The Merchant Navy Crest


A tribute to the British Merchant Navy - they also served!

The Red Duster

Fourth Officer Bill Stubbs

Below is an account from the original log of Fourth Officer William Stubbs. The log was transcribed from a notepad by Bill's wife, Erica.

I am grateful to Bill's wife Erica Stubbs and daughter Heather Oglesby for kindly allowing me to print it here. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you can read his summary about all six lifeboats or click here: Summary

Log copy of 4th Officer Stubbs
S.S. CITY OF CAIRO November 1942.

William Stubbs

William Stubbs

Courtesy Peter Williams TV

Struck by torpedo at dusk time, hatch lights extinguished immediately. Abandon ship signal sounded immediately. Several lifeboats got away in good time. Lifeboat No.2 was capsized in the act of lowering. Submarine surfaced, and questioned Corporal Edwards, Royal Marines, as to the particulars of the ship, cargo, destination, etc. The Vessel was struck by the second torpedo twenty five minutes later, capsizing No.1 lifeboat and breaking several rafts. Several people were picked up from rafts, and floating wreckage. Lifeboats lay to all night and searched for survivors at daybreak.

Second Officer Boundy took an observation and found noon position to be Lat 23°07 south and Long 05°00 west. No serious casualties, but seven cases of exposure treated. There is an average of 54 people per boat, lifeboats No. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 filled to more than capacity. Held a conference and decided to make for Saint Helena which was 480 miles, course west, and kept going all day and sail kept hoisted to use what little breeze there was. One quarter dipper per person of water was served out at noon. At 5.50pm we ceased rowing and lay to for night - six boats in all. Watches were set and contact kept with each other by means of light etc. Meal for the day consisted of one malted milk tablet, one biscuit covered with pemmican, 1/4 dipper of water. (2oz)

All fit and well and are exposed, responsive to interest. At daybreak four boats were fairly close together and two some distance off. Light breeze at first, used oars and sails until breeze increased to a moderate south easterly. A little food and water served out at midday. At the end of the day all boats made fast to each other, whilst No.5 boat towed the others all night.

With a moderate breeze, all boats continued voyage at maximum speed. Position obtained at noon was 22°07 south, strong south easterly, 374 miles to go. Strong south easterly trades winds blowing throughtout the day. At nightfall, boats made fast and lay to a sea anchor for the night. All fit and well apart from Mrs Richardson who is showing evidence of insanity

At day break we transferred several persons out thereby giving it [the boat] a greater freeboard and hoped for better speed. Fresh trade winds continued, accompanied by a moderate south easterly swell. During the afternoon the wind dropped to a light breeze. 21°37S, 6°16W.
3.15. GMT towed other boats all night. Mrs Richardson very feeble and [too ill] to take food.

Proceed with moderate winds. Chief Officer applied to Captain for permission to proceed independently to Saint Helena. Captain granted request - 5 boats left. No reliable sightings obtained this day. Wind and weather easing. Decided it was too dangerous tonight, so boats sailed alone. Contact was kept by flashing every ten minutes Mrs Richardson, very weak, and unable to take food or water.

Day opens with strong south easterly breeze, rough seas and heavy swell. All boats in sight at daybreak. 2nd Officer reports that Mrs Rooksby has contracted a severe chill, medical advice given. Noon position Lat 21°24S, Long [not readable] 5pm Mrs Richardson died. Cause of death, exhaustion and shock. 6pm body of Mrs Richardson committed to the deep. Weather too rough for towing, proceeding independently. Keeping in touch with lights.

All boats in sight, at dawn, except No.6. Heavy swell, moderate breeze and swell. Proceeding to steer north east. Food and water checked over and a daily allowance allotted to cover a period of 20 days. Boat company all well. Noon position 20°53S 6°22W [made good 57 degrees 37 miles, 8 degrees 302 miles to St Helena] 5.42 (4 boats left)

Noon position 20°18S 6°30W. Day opens with gentle south easterly breeze, slight sea, moderate swell. One boat in sight, at a distance, followed all day, and came upon it at 4.00pm. A mature (native) passenger (chief cook age 70) passed away sometime during the morning. The death was due to exhaustion after exposure. Noon position 20°18S to 6°30W. Arrangements made to keep contact with other boat during the night.

Posn 19°37S 6°25W 066 '41'. Distance to go 220 miles. 2nd Officer's boat still in company with this one at daybreak. Consultations were held and it was decided that she should tow this boat until we [were] within about 50 miles of the destination. The day passed without anything of interest taking place until trouble with bearing in the motor boat, causing towing to be abandoned for the night.

2nd Officer's boat came up after repairs [were] carried out to the engine and towing was commenced about 7.00am. Towing was kept up until 7.00pm, when we proceeded independently with a gentle to strong breeze.

Raheen Box, GS, feeling effects of exposure in the boat, several people showing signs of exposure in the boat. Noon position Lat 17°50S Long 5°40W. Done 46 miles, to go 115 miles. 5.00pm Raheen Box died and was committed to the deep. Independent sailing was adopted through the night, communication been kept up with lights. Midnight, Boobie Khan died at midnight.

His body committed to the deep at daybreak. Day opens with gentle south easterly breeze, low swell, slight sea. Both boats being in sight of one another at dawn. Noon position Lat 17°00S Long 5°27W, done 50 miles, to go 66 miles. Purser McQuone passed away. Body committed to the deep. Boats kept contact throughout by lights, a fireman passed away during the night.

Day opens with a slight breeze, slight sea, low swell. Body of the fireman committed to the deep at dawn. St Helena sighted at dawn. 9.00am picked up by CLAN ALPINE, position 30 miles south south west, of St Helena.

St Helena. Visited survivors in hospital. List of survivors taken to Castle Home, 4 deaths.

Summary of 6 Lifeboats
By Bill Stubbs

No.1 Boat. Britt. 54 persons - at end of third week, only 8 people alive. Fourth week 5 left. This was a boat with an engine, went on ahead to find St Helena. Missed the island, picked up by RHAKOTIS, German ship, 12th Dec, 3 persons alive, 500 miles North West of St Helena. Britt died before being picked up. RHAKOTIS sunk by British ship, survivors picked up by German U boat. Detained at St Nazaire as prisoners of war.

No.2 Boat. Disappeared without trace, 54 persons missing. [Webmaster note - No.2 boat sunk at launching - inhabitants dispersed in other boats]

No.3 Boat. Captain Rogerson, capsized.

No.4 Boat. Whyte - 17 persons, lost touch, made for Brazil, missed St Helena, only two survivors - Whyte and Margaret Gordon. Picked up by CARAVELAS of the Brazilian Navy. Whyte was sent home to Holyhead on the CITY OF PRETORIA; she was sailing in convoy but disappeared without trace. From enemy records, she was hit by two torpedoes on 4th March 1943, and blew up, Whyte lost his life.

No.5 Boat. Bill Stubbs, but picked up Capt. Rogerson. Capt. Rogerson [senior officer]. 54 persons. Reached St Helena, this boat had no engine. Sunday 15th Nov, boats No. 5 & 7, No. 7 having an engine travelled together. All other boats missing. About 16th/17th sighted St Helena. Picked up by CLAN ALPINE - 30 miles from St Helena, No.5 & 7 picked up together, already picked No.6 Boat, George Nutter.

No.6 Boat. George Nutter - 55 persons. Sailed alone. Saturday 14th Nov sighted boat but not picked up. Picked [up] by CLAN ALPINE, 13 days was the first boat to be picked up.

No.7 Boat. Leslie Boundy, 57 persons, sailed with No. 5, towed No.5, picked up by CLAN ALPINE.

3 boats picked up, 150 persons lost their lives, 66 Asian, and 84 Europeans.

No.8 Boat. Gerard Green. 55 persons, this boat was damaged and could not keep up. Picked up after 14 days by SS BENDORAN and back to Cape Town. Trouble on this boat some jumped overboard.