Gentlemen Cordite, Lieutenant Commander Warwick
edited by Nicholas Bracegirdle

Life and Death - Tragedies of War

From Memory


Arthur Cooper


On the Island of Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea, is a nice sheltered Bay called "Suda Bay" in which the British Fleet could anchor with comparative safety.   It was sheltered from the sea, and always calm.

At this period in time during World War II, the British Cruiser "York" rode safely at anchor.   She was a modified York or County Class Cruiser.

The weather was calm, the stars were shining and it was a moonlight night.   But in the seemingly calm and quiet of the night, a stark and deadly tragedy was creeping up on the beautiful 8" gun cruiser "York".

The Italians were noted for their "frogmen" and underhand raids with Midget Subs, etc., and this was a well planned operation.

A motor boat was fitted out as follows:  The bow of the boat was filled with high explosives with a detonator trigger mounted right in the front.   The high power engine was muffled down to just a quiet sound.   A seat was built right on the stern, with the throttle alongside and a lever which, when pulled, would eject the occupant over the stern and clear. 

On this night, the deadly missile was somehow brought into the proximity of Crete and Suda Bay.   The Coxswain silently wended his way into the bay, keeping close to the rocky shore, until there - right in front of him, just three hundred yards away - was the unsuspecting Cruiser York.   The Coxswain then opened the throttle to Full Speed, then pulled the lever which threw him over the stern of the motor boat and, at the same time, locked the rudder in a fore and aft position.

The explosive motor boat hit the "York" and blew a large hole in her starboard side.   She began sinking slowly. 

Panic on board soon turned to reason.   They had a head of steam up and quickly pulled up the anchor.  They ran the ship on to the sandy beach.   She sank by the stern with the bow and about half of amidships out of the water.   My mate, Roy Adams P.O. TGM., and I went on board her and saw her like this.   It was a pitiful sight.

The Coxswain of the motor boat then gave himself up and was a P.O.W.  

There is a sequel to this tragedy, for upon inspection it was decided that if a steel plate was placed over the hole and sealed, then she could be re-floated.   A diving platform, or what is called a Lighter, was placed alongside with a diving pump and a fully helmeted diver, thought to be an Artificer Diver named Don Hadow, from Australia was submerged and was carrying out the repairs when an air raid developed.   A single bomb, meant for the York, missed but hit the diving platform and smashed it to pieces and blew the diving pump over the side and drowned the diver.

This 'Tragedy' was one of many which happened during World War II.

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