I Was There! - Our Skipper Proved 'As Cool as Ice'

The War Illustrated, Volume 3, No. 63, Page 530, November 15, 1940.

The heroism of some of the seamen in the convoys was recognized on October 29, when decorations were awarded to them. The story that led to the granting of the M.B.E. to Captain W. H. Dawson, whose ship came into port with everything breakable aboard her smashed to splinters, is told here by two of his crew.

Captain Dawson's chief engineer, Harold George Travis, and his gunner, Robert Daniel Thomas, who were commended and rewarded for their bravery, told how their ship was brought into port after being attacked by E-boats and dive-bombers.

Gunner Thomas said:

It started at night. We were sailing in convoy down the Channel. Suddenly we heard gunfire, then flares shot over our craft. We were being attacked by German E-boats. I was on watch and manned my gun.

Then I saw my first E-boat and I let her have it. She disappeared as suddenly as she came. Next came the roar of enemy planes and bombs fell around us. But that was a picnic compared with the events of the day.

Shortly after midday we saw spouts of water towards the head of the convoy bombs were bursting. Another E-boat in the distance opened fire and was driven off but she had given our position to 60 enemy dive-bombers.

We waited for them. They roared out of the sky, falling down on us-it seemed from a terrific height. 1 held my fire.

Skipper Dawson was on the bridge. He was zig-zagging the ship right and left as the bombers came down.

The first salvo left the first plane and we watched them all the way as they screamed down towards us.

Then the skipper said quietly, "Let them have it", and I did. The bombs fell on the port side and our boat shot out of the water. Great spouts swept over the bridge and washed the skipper across it. I was washed from my gun, but got back in time to let fly at the next German. Two planes came down, but who got them I don't know.

Eight salvos fell very close to us. Splinters were flying. I heard the crash of breaking wood and glass. My gun jammed and I took it to bits. Bombs were still falling.

I mended the gun and started firing again.

The skipper seemed as cool as ice-he's a cool stick, you know and kept his ship swerving all the time.

Then the engineer he had the worst time I think, reported our auxiliary motors were broken. We were losing way, but the engine room people went to work and repaired the damage.

Chief Engineer Travis declared:

It was rather unpleasant, you know. All the time we were being bombed the ship was jumping out of the water like a cork. In the engine-room we didn't know what was happening. The row was so great we couldn't hear the engines.

Water poured in through the skylights and began flooding the engine-room. Then we sprang a leak and more water came in. Our auxiliary motors broke down and we had trouble with the main engines.

We stuck the broken parts together and well, here we are. "News Chronicle".

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