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15 October 2014
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HMS Curacao Tragedyicon for Recommended story

by Brighton CSV Media Clubhouse

Contributed by 
Brighton CSV Media Clubhouse
People in story: 
Alfred Johnson
Location of story: 
The North Atlantic (200 miles from Glasgow)
Article ID: 
A2733013
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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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 06 July 2004 by partnersinmotion

Hello, I looking for witnesses/survivors or anyone who has a story about the HMS Curacoa collision with the Queen Mary. I work for a television documentary company in Canada and we are doing a program about the collision for History Television in Canada.

 

Message 2 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 19 August 2004 by Brighton CSV Media Clubhouse

Hello, my name is Eleanor and I helped to add Alfred Johnson's first hand account of his time on the Queen Mary when it struck HMS Curacoa.

Alfred is now in his eighties and I'm not sure how he would feel about talking more about the subject. I'm aware that you left this message in June, so if you are still interested in contacting him, please e-mail me at peopleswar_se@hotmail.com and I will get in touch with Alfred and see how he feels.

 

Message 3 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 11 November 2004 by weybridge85

My grandfather was one of the men that lost his life in this tragedy, my father was only 6 years old at the timeand has since passed away. I would greatly appreciate seeing your documentary. My grandfather's name is Ernest Davis. Royal Marine.

 

Message 4 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 06 June 2005 by irisnuttgens

My great uncle, George Westray, was the youngest seaman, aged 19, on the Curacoa and sadly did not survive the tradegy. The men were lost off Bloody Foreland on the Irish coast. The names of the men who were lost are commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent. The survivors were taken to Londonderry in Northern Ireland where they were given a warm welcome, food and cigarettes!

We have a cutting about the accident from a magazine publised June 30 1945, but we do not know what the magazine is called. It may have been Australian as the cutting was sent to us from there. The article is headlined 'The war's most tragic naval collision'. The illustration in the article is by an artist call Norton. The account of the accident was given by a member of the crew on the QM an Australian called E C H Lousada.

Oddly my great aunt was at the pictures when the news reel showed the Queen Mary with a crumpled bow. No comment was made on the news about the damage, and Aunt Mary mentioned it to husband quite unaware that her brother was a victim of the accident which had occured.

 

Message 5 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 07 June 2005 by Jim Peter

I realise that 11 months have passed since you posted your enquiry. However, I have recently posted a piece entitled: "Over The Sea - To Skye" on the BBC's WW2 website.

If you read this, you will see how Skye came to be affected by the tragedy.

Jimrail100@Hotmail.com

 

Message 6 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 16 June 2005 by Terry Foster

THE SINKING OF HMS CURACAO BY THE QUEEN MARY (A4146428) Edit

MY FATHER WROTE IN HIS DIARY AFTER WATCHING THE EVENT FROM HMS BRAMHAM

 

Message 7 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 24 August 2005 by JonnyStrongback

My Grandfather, AE Beavis, was an officer on HMS Curacoa who survived the collision. He died a couple of years ago but in 1942 he was a marine engineer working in an engine room workshop space when the event occurred. A few years ago he described to me his escape, through twisted metal and broken ladders to entering the water. He bobbed in the water for quite some time, trying to make as little movement as possible in order to conserve warmth and energy. Eventually he was picked up. For me, the most telling part of the story was the way that the survivors were subsequently treated. They were put ashore and segregated in Northern Ireland, with no news given to relatives in case the shocking story undermined the propaganda effort. It was quite some time before my Grandmother learned that he was safe. On the other hand, she was unaware the ship had been sunk, so was none the wiser anyway. It's difficult to imagine such tight control of information in the modern age of conflict we now experience.

 

Message 8 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 19 September 2005 by farmerBurton

There is a book written by David A Thomas and Patrick Holmes called Queen Mary and the Cruiser published in 1997 by Leo Cooper price(then) £18.95. Very comprehensive.

 

Message 9 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 08 December 2005 by Paula Dyason

y Uncle Bob (Robert)Dyason also lost his life on the H.M.S. Curacao. I believe Uncle Bob was in the Engine room?? I think he was a stoker if that means anything to anyone? My Grandfather only in the last 15 years actually got to find out about it. As you can imagine he is very bitter about the whole event. He is 95 years old now and I feel before he leaves this earth, he would benefit knowing as much as he can about this tragedy. He lost two brothers in WW2 and knew nothing about eithers dimise. He only knows snipits of info.

Would love to hear from anyone that may have known my Uncle??

Thanks
Paula Dyason

 

Message 10 - HMS Curacoa Tragedy

Posted on: 20 December 2005 by RHelm

I am trying to find out anything I can about my uncle who was tragically killed on the Curacoa. He was CPO Bernard J Edmunds the ship's writer. I believe that he was made up to CPO just before his death and that he is referred to as a Petty Officer in The book about the disaster. Does anybody know more about him. I have seen pictures on a Humber RNVR memorial at Eden Camp N Yorks, taken aboard Curacoa in 1942, does anybody have any copies of these. Bernard was not in the RNVR, but I would love to hear of anybody who nows anything about the ship or its crew

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