A work in progress – the fuller biographies will emerge in due course: please sign up to the Newsletter (bottom of the page) and we’ll let you know when we’ve done more justice in writing up our extraordinary signatories.
Mr Roddie MacLENNAN MERCHANT NAVY has the specially placed signature ‘for CONVOY HX84′ to symbolise the daily, non stop, 24 hour endurance & sacrifice of the MERCHANT MARINE and the CONVOY SYSTEM, in the ATLANTIC OCEAN, literally Britain’s LIFELINE.
Here also Captain E.S. Fogarty FEGEN VC RN (who was WW1 Cruiser Lt) is commemorated, whose posthumous VICTORIA CROSS for all the crew of his gallant Armed Merchant Cruiser, HMS JERVIS BAY, with her instant distractive aggression against the massive “Admiral Scheer”, going down with guns firing as she was sunk by her adversary’s overwhelming armament an 5 Nov 1940, which saved 33 of the 37 CONVOY ships.
Captain Olander and his crew in the SWEDISH “Stureholm” were so impressed that, with permission, they broke convoy and went back, saving 65 but 191 died in ONE of the ROYAL-NAVY’S PROUDEST ACTIONS – a wartime film epic was made of this action’s consequence when 15 crew (under Lt A Hawkins) including MacLENNAN saved the precious cargo of the crippled petroleum tanker SS “SAN DEMETRIO”. First hit at the bows and waterline and with a direct hit on the wireless room, the SAN DEMETRIO was rapidly set ablaze by the Scheer and with some difficulty in rough seas, her crew completely abandoned the vessel.
Roddie’s lifeboat, with 4 long oars and two men on each oar, could still see the blazing vessel to windward. In the middle of the night they were so nearly run down that they were almost swamped, an oar was touched and they could feel the surging throb of the propellers of the massive shape – they had very little food, a few hard tack biscuits, a tin or two of corned beef and some water.
At dawn their ship was ahead and to windward still. They re-boarded 20 hrs later from their wintry lifeboat onto a ship still aglow with fire and black clouds and the stink of petroleum for two further days. Despite damaged bridge systems and no charts (“All we had was a wee 6d atlas”), after rebalancing the oil to lift the hole higher and with the split and half inch gap right across the ship’s centre casing, they were able to get the ship going again with its terrible creaking. They put an SOS on the deck as the fire went out and it had taken three days to repair what they could. The seas became very rough and they could watch the whole structure moving apart. It was Sunday and they agreed they would have to have a prayer, after which three hours on, the sea became calmer “and the Yank keeping watch at the crow’s nest shouted out “Land ahead” – we could only just steer with two spokes only left on the helm and since I was limping I was often the steersman, It was now a lovely day and we tried to use two mirrors to signal. Then a reconnaissance aircraft came over flashing in Morse.
Wee Johnny Boyle had died, very lightly clothed coming out of the engine room – he had carried on until he collapsed, a dear nice boy from Greenock and full of fun. We decided to give him a sea burial where we then were in Black Sod’s Bay off the Irish coast.” They were able to proceed slowly right round Ireland and would not have a tow, worried about salvage rights. Sent some extra hands, they could still only communicate by lights and knocking with a hammer but managed to take it right round to reach the Clyde.
Captain Waite OBE and the crew shared a bounty of £12,000 Roddie’s home’s small but beautiful island of BARRA has a poignant war memorial, overlooking Castlebay, which testifies to this one tiny community’s most grievous losses, mainly at sea, of 71 men in WW1 and 54 in WW2, who would never return to see their charming home port again …