Veteran Stories:
George Evans

Merchant Navy

  • SS Einvik, torpedoed 5 September 1941.

    George Evans
  • Convoy from Halifax to England, 1941.

    George Evans
  • Excerpt from ship's log, SS Peter de Hoogh.

    George Evans
  • Contemporary photograph of George Evans.

    George Evans
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"I heard this big bang at the side of the ship. One of the AB’s were shouting out, torpedo port side, torpedo, port side."

Transcript

We got out to sea, there was news going around the town that U-boats outside, waiting for the ships off the coast and I paid no attention to them, you know. Here I thought we were safe and secure. But it was raining the next day and we had a little heavy weather and we couldn’t keep our steam, so we lost the convoy. The next morning, on the 5th of September, 1941, about half past three, I went up to go to my bunk, I had a cabin of my own in amidships, all of a sudden, I heard this big bang at the side of the ship. One of the AB’s were shouting out, torpedo port side, torpedo, port side. You know, everything happened so quick that I was confused. So I fell on the deck. One of the AB's got me in the lifeboat and I was supposed to be in with the captain’s boat and that was one mistake I shouldn’t have done, start worrying about myself, and try for survival. And in a lifeboat approximately nine days.

There was a bunch of fishermen coming out from Westman islands, Iceland, fishing, they seen our boat and the captain put the Norwegian flag up on the stern and the boat came over and gave us their coffee and tea and lunch, what they had, and took us in tow into Westman islands. Then when it got back to London, the British ship officer didn’t want me to go on the foreign ships and crews should man their own ships. And of course, the shore captain, who’s in charge he’s a Dutchman in the town, he said, well, we can’t sail if we’ve got no crew. We were short a fireman. I had the experience, the other fellow was one and so finally, they let me go out on the foreign ship, Dutch. And that was SS Pieter de Hoogh, which was brand new. And I seen the guns on her and seen them putting on forward ammunition and everything. I said, oh my God, what are we coming to, you know. Talking to some people when we got into a pub that night, they said, we’re going to Russia. I didn’t know we were going to Russia. It didn’t matter to me where I was going, I didn’t care, you know. As long as I got a ship.

So when it was time to sail, on the 27th of March, we went to Loch Ewe. In Loch Ewe, we anchored there and waited for the convoy then to Iceland. And then from Iceland and then to Murmansk. We left Iceland on the 21st or 22nd of May, 1942. We were in a 6 day battle. I fell up on the starboard side... So you couldn’t see the planes coming and you know, you hear the roar but then, because the sun was at the back of the pilots and you couldn’t see them. And you were just firing at nothing, you know, at sound.

It was perpetual daylight, no dark. We had an escort, cruisers and destroyers. Cruisers wouldn’t go beyond the North Cape, they’d turn back. We had no aircraft carrier, you know. They didn’t want to lose one of their cruisers. When they’d turn back, it was like all hell. Every now and then, German stokers would come out and dive down and the roar of them planes would drive you nuts, you know. And yeah, the torpedo planes and we would, some would be on deck with spy glasses, watching the torpedo planes, because you can see them coming in the side of the ship facing and the Captain would give about as he turned the ship 30 or 40 degrees or more half anyway, so the torpedoes would pass, wouldn’t hit us.

Altogether, we lost seven ships. There were six by aerial bombers and torpedoes and one by U-boat. There were two or three damaged. We were one day or two days out from Murmansk we went out with an enemy ship. We went in and we anchored and the Germans were only 30 miles away from us, they had a base in Finland.

Every time you get off duty, you come over, you know, and went up again then in two years on the same ship. And taking on a new crew, you know, and they said, are you going back again? And I looked down and I said, this is my home, I’m going to go, this is my home, I had no choice. Four years, I never got home.

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