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15 October 2014
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My Uncle Bill

by MichaelChurchillsc

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Archive List > Merchant Navy

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People in story: 
Chief Engineer Officer William Orr
Location of story: 
Eastern Med
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Contributed on: 
31 May 2005

My Uncle Bill.

I never knew my Uncle Bill he was killed the year I was born, I only knew him as Mother’s brother who was drowned at sea during the war. It was only later on in life that I started to try and find out about him and his life, it was during one of my searches that I came across some of his papers, these led me to contact the China Navigation Shipping line. I was re-directed to the Swire Group. They were kind enough to help me by getting his company records. These were a great help in my research so this is my piece of history. My Uncle Bill, or Chief Engineer Officer William Orr to give him his official title joined the China Navigation Shipping Company in November 1922 and worked his way up to 2nd Engineer. On 15th November 1926 he was serving as 2nd engineer on board the SS Sunning when she was attacked by pirates in the China seas and together with several fellow Officers fought a gun battle with the pirates and held them at bay until a Royal Navy came and rescued them, they all received a letter of thanks from the company.
After several years he joined the SS Shuntien as Chief Engineer in Honking and travelled to England where the Shuntien came under the Ministry of war and was sent to the Mediterranean with supplies.
It was on one of these convoys that he was drowned. He was sailing from Tobruk in convoy T.A 5. To Alexandria with German and Italian prisoners of war, they had left Tobruk and were sighted by a German U-Boat the U-559. This boat trailed them and on the 23rd December 1941 it torpedoed them, the Captain, four of the officers and the steward, including my uncle were drowned. The Shuntien was sunk in position 32.6N 24.46E. 19 of the crew were rescued by H.M.S. Heythrop, and 100 by H.H.S. Salvia unfortunately she was sunk by U-568 the following day off the coast of Alexandria in position 31.46N 28.00E. I don’t know what happened to the crew and the survivors.

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