Eric Robbins servied with U-boat killer HMT Le Tiger

June 09, 2011

From: Frans
To: Mac
Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2011 1:47 AM
Subject: Letter published August 18, 2009

Hi Mac
While searching on the Internet, I found the letter from Jenny Lenney to you dated August 18, 2009 where she talks about her dad, Ernest Baxter, aboard HMS Le Tigre (actually HMS Le Tiger).
I have a photo of my father, Eric Robbins, which he titled "Dignity and Impudence" (see http://www.harry-tates.org.uk/veteranstales28.htm ), and the second person identified is "Ernie". Is this the same person? Do you still have Jenny's e-mail as I would like to get in contact with her as she mentions that her dad kept a diary, and I would love to know if she has any info of my dad, his mad ways(!) and Le Tiger.
I realise this is a long shot but....nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Many thanks and regards.
Dave Robbins


Thank you for your mail.

Regret I do not have Jenny's E Mail address.

We will add your Dad's story to Ahoy:


From: http://www.harry-tates.org.uk/veteranstales28.htm see this page for details and pictures.

Stories my Father told me' - Dave Robbins

He mentioned setting sail from Iceland and talked about chipping ice off the superstructure on one of the convoys(I can only imagine that this was on one of the early Russian convoys as he had photos which he had taken in November/December 1941). Apparently the seas were incredibly rough; one of his abiding memories was seeing another warship heave itself up a wave to such an extent that the asdic dome was exposed as she went “bow up” and then seeing her screws thrashing away when she went “bow down”.

'Dignity and Impudence' - Ike, Ernie, Darnbro', Eric Robbins & Tubby - ( Iceland November 1941)

He also talked of being on a convoy where Le Tiger was detailed off to sink a British merchantman that had been torpedoed and was unable to move - the convoy’s Commodore did not want the cargo to fall into the wrong hands. Apparently, they went steaming in at 14 knots, smoke belching profusely from the funnel(she was a coal burner after all), and fired one depth charge over the merchantman and dropped another alongside and then tried to get out of the area as fast as possible. More damage was done to Le Tiger than was done to the merchantman(or so it seemed)! The most mortifying thing was that they had to standby and watch while a destroyer fired a torpedo that, on exploding, immediately broke the merchantman in two and sent it to the bottom in less than a minute! It took considerably longer than that to repair and clear up the mess on Le Tiger!.

He loved to tell a story about the rations on the ship. One Christmas dinner consisted of the untraditional dishes of pumpkin and cabbage. My father was never very fond of those vegetables from then on! He adored the cocoa as it seemed to be one thing that the galley was still able to churn out even when conditions were very rough.

His eyes were opened wide when he went to United States in 1942 as part of the fleet of A/S Trawlers sent to help the US Navy with the setting up of their convoys. On arrival, some kind American couple took him to a very plush hotel(it may have been the Waldorf-Astoria); the menu arrived and was VERY extensive. Lobster, pate de foie gras, lazy aged steaks, you name it. Due to the shortages experienced through rationing in the UK, his only thought, and request, was for “Ham and eggs”! The maitre’d and his staff were kindness itself and made him feel like a king even though the meal he consumed was “very ‘umble”.

Memories of his time in the USA seemed to dwell on two things: firstly, that on the trip over he had had enough of the “goggle” type spectacles that he had been wearing and threw them overboard to the raucous encouragement of the crew, and secondly, that the East coast of the USA had a great abundance of attractive and friendly (in the nicest sense of the word!) ladies who went out their way to make British sailors feel welcome, especially those who did not wear spectacles! This last point my father did not tell me - I derived this from photos taken at the time and from comments that my father made to my mother long after they were married!

(left) HMT Le Tiger - While in convoy BA-2 from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia on the 3rd July 1942, Liberty ship ss Alexander Macomb was attacked and sunk by U-215. Two escorts rescued the survivors. HMCS Regina recovered 25 men and HMT. Le Tiger found 31. It was while she was carrying out this mercy mission that the ASDIC operator detected positive responses from a submerged U-Boat and Le Tiger went to action stations sinking U-215, her commander K.K. Hoeckner and his crew of 47.

Le Tiger sank U215 on the 3rd July 1942 while taking survivors from a torpedoed vessel to a nearby harbour. My father never mentioned it to me (he probably wanted to shield me from the grimmer aspects of the war), but told friends of ours years later that it all happened in such a detached fashion that nobody realised that the U-boat had been sunk until they were back in harbour.

The other bit of action that my father did tell me about was the time that he and the “Old Man” were amidships when a Heinkel 111 zoomed down and strafed them with machine-gun fire. He and the Old Man threw themselves through a convenient hatch - the bullets on the superstructure sounded like “frozen peas thrown onto a corrugated iron roof” was my father’s impression of the moment. Some unsung hero on a wing of the bridge grabbed the Lewis gun mounted there and proceeded to fire as the Heinkel approached, passed over the ship and then tried to get out of range. A puff of smoke was seen to come from one of its engines before it disappeared into the haze. A report an hour later came through that a Heinkel had crash-landed 12 miles away though it could never be substantiated that it was the same one and whether Le Tiger was the only one to fire on it.

My father eventually did his officer’s training at HMS Assegai in Durban in late 1943/early 1944 and as this is where Le Tiger saw out her war career after leaving the US East Coast I presume that he was on board her until that time.

I will always remember him saying that he had “a lucky war” - so many people had gone through hell and he had either been somewhere before it “heated up” or arrived there once events had “cooled down”.

He liked South Africa so much that he emigrated to Cape Town in 1947 and started work in a stockbrokers office where, surprise, he met my mother and the rest, as they say, is history. He kept his contact with the navy through the RNVR and SA Naval Reserve Associations up until the time of his death in 1969.

Dave Robbins &
Nick Clark © 2003 

Dave Robbins &
Nick Clark © 2003

back to letters index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved