Charles McKenzie from Aberdeen sailed on the SS New York

December 5, 2012

Dear Sir,

My  Uncle Charlie  sailed on the SS New York he travelled on the Queen Mary to America as he wanted to be an officer in the engine room, it was his first trip  he  was 19 years old he was the 7 th engineer the lowest of the low. his name  was  Charles McKenzie from Aberdeen I did not know much about  the  RB1 but it is surprising how much one can find on the Internet and have learnt quite a bit

I noticed  they had photos of the SS Boston  and they used the same photo for the New York were they in fact  the similar or could they not find one.

Any information  would be most  appreciated. My mothers family  knew nothing about this and it will come as a shock when  the finally find(s) out.

Hope you  can find the  time to reply

Yours sincerely


In 1942 the war was beginning to show signs of turning in favour of the Allies; Malta had just been saved by the Pedestal Convoy in August, in September PQ18 was fought through in a running battle to North Russia avenging the mistakes of PQ17. The Axis in North Africa was being slowly deprived of supplies by a reinvigorated interdiction of their convoys.

Operation Torch was being planned. As part of the plans for Torch a build up of troops was needed. The Atlantic was still a desperately dangerous place for Allied shipping so a ruse de guerre was needed. Convoy RB1 was born.

Code-named Convoy Maniac, RB1 was comprised of several old coastal and lakes pleasure steamers, ill-equipped to go to sea at all never mind the North Atlantic in September. The eight steamers were filled with empty drums and timber before having their sillouettes altered with plywood and canvas. The convoy now took on the shape, on a dark night from a distance, of well known passengers liners of a much greater size and importance.

It was despatched on 21 September 1942 into the Atlantic guarded by four old destroyers including HMS Veteran. One of those steamers was the SS President Warfield, about to sail into history. Further South on an secret track the real liners filled with troops for Torch steamed at full speed away from the lurking U-boats.

With predictable certainty four days out RB1 was spotted; U-404 torpedoed the New York and Boston. Veteran turned back and collected from the water 48 from the Boston and 30 from the New York.

Steaming at 16 knots to rejoin the convoy Veteran then found herself the target of U-404. No one knows what happened, there were no survivors from Veteran's 159 people or the 78 survivors. U-404 went on to sink another of the little steamers, Yorktown, claiming much larger targets, before vanishing into the dark.

The remaining ships arrived in the UK intact where they were laid up as being of no further use. After the war President Warfield was sold for scrap before passing through several hand and ending up being immortalised in the struggle for Israel.

Was the loss of so many lives as a  decoy justified? Was the Invasion of North Africa accelerated by their sacrifice? The ship sailed into Israeli folklore but what of the lost souls in the Veteran.? Among them was the ship's doctor Surgeon Lt. Francis Mason Hayes, an American, one of the 22 Americans who volunteered for the RN before Pearl Harbour, he never came back but his name is inscribed in there floor of the Painted Hall at Greenwich; one of the two out of twenty-two who never made it home. The  other was Lt. John Parker who died in the loss of the Broadwater.

Fate U-404
Sunk 28 July, 1943 in the Bay of Biscay north-west of Cape Ortegal, Spain, in position 45.53N, 09.25W, by depth charges from 2 American Liberator aircraft (A/S Sqdn. 4) and from a British Liberator aircraft (Sqdn. 224). 51 dead (all hands lost).

Here are pictures of SS Boston, sunk from Convoy RB1 on September 25, 1942  by U-Boat 404.

Here is SS New York.also sunk by U-404 from Convoy RB1.

Both ships are really quite different although both have 2 funnels. 

Hope this helps a little.

Happy Christmas. 

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