( British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd )

As launched

Built in 1926 by R&W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd., Hebburn.
Tonnage: 8,602g, 4,759n, 9,400dwt.
Engines: Twin Screw, 2x4 Cylinder Quad Expansion by Builder, 5,000 I.H.P., 14.3 Knots Trials, 12.5 Service
Launched 24th August 1926, delivered 5th November 1926, Yard No 542.

I have already covered Rohna on the B.I. section of this site, but was prompted to go into greater detail of her demise by a book that has been written by an American, Dr James Bennett whose brother was tragically killed in the Rohna incident and the coverage given to her sinking by The History Channel shown on American Television. Both Dr Bennett and the History Channel apportion the blame of the high loss of American lives to the incompetence and cowardice of its British and Indian crew, a spurious claim that I wish to redress. It was stated by both parties that the accommodation was unfit for human habitation, in some instances quite true, what seems to have passed them by is that Rohna along with a great percentage of troopships pressed into service during the war were designed for other services. Great Britain supplied most of this type of vessel during the hostilities simply because there was no alternative, again this seems to have passed everyone by. The sentence used by Dr Bennett and highlighted by the History Channel is as follows: Deserted by the Indian Crew and not having the benefit of life saving equipment, due to the deplorable condition of lifeboats and rafts ect. What follows is fact not fiction that is drawn from official documentation.

Rohna was commissioned for War service in July of 1939 and most of her service before entering the Mediterranean was spent in Eastern waters. From 1942 she found herself in the thick of things and took part in the landings at Sicily. Before we proceed any further Rohna was not designed with trooping in mind, she was built to transport as many Indian passengers as possible in the least space allowable, hence she had a passenger certificate to carry 5,064, later due to legislation this was reduced to 3,851. Also worth mentioning at this juncture is that Britain had been at War since the 3rd of September 1939 and its ships losses dated from this very month, refits and maintenance had to be fitted in as and when and like all other Allied ships she ran hard. Because of Dr Bennetts and the History Channels obsession with numbers I thought I would like to add a few that I'm sure they are not aware of before we move onto the actual sinking of Rohna. The British Merchant Navy was made up entirely of volunteers, the armaments placed onboard their ships were more for morale than protection, sinking after sinking these men returned to the service to rejoin other ships sometimes to be sunk again and again. For every four men that went to sea in the British Merchant Service, one never returned, a higher percentage rate than any other service of any country involved in the Allied cause.

The American Troops involved had made the transatlantic voyage from the U.S. and had landed at Oran to await further orders. After boarding Rohna with Captain T.J. Murphy in command the troops had their first boat drill. In the event of a real attack all the troops had to stay below decks to await their turn to assemble at their respective boat stations compartment by compartment, not a desirable prospect in the event of a disaster I must admit, but considered in the troops best interest. Following the drill the Troops had a Thanksgiving dinner of canned chicken and Doughy biscuits. Rohna sailed from Oran at 1230Hrs on the 25th of November in company with four other transports, three hours later she rendezvoused with convoy K.M.F. 26 and took up her position, No 12, placing her 2nd ship in the port column. The convoy consisted of 24 Merchant ships escorted by 10 allied Destroyers, land based aircraft patrolled overhead. On the morning of the 26th the troops had a boat drill and another one at 1600Hrs.

Statement made by 2nd Officer J.E.Wills.

Dated 17th December, 1943.

We were bound from Oran to Port Said, loaded with approximately 2,000 troops and their equipment. The ship was armed with 1-4", 1- 12 pounder., 6 Oerlikons, 2 Hotchkiss, 2 Twin Lewis, 1 Pillar Box, 4 FAMS and 2 P.A.C. Rockets. The crew numbered approximately 218, including 16 Naval and 2 Army Gunners; the troops were American with 3 British Army Medical Officers, and 10 Ranks. I do not know the number of casualties amongst either the crew or passengers, but 800 survivors were landed at Philippeville, and others were probably landed elsewhere. All Confidential Books were thrown overboard in a weighted box. Degaussing was on.

We sailed from Oran at 1230 on the 25th November, in company with four other ships, and at 1530 joined the main portion of convoy K.M.F. 26, taking up position No 12, the second ship of the port column. The convoy consisted of approximately 24 ships, formed in 6 columns, there being 4 ships in my column, escorted by 7/8 Destroyers.

No warnings of enemy aircraft being in the vicinity were received, and the convoy proceeded without incident until the 26th of November. I came off the bridge at 1620 and went to my cabin for tea; about ten minutes later I thought I heard gun-fire, I hurried to the bridge, and had just arrived there when I saw a splash in the water, about 100ft. from the stern of the anti aircraft cruiser H.M.S. Coventry. The Coventry was at this time ahead of the centre of the convoy, off our starboard bow, and when I saw her she was sheering away to port to where the destroyer Atherstone was stationed. The extra 2nd Officer rang the alarm bells, and everyone went to "action stations." For the next forty minutes there were enemy aircraft constantly in sight, and I learned that about thirty Heinkels 177 took part in the attack. They kept out of range of the gun-fire and appeared to be attacking the escorts. I saw several glider bombs released, one of which fell near Banfora, No 14, last ship of my column, and I heard later that the destroyer Atherstone had five near misses, luckily no damage was done to either of these vessels. At this time I did not know anything about these glider bombs, to me they appeared to be British fighters attacking the bombers and being shot down. When a glider bomb is first released it appears to fall behind the bomber, it then quickly overtakes it, a red glow appears in the nose of the bomb, which then shoots downwards. I saw 3 / 4 " fighters shot down in the course of the first hour of this attack.

The convoy did not alter or reduce speed. The enemy planes continued skirting the convoy, making direct attacks on the escorts, and I learned later that a torpedo attack was also made on the convoy; their intention was apparently to cripple the escorts before attacking the merchant ships, I also learned that the reason we did not receive a warning of the impending attack was because the enemy had jammed the radio location apparatus.

Shortly after 1700 several other enemy aircraft appeared, and at one time I saw four in formation off the port quarter. The escorts gun-fire, however, appeared to be keeping the planes from attacking. At 1725 on the 26th November I observed two bombers approaching the ship from the port quarter, flying at a height of approximately 3,000ft. One of them attacked the ship ahead, the other, when he was just abeam of us, swerved towards us and launched a bomb from about two points before the beam. At this time we were 15 miles N. from Jijelli, North Africa, steering 100 degree's (approx) at 12 knots. The weather was fine and cloudy, the sun was setting and visibility good; there was a moderate sea with a long swell, and North Westerly wind, force 3.

When first released the bomb appeared to be a little below and to the starboard of the plane, it then closed the plane, shot downwards, swerving to the right of the plane and a red glow appeared in its nose. When it was half way I realised that it was a glider bomb; I gave orders for the port Oerlikon to open fire, which order was carried out, but I do not think any hits were scored. The bomb struck the ship in the engine room, on the port side, just above the water line. There was not a loud explosion; in fact the near miss explosions were far more violent. The engine room flooded immediately and caught fire, all electrical equipment failed, No 4 bulkhead collapsed, and the Radio Officer, who was on the boat deck at the time, said that a large quantity of debris, soldiers kit, tin hats, ect. was thrown into the air, one of the troop decks being abaft No 4 bulkhead. The vessel listed slightly to starboard; the shell plates about six feet above the water level on both the port and starboard sides were blown outwards and upwards. I went to the boat deck and released the belly bands from the boats, then returned to the bridge for orders. The Master decided that nothing could be done and ordered "abandon ship," so I returned to the boat deck. The ship carried 22 lifeboats, 14 swung outboard and eight stowed inboard; four of the outboard and two of the inboard boats were smashed by the explosion and were therefore useless. The falls of several of the forward lifeboats were cut by the troops; consequently the boats fell into the water and became waterlogged. A number of the boats could not be lowered as the falls had become jammed and eventually only eight lifeboats were lowered, most which capsized or filled with water on becoming waterborne. The Chief and Third Engineers managed to lower No 10 Fleming lifeboat successfully. Many of the troops, being unaccustomed to the ship, became slightly panicky and also there was a fairly rough sea running. The Chief Officer, who was Troops Officer, had held a boat drill so there should have been no confusion as everyone should have known his boat station.

By this time the vessel had listed 12 degree's to starboard, so we threw the rafts overboard, helped by the troops and D.E.M.'s gunners. The ship carried 101 rafts, practically all of which were released, and most of the crew and troops abandoned on them. By 1750 only fifty troops remained on the foredeck; as there were no more rafts they threw hatch boards over the side from No 3 hatch, using them as rafts. The fire in the engine room quickly spread and smoke and flames were pouring from No 4 hold. H.M. Destroyer Atherstone and an American Minesweeper dropped behind the convoy, and Atherstone laid a smokescreen.

None of the troops had red lights on their lifebelts, and although there were two or three vessels searching for survivors, it was very difficult to see them in the water, as it was getting dark.

Eventually all the troops and crew were clear of the ship, with the exception of myself, the Master, Chief and Third Officers, the S.M.O. ( Senior Medical Officer ) and four American soldiers. We remained on the fore deck for about half an hour after the rest of the men had left. The S.M.O. complained about his hand, which was badly burned, so the Chief Officer went to the boat deck to collect a first aid kit from one of the damaged boats. Whilst he was doing so there was a peculiar rending noise, clouds of smoke belched from No 3 hold, and the vessel rapidly settled by the stern. We hastily threw the four remaining rafts overboard, I jumped after them, and swam a few strokes away from the vessel; when I turned round again the ship's bows were just disappearing; she finally sank about one and a half hours after the bomb had struck.

I heard later that the Master was rescued, but I do not think the Chief Officer managed to escape; he would have been on the boat deck when the vessel sank, and unless he jumped overboard immediately, he would certainly have been dragged under. The S.M.O. is also missing, but the 3rd Officer and the 4 American soldiers were all picked up.

After being nearly an hour in the water, I was picked up by H.M. Destroyer Atherstone.

I think there were a great number of troops killed in the initial explosion as No 4 tween deck was No 7 troop deck, and at least 320 troops were accommodated there. Of the D.E.M.S.gunners, Petty Officer Keegan, in charge of the 12 pounder.forward, is the only man missing from the 12 pounder crew. The crews of the 12 pounder and Pillar Box put up a very good barrage, which certainly turned away at least one enemy plane, even if they did not actually hit it. I do not know anything about the other gunners, except that Gunner Harrison was badly wounded, and I saw Gunner Thompson on shore later> On first sighting the enemy aircraft we opened fire with everything except the 4", the P.A.C.'s and the F.A.M.S., the 12 pounder crew firing about twenty rounds. I learned that the Destroyer Atherstone fired about 650 rounds of 4".

No 1 Deck Serang Bhowan Meetha did outstandingly fine work in his efforts to get the boats away. He went about in a perfectly cool, calm manner, and rendered valuable assistance to the Chief Officer throughout. His face was badly burned, and on landing at Philippeville on the 27th November, he was taken to Hospital. Naval Gunner Keegan, P.O., was also outstanding. He kept his 12 pounder in action during the attack and afterwards saw all his guns crew away safely and did everything possible for their safety.

I consider that parties of about 12 troops in charge of an Officer should be stationed in various parts of the ship and be detailed for emergency duties. Our Native crew, on this occasion, filled and lowered the two after lifeboats and lowered the two whilst the ship still had considerable weigh, without orders. Had there been an emergency party present, this would have been stopped, and the natives made to assist in lowering the lifeboats. As it was, except for the No 1 Deck Serang, none of the native crew did anything to assist in lowering the lifeboats.

Whilst on board H.M. Destroyer Atherstone I was informed by the Gunnery Officer that, as one of the Glider bombs passed over their vessel, black grease issued from its tail, and the faces of several of the crew were bespattered with it

As trooper

A summery of the 2nd Officers statement.

Of the 22 lifeboats onboard, eight were got away but were swamped either by the sea or by overcrowding not because they were defective, two were lowered by the Indian crew against orders and has already been condemned, four dropped into the sea because they were released by inexperienced American soldiers who either panicked or thought they were helping, I however to think the latter but improbable, six were destroyed by the initial explosion which also jammed the remaining two on their stocks, not as is claimed by Dr Bennett because they were defective. The Doctor also claimed that the Indian crew abandoned ship and left everyone else to fend for them selves, clearly an exaggeration, only a small percentage actually abandoned ship against orders. For the uninitiated only qualified persons are allowed to lower lifeboats, those that could be lowered clearly were, the vast bulk of the crew remained onboard and assisted in launching the rafts of which all but a few were launched. The only other life saving equipment not mentioned would be life belts or preservers words dependant on ones nationality; these would have been the responsibility of the individual.

The next document is by " Lloyds Register" an organisation not renowned for hyperbole.

The Liner Rohna, Captain Murphy, left Oran for India in convoy 25th November 1943. She carried some 2000 American troops and was loaded almost to capacity. On the 26th the convoy was subjected to persistent attacks by a formation of 30 German bombers. After some hours of these attacks a single aircraft carrying a glider bomb, at that time a new weapon, discharged its missile off the port side of the Rohna and scored a hit above the water line immediately over the engine room. The destruction caused by the explosion was immense and the after portion of the vessel burst into flame, preventing all the boats on the port side being launched. Boats on the starboard side were got away but some were swamped by the large numbers of soldiers swimming around who tried to clamber into them despite their overloaded state. The ship meanwhile continued to float but after an hour and a half settled so far by the stern that the engines and boilers broke loose and fell through the hull.

Five Officers and 115 Asiatic ratings of her crew were killed out of a total of 195. The American troops onboard suffered very heavily, no fewer than 1050 being killed. Captain Murphy was among the survivors.

Clearly there are differences of what actually happened on Rohna and I tend to think that the 2nd Officers account is more reliable.

The final document was issued by the British Naval Historical Branch in July of 1978

The Rohna was a former liner owned by the British India Steam Navigation Company built in 1926 to carry 60 passengers. She was of 8,500 grt and 463ft overall. Her Master was Captain T.J. Murphy and she carried a Lascar crew.

At the time of the disaster on the 26th of November the Rohna was part of convoy KMF 26 consisting of 18 ships which had sailed from Gourock on the Clyde in Scotland at 2030Hrs on the 15th of November. The convoy Commodore, Commodore H.D. Wakeman Colville, was onboard another troopship, the Ranchi. The Rohna, Egra and two others joined the convoy on the afternoon of the 25th November having sailed from Oran, making the strength of the convoy at this time 15 merchant ships and one submarine, HMS Stonehenge.

The ocean escort which had sailed with the convoy from Gourock parted company off Algiers on the morning of the 26th November. The escorts for the next phase through the Mediterranean were:-

ORP Slazak
HMS Catterick
HHMS Miaoules
HMS Atherstone
HMS Colombo
HMS Cleveland
USS Herbert C/Jones
USS Davis
USS Pioneer
USS Portent

At 1630Hrs on the 26th of November the convoy was attacked by 25-30 He 177 aircraft escorted by Ju 88's and using glider bombs, followed by 6-9 torpedo carrying aircraft. These attacks started about three quarters of an hour before sunset and nearly all came from the direction of the sun. Of the large number of glider bombs released or jettisoned, estimated at sixty, only one hit was scored, this on the Rohna, although there were a number of near misses. The weather at the time was fine though a force 4 wind led to an unpleasant sea state which may have hampered some of the gun crews in the open. HMS Colombo reported that numbers 1 and 3 4" guns were washing down frequently.

Hunt Class Destroyer

Atherstone was the first of this class and commissioned 12th December 1939

The Rohna was the second ship in the port wing column of the convoy, the nearest escort being HMS Atherstone. Shortly before 1730 an aircraft approached from seaward and after releasing its bomb passed directly over Atherstone which fired 12 4" salvos at the aircraft besides engaging the glider with 20mm Oerlikon fire. The bomb hit the port side of the Rohna abaft the funnel at the after end of the engine room and in the vicinity of one of the troop decks. The ship was immediately out of control with no steering gear or engines and a list, no means of internal communication except by word of mouth and messengers, and most important no means of pumping water to fight the large fire which immediately broke out. As soon as the ship had lost way all the boats that could be lowered were got away, though not without difficulty, and most of the life rafts were thrown overboard. The troops were then ordered to abandon ship. The ships Officers and crew mostly stayed onboard to try to save the ship but this proved impossible. At about 1830Hrs the after bulkheads collapsed and the vessel quickly settled by the stern and sank.

Inevitably in a case like this there are conflicting reports about events following the hit on the Rohna, these vary from steadfast disciplined behaviour to reports of near panic, in both cases by troops and crew. It is more likely that instances of both extremes occurred. The USS Pioneer, a minesweeper, and the Clan Campbell closed the Rohna and began to pick up survivors with HMS Atherstone providing AA support in case of further attack. After dark the Atherstone too began to search for survivors and pick up survivors as did the tug Mindful which had arrived on the scene from Bougie. This continued until 0215Hrs the next morning. Rescue operations were made more difficult by the darkness and the rough sea state, and the fact that the men had become scattered over a wide area. Many of the Atherstone's crew repeatedly went into the water themselves to fasten lines to exhausted men so that they could be recovered. The Atherstone, Pioneer and Clan Campbell picked up 819 survivors who were taken to Philipaville. ( This port has been spelt three different ways but I have remained faithful to the text) Others were landed at Bougio. (Same problem ) There were 1015 casualties.

The anti aircraft fire while not particularly successful in the way of "kills", does seem to have been effective in keeping the He 177's controlling the glider bombs at long range from the convoy and thus reducing their probable effectiveness. At least two aircraft were shot down and several damaged. One of the escorts reports firing off nearly one third of her total outfit of ammunition during the attack.

Fighter patrols of shore based Spitfires were flown in defence of this convoy, and at the time that the attack developed two flights of two aircraft each were over the convoy, flown by French pilots. They were later relieved by RAF Spitfires. It has not been established whether these aircraft had any success.

A second attack took place to the North of Benghazi at 1715Hrs on the 29th November in position 32 degrees 59 minutes North, 019 degrees 50 minutes East, when 15 Ju 88's in two waves dive bombed the convoy. The Commodore's ship received a bomb forward which went through a wooden deck house, through the deck and cut through the ships side before exploding. One soldier was killed and three wounded. Another ship had three near misses. One aircraft was shot down.

This concludes the official reports in my possession for which I am indebted to John Fievet a survivor of the bombing that were forwarded onto me by Derek Ings another ex B.I. employee. John wrote an account of his survival that was carried by an American magazine called " American History ". John's account makes refreshing reading compared to the biased rubbish that was shown on the American History Channel. One of the many ridiculous assertions claimed by the programme was that no boat drills were held and yet in John's account he reaffirms the statement made by the ships Second Officer that three were held before the attack. In John's account he makes certain observations that I would like to address.

He states that the ship was a flaming inferno from the funnel aft, if this was the case has it not occurred to anyone that the crew aft were trapped, there was only one other way forward other than the open deck and this would have been down the Engineers aft escape which led up from the shaft tunnel, this in turn went through to the engine room? As we know the engine room was totally destroyed and its occupants killed so this would have ruled out the only other way of moving forward. This I admit is pure speculation but is based on eye witness accounts and affirmed by at least one official report Is this why those crew aft abandoned the ship without orders, could orders have been transmitted to them? This is not an excuse for the crews behaviour but a theory that no-one seems to have considered He goes on to say that it was reported later that when troops attempted to board an already overcrowded lifeboat they were beaten back by those onboard but he does not state who occupied the boat in question. Whoever was onboard had already witnessed overcrowded boats being swamped by desperate men, the question therefore is, what would you have done given similar circumstances, I hope I am never faced with the same dilemma?

He infers that only eight boats out of a total of twenty two got away with six destroyed in the initial attack leaving the remaining eight unaccounted for save they were jammed on the falls through rust or lack of maintenance, wrong, and I have already covered this particular event. He adds that similar conditions prevailed with the life rafts, as all but a couple were released out of over a hundred I'm not quite sure as to the point he's trying to make. Finally he says that although inflatable life belts had been issued, instruction as to their use was virtually nonexistent, I hope he realises that the instructions for the use of this equipment should have been carried out by their own Officers and Senior N.C.O.'s. To close, this truly was a terrible event that occurred off the North African coast, half of the American troops were no doubt killed by the initial explosion onboard Rohna the other half drowned after they had been forced to abandon ship, survivors were picked up nearly twenty miles away, a difficult situation for those on the rescue ships, those rescued however paid tribute to their collective efforts. It just remains for me to say to the American people that your sons did not die through the abandonment of Rohna by her crew, most of them also perished and they certainly did not die through defective life saving equipment onboard the ship. Captain Murphy ended his report with a moving tribute to the "discipline and devotion to duty" of his Officers and to the excellent conduct of the American troops, flung thus violently into the sea.

Photo as trooper

I would like to thank, Ted Treacher, Tom Kelso, Peter Raymond, Derek Ings, John Robertson and finally Dave Mitchell who all assisted in collating much of the material used.

In attempt to reach a balanced opinion on events, which took place on The 26th of November 1943, I think it imperative that all available information is accessible, therefore as more documentation is sent to our Merchant Navy Officers site I feel it must be seen in its entirety as opposed to selected items. The pursuant of profit and manipulation of the truth have clouded the issue for far too long, needless suffering being the only tangible result.

What follows are various statements and interviews conducted by the relative American authorities in 1943, 1945 (at the time these were deemed TOP SECRET ) and the House of Congress, 10th October 2000.

On the morning of the 26th boat drill was not satisfactory. Another boat drill was held at 4 p.m., it was satisfactory, and men reported to the proper stations. At about 4.30 p.m., a ship buzzer sounded one long blast indicating an air raid. All men, instructed by Officers, went below deck that being the standard ships orders. I was on the Promenade Deck and observed a number of near misses on other ships in the convoy.

At about 5.15 I noticed what I thought was a disabled pursuit ship ( plane? ) heading towards our ship. It looked as though it was going to fly ahead of us and above the ship. Suddenly it made a turn to the right and then I commenced to run from the Port Side to the Starboard Side of the ship. When I reached the Starboard Side debris was falling all over. I went back Aft and looked into No. 6 troop deck. Badly injured men were coming out of the troop deck, the hold seemed to be on fire and some of the stairway had been knocked down. I went to the bridge and asked the Captain of the ship if we should go to boat stations. He states, " Yes ", and I passed the word along by word of mouth because the ships signal system was out of order. I then went to the Master asking him if we should abandon ship, he stated to hold on for awhile we might float yet.

Someone Aft of the ship gave the order to throw over life rafts while the ship was still moving.( This could not have been a Ships Officer, the order from an Officer would have been, first to abandon ship verbally and then it would have been the lifeboats that were lowered first, the crew only spoke Hindustani or Goanese, some English was spoken, limited in its extreme ) Finally the Captain of the ship gave the order to abandon ship. The Indian Seamen aboard lowered the lifeboat (note one, and this would have contained a small percentage of the crew, the action though still unforgivable) and rowed away. I did not see them lower any others. Some of the Enlisted Men tried to lower the lifeboats. (This act had an affect on how many of the G.I.'s were to drown) A number lowered one end first and it capsized when they hit the water (Four in all ) I tried to get all the men over board with their life jackets on, and not to bother with the boats after I saw what was happening.

When approximately all of the men had left the ship from the forward deck and the Promenade deck I went back Aft. Practically all of the men except Medical Personnel who were attending the wounded had abandoned ship.

There were a great many wounded laying on the deck and below in the troop deck which were afire. I went down the cargo net and swam to the minesweeper Pioneer which was standing about five hundred yards to the Port side, the leeward side of the Rohna. When I arrived there were a number of men fighting to get aboard and pushing heads of others under the water. The minesweeper Pioneer continued to pick up personnel till about 2 o'clock in the morning when Commander Rogers told me he had orders to proceed and rejoin the convoy with the SS Glencampbell and the British destroyer Atherstone.

When we arrived at Port the Pioneer and the Atherstone docked approximately 11 o'clock. 602 survivors were taken off of the Pioneer, five of them were dead. Approximately 70 survivors taken off of the Atherstone, approximately 110 off the Glencampbell which docked at 2:30. British had ambulances waiting to take away the wounded. Fed the rest of the men tea, cookies and cigarettes.

Glencampbell had aboard 1,000 emergency kits, through the British STO I was able to draw 500 kits to clothe the men warmly. Men were moved to a British transit camp, fed by the British, given British clothing, some mess gear and both American and British blankets.

It is my opinion that the high death rate caused by the sinking of Rohna was due to several causes:

a) The blast itself killed a number of men on troop decks 6,7,8 and in the troop galley.

b) The ship signal system was knocked out and there should have been kind of an emergency signal system to inform the men what to do. ( In the event of a complete power loss as in this case and many others the signals are given verbally)

c) Boat drills were given only to the point of going to boat stations. It is my opinion that during Boat Drills, boats should actually be lowered and personnel put in them at least once during the voyage. ( Even today this is not practiced because of its impracticalities too numerous to mention here. Worthy of mention however is that Rohna had double banked lifeboats, as was common practice, the lower bank being lowered to the embarkation deck, fourteen out of a total of twenty two were in the lowered position when the bomb struck)

d) Men did not seem to have confidence in the inflated type belt preserver that was issued them. They seemed to grow panicky when they got into the water because the preserver did not hold their head up. When one life boat was lowered I saw about forty men clambering on it and capsize it in the water. ( The ships Second Officer stated that this happened on more than one occasion )

e) The Glencampbell, which had been, designated rescue ship for the convoy was about 30 feet out of the water to the top deck. It was almost impossible for the men who had been in the water from three to five hours to climb that high on a cargo net. The Chief Officer aboard told me that they had to pull the cargo net up with winches while the men clung to the cargo net. ( Sad to say, but vessels with a lower freeboard of the type of ship used were not available )

f) While the men were in the water and rescue ships were picking up survivors one of the German planes returned to low altitude so that destroyers had to make headway to keep from getting hit themselves.

g) The seas were quite heavy 15 to 20 feet swells, so that none of the rescue ships could land their small boats to pick up survivors


Lt. Col. Frolich, Alexander J.
C.O. Troops-Rohna

Except for what appears in brackets that are my observations, the text is an exact copy.