- Contributed by
- Stockport Libraries
- People in story:
- Capt. Michael Furlong
- Location of story:
- Normandy and Antwerp
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 April 2004
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Elizabeth Perez of Stockport Libraries on behalf of Capt. Michael Furlong and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
In May 1944 I joined my first Merchant Navy ship as a boy aged 16. She was a "Liberty Ship" named "Samselbu" and was loaded with stores, bombs and ammunition for the Normandy landing.
We moored in the "Mulberry" harbour at Arromanches, and even though the fighting had moved well inland, the sounds of gun fire and the flashes of explosions made the war seem very close.
The ammunition taken off the ships was stockpiled on the top of the low cliffs, and each night lone German planes sneaked in to attack them. The anti-aircraft barrage was fierce, and, in an attempt to escape, the German planes dived down onto and even between the merchant ships to escape the shore guns. Each ship had machine guns manned by Army D.E.M.S. (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships) gunners who all fired together at the one plane. Being on the deck was dangerous with bullets flying everywhere. One plane hit our deck as it crashed into the harbour and we had to clean up the pieces of plane and pilot off the deck.
The "Samselbu" returned to London for more war supplies to be discharged at Antwerp, and started a cross channel service. There were V1 and V2 flying bombs in both London and Antwerp, amd we joked that we went to sea for a bit of peace. The joke ended one day as we were sailing past Ostend and were struck by a torpedo. It blew the "Samselbu" apart, but we were lucky in that most of the crew survived, and as we were "homeward bound" we had no cargo to explode.
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