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The Sinking of HMS Curacao by the Queen Mary

by Terry Foster

Contributed by 
Terry Foster
People in story: 
Able Seaman on watch Enoch Foster
Location of story: 
HMS BRAMHAM
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A4146428
Contributed on: 
02 June 2005

HMS Curacao

THE SINKING
Enoch Foster
Drafted to HMS BRAMHAM 31 May 1942-- 7 March 1943

I arrived in Scotland Thursday June 5 1942 my ship was a new one she was lying in the River Clyde her name was HMS BRAMHAM hunt class destroyer, a pretty looking ship but that was all, she was not built for as many hands as she had so several of the boys had to sleep on the mess tables and lockers. We provisioned and amunitioned ship for the first two days and made ourselves acquainted with the guns and different parts of the ship. It was on the 8 June we sailed down the Clyde to do 3 months of trials. Ship and guns were given all they could take and still she kept going.
The first job we did was to take the King and Queen from Scotland to Belfast with the HMS BICHESTER our sister ship, also the HMS PHEOBIE also a new commissioned ship a Cruiser. We had several escort both ways and the trip was a quiet one, When the ship arrived back in Scotland we had a short boiler clean,
The Navy had their job to do and it was up to every man to do his best to achieve victory for England and home. For awhile our ship was ordered to Bay of Biscay patrol against the u boats which at that time was playing havoc with our convoys, for days we would see nothing only the sea sometimes smooth which to us on board was a bad omen, we needed to be on the alert more so when the sea was running calm. It was whilst we were doing a spell of Biscay patrolling that we were introduced to the first radio controlled guided missile operated by the German aircraft. We named it “chase me Charlie” the aircraft released this weapon from a good height, approx 3—5 miles from our position, well out of range of our guns, from his plane the pilot could guide this weapon almost anywhere no matter how much we zig jagged that missile would be following. Our first experience cost us two destroyers and a damaged Cruiser. On one occasion we had a Charlie after us, our skipper ordered all guns to fire blind barrage as it approached us. The blast and concussion of the shells had the effect of putting the sensitive radio machinery out of order, so we fortunately arrived back in pot (Plymouth) and so within 48 hours to Northern Ireland, up the river Foyle for boiler clean and provision ship in readiness for our new assignment escorting convoys in the North Sea into home Ports.
It was on one of these missions that I had one of my worst and most unforgettable experiences…the date being………….? We were on patrol and well on our way to contact and escort the Queen Mary into safe waters. She was bringing a shipload of yanks to England.
Everything was going well in the forenoon; the sea was ideal, with a fair roll,
Overhead a low misty cloud, grand conditions to feel safe from subs and enemy planes. It gave us boys not on duty an opportunity to write letters home and make and mend, or tidy up the mess deck.
11.00AM up spirits, have dinner.
11.30AM and get ready to relieve red watch at our appointed duties and lookout stations.
12.00 noon I relieved Tommy as lookout on the quarter deck, he reported Queen Mary sighted with HMS “Curacaos” in the fare of her, what happened in the next few moments was too quick to be true, unfortunately it was true. I glanced and saw Q.M: and Curacao they seemed ok from our position, Tommy and I put a cigarette in our mouths, I lit a match gave him a light, lighted my own, and looked astern. Queen Mary going strong at approx 20 knots “Curacao” I could see no sign, I immediately contacted the bridge and reported “Curacao” had disappeared, from then on it was panic, our ship turned about, asdis lamps flashing messages, we past the Queen Mary she was still making for homeport like a bad horse, we arrived at the last position where I had seen “Curacao” what a terrible sight it was, the sea was covered in oil, dirty and black with hundreds of heads with oily faces and panicky white eyes, mouths opening and closing like fish, some shouting for their mothers and help, others just chocking with fuel oil in their lungs and dying from drowning all good British lads, bobbing up and down. We picked as many as we could 97 out of 650 the rest perished. On our way back to Ireland 5 out of the 97 we had saved from the sea died on board due to the fuel in their guts, all that destruction in the time it takes to light a cigarette.
After that incident it took me a while to settle it played on my mind and for nights sleep was hopeless. It all happened during the watch changes, the “Curacao” was doing a zig jag course in the fare of Q.M: and naturally losing her distance and it was during one of her sweeps across the bows of Q.M that she was cut in two halves. The Q.M: went throu her like a knife throu butter, to this day I wonder what the bridge personnel and lookouts of both ships were doing not to notice the nearness of each other.

press artical

QUEEN MARY - CUNARD WHITE STAR LINE 1936
IN 1942 WHILE APPROACHING THE CLYDE SHE WAS BEING MET BY HMS CURACAO, AS HAD HAPPENED MANY TIMES BEFORE. HOWEVER SOMEONE MADE AN ERROR OF JUDGEMENT AND HMS CURACAO ( A LOOKOUT ON CURACAO HAD REPORTED A SUSPECTED U BOAT SIGHTING ) , WENT ACROSS THE QUEEN MARY'S BOWS ( IN CHASE OF THE SUBMARINE ), AND WAS HIT AMID SHIPS BY THE QUEEN MARY AND WAS SLICED IN TWO, THE TWO SECTIONS ENDING UP 100 YARDS APART.338 MEN DIED IN THE ACCIDENT AND 108 WERE LATER PICKED UP FROM THE WATER BY DESTROYERS.THE QUEEN MARY DID NOT STOP, AS WERE HER ORDERS ( SHE HAD 15,000 AMERICAN TROOPS ONBOARD BOUND FOR THE U.K ). SUCH WAS THE IMPACT THE QUEEN MARY'S BOW PLATES WERE FOLDED OVER FOR ABOUT 40 FOOT BACK INTO THE VESSEL. A FEW MONTHS LATER 700 MILE OF SCOTLAND SHE WAS HIT BY A FREAK WAVE,WHICH ROLLED HER OVER ONTO HER SIDE, SHE EVENTUALLY RIGHTED HERSELF,BUT IT WAS ESTIMATED THAT HAD SHE GONE OVER ANOTHER 5 INCHES SHE WOULD NOT HAVE COME BACK, AND WOULD MOST CERTAINLY HAVE SUNK.AT THE TIME SHE WAS FULLY LOADED WITH U.S TROOPS.NO FIGURES WERE PRODUCED AS TO HOW MAY OF THE U.S TROOPS WERE INJURED IN THE INCIDENT. SHE WAS SOLD IN 1967 TO THE CITY OF LONG BEACH,CA - WHERE IN 1971 SHE WAS OPENED AS A MUSEUM / CONVENTION CENTRE.



HMS CURACAO
DURING WW2 SHE WAS MAINLY ENGAGED IN CONVOY DUTIES. SHE WAS SUNK IN 1942 AFTER COLLISION WITH THE QUEEN MARY, 338 DIED AND 108 WERE RESCUED FROM THE WATER BY ESCORTING DESTROYERS.

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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 - Collision Between the Queen Mary and HMS Curacao

Posted on: 03 June 2005 by Jim Peter

Do you have further information on this incident please?

Reply to: Jimrail100@Hotmail.com

 

Message 2 - Collision Between the Queen Mary and HMS Curacao

Posted on: 15 June 2005 by Terry Foster

now updated please see

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