The year was 1943 and the whole world was at war. It’s very hard for us to imagine the idea that most of the world had stopped living their normal lives. All young boys, their fathers and uncles enlisted in the war and all women and girls, mothers, sisters, and aunts stayed home and went to work at jobs that the men had done. Factories that used to make cars and farm equipment were now making weapons for the war effort. Everyone at home, including children, collected scrap metal for the factories which were now making bombs. Everyone at home was asked to save, save, save and recycle. This was happening before current recycling programs in our communities. William Hough was one of thousands of Canadians who went to sea as allies to the British forces. William may have celebrated only 4 calendar birthdays but he had actually seen 19 summers.
At War - At Sea
The First Torpedo
The first torpedo hit 'The Point' in the engine room crew’s quarters which immediately killed 8 crew and trapped 38 there in the dark with the ocean waters rushing in on them. Two officers broke open a sky light from above. By the time everyone was removed, including one sailor with a broken back, there was only 6 inches of air space left in the compartment.
Right: Kapitanleutenant Alfred Eick commander of U-510 is considered to be an ace commander.
U-510 was awarded to the French at the end of the war. She was commissioned into the French Navy in 1947 and served until 1959.
As the lifeboats moved off, the crew watched their ship creaking and groaning and listing. But more important, they were still in enemy territory and they knew the U-boat was not far away. Suddenly, they saw the U-510 surface and it shot two bursts of gunfire at the forward holds of the ship to flood it. Then the submarine left.
Birthday in a Lifeboat
The Night Sky
Ten Days Later
The Master, Captain Owen Owens and his crew made landfall at tiny Mercury Island in Spencer Bay on Namibia's forbidding Skeleton Coast on 2 March. They were rescued by the fishing vessel Boy Russell and taken to Luderitz , South West Africa. The other lifeboat, with many injured, was picked up by the South African trawler HMSAS Africana (T01) north of Spencer Bay on March 4 ten days after the attack and taken to Walvis Bay, South West Africa. After recovery in hospital, they went by rail to Cape Town and made their way back to Canada via the United States.
Captain Honoured with OBE
Lucky to Survive
These merchant seamen, including William Hough from St. Thomas were “lucky” their ship was lost in warmer waters where the chances of survival in an open boat were much better than in icy northern waters where you could not expect to live more than five minutes. Lucky too, that they were found as the vast Kalahari Desert ashore offered even less than floating on the sea.
William Hough was one of the lucky ones. He returned to St. Thomas where he died on New Year’s Day in 1994, one month shy of his 70th birthday or 17 leap years.
Captain Owen Owens, Master of the S.S. Point Pleasant Park, was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his exceptional courage and ability throughout. This honour was posted in the Supplement to the London Gazette December 3, 1946.