious winter storm, at the top of the wind and sea scales. It wasn’t until late morning on December 27th that they were able to meet their escort trawler at the entrance to the fjord. Before they could even reach Trondheim, however, they were ordered to turn around again and head south with U-135 (Friedrich-Hermann Prätorius), U-156 (Werner Hartenstein), and U-87 (Joachim Berger) towards Ålesund, Norway where the British had launched a surprise commando raid called Operation Archery.


They ran into bad weather again, and by the time they neared the area the British had already withdrawn. Around mid-day on the 28th they were ordered back to Trondheim to affect repairs. The other U-Boats were ordered to proceed into the Atlantic on their patrols and report fuel amounts.


U-582 entered Trondheim fjord around 9:00pm that evening. After about 2 hours they decided to anchor in the fjord due to bad visibility. They finally reached Trondheim the following afternoon. U-582 was tied up alongside the maintenance ship Huascaran from December 30th through January 2nd where a team from Blohm & Voss exchanged the stud-bolts on the exhaust valves. U-582 departed Trondheim around mid-day on January 3rd, clearing the fjord later that evening on a course of 255° to resume their patrol.


Schulte was assigned to Wolfpack Ziethen (named for former Calvary officer) along with ten other U-Boats to operate off Newfoundland from January 15th to the 22nd. On January 26th they sank the British tanker Refast south of St. Johns. They also sighted neutral Swedish, Portuguese, and Red Cross vessels, but claimed no further successes. On January 29th they head for their new home in Brest, occupied France. During their return on February 2nd they were tasked with performing search and rescue operations to the west and north of the area were the German blockade runner Spreewald was accidentally sunk by U-333 (Peter-Erich Cremer). On February 4th U-582 had to resume her homeward voyage due to lack of fuel. They arrived in Brest on February 7th, 1942, the same day Bamforth and the Honolulan left New York on their last voyage.


Second Patrol

Schulte and U-582 left Brest on March 19th, 1942 for their second war patrol, and were part of the second wave of attacks on the American east coast. This would turn out to be a particularly frustrating patrol for Schulte and his crew, especially since this was a period of great success for the U-Boat forces.


U-582 was out nine days before they received their orders. This may have partially been because BdU was considering moving their headquarters further inland where it would be safer, a point reinforced by the British commando raid on St. Nazaire on March 27th. On the 28th U-582 was ordered to escort the blockade runner Rio Grande through the Bay of Biscay, but waited in vain several days because Rio Grande decided to continue alone to Bordeaux.


U-582 then crossed the Atlantic to her first patrol area north of Bermuda and only spotted a neutral Portuguese steamer before they had to leave to refuel from U-459. The refueling itself was delayed due to other U-Boats and rough seas. When U-582 finally arrived in the patrol area off Cape Hatteras in early May 1942 it was discovered that the boat had received provisions for only about 9 days and not for 18 as expected.


U-582 could only operate in the patrol area for a few days before they had to leave for their return voyage. This may have been compounded by it being a full moon period when they were there, which would have limited their ability to surface at night during their prime hunting time. On the whole patrol U-582 only encountered enemy ships twice: a failed triple shot at a fast passenger ship and an encounter with a convoy while returning on May 15th, but Schulte was ordered by BdU not to attack.


They arrived back at Brest empty handed on May 24th after nine and a half weeks on patrol. Honolulan was anchored off of Bombay at this time. BdU mentioned in his commentary about the unsuccessful patrol of U-582 that they were simply unlucky and it wasn't the fault of Schulte that the boat returned without success.


While U-582 was in port preparing for their next patrol, and Honolulan was preparing to sail for Cape Town, SKL (High Command of the Kriegsmarine), issued the following order, which was radioed by BdU to all U-Boats on June 5th, 1942: “Captains of all ships sunk are to be taken on board as prisoners, with the ship's papers, provided getting them aboard does not endanger the boat or reduce her fighting power by raising the consumption of provisions.


Third Patrol

U-582
left Brest on her third war patrol on June 22nd, 1942, the day after Honolulan entered the Mozambique Channel. Schulte’s First Watch Officer Hermann Rossmann left the U-582 prior to this patrol for commander training and was replaced by Wilhelm von Trotha. Rossmann would be killed later in the war, 18 days into his first patrol in command of U-273.


This would prove to be Schulte’s most successful patrol. As mentioned in ‘The Attack’ section above, U-582 was assigned to Wolfpack Hai (Shark) and operated off the west coast of Africa, sinking the British Port Hunter (which was carrying the patrol craft HMNZS ML-1090) on July 12th and Empire Attendant on July 15th. The two steamers were both carrying ammunition and suffered very high casualties. Port Hunter was initially missed by a spread of two torpedoes. Schulte fired another spread, and one of these hit forward where her ammunition was stored. 88 of her crew were lost in the resulting explosions and the only 3 survivors were men that were sleeping on deck at the time and were blown overboard.  Empire Attendant was initially hit between the stack and aft mast by one of two torpedoes bringing her to a stop. It is assumed that the crew abandoned ship but were not yet a safe distance away when Schulte fired a coup de grace thirty minutes later. This hit forward, igniting her ammunition and killing the entire crew of 59.


Prior to the attack on Honolulan BdU had ordered U-582 to refuel from U-116 and to get provisions for 4 weeks, so luckily for Bamforth, Schulte probably avoided taking prisoners as he expected to be on patrol for several more weeks. The space aboard a VIIC was tight with the standard crew and was even more limited with the war correspondent aboard.
They had used up 11 of their 12 internal torpedoes by this stage. On the 23rd they brought down one of their two G7a torpedoes from the exterior storage container into the bow torpedo room.

On the evening of the 25th, Schulte fired a single torpedo from tube IV at small freighter (described as "type Baron Blythswood") and missed, course 300°, speed 10 knots, in Grid ES 5419. Schulte decided not to press the attack, and proceeded to the rendezvous.
That evening while they were waiting for U-116 they brought their last externally stored G7a down to the aft torpedo room.

They don't spot U-116 until the following evening, July 26th, and spend about 5 1/2 hours taking on fuel and provisions. Schulte make a point of noting that the process goes a lot smoother that their re-supply from U-459 on their previous patrol.

Schulte’s next victim would not be so lucky. Just 5 days after the Honolulan, on July 27th U-582 attacked the American steamer Stella Lykes. The Stella Lykes (picture) was a new C1-B that had been delivered about a year earlier. She was fast too, at 14 knots. U-582 spotted her shadow before dawn. Schulte was down to his last two remaining torpedoes. The first shot was fired from Tube I at 925 meters and brought Stella Lykes to a stop. One man, oiler Max Korb, was killed while on-duty in the engine room. The remaining crew abandoned ship about thirty minutes later. The second shot was fired from Tube V about 30 minutes after that from 500 meters. The U-582 surfaced, and circling the ship, fired 161 rounds of from their 88mm from a distance of between 1,000 and 3,000 meters, until the weapon became unusable. This still failed to sink the Stella Lykes. Eventually, the Germans sent over a boarding crew in one of their inflatable rafts consisting of Oblt.z.S. Rüdiger Beichhold and Mech.Mt.(T) Gericke. They set 7 scuttling charges, which finally did the job. They took the Stars and Stripes from the Stella Lykes home as a trophy. In the photo below you can see the flag displayed on the conning tower of the U-582 as her crew pose with a piece of the Port Hunter.



Since the U-582 was out of torpedoes and therefore needed to return to France, they also took Stella Lykes’ Master, S. Charles Wallace and Chief Engineer Walter Morrison prisoner. Cigarettes, first aid supplies and the course to the nearest land were given to the remaining survivors. The 50 survivors crowded into the single lifeboat under the command of their Chief Mate, Russian-American Peter Okkelman, and made landfall
after 12 days on August 8th, 1942 at Cacheu, Portuguese Guinea (present day Guinea-Bissau). Using the name of the lone casualty, oiler Max Korb, I was able to search on Ancestry.com and find a partial crew list for Stella Lykes from their arrival in Boston on their previous voyage. Using other names from this list, I was able to determine that the survivors were picked up in Freetown, Sierra Leone by the Navy transport USS Chateau Thierry (AP-31). They sailed on August 19th along with the survivor’s from another Lykes’ vessel, SS Cripple Creek. They made another stop in Bathurst, Gambia, finally sailing for New York on August 21st.

Schulte missed with 8 of his 14 torpedoes on this patrol, but it was still very successful with 30,690 tons sunk.

U-582 returned to Brest on August 11th, 1942. Master Sylvester Charles Wallace and Chief Engineer Walter Morrison were transferred to the prisoner-of-war camp Milag Nord, 10 miles north of Bremen, and spent the remainder of the war there. They were eventually repatriated on February 21st, 1945 aboard the Swedish M/S Gripsholm.


Fourth Patrol

U-582
left on her fourth and final patrol on September 14th, 1942. Von Trotha left the boat prior to this patrol for commander training and was replaced by Schulte’s classmate Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Albert Laenebach. Von Trotha would be killed later in the war while in command of the U-745.
Kriegsberichter Arnold Prokop also left U-582 after this patrol, and was later lost with all hands on U-847.

On September 21st, U-582 was assigned a temporary attack area about 700 miles due west of Limerick, Ireland and was assigned to Wolfpack Blitz the following day. On September 23rd, 1942 Schulte sank the Norwegian M/S Vibran in position 42°45’ N, 42° 45’ W. There were no survivors among her 37 crew and 11 passengers. U-582 made contact with a convoy further north which the Germans designated Convoy 55, on or about September 25th, but lost them in the bad weather. The following day U-582 was transferred to Wolfpack Tiger until September 30th. That day U-582 reported they had chased the Norwegian M/S Oregon Express further west, course 240°, 15 knots, but were forced to break off the attack. Oregon Express’ Second Mate/Radio Operator Birger Lunde described the encounter, which you can read here. Later that day, Schulte was actually ordered to head for the area between Greenland and Iceland at ‘economical cruising speed’ for an intended attack on another convoy.


On October 1st, U-582 is assigned to Wolfpack “Luchs” (Lynx) to attack convoy HX-209 bound for Liverpool, England from New York. Schulte spotted the convoy on October 4th, but couldn’t get into position due to Allied air cover and severe weather (described by the Germans as “northwest 8, high swell, hailstorms and moderate visibility”). There was some controversy whether U-582 might have later sunk the American tanker Robert H Colley of HX-209 on October 4th. Some sources state the Robert H Colley broke in two after being hit amidships from a torpedoed fired by U-582. However, U-582 sent a report after this and did not mention the success. Eyewitness accounts from nearby vessels state that there was no explosion, and that the Robert H Colley simply broke in two due to extremely heavy seas, described as 80 foot waves.


The following morning, October 5th, 1942, U-582 was heading north, getting into position east of convoy HX-209. The North Atlantic southwest of Iceland in October is never that great, but was unseasonable bad this year. Seas were rough and there were frequent sleet and snow showers. Cloud ceiling was at 2,000 feet and visibility was 8-10 miles.


Chief Aviation Pilot (CAP) Manuel “Manny” Luke and his crew of Squadron VP-73 had taken off from their base at FAB Iceland (known as Camp Kwitcherbelliakin) at 7:07am that morning. The aircraft was a Consolidated PBY5A “Catalina”, No. 73-P-9 (BuNo 02459) and was painted non-specular blue and gray. Luke's crew consisted of:


Aviation Pilot R.L. Craben – 2nd Pilot
Ensign L.D. Poland – Navigator
ARM2c E.G. Sutherland – Blister
AMM1c J.H. Stewart – Blister
AMM3c L.L. Staffenberg – Tower
AMM3c R. Pope Jr. – Blister
ARM2c Grant Patton – Radio
ARM2c H.W. Hoopengardner – Blister


According to the narrative of Luke’s report: “A/C [Aircraft] had just contacted convoy and was on a course of 130° T, altitude 2000 ft., cutting across the path of convoy when a disturbance was seen bearing 350°, 10 miles. Leading D/R [Destroyer] was directly ahead of convoy and on A/C’s starboard beam. Immediately started run on sighted object which was immediately discovered to be U/B [U-Boat]. U/B was on starboard of convoy immediately ahead of outboard ship and about 15 miles ahead. Attack was made directly down path of U/B – D/B’s [Depth Bombs] were released while U/B was still on surface and perfectly straddled hull. As plume from D/B’s settled U/B disappeared in plume. Conning tower was visible at time of explosion. Oil patches definitely indicate damage to U/B but extent is unknown.


The disturbance they reported was noted later as being “water breaking over decks and conning tower”.


The PBY had been traveling at 2,000 feet at a speed of 105 knots (121mph). As they dove their speed increased to 160 knots (184mph) until they released the depth bombs at an altitude of 75 feet. They did not use radar and appear to have caught the U-582 completely by surprise and there was no return fire or attempt to maneuver, they just attempted to crash dive at the last moment. One man was still visible in the conning tower and the bow was still exposed at the time of the drop.


Four Mark 29 650lb. depth bombs with Mark 24 hydrostatic fuses set for 25 feet were dropped in a stick with 40 foot spacing. Numbers 1 and 3 exploded to the port side of U-582 and numbers 2 and 4 exploded to starboard, with number 3 noted as being opposite conning tower.


Later that day, BdU instructed the U-Boats to break off the attack on HX-209 and form a new patrol line further east. U-582 did not confirm the instructions. After first light on the 6th the convoy attack was finally broken off. U-619, U-620, U-582, U-602, U-662 and U-382, which had not yet reported were told to make their positions. All boats eventually reported in during the course of the day except U-582 and U-619. Schulte had reported trouble with his transmitter before the attack and BdU thought they possibly could not get a report through on her emergency transmitter in the bad weather. U-619 (Kurt Makowski) was sunk with the loss of all hands on October 5th by an RAF Hudson of No. 269 squadron. Instructions continued to be sent to U-582 for several days as the boats re-grouped as Wolfpack Panther. On October 9th BdU noted: “U-582 was also shadowing Convoy No. 57 [HX-209] and reported at 1016/5/10 that her transmitter was out of action. As the boat may not, for this reason, have been able to radio, she is not yet regarded as missing.” Finally on October 13th BdU noted: “No radio message has yet been received from U-582. If the boat's transmitter had been completely out of action she would certainly have tried to reach another nearby boat. She must be presumed lost.U-582 was removed from the list of operational boats on October 14th. On November 1st BdU summarized the losses for October, and noted for U-582: “Schulte W., experienced boat, last report 5 October (transmitter break-down) possibly by N. Atlantic convoy.


Kapitänleutnant Werner Schulte died along with his entire crew of 46 men (average age 23) when the U-582 was sunk in position 58°41'N, 22°58'W by Luke’s PBY. Schulte was posthumously promoted to Korvettenkapitän (Commander) with seniority from October 1st, 1942.


On four patrols with the U-582, Schulte sank 6 ships for 38,872 gross tons in his short career.


According to author Ragnar J. Ragnarsson who wrote ‘US Navy PBY Catalina Units of the Atlantic War’ Osprey Publishing, Limited November 2006, ISBN: 184176910X; “While there was every reason to believe that the attack delivered by CAP Luke resulted in the destruction of the U-boat, for some reason this was apparently overlooked when U-boat attacks were assessed after the war, and the credit for sinking U-582 was given to a Hudson of 269 squadron RAF, which it turned out sank another U-boat on this day in the same area (U-619). In his book, "Cats over the Atlantic: VPB-73 in World War II", Robert L. Carlisle gives credit for the sinking of U-582 to another VP-73 plane, 73-P-12 (#02974), flown by Ensign William R. Huey. This is not correct and the War Diary of U-257 confirms it was the boat attacked by Ensign Huey, from which it narrowly escaped with heavy damage. Manuel Luke didn’t receive the DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] for this attack until in 1998 – 56 years after it took place!


Commander Manuel Luke, USN (Retired) passed away in 2004 at the age of 91.


Remarkably, the PBY survived the war and after changing hands several times over the years it was fully restored in 2004 in the Netherlands and was still flying as of 2009. See here, here, and here for more information.


Epilogue

One interesting result of this research was the discovery that for many years the wrong symbol has been associated with U-582. The majority of U-Boats, but not all, had some 'artwork' painted on the sides or front of the conning tower to personalize them. Similar to how American aircraft typically had 'nose art' during the war.

Georg Högel, a former U-boat sailor who saw service in World War II, wrote 'Embleme, Wappen, Malings deutscher U- Boote 1939 - 1945', ISBN 076430724X, which details the various emblems, coats of arms and markings that were used. His book is considered the "Bible" on the topic, and many dependable sites such as uboat.net have relied on his research.

The specific type of symbol he had associated with U-582 was called a 'Wappen', German for 'Coat of Arms'. Wappens were one of the more popular themes used and often were determined by the city or town that sponsored the building of a particular boat. In the case of U-582, Hogel had associated a wappen consisting of a shield with a large key on it and the number "807". I spent a fair amount of time looking into this and re-created the wappen in color for use on this page (see image to the right). I used Hogel's original black and white sketch and a photo I had seen on this Spanish language U-Boat site. I believe the shield with the key was from the German city of Bremen.

I then began to investigate the significance of this wappen. I couldn't find a link between Bremen and U-582, which was built in Hamburg, or to Werner Schulte, who was born in Kiel. I was also at a loss for the number "807". It didn't appear to have any connection with any numbers associated with U-582 (i.e.; yard number, etc...), or any significance as a date in history. I made a few inquiries which went nowhere, then I posted the question on the ubootwaffe.net forum.

It wasn't too long before Dr. Axel Niestlé, an authority on U-Boats, responded. He informed me that the symbol was actually associated with U-84, an entirely different kind of U-Boat and had pictures to prove it. Some additional pictures he also provided of U-582 also show that there were no markings on the side of U-582's conning tower either. Unfortunately, since all the known photos of U-582 show her with the flag from Stella Lykes draped across the front of the conning tower, there is no way to know whether U-582 may have had something painted on the front of the conning tower or not. For now it is not known if U-582 had any symbol at any point in her career. The only thing that is certain, is that the symbol previously associated with her is incorrect and belongs to U-84.


 Sources


Ancestry.com for crew lists and biographical information on various people related to this story.

Åkerberg
, Dani for his help with the U-582 Wappen correction through the ubootwaffe.net forum and his own site at www.u-historia.com.

Australian War Memorial website for information and photos on H.V. Horner and RAAF personnel lost while serving with RAF No. 204 Squadron.

Aviation Safety Network for information on Sunderland losses.

Ball, Stephen for the use of the images from his copy of Hamburger Illustrierte.

The Bamforth Family, specifically Allan, Dick & his wife Pat for allowing me to use passages from their book:
Iron Jaw: A Skipper Tells His Story – Captain Charles N. Bamforth (1895-1975) – ISBN 0-8059-5417. This copyrighted material is used with permission of the Bamforth family.

Boone, Dave - (tugboatpainter.net) artist who provided the photo of Nevadan from his private collection from the 1930's originally taken by Francis Palmer.

Carey, Richard for information on his father, Harold Carey, RAF.

cieldegloire.com for information on Georges Lemare.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for information on No. 204 Squadron losses during WWII.

Dickie, Captain Rodman L. for information about his time on the Pennsylvanian, and his recollections about Charles Bamforth and for recommending his book.

Evans, John for his book: 'The Sunderland Flying-Boat Queen, Volumes 1 &2 (
Paterchurch Publications, ISBN: 1870745035, 9781870745031).

Fold3.com for military reports relating to this story.

Forum.12oclockhigh.net for information on actions between No. 128 squadron and Vichy French aircraft.

Freetranslation.com for help with initial German to English KTB & Torpedo Report translations.

GenealogyBank.com for information on "Red" Sutton.

Gerhardt, Frank A. at US Maritime Commission website for link to photo page of Stella Lykes.


Hackett, Bob and Kingsepp Sander for their website: ‘SENSUIKAN! - Stories and Battle Histories of the IJN's Submarines’ for information on I-401.

Imperial War Museum for various photos and information relating to this story.

Ketly, Barry for his book: ‘French Aces of World War 2’ (Osprey Publishing, 1999, ISBN-13: 9781855328983) for cover art.

Kolbicz, Rainer for his help with U-582 history and capture order from High Command through the uboat.net forum.

Lake, Jon for his book: ‘Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2’ (Osprey Publishing, 2000, ISBN-13: 9781841760247) for information on No. 204 Squadron.

Lawson, Siri at warsailors.com for information on the Oregon Express, Robert H. Colley, Tankexpress and convoy HX-209.

Library of Contemporary History in Stuttgart, Germany for U-582/Honolulan Torpedo Reports.

The Mariner's Museum at Newport News, Virginia for photo of first Honolulan and Golden Hind.

Mason, Jerry and Charla for U-582 KTB excerpts, BdU KTB's, technical/glossary information from their uboatarchive.net site, assistance with translations and PBY report.


McNeil, Ross for various details relating to Sunderland's of RAF No. 204 Squadron and personnel.

Moore, Capt. Arthur R. for "A careless word...A NEEDLESS SINKING". Eighth Printing - 2006. Published and distributed by the Dennis A. Roland Chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans, Midland Park, NJ. Printed by Reed Hann, Williamsport, PA. for sinking details on the Honolulan.


National Archives for numerous pieces of documentation relating to this story.

National Archive of the U.K. for No. 204 Squadron Operational Record Books.

Naval Grid Calculator for excellent on-line tool to convert German Kriegsmarine Grids into Longitude/Latitude coordinates.

NavSource Naval History for images and data on US Navy ships via: http://www.navsource.org/.

Neilson, Larz F. for providing article and photo’s relating to his father, Captain Larz D. Neilson's  time aboard the Honolulan.

NiestléAxel (Dr. ) for information on U-582's wappen, or lack thereof, and for pictures of U-582.

postedeschoufs.com for information on Vichy Naval Aviation actions with RAF No. 128 Squadron.

Ragnarsson, Ragnar J. for information on CAP Manuel Luke.

Ribbans, Bryan for his 'The Flying Boat Forum' at www.seawings.co.uk, which was of great help in identifying the RAF Sunderlands that assisted the Honolulan survivors - specifically forum member Richard (aka "sunderlandnut").

Roberts, Captain Stephen S. USNR (Retired) on his site shipscribe.com for information on Honolulan origin from the article by Norman L. McKellar  - Steel Shipbuilding under the U. S. Shipping Board, 1917-1921, in ‘The Belgian Shiplover, No. 87 May/June 1962.

Rohwer, Jurgen for information on Japanese activity in Indian Ocean from his book Axis Submarine Successes 1939-1945, Naval Institute Press - Annapolis, Maryland ISBN 0-87021-082-3.

Small, Captain Harold for his recollections of Honolulan and American-Hawaiian.

Thomas, Andrew for his book: ‘Hurricane Aces 1941-45’ (Osprey Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 1472801709, 9781472801708) for information on No. 128 Squadron.

U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center, 100 Forbes Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25404 for Merchant Marine career information on Charles Bamforth.

U.S. Merchant Marine Organization (usmm.org) for information on Honolulan medal recipients and Milag Nord.


Uboat.net for information on Schulte, U-582, their victims, and for information on other U-boats related to this story.


Ubootwaffe.net site and forum for information on U-582 and her crew.
Unfortunately, in January 2013, the site's creator and editor, Howard Cock, decided to indefinitely suspend the ubootwaffe.net website for personal reasons, so I have disabled the hyperlink.

Wikipedia free on-line encyclopedia for summaries on miscellaneous topics related to this story.