Erris History Home

The Tides of War

HMS Mashona

The British destroyer HMS Mashona was bombed and sunk off the coast of Galway by a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 aircraft on May 28, 1941, with the loss of 48 of her 219 crew. Image: Public Domain.

The Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Mashona, was bombed and sunk off the coast of Galway by a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 aircraft on May 28, 1941, with the loss of 48 of her 219 crew.

Seventeen-year-old, Peter Clifford McGlade, a Boy 1st Class Royal Navy, whose body was washed up on Glosh beach on June 27, 1941, was the youngest military casualty washed ashore in Mayo. He is buried in Fallmore Graveyard.

Also among the HMS Mashona dead were Petty Officer Jubilee Jack Tweed (44) whose remains were washed ashore on Clare Island and found at 5.30 pm on July 3, 1941, by Michael O’Grady. He is buried in the local cemetery. He was the husband of Alice Tweed, of Shirley, Southampton.

Leading seaman Jack Springett Johnson (37) also lost his life on the Mashona and is buried in Kilcommon Erris Church of Ireland Churchyard. He was the husband of Minnie Lily Lillian Johnson, of Dagenham, Essex.

The body of Frederick George Wheeler (34), Electrical Artificer 1st Class on the Mashona, was washed up on Dooagh beach, Achill Island, and found by Michael O’Donnell, Cloughmore, at about 8pm, on June 27, 1941. A St. Christopher medal was attached to his identity badge. He is buried in Kildavnet Catholic Graveyard.

Davanger Rescue

On a bitterly cold Monday, November 11, 1940, a lifeboat was seen off Annagh Head. In the lifeboat were survivors from the Norwegian tanker, Davanger, laden with 10,000 tons of fuel oil en route from the island of Curaçao in the Southern Caribbean via Bermuda and Halifax to Liverpool in convoy when she was sunk by U-48 on October 11, 1940, with the loss of 17 lives, 300 miles west of Broadhaven Bay.

After escaping the inferno, 12 survivors battled through that first night in heavy rain and high seas, and as the winds decreased somewhat the next morning they spotted two lifeboats from a British ship which they hailed. Upon being asked what they wanted to do, the survivors in the other boats replied they were going to remain in the area to wait for help, but the Norwegians set sail, heading east for the Mayo coast.

In the morning of October 18, they spotted land and altered course for the nearest point, and early that afternoon some men came out to help them row. Two hours later, the 12 survivors were landed at Ballyglass. They were all admitted to the hospital at Belmullet. 50

S.S. Serbino

Robert Mackay Sutherland (27) was Second Radio Officer on the S.S. Serbino, a British cargo steamer en route from Mombassa and Freetown for Liverpool carrying a general cargo when she was torpedoed by U-82 and sunk on Tuesday, October 21, 1941, with the loss of 14 of her 65 crew. His remains were washed up on Dooyork and he is buried in Geesala cemetery. Like many radio operators, he was probably one of the last to leave the ship as he tried to radio for help.

S.S. The Sultan

Boatswain John Murphy (26) was lost when Glasgow-registered S.S. The Sultan was bombed and sunk in the North Sea by Luftwaffe aircraft on Sunday, February 2, 1941. One other member of her 14 crew, a gunner, was also lost in the attack. Survivors were rescued by the trawler, Lord St. Vincent. After Murphy’s body was washed up at Achill Island, he was interred in Achill (Holy Trinity) Church of Ireland Churchyard, Achill Sound.

S.S. Dione II

A British destroyer on convoy duty in the North Atlantic during World War 2 dropping depth charges as it pursues a U-boat. Image: Public Domain.

One of the most distressing sights Mayo coastwatchers came across during the entire Battle of the Atlantic occurred on Tuesday afternoon, April 15, 1941. Coastwatchers from Annagh were patrolling at Port Glosh when they noticed a strange craft bobbing on rough seas off Tirraun Point on the north end of Glosh beach. The craft was driven onto the rugged shore by a stiff westerly breeze.

During the war, the British Navy adopted the large merchant service self-launching life raft, which had a wooden frame and deck built over 45-gallon drums. It kept men out of the water, safe from both hypothermia, and, boiler and depth charge explosions, and with luck, they kept survivors alive until rescue came.

Before wading out to the raft, the coastwatchers called for help and Gardai and LSF men joined the effort to retrieve the raft which consisted of planking affixed to six barrels. Reaching the raft, a grim sight met the Erris coastwatchers eyes. The dead men sat upright on the raft just as if they were alive. They were in an advanced state of decomposition and evidently had been a long time at sea.

Only one of the bodies could be identified from papers in his pockets. Frederick Richard Thomas (37) Great Crosby, Lancashire, was a Second Officer, on the S.S. Dione II, a British steamer in convoy destined for Cardiff with a cargo of iron ore. She was slightly damaged by German Fw200 Condor aircraft on February 3, 1941, and sunk the next day in a submarine attack, northwest of the Aran Islands. In his pocket wallet, Gardai found a religious picture and sacred heart medal. He is buried in Termoncarragh cemetery.

Three young Irish merchant seamen were among the 28 crew members and one gunner who were lost on Dione II. Sailors Maurice Cooney (25), Youghal, Co Cork; James Kehoe (27), Campile, Co. Wexford, and George Christopher O’Hara (20), Cork, are all commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London. Five crew members were picked up by the British steam merchant Flowergate and landed at Glasgow on February 8.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

5 replies on “The Tides of War”

It was fantastic to read the above..
My father was a light keeper at Blacksod, Eagle Island and Blackrock during the war. He told of being on Blackrock when a U boat crew landed looking for supplies and the altercation that ensued.
As my father told it, it was the winter of 1943 and he was stationed on Blackrock as trainee lightkeeper with one other keeper; sorry I don’t have a name for this chap, though it may have been Sweeney. Blackrock lighthouse is over 10 miles west of Blacksod light and Ireland’s most westerly lighthouse. He was stationed there and had as a companion a black dog called “Bess”.
A U-boat crew landed on Blackrock during the night and basically they were looking for supplies of water and food. When they were discovered by the lightkeepers it was obvious that they were armed. And the keepers were under strict orders not to be confrontational.
It got kinda ‘heavy’ when ‘Bess’ decided to protect the island and attacked one of the U-boat crew. The dog was kicked by the U-boat crewman prompting my dad to attack the crewman. A scuffle ensued and my dad found himself locked in a stores cupboard (that was now empty) in the lighthouse with ‘Bess’.”
“The senior lightkeeper was informed not to let my dad out until the U-boat had left.
“And that’s that, not a story about heroics or bravery, but an interesting story that has never been told, to the best of my knowledge.


Mark, thanks for taking the time to comment.
I have been unable to find any documentary evidence of this raid in the historical records. If anyone has further knowledge or information regarding Mark’s story I would be delighted to hear from them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s