SS British Chivalry

Tanker British Chivalry, 7,118grt (British Tanker Co. Lt) had been sailing independently on voyage from Melbourne to Abadan in ballast. On the morning of the 22nd February 1944 at 10.30 hours the track of two torpedoes were spotted. Taking evasive action one torpedo passed harmlessly astern, but the second detonated on the starboard side square into the engine room killing the watch engineer, all the fireman on duty and a young apprentice who had been painting the starboard lifeboat. The torpedoes had been fired from the Japanese submarine I-37 commanded by Lieutenant Hajime Nakagawa the same man who had been responsible for the sinking of the Hospital Ship Centaur in April 1943. At the time the Centaur had been sailing fully illuminated and displaying the Red Cross. 317 crew, wounded service personnel, doctors and nurses were murdered in this atrocity. The survivors from the British Chivalry were about to see his brutality first hand.

As the survivors were taking to the lifeboats as the ship lay dead in the water I-37 broke surface about a mile away. Rounding up all the survivors Captain Walter Hill took a head count which revealed that the ships Cook was also missing and as the galley was directly above the engine-room where the torpedo had detonated it was presumed he to had been killed in the explosion. I-37 now began shelling the floating hulk and fired another torpedo into the port side, which broke her back and she sank in position 00’ 50S 68’ 00E South-West of Addu Atoll, Maldive Islands. I-37 now began to manoeuvre towards the lifeboats and life-rafts shelling them indiscriminately. The tankers Chief Officer made an attempt to signal the submarine by hand semaphore asking “what do you want us to do” The firing ceased and I-37 passed between the survivors asking for the ships Captain to identify himself. Once this was done Captain Hill was taken prisoner and the survivors in their boats were ordered away and I-37 manoeuvred astern. The survivors had barely come to terms with what had happened when the submarine was seen to alter course and was heading directly for them and then the machine guns opened up. For the next couple of hours the submarine passed back and forth through the survivor’s machine guns firing indiscriminately at the boats and men in the water. Once Lieutenant Hajime Nakagawa was satisfied not a man remained alive his submarine disappeared over the horizon. By some miracle men had survived in fact after a head count it was found fourteen men had been killed and a further five, some seriously wounded and would eventually succumb to their injuries. The thirty-eight survivors spent the next thirty seven days adrift in the searing heat, caught in the doldrums of the Indian Ocean until they were rescued by the British Merchant ship SS Delane after having travelled only 320 miles South form the original position of sinking.

Captain Walter Hill had been forced to watch the unfolding tragedy and would witness other atrocities against defenceless Merchant Seamen before being held prisoner at Penang for the duration of the war. He was released when Japan surrendered and for whatever reason he had, he declined to give evidence against his captors at the War Crimes Commission.

Commemorated Tower Hill Memorial Panel 19

BAGSHAW, Apprentice, KENNETH FREDERICK, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 16. Son of Frederick and Lily Elizabeth Bagshaw, of Streatham, London.

BYRNE, Greaser, THOMAS, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 26. Son of Mrs. S. Byrne, of Greenock, Renfrewshire.

COOKSLEY, Chief Steward, ALBERT GEORGE, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd Feb-ruary 1944. Age 57. Husband of F. Cooksley, of Cardiff.

DICKINSON, Chief Engineer Officer, WILLIAM ERNEST, O B E, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 62. Husband of Gertie Dickinson, of Carshalton, Surrey.

GALLAGHER, Fireman, JOHN JOSEPH, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 51. Son of Micheal and Mary Gallagher; husband of Agnes Gallagher, of Liverpool.

GILLAN, Greaser, JAMES, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 31.

HOBBINS, Galley Boy, GUY CYRIL, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 17. Son of Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Hobbins, of Gosport, Hampshire.

KENNEALY, Sailor, ARTHUR ERNEST WILLIAM, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 20. Son of Constance Maude Kennealy, and stepson of Charles William Corley, of Surbi-ton, Surrey.

KENNEDY, First Radio Officer, CHARLES, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 32. Son of Dr. John Robert Kennedy, M.V.O., M.B., C.M., J.P., and of Cecilia Ann Duff Kennedy (nee Walker), of Thurso, Caithness-shire; husband of Mary Calvert Kennedy, of Dunbeath, Caithness-shire.

MANN, Second Engineer Officer, CHARLES JOHN, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 32. Son of Charles John and Katie Mann; husband of Doreen Mary Mann, of Forncett St. Peter, Norfolk. King's Commendation for Brave Conduct.

MITCHELL, Greaser, WILLIAM, M.V. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 28.

MORRIS, Able Seaman, LEONARD ROBERT, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 23rd February 1944. Age 26. Son of William and Annie Morris.

MORRISON, Fourth Engineer Officer, STANLEY, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 23. Son of Andrew and Margaret Morrison, of Arbroath, Angus.

O'NEIL, Fireman, ROBERT, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 47. Husband of Christina O'Neil, of Glasgow.

SAYERS, Chief Cook, JOSEPH BELL, S.S. British Chivalry (London). Merchant Navy. 22nd February 1944. Age 33. Son of Stephen Henry Sayers, and of Eleanor Sayers, of South Shields, Co. Durham; husband of Elsie Mary Sayers, of St. Thomas, Swansea.

DEMS Gunners/Naval Staff

BEIGHTON, Leading Seaman, THOMAS HENRY, D/JX 218663. H.M.S. President III. Royal Navy. lost in S.S. British Chivalry. 22nd February 1944. Age 29. Son of Joseph and Mary Ann Beighton, of Oldbury, Worcestershire.

KING, Serjeant, HORACE VICTOR, 783184, 2 Maritime Regt., Royal Artillery. 22 February 1944. Age 33. Husband of Christina Mary King, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

MERRILL, Able Seaman, BERNARD, D/JX 443476. H.M.S. President III. Royal Navy. lost in S.S. British Chivalry. 22nd February 1944. Age 19. Son of John and Lena Merrill, of Hale, Cheshire.

PENFOLD, Gunner, ERNEST JOHN, 1771905, 2 Maritime Regt., Royal Artillery. 22 February 1944. Age 32. Son of Ernest John Stanley and Annie Penfold; husband of Alice Penfold, of Station Town, Co. Durham.

SAUNDERS, Able Seaman, RONALD LESLIE, C/JX 444773, S.S. British Chivalry, Royal Navy. 22 February 1944. Age 19. Son of John William and Ellen Jane Saunders, of Caterham, Surrey.


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