Monday, 6 October 2014

Andalucia Star: a faithful annual message from torpedo attack survivor, Jill McNichol,

A faithful salute to the 

brave crew of the Andalucia Star

I received this email today (6 October 2014) from Jill McNichol, a survivor of the German torpedo attack on the Andalucia Star merchant ship on 6 October 1942 during World War II. 

Jill delivers this message faithfully at this time every year, writes Paul Coleman.

'Please join me in a toast to Captain Hall and the brave crew of the Andalucía Star and all who sailed on her last fatal voyage.
I especially want to remember Mr. Wheeler and Mrs. Green. 
Without them I would not be alive today. 
God bless them.

All good wishes,

The reason why Jill sends this message every year on this day becomes clear if you read the post below - first published on 7 October 2010. 

It's seventy-two years ago to this very day - 6th October 1942 - that the Blue Star Line cargo ship, the Andalucia Star, was torpedoed and sunk during the Second World War - a catastrophe that Jill and most - but not all - other crew and passengers survived, chiefly due to the bravery and professionalism of the ship's crew.

Jill was crossing the Atlantic on the Andalucia Star with her father, S.G. Bicheno. According to one account, Mrs L.A. Green, “an elderly stewardess”, switched on a red light on Jill's lifejacket before lifting the little girl into a lifeboat with other women and children

William Wheeler
Most of the lifeboats had already been safely lowered but, as another survivor Douglas Gibson later recalled, one of the lowering lifeboats went down bow first, throwing many of its occupants, including Jill (and also Gillian) it seems, into the sea. "The bar steward and an elderly stewardess were crushed between the ship and the lifeboat and killed,” said Gibson. 
  William Wheeler, the Andalucia’s lamp trimmer (the ship's lighting technician), heard little Jill’s cry for help and then spotted her red light switched on earlier by Mrs Green. Wheeler immediately dived into the water, swam through wreckage for a distance of 600 yards to Jill and supported her for 30 minutes before helping Jill into the lifeboat. 
"Daddy was getting into a lifeboat when the third torpedo struck," says Jill. "He was very lucky not to have been killed on the spot."

Every October is a poignant moment for Jill and possibly other Andalucia Star survivors and their descendants dotted around the world. 
"Daddy, every year when he was alive, would phone me on the anniversary of the sinking and we would drink a toast to the ship and her brave crew," says Jill.
This single event continues to echo through the decades and connect with successive generations.
  And I raise my glass to my own grandfather, Leslie Coleman (1906-81), who sailed many times as a crew member on the Andalucia Star - and I'll join you, Jill, in the toast you and your father so thoughtfully invoked: 
"To the Andalucia Star, her brave crew and all who sailed on her during her many voyages...we remember and salute you."

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, October 2014

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was a great article... and a very poignant reminder, and salute, to the many heroic people who risk all to save the lives of people in danger... thanks for sharing!