By December 1942 the crew of RFA King Salvor were very busy helping to clear the sunken ships which littered the ports of North Africa. These ships had either been sunk through enemy action or by Allied Forces scuttling them to prevent them falling into enemy hands. In addition the ship was on immediate notice to sail to try and save Allied ships which had been the victims of enemy attack and were in danger of sinking.

By December 1942 the crew of RFA King Salvor were very busy helping to clear the sunken ships which littered the ports of North Africa. These ships had either been sunk through enemy action or by Allied Forces scuttling them to prevent them falling into enemy hands. In addition the ship was on immediate notice to sail to try and save Allied ships which had been the victims of enemy attack and were in danger of sinking.

 

The port of Oran was unable to operate fully due to two sunken ships blocking the passage into the inner harbour. The salvage teams were working very hard to clear the ss. Spahi, one of the sunken vessels which would then allow a clear passage for Allied cargos to be delivered and discharged. Elsewhere in Oran Harbour were three floating docks all of which had been scuttled and which also needed to be raised.

 

S.S. Spahi was a cargo ship which was laden with around 1,000 or so hogsheads of Algerian wine. Each hogshead was estimated in holding 140 gallons. The salvage team decided that to raise the ship they would have to remove the cargo. One of the holds was opened up and a hogshead was cleared from its stowage - it was found that with alcohol being lighter than water it floated (just) and in a very short time it was bobbing around in the harbour. In fact five hogsheads were cleared from the hold and the King Salvor was used to raise each from the water and place them alongside her on the quay.

 

The sun was setting and the divers and the rest of the salvage teams came ashore.

 

The next morning the Principal Savage Officer (a United States Naval Captain) was looking forward to quick progress on the salvage of the Spahi and also work to start on one of the floating docks. He arrived at the port to find no divers or salvage teams working. Enquiry found that one of the hogsheads had been broached in the dark.  Most of the crew of the King Salvor and all the divers and riggers from the other salvage teams were very drunk. It was reported however that the Algerian wine was of very good quality.

 

The remaining hogsheads and others which were raised were placed under the security of a squad of American G.I.s armed with rifles and bayonets and there were no further drunken delays.

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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