The Sinking of
S.S. W.C. TEAGLE

1917 - 1941

Report by N.D. Houston, 1st Radio Officer
Sole Survivor of the Torpedoing

Torpedoed by U-558
Oblt. Gunther Krech

In accordance with Convoy Instructions no regular W/T watches were being kept. All three Radio Officers were keeping watches on the bridge for signalling duties, leaving the bridge as necessary to take G.B.M.S. schedules on H/F from Oxford Radio at 0000, 1200 and 2000 G.M.T. As main receiver (350-10,000 metres) was capable of re-radiation, it had been sealed by Naval Authorities at Sydney N.S. and instructions were that it was only to be broken in case of fog, attack, or other emergency.

15th October, 1941
I was in 4-8 watch with Ch. Officer at 0400 on the morning of the 15th October we relieved 2nd Officer, and 2nd Radio Officer, who informed us that they had heard aircraft overhead at about 0300.

At approx 0455 we saw a red flash followed by the sound of an explosion and a repetition of similar effects almost abeam on our port side quite distant and apparently at the other side of the convoy. The Chief Officer called the Master, and I put in the switch for the alarm bells. The Chief Officer and I both heard what we thought was the sound of an aircraft engine, and while trying to locate this we saw a long wake leading from well out on the port bow in towards our stern. A ship in the next column on our port side sounded a series of short blasts on the whistle to indicate she had sighted a Submaarine. It seems that the noise we took to be an Aircraft engine was the noise of the Submarine motors and it is possible that the 2nd Officer & 2nd Radio Officer made the same mistake at 0300, and the submarine had been cruising around the convoy for some hours.

Shortly after that we were able to see the conning tower of the submarine. I asked the Chief Officer to telephone down to the W/T room with a bearing of the submarine and proceeded there. We sounded the appropriate signal on the whistle for submarine on the port side. S.S. EMPIRE MOON sounded signal on her whistle for submarine on starboard side and fired two white rockets. Upon breaking the main Receiver seal and switching on I heard S.S. EMPIRE MOONmaking signal. I reported this to the bridge and asked again for a bearing of the submarine to enable me to make a report but for some reason no bearing was passed to me.

I believe course of convoy was around 60 at that time. Being in the W/T office, I saw nothing further, but later heard from all who were on the bridge at the time that the submarine crossed our stern, we had pulled out to starboard to avoid the ship ahead which had pulled away from the convoy, and this brought the submarine on our starboard quarter running on a course almost parallel to ours.

A Corvette had closed in and was quite close to the submarine, but did not appear to have sighted her. Corvette and submarine ran along on practically parallel courses for almost two or three minutes before submarine dived. No action at all was taken by corvette. The escort aat that time consisted of three Corvettes (Canadian R.C.N.), but not one of them took any action whatsoever.

Three of our gun crew (4) had manned the gun but were unable to fire while the submarine was inside the convoy columns without endangering the other ships. When the submarine crossed our stern the Corvette was closing in on the submarine very quickly and they held their fire to avoid any possibility of hitting the corvette.

Daylight came shortly afterwards and all was quiet throughout the day. The escort was reinforced slightly during the afternoon. About 2130, a single round of gunfire was hheard astern followed by depth charges and a number of star shells and flares were fired along our starboard side. Activity lasted for about 30 minutes and then all was quiet during the night.


16th October, 1941

During the day the escort was again reinforced. Depth charges were dropped between 1400 and 1600, and at intervals between 1630 and 1700. Clocks were to be advanced 20 minutes per watch, commencing with the 2nd Dog Watch. The Chief Officer and I came off watch at 2000 and there was a loud explosion at about 2015 and the 3rd Officer came in from the bridge to report an explosion, and a ship on fire well astern on the port side of the convoy.

There was great activity for about 30-40 minutes. depth charges, star shells and flares, followed by a period of quiet. At about 2017 I had manned the W/T Room but heard no signals from any of the convoy. At 2100 the Master sent a message down to me that it was unnecessary to keep further W/T watch, but to stand by.

I went down to my cabin on the main deck to collect a blanket as I intended sleeping in the W/T room. The Chief Officer and I talked for some time and at about 2120 there was a very mild explosion and the ship gave a violent shudder. I hurried back to the W/T room and through the door at the top of the companionway could see the whole ship illuminated by a fire on the after part of the main deck. I presumed the torpedo had struck just foreward of the engine room. I switched on the emergency transmitter and made the signal "SSSS.de W.C. TEAGLE" several times but received no reply. All the lights then went out. I switched on the emergency light and then someone telephoned from the bridge and said "She's going, abandon ship". I went out to the port lifeboat on the lower bridge where there appeared to be some difficulty in clearing the boat away. The after end was swung out and about two feet down from the deck while the foreward end appeared to be held fast.

The ship, which had been on an even keel, started to go down by the stern. I noticed that the fire on the main deck had subsided but was still being fought. After going down by the stern slowly for about half a minute, she suddenly plunged right down. I jumped into the water and must have been somewhere near the lifebboat as I felt a rope of some sort fall around me, and pull me down. I struggled free and came to the surface. The bow was then standing almost vertically in the air from the forepart of the bridge to the stern being above water. I swam away as quickly as I could, and could hear many people shouting all around me. It is very difficult to judge time in such circumstances, but I imagine I was drifting around for about half an hour, when a small tank floated past me. I tried to hold on to it but it was thick with oil and I could not grip it.

Later I saw a light on the water and swam towards it thinking it was one of our crew with a torch, on getting closer I saw it was a raft. I clambered aboard and began shouting to various directions from which I could hear calls "Here's a raft". however I could not contact anyone and the raft was rapidly being carried away by a fairly heavy sea. There were some paddles lashed to the raft but these were on the underwater side and I could not get to them. I tried to use a piece of the raft which was broke off, as a paddle, but could not make any headway against the sea. I tried to find the light which had been attached to the raft when I climbed aboard but it seemed to have broken adrift. I saw a shape in the water and by getting into and hanging onto the raft I was able to pull it in, but it was only a cork lifebuoy. I had taken it to be one of the survivors.

I drifted well clear of the ship and for some time lost sight of everything. I then saw a gray shape ahead of me and started to shout, I was drifting down very rapidly towards this ship when she was struck by a torpedo. Again I saw a number of lights in the water but couldn't get near them. I drifted around for some time and tried to rig a shelter from the sea anchor which was lashed to the raft. I was unable to get this clear as it was lashed in about six places and I hadn't a knife to out these lashing, and my hands were too cold to untie the knots. I saw a searchlight and again shouted and after one or two sweeps I knew the searchlight had picked me up.

After a while H.M.S. VERONICA came close to me but I was unable to assist in getting alongside as I didn't have a paddle. After some very fine maneuvering in the heavy swell, a line was fired across the raft and I was pulled alongside and taken onboard. The line was fired with great accuracy and fell right across the raft, and I would like to express my appreciation to all concerned for the fine way in which I was picked up and treated aboard H.M.S. VERONICA.


S.S. W.C. TEAGLE
Specifications

Name:
W. C. Teagle
Class:
-
IMO No.:
-
Ex:
-
Cubic:
18.732
Built:
1917
Type
Tanker
Draft:
8.69
Status:
Torpedoed and sunk in 1941
SubType:
Product
LOA:
157.45/152.40
Flag:
Panama
DWT:
16.080
Beam:
20.73
Builder:
Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. Ltd., Sparrows Point, Md.
GT:
-
Depth:
11.67
Owner:
Panama Transport Comp.
NT:
-
Speed/Cons:
9.5/-
Engine type:
2 x Triple Expansion Engines 3000 IHP
Sistership is the H. M. Flagler.

Additional Info by Starke & Schell Registers :
1917. W.C. TEAGLE      US          2T (aft)     (10½)
     10,678     Standard Oil Co. (New Jersey), Bayonne, N.J.                              499.1 x 68.2
          T     Bethlehem Steel Co., Sparrow's Point, Md.     (7)     #159                    215284
1927 - Standard Shipping Co., Inc., Wilmington, Del.
1935 - Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, Inc., Wilmington, Del.
1940 - Panama Transport Co., Panama                                   PA
1941 - s/o (Anglo-American Petroleum Co., Ltd., mgrs.),  London                    BR
Torp. and sunk by U 558, 17 Oct 1941, in abt. 57N-25W, voy. Aruba via Sydney, N.S. - Swansea, fuel oil.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
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