60th Anniversary 2001

Sunday 11th November

Poppy (3)
My father, Bill Gill, marched down Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday and laid a wreath (pictured) at the Cenotaph in memory of all those who lost their lives.

Wreath Label

                                 

                                 

Saturday 24th November

Southsea MemorialAround fifty people gathered at the Southsea Memorial sixty years to the day that Dunedin was hit by two torpedoes. At 1326 Greenwich Mean Time a wreath was laid in memory of those who lost their lives.

In addition  an entry was placed in the Daily Telegraph’s “In Memoriam” section:

“IN MEMORY OF THOSE LOST 60 YEARS AGO TODAY IN HMS DUNEDIN”

Chris Broadway wrote this account of the events at Southsea:

Some weeks ago Daniel Morgan mentioned that it was his intention to be at the Royal Navy War Memorial on Southsea Common at the time of Dunedin’s sinking, so he could place a single flower on the memorial in memory of his Grandfather, Commander Unwin, who had been lost in the ship sixty years before. He had been offered a place on a raft, but would not take it while members of the ship’s company were still in the water. This was the proper behaviour of a Naval Officer, to look to the wellbeing of his men before considering himself.

 I was taken with the idea of going to Southsea on the 60th Anniversary of the sinking and asked him if I might join him. My Father had been the PMO of the ship, and while I had visited the Memorial once years before when I was serving in Portsmouth, with my mother and sister when the World War 2 section of it had been unveiled just after the war, I had never, as it were, “paid my respects” at what is my father’s only memorial.

Then Stuart Gill, whose father, Bill, is President of the Dunedin Society, said he was tied up and could not get over from Belgium for the anniversary, but that Bill would like to come down from Brighton and join us, and we felt that we should say on the website that we would be at the memorial to mark the minute the torpedo struck Dunedin .

Saturday 24th November 2001 was an incredible day for weather – almost spring-like – and as the time grew closer we moved down to the World War II section of the Memorial. It became clear that, although nothing grand had been planned, there were between forty and fifty people gathering to take part in the very simple act of remembrance for those who served and died in H M S Dunedin.

It had been arranged that Bill would lay the wreath , helped by Jean Prendergast, whose fiancé had been lost in the ship, and with those joining in gathered round , Bill went forward with the wreath about five minutes before 1326, when it was announced that sixty years ago to the minute the torpedoes which were to sink Dunedin were running. I do not think I have ever known five minutes to last so long, as we waited for Daniel to quietly announce that the time was exactly 26 minutes past one, the time of the first hit.

Bill, assisted by Jean, laid the wreath and then repeated the well known words of the Act of Remembrance. Each of us remained quietly with our own thoughts, and then as informally as we had gathered we dispersed. It was a most moving and in every way appropriate ceremony

THOSE ATTENDING

The list of those attending may not be complete, and may be wrong, because there was some difficulty in recording all the names properly – if we have missed somebody out, or have the details wrong please let us know and we will correct the list – I know one or two people wanted the names of children or grandchildren to be noted, even when they were not there, so that their connection with Dunedin should be recorded.

There is no particular order to the names:-(click image for larger picture)

  • MR AND MRS ALAN JARVIS
  • MRS BARBRA KEARNS
  • STEPHEN FRY
  • MRS K AYLWARD
  • MRS G BOARD
  • CHRIS BROADWAY
  • MR ROGERS
  • MRS J RICHARDSON
  • MRS SKELLS
  • JOHN DYSON
  • MR ANDREWS
  • MRS A RANDALL
  • JEAN PRENDERGAST
  • Q JACKSON
  • A LEPPARD
  • HEATHER AND GEOFF TURNER
  • ANTHONY AND DAVID ALLEN
  • SIMON AND CARON ALLEN
  • MR AND MRS W GILL
  • DANIEL MORGAN
  • FRED MORGAN
  • MISS G M JACKSON

Tuesday 27th November

On the anniversary of the rescue by the US merchant ship SS Nishmaha a further entry was placed in the Daily Telegraph’s “In Memoriam” section: “IN MEMORY OF THOSE FROM HMS DUNEDIN LOST TO EXPOSURE ,THIRST, WOUNDS AND SHARKS WHILE WAITING RESCUE”

Wednesday 28th November

And finally in the Daily Telegraph “In Memoriam” section: “IN MEMORY OF THOSE OF HMS DUNEDIN WHO DIED AFTER RESCUE BY SS NISHMAHA AND IN ETERNAL GRATITUDE FOR THE CARE GIVEN TO THE 67 WHOSE LIVES WERE RETURNED TO THEM”

Friday 7th December

In the magnificent setting of the Queens House at Greenwich the final event marking the 60th anniversary of the loss of HMS Dunedin took place .

Four survivors plus Dave DawsonDave Dawson , the European Vice President of the company that now incorporates Lykes Lines, who owned the SS Nishmaha, had arranged for his staff to lay on a reception followed by a buffet lunch before the Dunedin Society gave a presentation on the circumstances that led up to the sinking of HMS Dunedin in 1941.

While the presentation in many ways repeated that given at the Reunion in Henley,  it focussed more on the loss of the ship, and the trials of those that were rescued than the earlier history of the ship.

After the introduction from Chris Broadway, Stuart Gill and Daniel Morgan explained how Enigma had drawn Dunedin into the operations that surrounded the sinking of the Atlantis and the rescue of her crew, and demonstrated how U124 had met up with Dunedin as a consequence. They also explained the attack, concluding with details of the running time of the torpedoes before the survivors were asked to explain how they had got away from the ship as she settled.While the presentation in many ways repeated that given at the Reunion in Henley,  it focussed more on the loss of the ship, and the trials of those that were rescued than the earlier history of the ship.

The survivors, despite the strain, then went through the details of the time in the water. At the conclusion the survivors said how they had felt when they realised they were going to be saved, repeated details of what had happened to them on the Nishmaha and concluded their part of the presentation by presenting a letter of thanks, which was read out by Bill Gill, the President of the Dunedin Society, before the letter and a copy of the ships crest were presented to Americana Ships.

In answer Dave Dawson, for Americana Ships reminded everybody that Nishmaha was only where she was because of an engine breakdown that had caused her to alter by a fraction the course she steered after the defect was made good. He pointed out that it was evening when the survivors were sighted and it was only the attention to their duty of the bridge staff that allowed them to pick up the rafts in the failing light.

He also mentioned that the crew of Nishmaha might have reasonably been in a relaxed mood because it was a National Holiday, Thanksgiving Day , but that this had not weakened their concentration. Reference was then made to the report of Captain Olsen and the huge effort made by the Captain, Officers and Crew of the Nishmaha to meet every need of the rescued Dunedins, a story that was strongly supported by the survivors themselves .

Jim Davis reminded everyone that it was also the 60th Anniversary of Pearl Harbour and that it was relevant that the Americans and British were once again undertaking operations together in the aftermath of the terrible events of September 11th.

Dave Dawson concluded the ceremony by presenting a photograph of the Nishmaha to the Society, and a copy for each of the four survivors.

The text of the letter, signed on the day by all four survivors, and presented by them to Lykes Lines is reproduced below. It says it all:

Sixty years ago today, the four of us who have signed this letter walked unsteadily ashore in Trinidad, thankful for our lives and thankful that a ship of Lykes Lines had appeared over the horizon in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sixty three others were with us that day and it is on behalf of all of them and all of us that we take this opportunity of thanking you and the men of SS Nishmaha who came to our rescue.

On November 24th 1941, HMS Dunedin, a light cruiser of the British Royal Navy, was on patrol near St Paul’s Rocks, just north of the Equator in mid-Atlantic. At 1326 Greenwich Mean Time, two torpedoes hit the starboard side of Dunedin, causing her to sink within fifteen minutes and with great loss of life.

About half the ship’s complement of around five hundred might have made it into the water. For the next four days, our numbers dwindled as more and more of our comrades perished in the shark-infested waters of the South Atlantic. As evening approached on Thursday 27th November, Thanksgiving Day, we were down to only seventy-two men. None of us expected to see another day.

And then, at the first hint of nightfall, a ship appeared over the horizon. SS Nishmaha, en route from Takoradi to Philadelphia, had drifted out of the main sea-lanes while her defective engine was being repaired. Now heading at full steam, she sailed directly for us as an eagle-eyed lookout spotted our six forlorn Carley rafts and the rescue operation began.

Once aboard Nishmaha we were treated with untold kindness and immense care, although sadly, five of our number died within a few hours.

The men of Nishmaha deserve only the highest praise and the deepest gratitude for what they did for us. As we young men stepped ashore, a pencilled note was handed to Captain Olsen thanking him for what he and his men had done for us. Now, sixty years later, we are honoured to do the same and to say that we have never forgotten that we owe Lykes Lines and SS Nishmaha and her people the last sixty years of our lives.

William Gill     Harry Cross     Jim Davis     Les Barter

Queens House 2001 b

 

 

 

 

 

 

In memory of HMS Dunedin and her Men