- Auten, Harold, VC, Lieutenant Commander, RN
- WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The sixth day dawned more hopefully, but it was a question whether there would be any survivors by the time the raft reached the shore. At about 4pm they sighted a patrol vessel, which seeing them, came alongside. When lifted off the raft, the men were in so exhausted a condition that they were unable to speak. On the patrol vessel everything possible was done for them, and they were quickly carried to an Irish port, where they were carefully nursed back to life.
Out of the three officers and twenty men who were on the raft when she parted company with Commander Blackwood’s boat, only two officers and eight men survived the terrible six days of hunger, thirst and exposure. For over 123 hours these poor fellows had drifted about absolutely helpless. They had no food after the second day, and the water lasted only till noon of the fifth day, and that only with the most careful ladling out drop by drop.
Had it not been for the wonderful leadership of Lieutenant Smiles, who during the whole of the trying experience, when death stared them all in the face, never lost heart, there would have been no survivors at all. Every credit was due to him for the splendid way in which he encouraged the men and economised the water. Under such conditions, good leadership means life.
Out of a total complement of ninety-one (11 officers and 88 men) that had manned the ‘Stonecrop’, four officers and forty men had lost their lives, one officer and twelve men having died on the raft.
It may seem almost incredible that in home waters a raft could remain undiscovered for six days; yet that is what happened as the result of the commander of a German submarine refusing to be bluffed”.
(“O” Boat Adventures – by Lieutenant Commander Harold Auten V. C., R. N. – Courtesy of Captain Henry Blackwood)”.