The photograph above, previously unpublished, is a rare image of a British Merchant Navy gun crew during the early part of the Second World War, taken on board S.S. Clan Murdoch. The man second from left with the binoculars is my grandfather, Lawrance Wilfred Gibbins, the ship’s Second Officer and Gunnery Officer. To his left behind the gun smoking a pipe is a non-commissioned officer of the Royal Marines or Royal Artillery, and the other men are all ship’s officers ...
When the German battleship Bismarck put to sea on 19 May 1941 on her one and only offensive mission, ‘Operation Rheinubung’, she carried a boosted complement of sailors to provide prize crews for the many Allied merchant ships she was expected to capture. The naval action that followed, the most momentous of the war against Nazi Germany, is remembered for the relentless determination of the Royal Navy to pursue and sink Bismarck at whatever cost ...
The official history of the Clan Line during the Second World War, In Danger’s Hour by Gordon Holman (Hodder and Stoughton, 1948), contains many accounts of courage and loss among the Merchant Navy crews who provided a lifeline for Britain as well as support for Allied military operations in every theatre of the war. We are used to images of ships on Atlantic convoys, their crews enduring the constant threat of U-boat attack, but an oft-overlooked role of merchant seamen was the huge part they played in seaborne assaults and the dangers they faced there as well. Just what this involved is shown in the remarkable voyage of one of these ships ...
broadcaster and historian Dan Snow had written a moving tribute in The Radio Times to his grandfather’s experience
as a merchant seaman during the Second World War, as part of the commemoration
of the abatement of the Battle of the Atlantic seventy years ago that’s been
taking place this summer in Liverpool and elsewhere. Because my grandfather was
also a Battle of the Atlantic veteran I’ve wanted to post a few blogs remembering the role of the
Merchant Navy, focusing on some of the less well-known aspects. One of those is
that the battle was not just ...