The Admiral Signalled: 'Proud to Have Met You'
Those merchantmen going stolidly on and on – never faltering, never wavering when one of their comrades was lost – stolidly on and on; and although it seems invidious to draw attention to any one of so gallant a party, I simply must do so.
She had been uppermost in our thoughts from the moment we sailed, for she was a tanker carrying the most important and most dangerous cargo of all, and so very conspicuous from the air with her funnel right aft. Her name was Ohio, an American-built ship manned by a British crew, skippered by a very great man called Captain Mason. It was obvious that she would be a special target for the enemy, and sure enough the was hit by a torpedo at the same time as we were.
She was forced to stop, and later, as we went up alongside in the Ashanti, another merchantman was blazing not far off. It was that night when things weren't looking too good. Admiral Burrough hailed her from the bridge, "I've got to go on with the rest of the convoy. Make the shore route if you can and slip across to Malta. They need you badly." The reply was instantaneous. "Don't worry, sir; we'll do our best. Good luck."
By next morning, by some superhuman effort, they had got the engines going and had caught us up in spite of having lost their compass and having to steer from aft. She then took station on our quarter, and Ohio's next bit of trouble was when a Stuka attacking us was hit fair and square and crashed right into her.
For the rest of the forenoon she was always picked out for special attention, and time and time again she completely disappeared amongst the clouds of water from bursting bombs. But again and again she came through. Then at last one hit her. She was set on fire, but after a terrific fight they managed to get the flames under control. Her engines had been partly wrecked, but she just managed to make two knots and plodded on. Destroyers were left to look after her, but later she was hit again and her engines finally put out of action. Then they took her in tow, but the tow darted. During the night, with the help of a minesweeper from Malta, they got her a further twenty miles. All next day she was again bombed continuously, and towing became impossible. But that night she reached Malta.
If ever there was an example of dogged perseverance against all odds, this was it. Admiral Burrough's last signal to Ohio was short and to the point: "I'm proud to have met you."
All that mattered was that supplies had to be got through to Malta – and they were.
- Commander Anthony Kimmins, R.N., broadcasting as an eye witness an account of how the convoy got through to Malta during the fierce air and sea battle of August 12-14 (see page 182).