Stan Mayes served in Conakrian and Viking Star and others in WW2

March 02, 2010

Dear Mr Gregory,

I am documenting the history of an old friend Stan Mayes who served in the UK Merchant Navy in WW2. If you are interested in checking out what I have done to date it is at this link: http://www.benjidog.co.uk/Recollections/index_files/Page767.htm. Stan will be 89 this year but is still bright as a button. He has been invited to the Houses of Parliament for an award of some kind in a couple of week's time - even he doesn't know the details yet.

Whilst doing this I have been writing up the history of each of the ships he served on and have reached Conakrian. During my research I came across your excellent website and hope  you would allow me to copy two extracts (with appropriate acknowledgement of course). By an amazing coincidence it looks like Alan Well's father may have actually met Stan - see the details below.

Both sections are on this page: "Tuscan Star, Torpedoed and sunk"

Brian Watson

1. Conakrian

I take is an account by Alan Wells' father:


  Tues                            Frank and I joined the Conakrian. The 3 Bofor

  22nd Sept                      gunners put on a Palm oil Tanker. The Conakrian was in the same convoy as us outward bound, and the 2 soldiers already aboard her, were embarked on the same day as Frank and I in Liverpool, travelling in the same lorry to the docks.

                                      Special quarters aft, but since the torpedoeing, outward bound of the two ships, all the gunners have been transferred to cabins on deck. We hopeto have one too. We dont fancy sleeping down below.

  Wed                            Have managed a cabin on deck. Painted it out

  23rd Sept                      to-day. Another bunk to be fixed yet but should be able to sleep there by Thursday night.

                                      Sailed for home at 3.30 PM. Approx 24 shipe in convoy.

  Thurs.                          Sunderland Flying boat, one of Air Escort made

  24th Sept                      forced landing. Escort stood by. Working watch of 4 on 4 off.

  Sat                              4 escort ships augmented this morning by 4 more.

  3rd Oct 42                    Abreast of canary Islands yesterday.

  Sun                              6 ships left the Convoy, to proceed at a faster speed

  4th Oct 42                    to England. 4 escorts went with them, leaving us with 4.

  Mon                              In aircraft zone from dawn this morning. Abreast of

  5th Oct 42                    the Azores at 7 - 8 PM.

  Wed                            Started increased aircraft watch, 10 hrs daily, with

  7 Oct 42                        a 2 hr break. Sleep all night.

  Thurs:                          Hostile air-craft flage hoisted, but no plane sighted.

  8th Oct 42

  Mon                              Sighted Nth Ireland at last. East coast ships leave

  12 Oct 42                      Convoy during the night. Glasgow ships tomorrow morning. Another Convoy joined up with us.

  Wed                            Liverpool at last. Moved right into Bromborough

  14 Oct 42                      Dock. Went to the pictures in the evening and posted letters to Lily and mother.



  2. Viking Star


  Reading this page I was amazed to see that there was a reference to Viking Star and meeting up with survivors from that ship. Stan Mayes was a survivor of Viking Star when she was torpedoed and might well have met up with Alan's father. I am sure that Stan would be delighted to read this.


  I would also therefore like to include this section on my history of Viking Star which is at this link: http://www.benjidog.co.uk/MiscShips/index_files/Page318.htm


  Only a small part refers to Viking Star but it reads much better with the context.



  Thursday                      Sailed from Santos for Freetown, B.W.A. Total No of

  27 Aug.                          hours Anti Sabotage watch 110 hours. Passengers on board for England. Mostly volunteers for H.M. Forces. Two babies.. one 3 the other 2 yrs.

  Sun.                            21 hours. Ship struck by 2 torpedoes and at once

  6th Sept                        began to list to Starboard. One torpedoe in the engine room and one aft.

                                      No 3 lifeboat damaged by explosion, but No's 1 - 2 - 4 away alright.

                                      The ship sank in approx 10 mins, and after she had dissapeared the U boat surfaced, approached our lifeboat (No 4) and asked for nationality, name of ship and also for the captain or Chief Eng. Neither of whom were in our boat.

                                      After talking to the 2 other life boats, the U boat returned to No 4 boat, sent over bread and milk for the 2 children, told us he had his duty to do, wished us luck, and dissapered in the darkness (He also said he had picked up out 2nd Radio Officer.)

                                      When our lifeboat cleared the ship we had on board 43 persons, including the women and 2 babies, the third officer in charge. Were taking water, and the rudder was broken, so 10 of the passengers were transferred to another lifeboat. We turned over all the women and the two babies.

                                      The sea anchor was put out and we kept head on to the sea till day break.

  Mon                              Raised the sail at daybreak and set a course N.E. The

  7th September              3 boats soon being separated. Rudder made a fixed, being a big improvement on the steering oar.

  Tues.                            Water issued dawn & dusk, beaker per man.

  8 Sept 42                      Pemmican, Biscuits, Horlicks and chocolate.. At meal times in variety. Cigs 2 per day.

                                      Following wind and sea. It is estimated that with continuation of fair weather, land, which at the nearest point, is approx 250 miles away should be sighted by Friday or Saturday.

  Wed.                            Still a following sea and wind.

  9 Sept 42

  Thurs.                          Sea and wind still with us. The makeshift rudder

  10 Sept 42                    keeps needing attention, but it is doing good service. We keep having showers of rain. Cigs have been cut to 1 per day.

                                      All the time we have been adrift, bailing has been carried on in watches; the officers taking the pump and we others using the hand bailer. Two A.B's a Q M and the 3rd Officer attend to the steering.

  Friday                          Everyone looking for a sight of land.

  11 Sept 42

                                      11.20 AM  Aircraft sighted. Flares lighted but we were not spotted.

                                      11.30 AM  Land sighted at last. By the time we approached the land, it was too dark to risk a landing though the surf so lay off till day break.

  Sat.                              Dawn. No wind. Had to lower the sails and take to

  12  Sept 42                  the oars, to pull into the land. Two teams for rowing, 1 hr. on, 1 hr off. After rowing 3 hrs, sighted native canoes who escorted us through the rocks and surf, finally beaching the lifeboat at 1.30 PM without incident. Bill, an AB. To who we owed a lot, for the sailing of the lifeboat, and also the 3rd officer, collapsed under the heat and reaction but soon recovered.

                                      The natives informed us that we were at the village of NIFFOO, in Liberia, and di the very best for us, as far as was in there power.

                                      Fruit, nuts and a meal of rice and goat was provided for us, the goat being specially killed for us.

                                      We were all accommodated at the village guest house for the night, and had the best sleep since being torpedoed.

  Sun                              A government official is expected this morning. On

  13 Sept 42                    his arrival we were all assembled in the village council hut, where the 3rd officer informed us we would have to walk to another village 12 miles to the south, where we should be able to obtain conveyance to Monrovia and then to Freetown.

                                      Left Niffoo 12 12;30PM and arrived at Sasstown by 5 PM. with 1/2 hr stop at a village half way. The walk tired everyone. We had two rivers to cross by canoe, pools to wade through, a soft sandy beach to walk on, and heavy showers of rain at frequent intervals.

                                      At the halt made halfway, we saw our first white man since landing. He was a missionary and told us he would be in Sasstown soon after us, and would see that we all had a cup of tea, something that the natives cant supply us with, and which we are all longing for.

                                      On arrival at Sasstown, we were accomodated at the house of one of the Elder Dempsters Agents. Most of us having a bed to sleep in, and clothes loaned while our own wet things dryed. Cigs were given to us all at the rate of 14 per man, and after a meal of rice and corned beef, we turned in, for what proved a good sleep.

  Mon                              Everyone having a cup of tea at 4.30 A. The tea and

  14 Sept 42                    sugar being sent over by the missionary Sunday night as promised.

                                      After breakfast of rice and meat the 3rd Officer informed us that we should have to walk back to Niffoo, and from there, on to a U.S, camp where we should be taken by air to Monrovia or Freetown. The only alternative was to wait at Sasstown for a week or a fortnight while a boat was sent round for us. No one felt like doing that, so a start was made back to Niffoo at 12 noon.

                                      Arrived back at Niffoo at 4 PM. Wet through and dead tired. A U.S. Army Sergeant and Corporal waiting there for us, with tinned emergency rations, from which we made quite a good meal. We have to leave here at day break, so as to arrive at the camp in daylight.

  Tues                            Set off from Niffoo at 6.30 AM. Had showery weather

  15 Sept 42                    till noon, and then the sun came up. Five or six rivers crossed by canoe, and the usual soft sandy beach to march over.. Arrived at the camp by 4.30 PM. after covering about 25 miles. Our legs were one big ache. In 3 days we have travelled about 50 miles. The night was spent under canvass. A seaplane was just about to leave, and had room for 1 passenger. A junior engineer took the place.

  Wed                            The seaplane came back again during the morning

  16 Sept 42                    with stores for the camp. No cigs. Though. Took 6 survivors back with him and left word that he would not be back for 2 days as the plane needed an overhaul.

                                      Our 3rd Officer was one of the 6 to go in the plane, to try and make some arrangements for us remainder to be picked up. Senior 2nd Engineer left in charge.

                                      A ship sighted in the Bay. By her actions, she looks as though she may be looking for us surviviors.

  Thurs                            Ship still in bay. Junior 2nd Eng. And the US. Army

  17 Sept 42                    Officer trying to contact it by canoe. Later, word brought by canoe, that we are to go over the surf by canoe, and will then be picked up by lifeboat, and transferred to the ship. Everything went off fine, except for 1 canoe being over turned by the surf. The two soldiers escaped with a soaking.

                                      H.M.T. Rumba. 2 cases of provisions sent over by the yanks, as the trawler is overdue, and is running short of food and water. No fresh water allowed for toilet. Sailors gave us dry clothes and cigs. Set off for Freetown.

  Fri                                Received message to stop higher up coast to pick up

  18 Sept 42                    more survivors. 16 all told, from the Viking Star, sunk 25 Aug. they have been ashore here for 14 days and have been well treated. Another Trawler came alongside us and gave us fresh water, food and cigs. Under way again at 6.30 PM.

  Sat                              Arrived at Freetown and moored alongside the Edinburgh Castle at 3.30 pm. All survivors taken ashore to the mission to eat and sleep. Met some of our survivors from one of the other lifeboats, and learned that one lot, including 2 soldiers, have already set off home by passenger boat.

                                      Had my first shave for a fortnight, also a good bed to sleep in. Two soldiers have been sent up to the Wilberforce Barracks, (where Frank and I expect to go) so that accounts for all the army gunners. It does not look as if the 4 naval ratings got away from the Tuscan Star.

11 Mar 2010

Of course, use whatever you wish from AHOY.



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