The Loss of S.S. CRAFTSMAN in 1941

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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The Loss of S.S. CRAFTSMAN in 1941

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:43 pm

Date of Loss : 9th of April 1941

The story of the loss of this Allied steamer was put together on behalf of her ex-4th Engineer, Mr. George 'Alec' Mitchell of Glasgow, a retired Chief Engineer with some 40 years service in the M.N. In January 1941, Mr Mitchell, at 23 years of age, had completed his fourth trip on the ship and declined to sign on again as he was getting married and the Super was not interested in allowing him leave. As a consequence, the Company, most unhappy at Mr Mitchell's stance, assigned a young Glaswegian engineer a matter of hours before the vessel sailed. A few weeks later, in a position some 800 miles West of Dakar, and 350 miles South of St Paul Rocks, the vessel was lost with many casualties, one of which was the young Glaswegian engineer who had stepped in to fill the void created by Mr Mitchell's decision to remain ashore. For the rest of his life, Mr Mitchell was haunted by the fact that the stand-in 4th lost his life because he signed on as his replacement. Over the years he could not bring himself to research what had happened and how the ship had been lost, he simply could not face it and blamed himself for the young man's loss. Without going into the details of how I came to be involved, two years ago, now an elderly man of 91 years, he asked for my help to establishing the circumstances of the loss of S.S. CRAFTSMAN. With great emotion, he told me that he knew he would not have long to go' and he had taken the decision he could not go to his grave without knowing the details of the loss of his old ship. This was what I told him.

The 7,896 tons cargo-ship S.S. Craftsman was built by the Furness Shipbuilding Company Limited of Haverton Hill-on-Tees, as their Yard No. 17, on behalf of Johnston Warren Lines of Liverpool and, when launched on 21st June 1921, she was named the S.S. ‘Rowanmore’.

A steel construction steamship, she comprised three decks, six cargo holds and goalpost-style masts. Her machinery, manufactured by John Brown & Company Limited of Clydebank, comprised two Brown-Curtiss steam turbines with single-reduction gearing to a single propeller shaft. Her rated speed was 14 knots.

Official Number 146553
Call Sign ( > 1933) GFWL
GRT 7,896 tons
NRT 4,939 tons
DWT 11,335 tons
Length Overall 471.50 feet
Breadth 58.00 feet
Depth 31.27 feet
Cargo Capacity 580,310 cu ft

Whilst fitting out, after launching, she was transferred over to Furness Withy & Company Limited and on completion in May 1922 her name was changed to S.S. ‘Feliciana’. On 15th May 1922, whilst on her maiden voyage from Southampton to Baltimore, she broke down 715 miles West of the Bishop Rock. On 20th May 1922 she limped into Queenstown (Cork) for repairs and, on 3rd June 1922, she was able to resume her voyage.

In December 1922, she was transferred to the Gulf Line Limited of London and renamed S.S. ‘London Mariner’.

In 1928 she was returned to Furness Withy & Company Limited and employed in the services of the Prince Line Limited, for which her name was changed again – this time becoming S.S. ‘Imperial Prince’.

On 10th September 1930 she arrived in the River Blackwater and laid up off Tollesbury, Essex, where she was to lie for almost five years along with so many other merchant vessels affected by the depression and economic slump of these times.

On 28th May 1935, she was acquired by T & J Harrison of Liverpool for the sum of £46,152 and renamed S.S. ‘Craftsman’.

The ‘Craftsman’ was one of four identical freighters built in 1922-1923 by Furness Shipbuilding Company at Haverton Hill-on-Tees Shipyard, for Furness Withy shipping companies, and all of which were laid up for close on five years in the River Blackwater before being bought by T & J Harrison in 1935.

One of these was to become famous the world over as the ‘Whisky Galore’ ship, i.e. the S.S. ‘Politician’, that foundered off the island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides during storm conditions, on the night of 5th February 1941. The four ships were :

Harrison Names Built Harrison’s Costs Fate of Vessel

S.S. Craftsman 1922 1935-1941 £46,152 Sunk by Raider
S.S. Collegian 1923 1935-1947 £44,118 Broken up 1948
S.S. Statesman 1923 1935-1941 £42,985 Sunk by bombing
S.S. Politician 1923 1935-1941 £45,355 Stranded ashore

It was in the service of Harrison’s that the lifespan of the S.S. ‘Craftsman’ came to a premature end, on 9th of April 1941, a victim of the War At Sea during WWII

Whilst on a passage from Rosyth to Izmit in the Eastern Mediterranean, via Table Bay, on Admiralty service, ( and carrying a large anti-submarine net intended for use at the entrance to Cape Town Harbour ) and in a position some 800 miles West of Dakar, and 350 miles South of St Paul Rocks, the ‘Craftsman’ was intercepted by a German Commerce Surface Raider – Raider ‘G’ / Schiff 42 / M.V. ‘Kormoran’ – the ex-Hamburg-Amerika Line’s Motorship ‘Steiermark’ - at 8,736 tons one of the largest of the nine WWII German Surface raiders that patrolled the world’s oceans preying on Allied merchantmen.

The Raider ‘Kormoran’ was under the command of 38-year old Captain Theodor Detmers and had commenced her war patrol on 3rd December 1940, which continued until her own destruction on 19th November 1941, whilst in action with HMAS Sydney.

The ‘Craftsman’ approached the Raider ‘Kormoran’ so fast from astern that at first Captain Detmers feared she might be a British AMC and took evasive action, but having established that she was in fact a freighter, Captain Detmers signalled to her to stop, with the German vessel sending up a large Swastika ensign at her stern at the same time. However, the ‘Craftsman’ tried to escape, sending the radio signal QQQ as she did so. These were jammed by the ‘Kormoran’ wireless operator and the Raider then opened fire from an array of 5.9 inch guns.

After a fierce 10 minute gun battle the stricken freighter stopped, on fire amidships, with 5 of her crew killed, several others seriously wounded, and her Captain blinded by flying sand from sandbags he had deployed on the bridge, along with wood splinters. The Chief Officer, Mr. Lewis, gave the order to abandon ship and, assisted by the helmsman, managed to lift their blind and desperately wounded Captain into one of the two surviving lifeboats. Second Officer W.G. Ellis, dazed and in some considerable pain, found himself being assisted into the other lifeboat by Third Engineer, Dickie Proffitt.

As the boats pulled away from the blazing ‘Craftsman’, a smart motor launch approached, and a white-uniformed officer hailed them in English, ordering the boats’ crews to pull towards the German Raider. Reluctantly they complied, having little option but to do so, and 44 survivors were taken on board ‘Kormoran’ to become prisoners-of-war.

Meanwhile, a demolition team from the Raider boarded the British freighter to set explosive charges around the hull. As these charges went off, the ship started to settle. However, she would not sink, as she was being kept afloat from the buoyancy provided by the large floats attached to the anti-submarine net in her hold.

A torpedo was required to deliver the coup-de-grace, which blew open her stern holds, releasing hundreds of these floats onto the surface. They looked like mines and indeed were subsequently reported as being mines over a very wide sea area, for many weeks afterwards. As S.S. ‘Craftsman’ slowly sank, the German victors recorded her final resting place as 00’ 32” North, 23’ 37” West.

Three days after destroying the ‘Craftsman’, Kapitan-zur-See Theodors Detmers also sank the Greek freighter ‘Nicholas D L’, resulting in another 38 POWs boarding the Raider, once more bringing the total of Allied prisoners on board to an uncomfortably high level, after having already transferred 170 just a few months earlier. Running low on stores and fuel, Captain Detmers proceeded to a pre-agreed rendezvous at Point Andalusie to meet up with German supply ships and in order to transfer POWs again.

POWs were transferred to the German vessels ‘Dresden’ and ‘Nordmark’, which then sailed for Europe. However, Chief Engineer R. S. ‘Jock’ Carruthers was not to make it and died from his wounds during the passage, on 14th May 1941. He was buried at sea. On arrival at Cuxhaven, the Master of the ‘Craftsman’, Captain W. E. Halloway, was whisked away in an ambulance, totally blind and with some very serious injuries. Those who watched him go, including 2nd Officer W.G. Ellis, wondered if they would ever see him again.

Mr. Ellis himself was taken into solitary confinement in a tiny attic room somewhere and remained there for two months, during which time he was frequently interrogated by a succession of German Naval Officers, whom he answered in the same vein consistently, which they finally came to accept. Yes – he had been the Craftsman’s 2nd Officer, No – he did not know where the ship was bound, No – he did not know what cargo she carried, etc. The Germans remarked on how little he seemed to know for one who was clearly an intelligent officer.

Ellis told them that he was not a regular officer, in fact he had been a Bank clerk and was only at sea for the duration of the war following a few weeks on a course for simple watch-keeping techniques, some elementary navigation and seamanship, then away to sea as Third Mate. A few months earlier he had been promoted to Second Mate, but only the Captain and Chief Officer were privy to such information as the ship’s destination, cargo and suchlike, only they took sights and had access to the charts. Eventually the Germans wearied of the cross-examination games and Ellis, duly relieved, was transferred to POW Camp at Sandbostel in Eastern Germany.

Eventually, the British seamen contingent within this Camp were transferred to a special Camp for British and Allied Seamen – Marlag und Milag Nord – situated near Helmstedt. It accommodated some 3,000 prisoners, amongst whom were the survivors and crew of no less than six T & J Harrison ships.

More POWs were arriving every week and, one day early in 1942, a new batch arrived, and Ellis overheard a conversation between a couple of POWs talking about one of the new intake, an old chap, an English Skipper, blind as a bat, stumbling about the wards, completely lost, etc.

Ellis immediately thought of his old Captain who he had last seen at Cuxhaven, bravely bearing his horrific injuries as they carried him away in the ambulance, lost in a new painful, blind and frightening world. Could it be him? Ellis made contact with the ones who had been recounting the story of the ‘old English Skipper’ and asked them if they could tell him more about the man they had been talking about. They were pleased to oblige, and from their description, and what they told Ellis, there was little doubt in his mind that it was indeed his old Captain. He was delighted, for he had not held out a lot of hope of the old boy surviving his injuries.

It took some time, but with perseverance, Mr. Ellis managed to get the necessary permission and documents to visit his old Captain. He was duly escorted by armed guards the few kilometre march to the local hospital where Captain Halloway was located. Navigating endless corridors and staircases, he was finally led into a Ward, where the light was subdued and the windows barred. At once he spotted his Captain, standing erect by his bed, holding on to the metal head-rail. At the sound of Elli’s muted greeting, the Captain’s head came up immediately –

“Ellis? Second Mate? Is that you?” he asked.

“It certainly is, Captain Halloway, and am I glad to see you!” responded the 2nd Mate.

Captain Halloway, despite the glassy stare imparted by a pair of artificial eyes, beamed with pleasure and stretched out his hand for Ellis to grip firmly. The Captain clasped Ellis’s shoulder hard with the other hand, as though loathe to let go, and it was a very emotional moment for these two seamen who had come through so much together. Captain Halloway later told of what a great pleasure it was for him to hear an English voice and be once again in contact with his old and well-remembered world. The meeting which lasted about an hour simply flew in as though minutes, and Ellis was tapped on the shoulder by the guard signalling the visit was at an end.

“I have to go now, Captain Halloway, “ said Ellis regretfully, “but I will be back again soon and before long we will have you out of this place and transferred over to ‘Mersey Chambers’”

“Mersey Chambers?” queried the Captain.

“Yes – that’s what we have called the section of the Camp inhabited by Harrison men!” explained Mr. Ellis. (Mersey Chambers was the building in Liverpool where T & J Harrison and Charente Steam Ship Company had their headquarter offices)

He continued, more cheerily now, “You would be better off in that place than here, I will have to see what can be done to arrange it, you will enjoy the company and know a lot of the people over there.”

Again it took a lot of effort and time but eventually Mr. Ellis succeeded in getting the Captain moved over and he took personal responsibility and custody of his Master with the objective of helping him to overcome as much as was possible his blindness and disabilities. In this he spared no effort and in no time was achieving good results. Both men became very dependent on each other, in their different ways, and also became very good friends in the process.

Teaching the Captain to read Braille, writing letters for him, reading to him - Ellis could never forget the sheer delight in his Captain’s face when he successfully ‘read’ the time, correctly, on a new Braille watch he had received from St Dunstan’s Institution for the Blind. It brought him immense personal satisfaction to see this.
In time, however, the inevitable parting came, some eighteen months later. Captain Halloway, as a result of his infirmities and total blindness was despatched with other medical cases from the Camp and later, along with several hundred other disabled POWs, was repatriated to Great Britain on 26th of October 1943 and disembarked from the hospital ship ‘Atlantis’ in his home port of Liverpool, where his family were waiting to greet him.

Mr. Ellis, meantime, although missing his good friend dearly, was just delighted that his Captain was home safely amongst those who could best care for him.

After the war was over, and Ellis returned home to England, he paid what was to be the first of many and regular visits to see his old Captain, and his wife Mary, at their home in Aigburth Road, Liverpool.

The years passed and Mr. Ellis, who had continued at sea in due course got his own command, and the family moved to an outer district. Although the visits to Aigburth Road became less frequent, a lively exchange of cards and letters continued. However, on 9th of December 1962, Captain W. E. Halloway passed away at the age of 82. Captain Gordon Ellis, who was away at sea at that time, bitterly regretted that he was unable to attend his good friend’s funeral and wrote a brief letter of condolence to Mary Halloway. That, he thought at the time, was that. The end of an era. Except for the annual exchange of Christmas cards, the connection had more or less lapsed – until one morning in the Spring of 1982 when Captain Ellis, by now retired some ten years, received a telephone call.

The unexpected called, after having established Ellis’s identity, revealed himself to be a solicitor dealing with the last will & testament of the late Mrs. Mary Halloway, widow of the late Captain W.E. Halloway, of 352 Aigburth Road, Liverpool. Having further established that Ellis knew the Halloways, although he had not seen Mrs. Halloway for some years, the solicitor told Ellis to expect a letter. Replacing the telephone handset, long dormant and melancholy memories came flooding back to Captain Ellis.

…. he was lying face down on the steel deck, conscious of acute pain in his lumbar region, and of a tropic sun beating down remorselessly. Lifting his head to look about him, he recognised familiar faces from amongst the ‘Craftsman’s’ crew, ranged along the rail under the watchful eyes of several armed sailors………

.... he himself was one of several wounded men lying about in various positions and attitudes of pain while white-coated sickbay attendants moved amongst them. To one side, the Chief, ‘Jock’ Carruthers, lay still as an orderly struggled to stem the bleeding from his shattered legs. Ellis then turned his gaze towards the blackened bloodstained figure which lay quietly beside him … waiting to be attended ……

He did not recognise the wretched figure at first, but something about the set of that bald head struck a chord – it was the Old Man! Clearly in a bad way, Captain Halloway’s body had been blasted when the concrete-protected wheelhouse received a direct hit. A splintered wooden upright had scored savagely down his stomach, tearing it open to reveal intestines and other internal organs.

2nd Officer Ellis tried to stand up but the pain in his back prevented it, excruciating searing pain, and he had to be carried to the ship’s well-equipped hospital where the surgeons probed and successfully removed the pieces of shrapnel embedded in his back…….

A few mornings later, the letter arrived, a heavy manila official-looking envelope. Captain Ellis gazed at it for some time reflecting on his memories before carefully slitting the envelope open and withdrawing the expensive-looking paper from within :

Dear Sir :

…….. instructed to inform you that, under the terms of the last will and testament of the late Mrs. Mary Halloway, relict of the late Captain W.E. Halloway, …. the sum of £500 ….. our cheque is enclosed …… please sign and return the receipt …..

We remain,
Your obedient servants,

Captain Gordon Ellis studied the letter and the cheque in silence. He was deeply touched. The Old man’s wife had remembered him – after twenty years! She had remembered his attempts to bring hope and succour to her husband at the time of his greatest need, and this was her way of saying “We remember – thank you”

It seemed to him quite likely that the couple had discussed the bequest in the closing weeks of old Halloway’s lifetime on this Earth. Ellis could imagine his old Captain saying to Mary “Use it while you need it, dear, and later, if you can see your way clear, don’t forget Ellis”

Captain Gordon Ellis shook his head sadly, he was profoundly moved by the unexpected gesture of his mentor and good friend, as he slowly walked into the kitchen to tell his own wife a remarkable story about a remarkable man – Captain W.E. Halloway, 1880 – 1952.

The Roll of Honour : S.S. Craftsman
Robert Scott Carruthers Chief Engineer 55 years
David Cook Junior Engineer 21 years
Martin Laurence Dunn Fireman 28 years
Francis Joseph Ferns Engine Room Storekeeper 33 years
William Foster Able Seaman 45 years
James Harley Richards Officer Cadet 20 years
Angus Mac Kinnon

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Michael Montgomery
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Re: The Loss of S.S. CRAFTSMAN in 1941

Post by Michael Montgomery » Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:48 pm

There is also evidence that the Kormoran had rendez-vous’d with another Japanese submarine some months earlier in the Indian Ocean. This came from one of the former crew of the British freighter Craftsman sunk on April 9 who had been held prisoner on board until offloaded on to the supply ship Alstertor a month later south of Ceylon/Sri Lanka. Having falsified his age in order to sign on with the Merchant Navy, Colin Weeks was still only aged fifteen at the time and was considered harmless enough by Detmers to be given a degree of freedom of movement about the ship. In 1989 he gave the following (recorded) interview to Michael Montgomery:

Q: Were there any other prisoners there when you came on board?

A: No, none at all.

Q: Because that’s something that I picked up [on] in my book – that Detmers hadn’t got any prisoners that he claimed to have shown such consideration towards during the action with the Craftsman [by promising them to make up their lost turn on deck for fresh air at some later date].

A: That’s right.

Q: There’s also a lot of contradiction between the logbook of the Kormoran and his own book on the lead-up to the action [with the Craftsman].: the logbook shows that he opened fire about 7 o’clock in the morning, whereas in his book Detmers describes a long drawn-oput game of cat-and-mouse lasting well into the afternoon.

A: No, I know that’s not true, because one of my jobs strangely enough in the event of an action was to pass up the ammunition. We were sleeping out on deck actually because it was early in the morning [they were just south of the Equator] – it was certainly nowhere near the afternoon. It was certainly nothing very dramatic – I was on the bridge and we saw this ship ahead of us, then we got so close I could almost have thrown a stone and hit it, that’s how close we were. We were waving at it, that’s how blasé we were. It was flying a Norwegian flag –

Q: You’re sure of that?

A: Oh, definitely, yes.

Q: Because he never mentions flying a Norwegian flag, although I’m convinced that it was a Norwegian flag he was flying when he met the Sydney. There is no mention of his ever flying Norwegian flag anywhere in his account of the whole cruise. If we could go on to when he actually opened fire…

A: Yes. Well, it started when he drew alongside. When we passed him, then he drifted on to our starboard quarter; we were watching him out of interest, of course, then the next thing we saw was the red flash of the first shot, but the flag – we were looking at it – nothing had changed, nothing at all.

Q: The German ensign wasn’t raised?

A: No, nothing. We were so close it was unbelievable, but nothing was run up. Then of course after that he drifted astern further and we couldn’t see his flag any more, and anyway we weren’t interested in flags after that.

Q: The point being, of course, that it was against International Law to open fire under a false

A: Were they really concerned about that?

Q: No, I don’t think they were at the time, but that was something that could be pinned on
them later [after the war].

A: I see. Because really it wasn’t of any concern to us what [flag] they were flying, once they
had opened fire at us. Then one of our gun crew – a young cadet, he was [James Richards,
aged 20] – ran up to the gun, and I think the next shot over the top of it – or something like that
– exploded and he got killed. The captain [W.E. Halloway] was zigzagging, trying to keep the
stern towards him; I’d left the bridge and gone below, and he’d thrown the signal bags and all that overboard. It was a bit comical, you know – papers flying around all over the deck. From then on for the next couple of hours he [Detmers] was blasting away at the time. The point was, why sis he need to? The radio aerial was sown, the captain was injured. – they’d hit the bridge, I was sure our radio operator was killed.. It was two hours, it was really a shooting gallery.

Q: What sort of range was it?

A: Oh, it was so close, it was ridiculous.

Q: Detmers talked about five thousand yards.

A: Oh, no, no, it was nothing like that. The only thing was were being hit on both sides because the captain was turning to try to protect us and we were all in front of the superstructure.

Q: Detmers said in his book ‘After a running fight lasting about ten minutes – ’

A: Ten minutes? With all the will in the world, now could we have lost all those men in ten minutes? Because they were scattered all over the ship: there were two old men in the cabins, then there were all those below, there was a New Zealander taken out dead from the accommodation ladder. We were all scattered everywhere; if he had killed me, for instance, he wouldn’t have killed anybody else because there was no one near me. And then there shells missing – like I said, it was just like a shooting gallery.

Q: According to his book, the action against the Nicolaos [D.L., sunk three days later] was almost a re-run – all over in ten minutes.

A: The Nicolaos D.L.? Well, I mean… When it first started, we thought, well, he’d just caught another ship, when it went on we really we really began to panic because we thought that he must have met up with the Royal Navy and we were doomed, because if this ship goes down, we’re going to go down with it.. That’s what it sounded like, from the time it went on. That’s what we didn’t want, we didn’t want the Navy to catch up with them, because we figured out what the hell…

Q: The next thing that happens is the change of disguise. According to Detmers’ book, he painted the hull grey, the superstructure white and the funnels yellow – the disguise of the Japanese ship Sakita Maru, but according to the logbook he painted the hull black, and adopted the disguise of the Dutch Straat Malakka, although with the idea of a quick change to a Japanese ship. How do you reconcile those?

A: Well, after he sunk the Nicolaos we thought he changed the disguise to the Wolfsfruit [?] or something like that, you know, like one of those Elders & Fyffes boats. He was constantly painting, constantly changing, constantly, constantly, while we were on board. We were trying to guess: one oof our group looked over the side – he got grabbed for that. Another fellow saw something Mark, Stermark, Stenmark, something like that.

Q: Yes, that was her original name – Steiermark.

A: Oh, was it? Then when we met up with these other ships [west of Capetown], I remember one of them was disguised as an American ship, the Dixie from San Diego [in fact the blockade-runner Nordmark]. There were a couple of other ships [fellow raider Atlantis and supply ship Dresden] and a couple of subs [not mentioned by Detmers or his logbook – see below]. The amazing thing was, though it didn’t strike me as very interesting at the time, was that from the lighter – you know, from the submarine – there came aboard these Japanese, three or four Japanese officers in full regalia. Obviously they loved dressing up because they were very correct, the Japanese; you’d wonder why, but there they were, in full regalia – you know, with their swords, their hats, their braid and all that. And actually one of them was going to take a photo of myself because he couldn’t believe how young I was, and he was stopped taking a photo of me, though the movie camera was going all the time, particularly when they [the Kormoran] sank ships, of course. Then just before my birthsay they took a photo of me; Detmers gave me a comb, a bar of chocolate and a brush, and they put them all in my [top] pocket showing. That’s all I remember about it until when I was in Prisoner-of-War Camp a fellow came and said, ‘Hey, did you see that?’ and he showed me this magazine and the photo of me on the front page in colour, ‘The Youngest Prisoner At Sea’. I don’t remember the name exactly – Beobachter?

Q: The Volkischer Beobachter; that was Göbbels’ propaganda sheet.

A: Oh yes. So you see he [Detmers] was interested in our welfare even then; for propaganda, he wanted us to look good. But the Japanese - we never bothered, you know, we never even bothered about it; there was no sort of intrigue in our minds or anything like that – we were just ordinary seamen.

Q. So where did these Japanese come from?

A: Well, from what I can gather, from the submarine, they were on the submarine. There was a Japanese [tender], you know, back and forth; they didn’t come from the ships. They made no secret of it; I mean, they were quite proud of the fact that they could meet like that – I mean, it was quite a spectacle.

Q: And it was a Japanese submarine?

A: Oh yes, it was a Japanese submarine all right. The other ship there was a tanker, and a cargo boat – they were all standing off.

Q: I suppose you couldn’t see any identity mark on the submarine?

A: No, it was just there, simple as that.

Q: I don’t suppose it had a seaplane on board, did it?

A: No, but on the front, I tell you what it had: it was as if it had a gun, a huge long gun, covered with a kind of blister – you see what I mean? We couldn’t see the gun, but we assumed that was what was there.

Q [with a photo of an I-class submarine with a hangar on the foredeck]: Anything like that?

A; Yes, that’s something like it, like a blister.

Q. Quite distinctive – the Germans had nothing like it. Could you see any of the crewmen on the submarine?

A: Oh yes. The funny thing is that when the tender came alongside – because I was in Japan after the war, you see, and I said to one of the fellows [on his ship] because he was remarking on the funny shoes they had and how they were split like a cross, I said, ‘I’ve seen those before’ – when the tender came alongside, I was looking over the side, straight down at the tender – because Detmers let me have the free run of the ship, me being only fifteen, it was as if he was homosexual [he would not marry until he was in his 50s and did not have children] –and I saw the Japanese with their funny shoes, you know, the crew. But the officers – it was as if they had come aboard for a meal, or something – they were dressed to kill, sort of thing…

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Michael Montgomery
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Re: The Loss of S.S. CRAFTSMAN in 1941

Post by Michael Montgomery » Mon Jan 21, 2019 2:17 pm

Dear Angus Mackinnon,
I have just caught up with your post of 20.9.10 about the loss of the SS CRAFTSMAN to the German raider KORMORAN, which I was extremely interested to read as my father was the Navigating Officer of HMAS SYDNEY which 7 months later sank the raider but then disappeared with all 645 hands never to be seen again. In 1989 I had an interview with Colin Weeks, a survivor on the CRAFTSMAN, who gave me a very illuminating description of the action (as in my earlier post). He was then living in Bournemouth, but I gather moved shortly afterwards and I have been unable to trace him since; he would be 92 now and if by any chance he is still alive I would be most grateful for any help that you may be able to give me in contacting him. Alternatively, I would be very interested to hear from anyone who may be able to add anything on the subject.
With my kind regards,
Michael Montgomery tel. 01993 830037

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Michael Montgomery
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Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:54 pm

Re: The Loss of S.S. CRAFTSMAN in 1941

Post by Michael Montgomery » Mon Jan 21, 2019 2:17 pm

Dear Angus Mackinnon,
I have just caught up with your post of 20.9.10 about the loss of the SS CRAFTSMAN to the German raider KORMORAN, which I was extremely interested to read as my father was the Navigating Officer of HMAS SYDNEY which 7 months later sank the raider but then disappeared with all 645 hands never to be seen again. In 1989 I had an interview with Colin Weeks, a survivor on the CRAFTSMAN, who gave me a very illuminating description of the action (as in my earlier post). He was then living in Bournemouth, but I gather moved shortly afterwards and I have been unable to trace him since; he would be 92 now and if by any chance he is still alive I would be most grateful for any help that you may be able to give me in contacting him. Alternatively, I would be very interested to hear from anyone who may be able to add anything on the subject.
With my kind regards,
Michael Montgomery tel. 01993 830037

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Re: The Loss of S.S. CRAFTSMAN in 1941

Post by davidwat » Mon Jan 21, 2019 2:57 pm

Unfortunately, Angus passed away rather suddenly almost 2 years ago. He was a wonderful person, with a fund of knowledge in and a great deal of interest in many subjects. His own career at sea as a junior engineer was cut short by (he said) a misdiagnosis carried out by a Pool doctor, and Angus much regretted that.
david watson

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