Eric Dixon, Third Officer, died on the raft after sinking of Rio Azul

April 22, 2013

Hi Mac

I'm in Australia and the niece of one of the young men that died on the raft, Eric Dixon, after 14 days. He had celebrated his eighteenth birthday aboard the Rio Azul - so sad. He was the Third Officer. I have just received some documents via my mother's estate informing Eric's grandmother of his death from the Thompson Steamshipping Co.

I would also love a copy of whatever information you all have. I can't seem to locate the date the Esperance picked up the survivors.

Lorraine Chapman


From this account we are able to work out the date HMS Esperance Bay picked up the few raft survivors.

Rio Azul was sunk on June 29 1941, and Esperance Bay picked up survivors from the raft 15 days later, that would be on July 14 1941.

Cargo ship Rio Azul, 4,088grt, (W. Petersen & Co. Ltd/Thompson SS Co. Ltd) had loaded a cargo of iron ore at Pepel for Middlesbrough and sailed to Freetown where the ship joined up with the homeward bound 25 ship Convoy SL-78. On 29th June 1941 about 200 miles South-East of the Azores at 19.36 hours (CET) the ship was torpedoed and sunk by U-123. The ship broke in two and sank in approximate within ninety seconds position 29' 00N 25' 00W.

The Captain, thirty-one crew & one DEMS gunner were eventually lost, a number dying whilst adrift and just after rescue. Eighteen men had originally survived the sinking and finding two life-rafts, which they lashed together found themselves adrift for fifteen days, surviving on their meagre rations consisting of a one gallon flask and one jar of fresh water. On the fifteenth day the ships bosun although exhausted asked one of his shipmates to lash a tobacco tin onto the end of a water scoop, which was used to form a crude heliograph. The flashes were seen from a passing ship and six crew & three gunners were picked up by HMS Esperance Bay.

Unfortunately the ships bosun Harold A. Wyatt passed away after rescue.

Billy McGee Sunday, March 14, 2010


Looking thro old papers yesterday I came across an account of the rescue of survivors from the SS Rio Azul.

I was a young Sub Lieut Engineer on HMS Esperance Bay at the time of rescue and I have a good record of the actual occasion when we took survivors on board.

If you give me an address I will forward this to you. I should be able to copy the pages and email them to you but I am a bit of an amateur when dealing with the P.C so we must experiment!

In two months time I will be in my 92nd. Year so you will understand my predicament.

Wilf Burley 


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