Reply To: John Henry Brook (1917-1942) [Fourth Engineer Officer, Merchant Navy] ✓
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Huddersfield Examiner 21 October 1939, page 11:
HOW THE LOCHAVON WAS SUNK
Meltham Man One of the Survivors
A Meltham man, Mr. John Henry Brook, of 28, Millmoor Road, was one of the crew of the Lochavon, rescued by a British destroyer after the ship had been torpedoed by a U-boat on Saturday.
The Lochavon, one of the most modern Diesel-engined ships in the world, was owned by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. She was launched only twelve months ago.
In an interview with an “Examiner” reporter at his home on Thursday Mr. Brook said that the Lochavon was acting as commodore ship of a convoy of two British boats and two French boats.
ORDER TO ABANDON SHIP
“On Saturday I had just gone on watch as the fifth engineer of the boat,” he said, “when the torpedo struck us. We immediately took a list to port, and I ran up on to the starboard deck. The submarine must have dived immediately she fired the torpedo for we saw no sign of her. The list to port was so heavy that the order came immediately to abandon ship. The life-boats were lowered and the crew of sixty, and six passengers, got into them and pulled away.”
A British destroyer came on the scene in answer to our SOS within a short time, but she did not take us on board at the time as she went to hunt the submarine.
After between eight and nine hours in the boats the destroyer returned, took us on board and landed us at an English port on Sunday evening. I, together with all the others, lost all my possessions and when I landed the only clothes I had were those I stood up in. I was unable to return home until I had been fitted up with a uniform in London.”
UNLUCKY FRENCH SHIP
Mr. Brook said that one of the French ships, the Breton, which was sunk at the same time, was far more unfortunate than they were. When the crew of the Breton were taking to the boats they were heavily shelled by the U-boat and he thought that about forty-seven people were either killed or drowned. “The shelling was terrible,” he said.
Mr. Brook mentioned that when the lifeboats pulled away from the ship she had not sunk. He thought that there was a possibility that she could have been sailed stern first to land and there grounded, but there was always the possibility that the submarine was still in the vicinity.
Mr. Brook has been in the Merchant Service only since last February. His first boat was the Alcantara. He is a native of Marsden and formerly attended the Marsden Senior School, but his family came to live at Meltham about six years ago. He was formerly employed at the British Dyestuffs Corporation works in Leeds Road.
Though he has been home only a few days Mr. Brook is waiting anxiously for the letter which will tell him to join another ship.