Daily Event for May 13

Surviving the loss of one ship and then being a drift in the ocean for days was an unfortunate side effect of the
war at sea, the men who made it through would never forget the experience, is it easier the second time it happens? Perhaps the only easier thing is that you know a little more what to expect, how it feels, how people react, what not to do and more importantly what to do. In May of 1941 two unfortunate crews would find out.

It began on April 30, 1942 when the SS Lassell was torpedoed and sunk by the U-107 about 368 miles southwest of Santa Antao Island, Cape Verde Islands. The ship went down fast and two crewmen were killed, and captain A. R. Bibby OBE was missing. The fifty survivors were crowded into two lifeboats, which were the only two remaining, five hours later the number of survivors increased by one when capt. Bibby was found and rescued.

After three days the two boats they became separated, Bibby and twenty-four others, including a female passenger in one and chief officer H. W. Underhill with twenty-five others in the second. Underhill's boat was picked up May 10 by SS Egba about 137 miles south-southwest of where the Lassell was sunk.

Bibby's boat was picked up the day before about 180 miles northwest of Underhill's boat by the SS Benvrackie. After nine days in an open boat the survivors were in pitiful shape, but they were all alive. The men of the Benvrackie treated the survivors good, and the former crewmen from Lassell even stood watch, keeping a sharp eye out, hoping to make it home.

Three days later on May 13, 1942 the U-105 found the Benvrackie and slammed a fish into her side, three minuets later the ship slipped under the waves taking twenty-nine people with her, including fifteen of those who had survived the sinking of the Lassell. The other ten of Lassell's survivors were again adrift on the open ocean. (Note that casualty figures may not be completely accurate)

Over fifty people were crowded into one lifeboat (the number is unclear, some sources say 55 others 58), one other man was rescued by a passing ship, but those in the lifeboat were not picked up until May 26, thirteen days later, and this time luck was on their side as the ship that picked them up was well prepared to tend to them, she was a hospital ship, HMHS Oxfordshire.

© 2009 Michael W. Pocock

2005 Daily Event