Losses of RFA Officers and Men on Merchant Navy ships


From the commencement of Word War 2 RFA Officers and Men have, under certain circumstances, been employed on ordinary Merchant Navy ships and also similarly they were conveyed as passengers on other non RFA ships while being repatriated to the United Kingdom.

A number of these ships were sunk with the RFA crew members being lost.

The vessels which were sunk were: -


S.S. Pass of Balmaha 17 October 1941

 

Pass of Balmaha

 

3rd Officer Joseph A Condy RFA from RFA Reliant and 3rd Officer Douglas B Martin RFA from RFA Slavol, on the orders of C-in-C Malta, were serving as the 2nd and 3rd Officer respectively on the s.s. Pass of Balmaha, a petrol tanker.

The ship was torpedoed and sunk on 17 October 1941 between Alexandria, Egypt and Tobruk, Libya by the German submarine U97. The entire crew of the Pass of Balmaha perished and have no known grave but the sea.

 

Pass_of_Balmaha_memorial

The details of the Master and crew members who were killed including the two RFA Officers

on the Tower Hill Memorial

 

S.S. Lady Hawkins 19 January 1942

Lady Hawkins


3rd Engineer Officer D C Orchiston RFA from RFA Bishopdale was being repatriated on the s.s. Lady Hawkins, when on 19 January 1942 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U66.

The above officer together with two hundred and forty nine of the three hundred and twenty one officers, crew and passengers were killed and have no known grave but the sea.


S.S. Laconia 12 September 1942

 

Laconia

 

Chief Engineer Officer Frederick C Reynolds RFA from RFA Maine (3), was being repatriated to the United Kingdom on s.s. Laconia when, on 12 September 1942, in the South Atlantic Ocean, off Ascension Island, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the German Submarine U156 (Korvettenkapitän Hartenstein).

Of Laconia’s original complement of 2,732, only 1,113 survived. Of the 1,619 who died, 1,420 were Italian POWs. Those who perished, include Chief Engineer Officer Frederick C Reynolds RFA have no known grave but the sea.

S.S. Abosso 30 October 1942

Abosso

 

Fireman William M Cox RFA from RFA Easedale, was being repatriated to the United Kingdom on s.s. Abosso when, on 30 October 1942, some 700 miles NW of the Azores she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U575.

All the passengers and crew perished and have no known grave but the sea.


S.S. Mendoza 1 November 1942

 

Mendoza


Able Seaman Sydney D F Cochrane RFA from RFA Green Ranger, together with Able Seaman Stephen Cavanagh RFA, Fireman John Fish RFA, Cook John Ireland RFA, Steward Rex F Mitchell RFA, Fireman John Morris RFA, Ordinary Seaman William Mowbray RFA, Ordinary Seaman Robert S Sanderson RFA and Carpenter Harry Thompson RFA all from RFA Eaglesdale were being repatriated to the United Kingdom on s.s. Mendoza.

On 1 November 1942, in the Indian Ocean close to Durban, South Africa she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U178.

All the passengers and crew perished and have no known grave but the sea.


S.S.Empress of Canada 14 March 1943

 

Empress of Canada

 

Captain Benjamin N Beasley RFA, former Master of RFA Arndale was being repatriated to the United Kingdom on s.s. Empress of Canada when, on 14 March 1943, in the South Atlantic she was torpedoed and sunk by the Italian submarine Leonardo Da Vinci.

Three hundred and ninety two members of the crew and passengers including Captain Beasley were killed.

They have no known grave but the sea.

 

Empress_of_Canada_memorial

Part of the Tower Hill Memorial detailing Captain Beasley RFA as lost with no known grave but the sea

 

M.V. Atlantic Conveyor 25 May 1982

 

Atlantic Conveyor


First Radio Officer Ronald R HOOLE, RFA, Laundryman NG Por, RFA and Assistant Laundryman CHAN Chi Shing, RFA were serving on M.V. Atlantic Conveyor sailing as an aircraft transport during the Falkland’s War when, on 25 May 1982, in the South Atlantic the ship was hit by missiles, caught fire and was subsequently sunk.

They have no known grave but the sea and are remembered with pride on the Falkland’s Memorial at Tower Hill, London and on the Memorial at Bluff Cove, East Falkland.

 

Falklands_plaque_1

The Falklands Plaque for the Atlantic Conveyor at the Tower Hill Memorial

 

 

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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