Everett of Penn, pictured right, Wolverhampton, was torpedoed
and sunk in 20 minutes in the Atlantic in 1941. He witnessed the astonishing
heroism of a Midland padre - and later met a misguided convert to
It is one of
those extraordinary war stories that shows how fact can be stranger
SS Anselm left Glasgow escorted by the destroyer Challenger," recalls
scanning the bulletin board, six days later: For the attention of
all servicemen,' it said. Pyjamas can be worn now that we are out
of the danger area.' A matelot with a stiff beard behind me growled:
That must have been written by a U-boat commander. Is there a safe
place anywhere in the Atlantic?'
"My pal Andy
and I were both in the boxing team at our last station and to keep
ourselves in trim we were up at 5am trotting arund the deck. Saturday
morning, July 5, was no exception.
"We had just
completed one circuit when the torpedo struck. From then on it was
a nightmare. The alarm sounded. By instinct we headed for the lifeboat
station. I witnessed chaos and panic beyond anything I could imagine.
Despair and hopelessness was written in everybody's face.
"I heard scream
and howls from guys trapped down below. I watched guys fighting
with each other, seemingly for no reason at all. The destroyer Challenger
had nosed in towards the back of the ship, catching servicemen dropping
from the stern.
the first padre at the RAF Bridgnorth station, was haggling with
a couple of erks (aircraftmen) to lower him down so that he could
bring solace to the doomed erks trapped below. His last words were:
My love of God is greater than my fear of death.'
"The ship went
down within 20 minutes. The reports of casualties ranged from 250
to over 400. Someone, somewhere made a cock-up with their sums.
I read that Padre Hugh had been awarded the George Cross posthumously
for his bravery."
There was a
curious footnote. Dave Everett recalls: "I recently met another
survivor who had converted to Catholicism having witnessed this
RC priest sacrificing his life.
"The irony was
that it was a mistake. Padre Pugh was CofE. But he shared a cabin
with a Catholic priest. In the pandemonium, each had donned the
Herbert Cecil Pugh (1898-1941) was awarded the George Cross posthumously
in April 1947. The official citation says he was last seen "kneeling
with the men in prayer as the ship sank."
in Wombourne. The main force of the explosion was in the garden.
Fortunately the occupants escaped injury.
of the Bismarck: A
young Wolverhampton marine was in at the kill after taking part
in the dramatic chase and the eventual sinking of the famous German
warship, the Bismarck in June.
aged 18, from Hordern Road, was so thrilled by the action that he
said later: "I was disappointed that it didn't last longer." His
ship, the Dorsetshire, went in and finished off the Bismarck with
torpedoes, after the chase.
youngest marine on the ship, described how his captain received
orders to cut off the German vessel, then speeding for home after
sinking the Hood.
"We were up
all night watching for her, and when dawn broke we were cold and
tired and thought she was never going to show up. But about 8.30am
we heard gunfire and saw flashes on the horizon.
was firing at some of our destroyers. We immediately engaged her
and she replied, but her shells passed overhead.
"We closed in
immediately and some more ships came up to support us," he went
on. "We did most of the firing and got several hits. We saw one
salvo blow the Bismarck's forward gun turret clean off the ship,
and another hit the after turret, and left it hanging over the side.
After a few more salvos she was blazing amidships."
said that by the time his ship closed in on the stricken vessel,
its guns were silent - and the Dorsetshire then got orders to go
in and finish her off.
"One of our
torpedoes hit her amidships," said young Kitchen. "There was a terrific
explosion and the next thing I saw was the Bismarck heeling over.
"The next time
I looked I could just see her hull with men on it - and other men
and wreckage and oil in the water.
two minutes she had gone. We all cheered as she went down. But it
was not so good seeing the men in the water, some of them badly
said they picked up some 80 survivors and helped them all they could.
up sick soldiers was the mission of Princess Mary, the Princess
Royal, when she visited a West Midlands auxiliary hospital in May.
The royal visitor
made an extensive tour of the wards, kitchen, dining hall and stores
- and even watched a group of wounded and sick soldiers as they
organised an impromptu game of football.
also visited a Red Cross hospital for wounded officers and a village
recreation hall which had been turned into an auxiliary hospital.
war work skills shortage:
women for war work industries was the mission of Wednesbury County
Elsie Dale at work turning out AA shell components in October 1941
When an Express
& Star reporter joined them for a day in May she found there were
women from all over Britain learning new skills for the war-effort.
But she added:
"I was singularly ashamed that our own West Midlands was so poorly
She said she
was at a loss for words when a Scots girl asked her what the region's
girls were all doing.
Most of the
women on the course had previously been hairdressers, dressmakers,
waitresses and clerks.