- Contributed by
- Brighton CSV Media Clubhouse
- People in story:
- Alfred Johnson
- Location of story:
- The North Atlantic (200 miles from Glasgow)
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 June 2004
It was 1942 and I was 22 years old and a Seaman in the Merchant Navy on the Queen Mary. We were returning to Glasgow from New York, which was a four / five day journey.
The Queen Mary was carrying about 20,000 American Troops to join the Allied Forces. She was known as a 'hornets nest' in the war as there were lots of nationalities on the ship.
There were 2 of us on the poop deck on the aft of the ship and we were manning the 6 inch gun - incase we came under attack. What good we could have done with one gun, I've no idea!
A cruiser called HMS Curacao met us 200 miles off the coast to escort us into Greenock. I could see her clearly as I was on the aft.
We could see our escort zig-zagging in front of us - it was common for the ships and cruisers to zig-zag to confuse the U-boats. In this particular case however the escort was very, very close to us.
I said to my mate "You know she's zig-zigging all over the place in front of us, I'm sure we're going to hit her."
And sure enough, the Queen Mary sliced the cruiser in two like a piece of butter, straight through the six inch armoured plating. The Queen Mary just carried on going (we were doing about 25 knots). It was the policy not to stop and pick up survivors even if they were waving at you. It was too dangerous as the threat of U-Boats was always present.
My mate and I wanted to do something, so after the collision I said to my mate ' C'mon let's sling this over' and we released the cork life raft into the sea.
Whether anyone from the Cruiser managed to climb aboard the raft I've no idea.
The Queen Mary continued her journey to Greenock, dropped anchor and discharged the American soldiers. In her wake a tragedy was unfolding behind her in the Atlantic. I estimate that about 600 men were aboard the cruiser, and I don't know if there were any survivors or not, as the collision was covered up and wasn't reported in the papers.
The case went to court many years later in 1949, and the Queen Mary was exonerated of blame and the whole event was forgotten.
I wonder what they told the families of those men on the cruiser?
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