MV Kerlogue-The Neutral ship that got attacked by the Allies and the Germans and survived.

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The MV Kerloguehas become the exemplar of neutral Irish ships during World War II. She was very small. She was attacked by both sides and rescued people from both sides. She was almost sunk by a German mine and was attacked by the Royal Air Force, being left for dead. She rescued the Wild Rose of Liverpool and the survivors of the German destroyer Z27  and its escort, the survivors of which, in the latter case, were brought back to Ireland and interned until the end of hostilities.

On the 2nd April 1941, German bombers attacked a British convoy.  A crippled collier, the Wild Rose of Liverpool was left behind.  The Kerlogue at the time was under the command of Captain Samuel Owens of Carrickfergus and was on passage from Wexford to Cardiff.  Seeing distress rockets she immediately altered course went to the aid of the Wild Rose.  Due to the bomb attack, her engines were disabled and her two lifeboats were unable to be launched.  Captain Owens took the English crew of twelve on board.  The Kerlogue took the Wild Rose in tow and beached her on Rosslare strand on the Wexford coast.  When the salvage case was heard in Dublin, Justice Conor Maguire stated that: “The master of the Kerlogue had shown enterprise and courage on the occasion.

On 7 October 1941, while sailing from Swansea to Wexford, the Kerlogue struck a mine in Cardigan Bay.

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On 23 October 1943, 130 miles (210 km) south of Ireland, on passage from Port Talbot to Lisbon with a cargo of coal,the Kerlogue was circled by an RAAF Sunderland flying boat.

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Three hours later, she was attacked by two initially unidentified aircraft, later found to have been Mosquito fighters of No. 307 Polish Night Fighter Squadron.For twenty minutes they repeatedly dived on the Kerlogue firing their cannons. Another RAAF Sunderland came by at six in the evening. By Aldis lamp, the Kerlogue requested an escort and medical assistance. The Sunderland replied that help could not be given.

The Kerlogue limped back to Cobh. When her cargo of coal was discharged, shell fragments of British origin were found. It was that cargo of coal which saved the Kerlogue; without it, the shells would have penetrated her hull.

The British Naval Attaché in Dublin reported to the Director of Naval Intelligence that it was “unfortunate from a British point of view” that Captain Fortune had been involved in the Kerlogue incident as he was “always ready to pass on any information in his possession”.The RAF would not apportion blame on the Poles, as the Kerlogue was “east of 12 degrees west”. According to an Admiralty report, the RAF had been “warned to expect the Kerlogue”, they “knew she was at sea on the day of the attack”, there was “nothing suspicious” about the ship, “anyone but Polish pilots would have hesitated to attack”. The matter was considered by the War Cabinet which authorised ex gratia payments to the injured crew.

Captain Desmond Fortune, who would never walk unaided again, was succeeded by Captain Thomas Donohue. He had been captain of The Lady Belle of Waterford when she was bombed by the Luftwaffe. Donohue had spent eight hours in a lifeboat mid-Atlantic when the German U-607 torpedoed the SS Irish Oak.

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On 29 December 1943, following repairs in Cork, the Kerlogue was 360 miles (580 km) south of Fastnet Rock, on passage from Lisbon to Dublin with a cargo of oranges, when she was circled by a German long range reconnaissance aircraft signalling “SOS” and heading southeast. The Kerlogue altered course to southeast, where she came upon an appalling scene. The German Narvik-class destroyer Z27 and two Elbing class torpedo boats, T25 and T26, had been sunk.

More than 700 men, most of them dead, were in the water. They had intended to escort Alsterufer,a blockade runner. The cruisers HMS Glasgow and Enterprise  as part of Operation Stonewall, with their 6-inch (150 mm) guns sank the German ships while beyond their range of fire (more than ten miles)

The Kerlogue spent ten hours plucking survivors from the water. 168 were rescued. Four died on board. This was remarkable, given that the Kerlogue was only 142 feet (43 m) long. The cargo of oranges saved the rescued from dehydration. Captain Donohue ignored the German request to bring them to Brest or La Rochelle. He also ignored British radio orders from Land’s End to go to Fishguard. He berthed at Cobh on 1 January 1944.

The rescued Germans remained at the Curragh internment camp until the war was over. Two are buried in Glencree German War Cemetery.

The Nazi German minister in Dublin, Dr Eduard Hempel, wrote a letter to Captain Donoghue, applauding him and his crew for their “exemplary deed, worthy of the great tradition of Irish gallantry and humanity,” and he sent a letter of thanks to the hospital matron at the Military Hospital, Cork Barracks.

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Crew members of the MV Kerlogue, from left to right, Tom Grannell, Tom O’Neill, Dick Roche, Gary Roche (father of Dick Roche, the former minister and FF TD for Wicklow), Chum Roche

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In the post-war period, the rescue of the Germans was rarely mentioned, until 27 April 1994, when then-Senator Dick Roche spoke, in the Senate, of his father’s role:

“… My late father was a seaman with the Wexford Steamship Company. He served the nation, like so many young men, through dangerous times in the war years. In every sense he and his colleagues put their lives on the line day after day, in ships which today would not be licensed to go on the high seas, to bring supplies to this nation. Many of his colleagues and friends and many people from Wexford and around the coast paid the ultimate price in serving this nation by losing their lives. The ships were so rickety, old and derelict that we would not go to sea in them today. Yet, these brave, perhaps foolhardy, men crossed the Atlantic, went to the Mediterranean and North African coast and kept Ireland supplied with vital provisions. My father’s ship, the Kerlogue, was involved in one of the great rescues of the war. One of the proudest possessions I have is a decoration awarded to him and other members of the crew for rescuing German sailors in the Bay of Biscay in December 1943, when they hauled hundreds of young men from the water … … “

The Kerlogue was sold to Norway in 1957 and was wrecked off Tromsø in 1960.

On 27 May 1994 the German Navy expressed its thanks in a ceremony at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland attended by President Mary Robinson. Some sketches of the rescue, (reproduced on this page) drawn while in the Curragh were presented and remain on display with other artefacts.

The rescue by the Kerlogue has been recreated in a novel entitled, The Lonely Sea and Sky by the Irish poet and novelist, Dermot Bolger, whose father sailed during the war on the Kerlogue’s sister ship, the MV Edenvale. Bolger’s novel is part historical fiction and part coming-of-age tale in charting the maiden voyage of a fictional fourteen-year-old Wexford boy, Jack Roche, who gets a job as a cabin boy on the Kerlogue in December 1943, on the eve of this treacherous wartime journey to Portugal. Jack has lost his seafaring father on board the Kyleclare, sunk by a U-boat on this same route, and goes to sea to support his family. His innate decency makes him join in this dangerous rescue of members of a navy whom he passionately hates for having killed his father. He comes to see the terrified German survivors not as part of a vicious murder machine but as shivering, wounded individuals, some little older than him, caught in a war that is not of their own making. The novel is premised around a view that The Kerlogue’s crew obeyed an unwritten code to save any lives they could. In risking their lives, they recognised the drowning Germans not are combatants, but as fellow sailors and honoured what sailors traditionally believe the initials SOS stand for: “Save our Souls”

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The SS Tjisalak Massacre

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The SS Tjisalak was a 5,787-ton Dutch freighter with passenger accommodation built in 1917 for the Java-China-Japan Line and used by the Allies during World War II to transport supplies across the Indian Ocean between Australia and Ceylon. On 26 March 1944, she was torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese submarine I-8 while traveling un-escorted. The freighter’s crew were subsequently massacred in an infamous naval war crime.

The Tjisalak was sailing from Melbourne and Colombo with a cargo of flour and mail. The crew of 80 consisted of Dutch, Chinese and English merchant seaman, plus ten Royal Navy gunners manning the ship’s four-inch gun. Also on board were five passengers (including an American Red Cross nurse, Mrs. Verna Gorden-Britten) and 22 Laskar sailors returning to India after the loss of their ship. Tjisalak had been travelling for 19 days, when her captain became confused by an unusual wireless message from Perth, and changed his course, sailing at 10 knots to conserve fuel. At 5.45 am on 26 March 1944, she was struck by a torpedo from the I-8.

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One passenger, a Lieutenant Dawson from Australia, was killed instantly, and the ship began to list to port. The order was given to abandon ship. Most of the crew obeyed, taking to the ship’s boats and liferafts, but the British gunners and the Dutch gun commander, second officer Jan Dekker, remained on board, waiting for the Japanese submarine to appear and opened fire. I-8 responded with her own deckgun, forcing the gunners to abandon ship.

Once in the water, the 105 survivors were collected by the Japanese, who placed them on the ship’s deck and ordered Captain Hen into the conning tower to confer with the Japanese commander, Tatsunosuke Ariizumi.

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Survivors reported Hen as shouting“No, no, I don’t know.” At that moment, a Chinese sailor slipped into the water and was shot.

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The Japanese then tied the survivors together in pairs and walked them towards the stern (rear) of the ship around the conning tower, where they were attacked with various weapons. Four men jumped or fell from the submarine while being attacked and survived the random gunfire ,from three Japanese sailors seated behind the conning tower. These were Chief Officer Frits de Jong, Second Officer Jan Dekker, Second Wireless Operator James Blears and Third Engineer Cees Spuybroek. A Laskar named Dhange also survived the massacre.

After the Japanese had killed all but about twenty of the prisoners, they tied the remainder to a long rope, pushed them overboard, and then submerged. Dhange, the last man on the tow rope, managed to free himself before he drowned.

The survivors swam several miles through the open ocean back to the location of the sinking, where they found an abandoned liferaft. Three days later they spotted a distant shape, which approached them. She was an American Liberty ship, the SS James O. Wilder. After briefly firing on them by mistake, the Americans rescued the survivors and took them to Colombo.

As merchant seamen, the Tjisalak survivors were ineligible for treatment at both the British military and civilian hospitals, and had to arrange for accommodations at their own expense.

The crew of the I-8 committed similar atrocities against the crew of the Liberty ship SS Jean Nicolet, and possibly other ships from which no one survived.

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(A Liberty ship similar to the SS Jean Nicolet with extra accommodation built on deck. Aerial photo of the Liberty ship SS John W. Brown outbound from the United States with a large deck cargo after her conversion into a “Limited Capacity Troopship.”

Captain Ariizumi committed suicide when Japan surrendered in August 1945, but three members of the crew were located and prosecuted for their participation. Two were convicted and served prison terms which were commuted by the Japanese government in 1955. The third was granted immunity in exchange for testifying against his former shipmates.

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Forgotten History-Irish WWII Losses

Even though Ireland was a neutral country during WWII it didn’t escape the war completely unscathed.

It was especially it’s mercantile marine which was affected by the German Navy.

Ireland, unlike the majority of more recent independent nations, made no attempt to encourage the development of her own mercantile marine. Each year the fleet declined: from 127 in 1923, until in September 1939 they had only 56 ships flying the Irish flag, none ocean-going, all designed for the short sea trades.

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This tiny fleet increased with the formation of Irish Shipping Ltd. in March 1941 when, under great difficulty, 15 ocean-going dry cargo ships were purchased or chartered.

16 Ships were lost in unprovoked actions. I will not be talking  about all 16 but I will focus to the ones which were registered in my hometown of Limerick.

The City of Limerick

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City of Limerick was the first Irish ship to be sunk by German aircraft in World War Two. Owned by Palgrave Murphy Ltd. and commanded by Captain Robert Ferguson she departed Cartagena, Spain for Liverpool in early July 1940. At 8 a.m. on 15th July, when 100 miles west of Ushant, she was attacked from astern by an aircraft with machine-gun fire. As the plane roared overhead it dropped a stick of bombs which hit the ship but failed to explode. It returned for another attack and this time two men were killed. The ship was now stopped and disabled and the captain gave the order to abandon her. As the crew pulled away in lifeboats more German planes appeared and following further attacks the ship sank. After a cold night in the boats the survivors were rescued next day by a Belgian trawler and landed at Penzance, Cornwall.

Luimneach

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On 4 Sep, 1940, the un-escorted and neutral Luimneach (Master Eric Septimus Jones) was stopped by U-46 with two shots across her bow west-southwest of the Scilly Isles and was sunk at 20.00 hours by gunfire. There are differences in the accounts given by the captains. Endrass claimed that Capt Eric Jones and his crew “lost their heads completely” with one man jumping into the water, at the shot across the bows by his U-boat. But Jones was an experienced captain. The Luimneach had survived twelve aerial attacks during the Spanish Civil War. He took the ship’s papers with him and they are now in the Dublin Public Records Office. Following an inquiry, on 4 March 1941, Dönitz concluded that the U-boat acted correctly in sinking an “abandoned ship”. Endrass did not converse with the Luimneach, who were of the opinion that he was Italian. Endrass said that the flag was “British or Irish”. There were two lifeboats, One was picked up by a Spanish trawler and brought to Spain. The other was picked up by a French trawler. Those landed in France were detained by the Nazis. Two of the crew were British and were imprisoned. The Chief Officer, from Belfast, also had British papers, but because of his advanced age was allowed to live in Paris. The Second Engineer was Dutch and was allowed to go to Antwerp. The remainder returned to Ireland via Portugal.

The Crew

Captain E. Jones, Wales Captain’s Boat Returned
Chief Officer J McKelvey Belfast Mate’s Boat Paris
Second Officer C. Meriditt, Dublin; Captain’s Boat Returned
Chief Engineer R. Spence, Dublin; Captain’s Boat Returned
Second Engineer H. Madsen Antwerp Mate’s Boat Antwerp
Cook S. Tice, London; Captain’s Boat Returned
Steward R. Wilkes, London; Captain’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman A. Robert­son, Limerick; Captain’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman B. Quirk, Kilmore Quay, Captain’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman M. Carrol, Dungarvan Captain’s Boat died
Able Seaman J Moran Tarbet, Kerry Mate’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman M Curran Tarbet, Kerry Mate’s Boat Returned
Fireman M McCarthy Tarbet, Kerry Mate’s Boat Returned
Fireman L O’Neill, Glasgow; Captain’s Boat Returned
Fireman E. Richards Bristol Mate’s Boat imprisoned
Fireman N. Bartello Malta Mate’s Boat imprisoned
Fireman T. Conway Dublin Mate’s Boat Returned
Fireman John. Confrey Dun Laoghaire Mate’s Boat Returned

Clonlara

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Notes on event At 23.31 hours on 22 August 1941, U-564 fired a salvo of four torpedoes at the convoy OG-71 west of Aveiro, Portugal and observed four different detonations and three columns of fire, later lifeboats were seen. Suhren thought that he had sunk two ships and damaged two others. However, only two ships were hit and sunk, the Empire Oak and Clonlara.

The Clonlara (Master Joseph Reynolds) had picked up 13 survivors from Alva on 19 August. The master, ten crew members and nine survivors were lost. Eight crew members and five survivors were picked up by HMS Campion(LtCdr A. Johnson, RNVR) and landed at Gibraltar on 24 August.

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Kyleclare

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Kyleclare was built at Dundee in 1932 for the Limerick Steam Ship Company and up to the outbreak of the war mainly traded from ports in the west of Ireland to Liverpool. The morning of 21st February 1943 saw her departing Lisbon for Dublin as she steamed down the Tagus and into the Atlantic. Two days later she had made good progress northwards and was at 48 50 north, 12 20 west when sighted by U-456 (Kapitanleutnant Max Teichert).

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He manoeuvred into attack position; wind was south-south-west, force 3, sea smooth, gentle swell, good visibility. He later claimed that he had not seen Kyleclare ’s neutrality markings as she was so low in the water, listing to starboard and his periscope was awash. From a distance of 500 metres he fired a fan of three torpedoes. The moment of firing was logged; 2.38 p.m. Central European Time, 23 February 1943. As the torpedoes left the tubes, the submarine rose higher in the water and at that instance Teichert saw the double inscription EIRE on the ship’s side. Seconds later a double explosion echoed throughout the submarine. He proceeded to the position of the sinking but found nothing except wreckage; Kyleclare had disintegrated in a massive cloud of brown smoke. Eighteen Irish lives were blasted into eternity with her.

The crew that perished at sea

Barry, Edward, Wexford Morgan, John, Dublin
Brannock, Patrick, Dublin Mooney, Daniel, Dublin
Brady, Thomas, Galway O’Brien, L., Dublin
deBurca, Diarmuid, Dublin O’Brien, Richard, Dublin
Grimes, Richard, Dublin O’Brien, Daniel, Dublin
Hamilton, A.R., Galway O’Neill, P., Dublin
Hopkins, Philip, Ringsend, Dublin Ryan, Thomas, Rush, Co. Dublin
Larkin, John, Dublin Simms, W.J., Kildare
Lynch, T., Clogherhead, Co. Louth Todd, Ultan,; New Ross