British Tramp Anglo Saxon sunk by German Raider Widder. The story of an amazing open boat journey of 70 days

During the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, the British Tramp Steamer Anglo Saxon, of 5,595 tons with a full cargo of Welsh coal was on her way to Argentina. She sailed under the ownership of The Nitrate Steamship Company with a crew of 41.

Anglo Saxon

The Anglo Saxon

On the 21st. of August 1940 she was off the west coast of Africa and was sighted by the German Armed Merchant Raider Widder. Her Captain Ruchteschell, decided to wait till darkness fell before he attacked, and at 2008 ( 8.08 PM ) which was only a few minutes before the moon was due to rise, he took his ship on a course directly opposite to that of the unsuspecting British vessel. When he was at a range of only 2,500 yards he opened fire, immediately hitting the Tramp's deck gun, and setting fire to its ready use ammunition. Ruchteschell decided to quickly finish her off, and fired a torpedo, which struck home and the Anglo Saxon promptly sank.

There was a report of two boats getting away from the stricken ship, and the Raider noted morse signals being exchanged, and the German Captain decided not to pick up any survivors. He recorded in his war diary, the boats are: " Only 800 miles from the Canaries, and the wind was favourable."

Photo of German Armed Merchant Raider Widder, who sank the British Tramp steamer Anglo Saxon on the 21st. of August in 1940

Photo of German Armed Merchant Raider Widder,
who sank the British Tramp steamer Anglo Saxon on the 21st. of August in 1940

The Ship's Jolly boat.
A small boat known as the Jolly boat, had been launched after the torpedoing, and it had seven men on board. The fate of the second boat and its occupants is unknown, other than it was not seen nor heard of again. Of these seven men, only Robert Tascott and Roy Widdiscombe lived to reach the Bahamas.

The Jolly boat made one of the longest journeys in maritime history covering some 2,700 miles. After some weeks only two men still lived, Robert and Roy, they noted on the 24th. of September: " All water and biscuits gone, but still hoping to make land."

For the remaining 37 days they survived on rainwater, seaweed, and a few small sea creatures. They contemplated suicide, they fought, but managed to live through a three day hurricane, to finally land in the Bahamas on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean on the 30th. of October 1940.

They had been battling the elements to survive an amazing sea voyage in a small open boat over 70 days.

Survivors Tapscott, and Widdicombe, from Anglo Saxon

Survivors Tapscott, and Widdicombe, from Anglo Saxon visited in Nassau General Hospital
by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The Duke was the appointed Governor of the Bahamas.
Widdicombe when returning home 3 months later died, when his ship SS Siamese Prince
was torpedoed by U-69. All the crew were lost, thus Tapscott remained the sole survivor
from the sinking of the Anglo Saxon.

The Jolly Boat on show at Mystic Seaport.
This small boat was on show at Mystic Seaport in the US for all who viewed it to marvel at the sheer guts and determination that carried both Robert and Roy to safety on their epic voyage.

In 1977 the Jolly Boat was shipped back to UK where it now forms the centre piece in a Battle of the Atlantic display in London's Imperial War Museum. After conservation the jolly boat was put on display at the IMM in May 1998 as the central exhibit of  'Survival at Sea: stories of the Merchant Navy in the Second World War'.

Post War trial of Captain Ruchteschell.
Post war the Captain was tried for war crimes, the only Armed Raider Captain to face a court. Able Seaman Robert G. Tascott gave evidence that the Widder opened fire on the boats as they tried to move free from the sinking Anglo Saxon. In his defence, Ruchteschell stated the noise from his guns firing precluded the hearing of any "Cease Fire orders."

He was however sentenced to ten years gaol, and died in custody.

Update 13 July 2008 thanks to Diane Tapscott aout her father Robert George Tapscott

The Log of the Anglo Saxon's Jolly Boat excerpt:

Sir,

On Wednesday, October 30th, a ship's boat containing two men came ashore on the Island of Eleuthera. The men were discovered lying on the beach in an advanced state of exhaustion by a farmer named Martin who was working in a field nearby and had seen the boat approaching. He obtained help and the men were removed to Governor's Harbour and the resident Commissioner reported the circumstances to the Colonial Secretary at Nassau, who issued instructions for their removal to the hospital in Nassau by aeroplane. The Chief Medical Officer went with the plane from Nassau and they were brought back and placed in hospital the next day. Although in a very weakened and emaciated condition, every hope is entertained of a rapid recovery.
Read the log

The Fate of the Jolly Boat excerpt:

Ultimately the jolly boat was returned to the UK in the container ship Sea-Land Atlantic and landed at Felixstowe on 15 November 1997. After conservation the jolly boat was put on display in May 1998 as the central exhibit of 'Survival at Sea: stories of the Merchant Navy in the Second World War'.
Read the the fate of the Jolly Boat

 


Thanks to Billy McGee http://www.british-merchant-navy.co.uk for this information 16 October 2004

Hello Mac,

The first list below is the names of those lost from the SS Anglo Saxon for you to use on your site. Although there were seven who survived the initial sinking, their deaths are all registered on the date the ship was sunk. DEMS gunner Penny was the first to die of his wounds. Two others stepped over the boats side in a suicide pact and the last to die went insane and was lost overboard.

ALLNATT, Able Seaman, WALTER ROBERT THOMAS LOUIS, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 28.

BEDFORD, Cook, GEORGE, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 21.

BRESLER, Able Seaman, ADOLPHUS, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 45.

DENNY, Chief Officer, BARRY COLLINGWOOD, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 31. Son of C. Collingwood Denny and Alice Violet Denney.

DUNCAN, Second Officer, ALISTAIR ST CLAIR, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 28. Son of Johan S. Duncan, of Burray, Orkney.

ELEY, Fireman and Trimmer, ALBERT, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 26. Son of Charles Eley, and of Amy Eley, of Newport, Monmouthshire

ELLIOTT, Able Seaman, STANLEY GEORGE, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 22. Son of Mrs. A. Elliott, of Blaina, Monmouthshire.

FLYNN, Master, PHILIP ROBERT LIMPENNY, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 53. Son of Philip and Mary Flynn; husband of Monica Mary Flynn, of Hove, Sussex.

FOWLER, Greaser, JAMES, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 37. Son of Stephen Townsend Fowler and Elizabeth Fowler.

GORMLEY, Sailor, JAMES JOSEPH, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 24.

GREEN, Fireman and Trimmer, VERDUN CHARLES, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 24. Son of Albert and Rose Green; husband of Linda A. Green, of Barry Dock, Glamorgan.

HANSEN, Carpenter, OSCAR WALDEMAR, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 47. Son of Soren Peter and Mette Thomine Hansen, of Newport, Monmouthshire.

HAWKS, Third Engineer Officer, LIONEL HENRY, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 23.

HOUSTON, Second Engineer Officer, JOHN INNES, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 55. Son of Innes and Agnes Houston, of Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland; husband of Mabel Ellen Houston, of Romford, Essex.

KEYSE, Steward, TREVOR, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 19. Son of James Robert and Margaret Keyse, of Newport, Monmouthshire.

MAHER, Boatswain, THOMAS FRANCIS, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 34. Husband of Mary Ellen Maher, of Cathays, Cardiff.

MILBURN, Chief Engineer Officer, EDWARD ERNEST, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 39. Son of Edward Ernest and A. Milburn; husband of Ethel May Milburn, of North Shields, Northumberland.

MORGAN, Assistant Cook, LESLIE JOSEPH, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 20. Son of Charles and Gertrude Morgan, of Newport, Monmouthshire.

NICHOLAS, Donkeyman, ALFRED JOHN, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 37.

O'LEARY, First Radio Officer, MICHAEL, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 48. Husband of C. O'Leary, of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire.

OLIVER, Fireman and Trimmer, ANDRES, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 26.

PEASTON, Fireman and Trimmer, JOHN DANIEL, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 29. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Henry Peaston.

PICKFORD, Third Officer, WALTER MURRAY, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 30. Son of Comdr. G. T. Pickford, R.D., R.N.R., and D. I. M. Pickford.

PILCHER, Second Radio Officer, ROY HAMILTON, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 21. Son of Bernard A. and Beatrice H. Pilcher, of Godalming, Surrey.

PROWSE, Ordinary Seaman, WILLIAM FREDERICK, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 18. Son of Frederick W. and A. D. Prowse, of Newport, Monmouthshire. His brother Ivor James also fell.

RASMUSSEN, Fireman and Trimmer, LARS CHRISTIAN, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 53.

RICE, Fourth Engineer Officer, THOMAS ALBERT, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 20. Son of Thomas and Margaret Rice, of Marsden, Co. Durham.

SAVORY, Sailor, ROBERT, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 33. Son of William Lloyd Savory, and of Mary Ellen Savory, of Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

SMITH, Sailor, ALFRED ERNEST, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 41.

STUART, Fireman and Trimmer, CHARLES, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 44. Son of John and Elizabeth Stuart.

TAKLE, Ordinary Seaman, PHILIP JAMES, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 16.

TENOW, Fireman and Trimmer, FREDERICK, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 58. Husband of Mary B. Tenow, of Newport, Monmouthshire.

TOBIN, Fireman and Trimmer, M, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 35.

WALLACE, Fireman and Trimmer, CHARLES JOHN, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 21. Son of Charles and Catherine Wallace, of Newport, Monmouthshire.

WARD, Assistant Steward, GEORGE WILLIAM, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 20. Son of Samuel and Ann Mercy Ward, of South Shields, Co. Durham.

WILLIAMS, Fireman, DAVID, S.S. Tacoma Star (London). Merchant Navy. 1st February 1942. Age 43.

WILLIAMS, Fireman and Trimmer, DAVID JOHN, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 20. Son of Frederick and Margaret Williams, of Barry Dock, Glamorgan.

WILLIS, Chief Steward, HARRY ALFRED, S.S. Anglo Saxon (London). Merchant Navy. 21st August 1940. Age 40. Husband of A. M. Willis, of Newport, Monmouthshire.

DEMS gunner

PENNY, Marine

FRANCIS GRAHAM, PO/18637. H.M.S. President III. Royal Marines. (lost in S.S. Anglo-Saxon). 21st August 1940. Age 44. Husband of Edith Elizabeth Penny, of Eastney, Hampshire.

Registers and Indexes of Birth, Marriages & Deaths of Passengers & Seamen at Sea.

The records are held in what is known as BT files and are very impotant you remember the file No. The file you need to access is "BT334" This will give you the following information:

Name of ship, official No. port of registry, date of death, place of death, name of deceased, sex, age, rating/rank, nationality and birthplace, last place of abode, cause of death and remarks.

Outward Bound Passenger Lists 1890-1960 are held in BT27 an gives information on p assenger lists of people leaving the United Kingdom by sea kept by the Board of Trade's Commercial and Statistical Department and its successors. There is also BT32 covering 1906-1951 Registers of passenger lists kept by the Board of Trade's Commercial, Labour and Statistical Department and its successors.

Please note the PRO will not search their files for you, if you are unable to attend in person, they will give the names of independent researchers who will do it for an hourly fee(very expensive).

Public Records Office,
Kew,
Richmond,
Surrey,
TW9 4DU,
Tel. 020 8876 3444.

Rgds Billy McGee http://www.british-merchant-navy.co.uk


   

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