In an extraordinary three days in Portsmouth, Nishmaha found Dunedin again. Sixty-four years after third mate Roy Murray, on watch in SS Nishmaha, spotted a raft bobbing up and down the South Atlantic swell, Roy came back to the men of HMS Dunedin.
At the Royal Sailors Home Club in Portsmouth, Roy strode up to our last known remaining survivors, one of whom - Andrew (Boy) McCall- had only found us a few days earlier. Andrew and the others - Les Barter, Jim Davis and William Gill - shook Roy's hand and thanked him for his actions that led to the miracle of their rescue in the dimming light of the evening of 27th November 1941, Thanksgiving day in America. Roy's ship had come across them purely by chance after an engine failure had allowed her to drift off her course and into the path of the tiny the flotilla of Carley floats carrying the last of the men of HMS Dunedin.
Now, in the full glare of TV cameras, the watching relatives of the five men and members of the Dunedin Society, an emotional reunion unfolded. Roy had brought with him from Houston, Texas, his wife, son and three daughters to witness this unique event and as the weekend unrolled, new bonds were forged between the Dunedin Society and the marvellous Murray family.
The gratitude of the four survivors was summed up in a letter to Roy, signed by each of them, and read out in front of the gathered members of the Society by my father, William Gill. In the letter, the four men expressed their deep gratitude on behalf of all the survivors, for what Roy and his Nishmaha comrades had done.
And to mark Roy's actions still further, Ian Greig, Vice President Operations, CP Ships (the company that owns Lykes Lines, the owners of Nishmaha) presented all five men with engraved glass plaques and made Roy an official "Company Hero".
The weekend was rounded off with a short service at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common, in memory of the men of HMS Dunedin who were lost.
I should like to place on record now my thanks to everyone who came, especially our new friends the Murrays and our four survivors. The weekend could not have happened without the great efforts of everyone who participated to make it such a success.
I must, however, especially thank Anne Randall, without whose immense contribution and energy in the three months since Roy Murray first found us, this event would not have taken place; but also my brother Michael for joining Anne in getting the show on the road and for pulling together the media coverage. Well done everyone.
Arrangements for the reunion:
The historic reunion of Roy Murray of SS Nishmaha and the remaining survivors of HMS Dunedin will take place at 1200 for 1230 until 1530 on Saturday 18 June 2005 at the Royal Sailors' Home Club in Portsmouth. Please arrive promptly at 1200 at the Club so that we can begin the proceedings on time at 1230 in Brocks bar.
Give yourselves plenty of time to park. There is an open air Heritage car park directly opposite the Royal Sailorís Home Club costing £3.00 per day and is open from 0700 until 1800.
The address for the Club is:
Portsmouth Royal Sailorís Home Club
Tel: 02392 824231
See this link for more details of the Club, including its location (click on contact us): www.sailorshomeclub.co.uk
At the start of the meeting at 1230, we will hear an opening speech by Chris Broadway followed by presentations to Roy Murray and the three survivors, Jim Davis, Les Barter and Bill Gill.
We have until 1530 for lunch, drinks and the chance to meet Roy and our three. This will be an informal session and hopefully an opportunity for all to hear this remarkable story from the man himself.
After 1530 the four and their families will need to relax and recover from the previous three hours and will be allowed a degree of privacy if they wish.
At around 1630 a few of us will set off to the Red Lion in Chalton for dinner. This is an idyllic traditional English Pub to show off to our American friends although, as we have found when looking for Saturday night venues, we were not able to book. This popular place is about 15 miles north of Portsmouth, just off the A3, and will probably prove difficult for even a group of twenty of us to be able to catch the first sitting. It was the best compromise we could find in the circumstances and if you wish to take your chances with us then of course you are most welcome.
On the following morning, all members are invited to the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Southsea, at 1100 for a brief ceremony of remembrance for those who did not survive the loss of HMS Dunedin. A Royal Marine bugler will sound the Last Post.
There is no charge for this event at the RSHC, but since the Dunedin Society is a voluntary organisation, we would welcome any donation you can afford. Please send cheques, payable to The Dunedin Society, to Lt-Cmdr Chris Broadway, Ridge End, Stantaway Hill, Torquay, Devon TQ1 4ER.
Go to our "Rescue" page to read more about the remarkable rescue of HMS Dunedin's survivors.
The reunion has already attracted press interest on both sides of the Atlantic. See the following links for the coverage so far: