Sinking of HMS Esk

The following was written by Herbert Vaughan, and provides a first hand account of the sinking of HMS Esk.

NO RETURN TICKET - At war with Germany, September, 1939.

A diary written by Herbert Vaughn (Telman (Communications Clerk) Petty Officer), (25615) whilst in Marlag & Milag Nord POW camp (Home address 249 Commercial way, Peckham, London SE15)

Our first job in H.M.S. "ESK", a minelaying destroyer built in 1934, was to mine enemy harbours and coasts in company with H.M.S. "EXPRESS" who was our flotilla leader. These trips were known as "Club runs" and were only under¬taken on very dark nights, so enabling us to get to our position, lay the mines and away without being detected. Our next duty was escorting troops and war materials from England to France, this was certainly a slow and weary Job, this was followed by another period of minelaying, mostly in the North Sea.

Next came a trip to mine the entrance to Narvik, (Norway), for the operation we were escorted by the "H" class of destroyer and H.M.S. "RENOWN", bad weather from the beginning was encountered, and H.M.S. "GLOWWORM" one of our escort, fell out to pick a man up who had fallen overboard, before she WAS able to rejoin us, German destroyers appeared and led her into the "Scharnhorst and Hipper" where although she put up a wonderful fight against superior odds she was eventually sunk, whilst this was happening remaining ships carried on and in due course our mines were laid off Narvik. We then proceeded South with only RENOWN as escort, and early the next morning in a blinding snowstorm and with a very heavy sea running, we contacted the "Scharnhorst and Hipper", and immediately engaged them. RENOWN and Scharnhorst both receiving a direct hit from each other, here the snow became thicker and contact was lost, the enemy ships disappearing ovwing to such bad visibility, after this we were detailed to proceed back to Narvik and patrol our minefield relieving H.M.S. HUNTER, HARDY, etc who were to attack Narvik. In this attack and the next by "Tribal" Class destroyer nine German destroyers and 20 or more merchant vessels were sunk. Captain Warburton-Lee of the HARDY receiving the Victoria Cross for his gallant work.

At about 1 a.m. the following morning after the commencement of our petrol of the minefield , we sighted a large steamer approaching from the South, a challenge was made and there came no reply, vessel was immediately stopped and boarded, she proved to be the 9,000 ton S.S. ALSTER carrying guns, lorries and war materials bound for Narvik, her Captain was formerly the Captain of "S.S.EUROPA" the crack German Transatlantic liner, ship and crew were taken back to England. Various other small incidents occurred of little importance and we returned home after a three weeks strenuous trip and were given 48 hours leave. Leave completed, we returned to our normal duty of mine laying in the North Sea.

Then came the evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk, in this we were one of the first destroyers to take part, journey after journey from Dunkirk to Dover and back running almost without a stop for seven days and nights, being shelled and bombed incessantly but remaining to complete the final night of the evacuation, thousands of troops we must have carried, our own casualties being one killed and six wounded by shrapnel, ship after running the gauntlet so much was badly damaged, but still seaworthy. The evacuation being completed we were ordered back to Portsmouth for repairs to our ship and 48 hours leave. For this operation our Captain, Lieut. Comdr. Crouch was awarded the D.S.0, other awards included four D.S.M.s, and several "Mentioned in Despatches." Back once again to our normal Job of mine laying, on this we continued until 31st August, 1940, On this day five destroyers of the 20th D.F(31/08-1940): EXPRESS ESK, IVANHOE, INTREPID and ICARUS each loaded with 26 mines left the Humber at 3pm. It was Queen Wilhelmina of Holland’s birthday and each ship flew the Dutch ensign at the masthead. We proceeded down river and passed the Humber Light vessel at 4 p.m. a beautiful summer's day, clear sky and hardly a ripple on the sea. Ships were in line ahead end course was set almost due East, we were to lay mines off the Dutch coast. In this formation we steamed until 6.30 p.m. when paravanes were streamed. During this operation INTREPID encountered difficulties and was told to rejoin the flotilla when she had overcome her difficulties, remaining ships proceeded at a speed of 26 knots, INTREPID eventually rejoined us and took up appointed station.

At 8 p.m. action stations were sounded as we were approaching the danger area, myself going on watch in the W/T office where everything was rather quiet. It is now beginning to get near dusk, and it was one of those moonless nights. At about 10.30 p.m. we received messages from the Admiralty saying enemy light forces had been sighted to the N.E. of us and detailing us to endeavour to Intercept them on completion of our minelaying, other Naval units of cruisers and destroyers were also detailed to locate and engage the enemy.

At 11.7 p.m. I heard a violent explosion followed by Continuous blasts of a syren, a messenger informed me it was the EXPRESS that had struck a mine, all remaining ships stopped engine, I waited patiently in the Office for details or a signal giving Information of the explosion, however nothing came. IVANHOE then proceeded slowly to pick up survivors from EXPRESS, I now learnt from outside that the whole fo'cle of EXPRESS from her bridge had been blown completely away, another terrific explosion shook the ship, this time it was the IVANHOE who had struck a mine whilst survivors were Jumping aboard from the EXPRESS, whilst all these happenings were going on outside I remained on watch awaiting orders, the minutes seemed like hours, who would be the next one, not long were we kept in suspense for & mighty and terrific explosion shook the ship from head to stern, the deck underneath me seemed to rise up, all lights went out so total darkness, one of the big lamps and shade overhead crashed and struck me behind the right ear, the aluminium chair In which I was sitting gave a Jerk and the two sides of it gripped me round the waist, from this I quickly released myself being of light metal.

I could hear shouting and lots of orders being passed outside, such as "Sorts ready for lowering" and "Get carley floats overboard" not a word came to the Office, I also endeavoured to get the emergency lighting working but this also refused to work, eventually I decided to reach the upper deck end find out the situation, here I soon realised the inside bulkhead was down, safely negotiating this I had to proceed slowly and carefully, knowing that underneath me was an oil fuel tank, but not knowing if the deck in some spot had been busted, reaching the outer door, I found this end the bulkhead to be buckled and ripped, as it was only a wooden door I managed to get through to be met with a stream of hot oil fuel which burnt my face and lungs, although this sounds quite easy one must realise the total blackness, however after a few more minutes I safely reached the upper deck, here also it was pitch black but various people were using torches etc. enabling one to see just a little of the terrible happenings around us.

The dead and wounded were being hoisted up from the fore¬most boiler room where the mine had most certainly struck us, also there were a few men lying on the deck, wounded and covered in oil fuel who had been rescued from the EXPRESS. Boats and carley rafts were being lowered, all around were cries of help from men In the sea, and from the other ships where they were imprisoned from the explosions, three ships mined almost on top of one another seemed incredible.

Long blasts wore still coming from the syren of the EXPRISS&, evidently being caused by the wreckage of the fore¬mast becoming entangled in the syren wire. Gradually I made my way aft feeling half dazed from the gash behind in my ear and which was pouring with blood, reaching the engine room hatches I found half a dozen men including the First Lieutenant launching the carley floats, I asked for a dressing for my head and was told to go to the low power room which was further aft, but to be very careful as one of the mines had broken adrift from the rails and was rolling around the upper deck, one man already having his legs broken by it, before I moved somebody passed me a cork life jacket which I immediately put on, almost at the same moment a second and more terrific explosion shook the ship, she actually seemed to jump clear into the air. It was like hell being let loose, groans and cries for help were coming from all sides, and probably ten seconds later the ship gave a heavy lurch to Starboard just as if she were going straight to the bottom.

A general cry went up “Jump and swim for it” I Jumped over the port side and as I came to the surface immediately I opened my mouth for air, thereby swallowing a whole mouthful of oil fuel which was covering the whole sea, hardly anything can be worse to taste than this. My first thought was to swim, but which way, not knowing the whereabouts of any boats or floats, however I just swam away from the ship, knowing she could not last much longer,/ after swimming about 50 yards I came across a carley float in which E.R.A. Pike was sitting and flashing a torch for what reason I couldn't say. My first words to him were

"get further away from the ship before she blows up"

he replied

"I think I am quite safe here."

This was the last seen of him.

I then continued swimming and joined up with three other men, no boats or floats could be seen anywhere owing to the blackness, shouting was going on in every direction, by now we were probably a hundred yards from the ship, and lying on our backs for a rest then, crash another explosion hit the ship, whether it was the boilers exploding or another mine we could not tell, the whole sea seemed to light up for a few seconds, showing us men almost everywhere swimming. It was the final blow to our gallant ship, she seemed to crack amid¬ships, the after part going straight down, the for’d part remaining afloat for a short while, then with a rush, hissing and exploding she disappeared, the ESK was taking her last dive.

Nobody can realise how, at this moment, how lonely and desolate we were, what had been our home for over a twelve¬ month and all we possessed in her had gone to the bottom, but this was not the time for sentimental thoughts, our lives had been saved so far for which I thank God. Whilst all this was happening we had all remained silent, until somebody said, "Come on, we must find a raft or boat”. The sea of course was very chilly but with the coating of oil fuel over our bodies this seemed to keep the cold away. On we swam, in what direction none of us knew, keeping together as much as possible, and talking very little to save our breath, our thoughts were at home thinking of our loved ones, shouting was still going on from varying distances. After swimming for what appeared to be three-quarters of an hour or nearabouts we sighted a raft almost full with men, as / we approached it we could see it was a raft from our ship and full of our shipmates. One of our four was pulled into the raft, next came myself, by this time she was overloaded and with two more men to provide for, gradually the third one was lifted inboard, the last one was a young fellow of roughly 13 stone, our first attempt was unsuccessful, soon as the raft felt his weight it gave a lurch and almost capsized, whereupon he immediately took to the water again, he tried again and again with the same result, and at last it was decided the raft was too crowded to hold him having 18 men onboard, however something had to be done for him, so with his chest on the edge of the raft end the lower part of his body still in the water, we sat all night long with his head in our hands to keep it above the water.

On looking round at our shipmates we found we had a young officer R.H.V.R, Sub Lieutenant who had been taking his first trip. To our dismay and astonishment we also learnt we had neither water, biscuits or paddles, so although we were still alive, we knew we could not possibly last long unless we were picked up by some rescue vessel.

By this time we were beginning to feel cold and miserable, my clothing consisting of thin summer underclothes and overall suit, plus a lifebelt, some had more end others had less, but for all this we weren't downhearted, at intervals we had a song in an endeavour to pass the weary hours till daylight came. Then what, nobody knew or could even guess. In the distance a signal lamp could be seen flashing, this I tried to read but without success, my eyes were sticky and would not open properly, this was due to the oil fuel coating holding my eyelids down. We soon noticed that the raft was overcrowded, any small movement by any of us was sufficient to overturn the raft, it meant just sitting tight. These rafts, I will endeavour to describe are an oval cylinder of copper being of course airtight covered with cork and canvas. Wooden slats secured by ropes are fitted as a bottom board, and this when the raft is placed in water sinks two to three feet to allow leg room. This particular raft was roughly five feet across and ten feet in length, so one can imagine how eighteen men had to pack themselves into such a small space. One or two quarrels started, chiefly about the amount of room were soon stopped. For the next hour or so all of us sang at the tops of our voices, such songs as "Lights of London", "Roll out the Barrel," etc., In between songs we would all shout to find out If any other rafts or boats or even swimmers were near us.

By this time we must have drifted clear of oil covered sea which helped to keep the waves down, but now they began to break right over us, chilling us to the bone. Our only officer took off his watchcoat and gave it to the two youngest members who had discarded their clothing before jumping into the sea, and he with several others were convinced that we should be picked up by our own rescue vessels in the morning, somehow I could not feel as hopeful knowing how small we must be in such a large space. So the hours passed and eventually after what seemed eternity came the dawn, what a sight greeted us, far away in the distance just one raft, except for that not even a solitary piece of wreckage left out of the sunken ships, This made us fell more desolate than ever. For some it was the turning point, six men at short intervals jumped into the water saying "they could not stand it" or "I'm going", in each case they must have lost their reason, nothing we could do would prevent them, and it was the last we ever saw of them. This of course made the situation in the raft much easier for those who remained and our first job was to haul onboard the chap who had been hanging over the side all night end who by now was almost exhausted, but with a good rubbing and clapping his body warmth was soon restored to him. Another job was to get into touch with the other raft which we eventually did by means of continually shouting and waving as we had no paddles to make our way to her. At last they came alongside and luckily they were from our own ship, cheering us a bit to know there were a few more survivors, my thoughts and eyes were for my pal, but nobody had either seen or heard anything of him at all but there still remained hopes.

This raft had also suffered the same experience as we had done by a few men losing their reason and going overboard as the dawn broke. We obtained three paddles from our shipmates and we decided to keep together as much as possible. Away we paddled, our eyes continually on the look-out for signs of a ship, boats or anything that could help us. Our outlook was anything but good, not a single piece of food, a drop of water, cigarettes, or watch between us, however whilst we had life there was always hope. Everyone of us looked like a nigger from the coating of oil fuel all over our bodies which had now dried into the skin.

Some two or three hours after the dawn broke we sighted three aircraft, evidently searching by their tactics and as they approached us we discovered they were British Blenheims, whereupon we stood up, waved end cheered until we were hoarse. Our efforts were in vain ass they disappeared over the horizon almost as quickly as they had arrived without showing a sign that they had seen us. Gradually the day wore on, each man taking turns at paddling to keep the circulation going, the sun by now was quite warm. With oil fuel on the eyelids end dried salt making the eyes smart, it was a struggle to keep them open, thirst was also beginning to tell its tale, parched throats and slightly swollen tongues, even with this trouble we tried to sing at times to keep our spirits up.

Sitting there with our thoughts straying everywhere we were suddenly surprised by the fellow who had been lying across the raft all night producing a very small bottle of rum that he had placed in his pocket the night before as he went to "Action stations" and had forgotten all about, this small but precious bottle was passed to each man, just enough to wet one's lips and it was empty, what a relief, it is impossible to describe how wonderful it tasted, I really believe it saved my life.

Another sad incident overtook us, our young fellow named MoDougall closed his eyes and attempted to stretch out on the raft in a few minutes he was dead without a word, to be followed shortly afterwards by another chap Ridgeway, not a whisper or groan, just peaceful death, both turned a terrible colour with their lips and tongue swollen from thirst. Both bodies we kept onboard for hours, thinking if we were rescued shortly artificial respiration could be tried. By this time we were all feeling the effects of exposure and thirst, food somehow did not seem so necessary as water. In the distance could be seen three or four more rafts and eventually after a couple of hours hard work paddling we came up to two of them, shortly afterwards two more came up, some-how it cheered us temporarily to see other survivors’ faces, but without a sign of my pal, everyone of them was showing the effects of a night's exposure.

To our relief one raft produced a broken box of ship's biscuits, partly damaged by salt water that mattered very little, these were divided up and each man had roughly one each, although all of us were more than hungry, each one took his share without a word of squabbling. Everybody was asking for water but not a drop of this precious liquid was to be had. We were sitting and talking with each other when somebody shouted "Boat in the distance" and sure enough it was flying what appeared to be the Danish ensign, after a time it came closer and eventually within hailing distance. It then turned out to be a whaler from "H.M.S. EXPRESS" with about nine survivors in. Almost at once everyone asked for water and biscuits knowing that each whaler is supplied with each, the only reply we received was "We are shoving off to send you assistance." Away they went and we were left to our fate by our own comrades, curses were shouted at them but to no avail, whether they were ever picked up or saved nobody knows or cares.

After lying together for roughly an hour we decided to make a move this time in tow of each other for company, but after a short while this proved a failure, as we had nothing to steer by and were just going round in circles. We finally cast off endeavouring to steer an easterly course, knowing at our rate of progress we could never make the English coast, we had two alternatives, steer west with little hopes of being picked up or steer east into the enemies hands, even now life seemed sweeter than death so we chose east. How my thoughts continually flew to home and loved ones, what else could one do in such circumstances but think of home. No situation could be more desolate than this even so our hearts, chins and hopes were still up. During the afternoon a seagull kept flying around us, this we endeavoured to catch with one object, to eat, however our luck was against us and it flew away. Our two dead shipmates ware still in the raft, I spoke to our officer saying we were gradually getting weaker and as there were no signs of being picked up it would be best to pass the bodies over the side. At first he would not agree but finally said "Yes". The two bodies were then silently and gently lowered into the water to find the only possible grave. Our thoughts during this sad job nobody could imagine, two men, who, a few hours before were alive and joking with the remainder of us were now beyond all aid, whose turn would it be next?

Sometime later more towards dusk two German seaplanes flew over and around us with their black crosses easily distinguishable, some of us were in favour of waving to them, others were against it, probably with the thoughts of being machine gunned, however this was overruled and we commenced to wave and shout, but our efforts brought no reply and they quickly disappeared over the horizon leaving us more desolate than ever.

By this time the sun was beginning to set and soon a chill crept over us, everyone of us simply dreaded the thoughts of another long, cold and miserable night adrift in the open sea, but there seemed little else for it. Sitting up to one's waist in water and with it getting colder each minute our feet and legs at times seemed numbed and we decided after some debate to continue paddling all night in turns, to keep the circulation in our bodies going and also to break the monotony. Slowly the darkness came on. Those who weren't paddling, huddled together as much as possible for warmth, the sea also increased causing the waves to break completely over us and feeling just like ice, all one could do was to close your eyes, sleep was impossible, sitting for twenty-four hours on pieces of rope which formed part of the raft, was making us too sore to sit still. Gradually the night drew on, half an hour's paddling and then a spell, talk for a few minutes then silence through the dreaded hours of darkness, no rescue-vessel could ever find us in such blackness, what would the morning bring, we were still full of hope. Most of us became partly delirious, in seeing different things such as cliffs, ships etc., some were groaning with various small injuries they had received, nobody could be very cheerful in such a state. As the night drew on so the sea increased further until we were almost drenched all the time and with the salt water on our faces and lips the desire for water was becoming terrible. "Oh for a drink of water" must have been said thousands of times. Would the daylight with hopes of being picked up never come, the blackness seemed end¬less, but at long last the grey tinges of dawn began to appear. Finally it became light with not a single thing in sight, even the other rafts were away over the horizon, although we knew we could not be so very far from them, as we were more or less drifting as the tide wished.

It was now thirty-two hours without a drink and with just one biscuit, our strength was beginning to sag, and our tongues and lips swelling from thirst, surely help must come today otherwise our chances of living are getting smaller and smaller, one great point among them all there was no moaning, all of us thanked God for our lives end life even now was still sweet. We spoke now of the things most of us thought we had seen during the night, some were so very funny and managed to produce a laugh from the whole crowd.

Slowly the sun began to rise bringing heat into our half frozen bodies, our thoughts were everywhere, one minute with our loved ones at home, next, wondering if we should ever be picked up by rescue vessels, then, if we were what our lives as prisoners-of-war would be and so on. I prayed to God to be picked up knowing we could not last much longer without water, would our prayers be answered. Our arms too were beginning to feel the strain of paddling, whether we had made any headway towards the land nobody could tell or if the tide WHS helping us. However we kept on with the paddling still taking turns. Hardly anyone spoke now, perhaps like myself wondering if we really were any better off then our shipmates who had perished with the ship or be alive and slowly die of thirst and exposure. Gradually the day wore on, the sun getting hotter and hotter, at times more than we could bear. Suddenly two aircraft were sighted and proved to be two German seaplanes, as they came closer we stood up and waved, this time they came so very close and we actually saw the crew wave, that was all but it was enough to cheer us for a short while, quickly they disappeared over the horizon, surely they would send help now as they had seen us. Almost immediately we commenced searching for a rescue vessel not knowing how far distant we were from their bases.

Every hour seemed an age and our thirst was getting terrible making us feel as if we could not stand it much longer, I prayed and prayed for water and feel sure everyone of us did the same. Our legs too ware getting very stiff having been sitting still for thirty-six hours now, gradually the sun reached its height overhead giving us an idea of the time. My thoughts were continually with my loved ones at home, the terrible shock it would be to them when the news of our disaster came out, never to hear of the hell we were going through at this time.Gradually the hopes of being picked up seemed further away than ever, had those planes really seen us or did we imagine to see them waving. Slowly the time dragged on each hour seemed longer than the last, how much longer could we stand this without a drink, our throats seemed even too dry and parched to even speak. As the day wore on, evening came and finally dusk so our hopes receded, the sun too lost its heat taking away the warmth that we needed so much, just imagine our thoughts of another endless cold night up to our waists in water and with such few clothes on.

As the darkness gradually approached I could feel my head becoming strange, it seemed as if I were miles away, suddenly I found myself in the water, to be pulled beck into the raft, I had dozed from sheer want of sleep and so had loosed my hold, three times I did the same thing at intervals, much to the annoyance of the others who became wet in helping to pull me back aboard. I felt so very weak and as if I had no strength to hold on. Strange things seemed to be happening all around me, I began scooping up salt water with my hands and drinking it, saying I had found fresh water, I offered my cupped hands round to the others, who laughed so I drank and drank, I could now hear them talking but could not understand what they were saying. In my delirium I kept looking for three bottles of beer which I had hidden in the raft, letters from my wife and mother seemed to disappear. Everything seemed terribly strange just as if I was in another world, for hours I seemed to be like this, then I must have lost consciousness altogether and remember nothing more till I awoke. When I did awake, my hands and arms which seemed so weak I could hardly move, I felt around me, everything was black and it seemed as if I were in a wooden box, my first thoughts were that I had been buried alive, how did I get here and where was I, my head still felt very funny.

Suddenly the side of my box opened and there stood a sailor but he too seemed strange in a different uniform, at last I realised he must be a German and must have heard me scratching the sides of my box, immediately he began speaking In German and two other sailors arrived, carefully and gently they lifted me out and laid me on a table where at once saw that my wooden coffin was just a sailor’s bunk. Quite a number of Germans now gathered round me, how had I got here were my thoughts, and why were they German and not English sailors, slowly it came to me that our rescue vessel was German. One sailor who spoke English asked if I was wounded to which I replied "No", he then asked if I had any money, at this I pointed to my belt, he opened the purse and took all that it contained, £4.10.7 ½ d. to be exact, He then asked for the identification disc around my neck, to this I replied “No”, as it was a silver disc and chain given to me by my dear wife and which I valued tremendously, he then said he must have the disc for the purpose of taking my particulars, In the end I let him take it, never seeing it again, however I kept the chain.

Shortly afterwards two German sailors arrived and took me to the bathroom, supplying me with a tub of hot water and small piece of soap then leaving me. I endeavoured to stand up and bath myself but collapsed with weakness, my legs felt just like jelly, I must have remained lying in the deck for fifteen minutes or so, when the two sailors returned and saw how weak I was, they then decided to assist me, one holding me up whilst the other did the work, the first attempt was made with the soap but was a failure owing to the thick coating of oil fuel which covered the whole of my body and which was deeply embedded into the pores of the skin. Next a try was made with a scrubber and powder, I could stand very little of this, feeling so very weak, whereupon they dried my body, wrapped me in a blanket and carried me down into a small compartment, where hard mattresses had been placed on the deck.

Here I found about fourteen other survivors, mostly fast asleep, with a German sailor keeping guard. I was now given a hot drink, what sort it was I do not know, it certainly tasted like nectar, having been over sixty-two hours without a drink. After this I laid down and slept, this being the first sleep for over seventy hours, I awoke several times gasping for a drink, had either water or tea and back to sleep again, Next we were awakened and told it was Wednesday morning and that we had been anchored outside Wilhelmshaven most of the night owing to an air raid.

Our clothes were brought down to us and we were told to dress, but what a state they were in, having been soaked in oil fuel and then dried in the heat of a boiler room had made them as stiff as boards, however having nothing else they just had to be worn. Hot drinks and a sort of porridge were given to us with this and having had quite a number of hours much needed sleep I felt very much better but still very weak, I now discovered that we had been rescued by three German mine sweeping trawlers at about noon on Tuesday and was told that I had been unconscious for some time before being picked up. I was also told of some of the mad things I had done on Monday night, such as handing my fingers round for cigarettes, one fellow saying he actually bit one finger, falling off the raft to find different things,

Some time later roughly about 9 a.m. we were told we could go on deck as we were entering the harbour of Wilhelmshaven, this we did sitting with blankets around us. The crew of our rescue vessel were very good giving us slippers and cigarettes etc. Slowly we entered the harbour and secured alongside the other two trawlers.

Next, sometime after our arrival, German Naval officers including a Doctor arrived in an ambulance and a lorry, after obtaining our particulars the Doctor asked if anybody needed hospital treatment, to this I replied "Yes" and was placed in a stretcher and taken to the ambulance, with another fellow from our ship, we were then driven to the Naval hospital and carried straight to the bathroom. As we were passing through a group of chaps in hospital clothes I heard one remark

"Thought they were English prisoners, they look like niggers”.

These fellows we soon learnt were men of the R.A.F. who had been shot down over Germany, seeing us with our coating of oil fuel they really thought we were Indians. Into a big bath of steaming hot water both of us were placed in another attempt to cleanse ourselves of our skin of oil. After a long soaking and continual rubbing with soap and powder we eventually managed to rid ourselves of most of it. From here we were taken into a ward and placed into a clean bed. Although still feeling tired out, the ordeal we had been through prevented us from sleeping well. The fellows of the R.A.F. in the ward did everything possible to help us, the German doctors and staff were also very good. My next trouble began with terrific pains in the chest, and the bringing up of black stuff from my chest, this the Doctor Informed us was oil fuel, saying we were very lucky not to have been poisoned with it. After about eight days rest and treatment I felt back to normal health and was discharged to join our shipmates in the Naval Barracks for interrogation and dispersal to the camps in Poland. Here my story ends. Details of crew of “H.M.S. ESK” are attached.

(HMS Esk was sunk on 31/08/1940)

Ship’s company of HMS ESK including officers 1940

This list was compiled by H. Vaughan Tel. whilst in a POW camp after HMS ESK was sunk off the Dutch Coast.

Total = 154

Prisoners of war = 26 (z)

Known to be dead = 64 (x)

Missing = 63 (?)

Arrived home = 1


Lt. Comdr. Couch (Capt) x

Lt. Carter ?

Lt. Elstob z

Lt. Surg. Newman ?

Lt. Cdr. Eng. Ralph ?

Sub. Lt. Fitzgerald x

Sub. Lt. Weller x

Sub. Lt. Proctor z

Gunner Long ?

1 Mess:

Cody Ldg. Sea. Z

Johnson A.B. z

Drew A.B. z

Solen Ldg. Sea. x

Birkett Ldg. Sea. x

Openshaw Ldg. Sea. x

Guy Ldg. Sea. x

McKenzie A.B. ?

Murray A.B. ?

Blakey A.B. ?

Taylor A.B. ?

Martin A.B. ?

Dashwood A.B. ?

Slack A.B. ?

2 Mess:

Lawley A.B. z

Burton A.B. z

Bullock A.B. z

McDonald A.B. x

Barker A.B. x

Brown A.B. x

McCaully Ldg. Sea ?

Mazzina A.B. ?

Donoghue A.B. ?

Dick A.B. ?

Sunderland A.B. ?

Corless A.B. ?

Halliday A.B. ?

3 Mess:

Revell z

Powell Ldg. Sea x

Crawford x

Steel x

Bagg x

Brunton x

Benson x

Cotton ?

Bunyon ?

Blakey ?


Greatix ?

4 Mess:

Hurman z

Kennedy z

Cawley x

Thomson x

McGregor x

Jenison x

McCloud x

McDougall x

Finlay Ldg. Sea ?

Duffay ?

Kerr ?

Kemsley ?

Collet ?

Geddes ?

5 Mess:

Vaughan Tel. z

Welch S.B.A. z

Thayer A.B. z

White Sig. x

Brookes Sig. x

Ferguson O. Tel. x

Wright O. Tel. x

McKenzie A.B. x

Privett Cook x

Bonus A.B. x

Potts S.A. x

Kent Tel. ?

Cook A.B. ?

Worledge A.B. ?

McCappin Sig. ?

Blundell Ldg. Tel. ?

6 Mess:

Foot z

Armer z

Stevens z

McIntosh z

Beer z

Cavanagh z

Blatchford x

Mitchell x

Munday x

Dancer x

Baker x

Smith x

Carter x

Toomer x

Downs x

Brown x

Muzzell ?

Manning ?

Mintram ?

Dart ?

Ginglin ?

Duplack x

Ridgeway x

Gamun x

Jones ?

Taggart ?

James ?

Woods ?


7 Mess:

Saunders z

Tottman z

Barton z

Atkinson z

Welchman x

Wilson x

Perkins x

Becham x

Curtiss x

Staples ?

Chambers ?

Hammond ?

Davies ?

Hawkins ?

Sparkes ?

8 Mess:

Butler S.P.O. x

Dunning x

Parlett x

Bacon ?

Whitehouse ?

Jay ?

Buckett ?

Bacon ?

9 Mess:

Pike E.R.A. x

Ward C.E.R.A. x

Curle Sto. X

Richmond E.R.A. ?

Kannel E.R.A. ?

10 Mess:

Taylor z

Brown z

Featherstone x

Broad x

Hamun x

Day x

Chapman x

Sullivan x

Stace x

Waldrow x

Mayhew x

Frith ?

Jones ?

Steadman ?

Sear ?

Adams ?

Meeston ?

Biddle ?


Cadwell x

Hurst x

Evans x

Duce ?

Harrison ?

Share this article

Request our email newsletter for all our latest news and information
Contact us

01723 369361
45 Eastborough, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1NH, England

We are here

Opening times

11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
Registered charity No 1144532. Company No 06755717.