- Letter Writer
- WWII operations, History - WW2, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1991 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
This will most certainly surprise you but will no doubt bring you peace of mind when I explain this epistle to you.
Just one month ago I was a crew member of M/V Dalby and we called at Melbourne and while there I paid a visit to some people at Williamstown who were the parents of a former shipmate of mine and perhaps you may know of them. They are Mr and Mrs McAdam of 100 Osborne Street, Williamstown. Their son, the late Mr George McAdam, was a member of the crew of S/S “Mareeba” which was sunk by the German raider “Kormoran” (29.6.41) in the “Bay of Bengal” 240 miles north east of the Nicobar Islands while on the way to Ceylon with a full cargo of sugar.
Also a member of the crew was your younger brother, Geoffrey Ford, and he was watchmate of George McAdam. I knew him very well and he and George were my two best friends.
We were all taken aboard the German raider and were all put in prepared quarters in the for’ard part of the raider specially fitted out for captured prisoners of war. We were allowed on deck 3 hours daily – one hour before breakfast, one hour before dinner and one hour before tea time. The raider commander wanted one man to bring the meals and I was elected to do these duties twice each day. I also brought iced cold drinking water for everybody. That was 10 a.m. each morning and at 7 p.m. each evening.
We were given an issue of cigarettes, 25 per man each week, and were allowed to toilets anytime was needed. We were given a hot bath once each week and could wash our clothing also each week. Our food was not such a great amount but it was substantial enough to live on and I am sure that if the Germans could have given us any more they would have done so.
We were four months on board that raider and in that time only one ship was sunk and that was a Greek ship, the “Stamatios Embiricos”, just three months after we were sunk and a week after that a ship disguised as an American ship with the stars and stripes painted all over her sides and in very big letters the name of “Marie Luchenback”, she turned out to be a German cargo vessel “Kulmerland” which had slipped out of Japan fully loaded with food and oil for the “German raider” and according to the reckoning of our chief mate who is to-day on this coast as Captain David Freeman, MN “Lake Eyre”. We were about 1100 miles west of Fremantle when this ship started to discharge the cargo into the raider which we witnessed each time we came up on deck and this was carried out night and day for three (3) weeks and during that time the Germans put the radio programme on from Perth for us to hear and that was the closest we had been to Australia since we had left it.
During these operations we were at anchor all the time and the first unfortunate thing happened to a member of our crew – Charles Gunderson, AB of Fremantle, dropped dead and was given the finest burial at sea I have ever witnessed. The crew of raider including commander all lined the deck at No. 1 and No. 2 hatch in black uniform and with reversed arms and the union jack and swastika flags flying at half-mast and all work ceased and all the Mareeba crew standing in front of them before the ceremony was performed by German Captain Detmers and Captain Skinner of Mareeba before the burial at sea.
After the cargo was discharged into the raider, we were then transferred to the supply ship by rowing boat and then we were all put in the tween decks of No. 4 and 5 hold and taken well south of the sealanes and Australian Bight and we were feeling the cold very much as we were taken in and out of icebergs, and plenty of them. It was while on this ship that we had learned of the sinking of the H.M.A.S. “Sydney” and the “Kormoran” raider, as the captain of this ship came down and told us about it.