On the 2nd March 1943, the USS Hobson is recorded as assisting in the rescue of survivors of the SS St Margaret.  "Typical of Hobson's versatile performance was her rescue of a group of survivors from SS St. Margaret off Bermuda 2 March 1943." - that's the whole reference. nothing else appears on the net, - so what happened?

Judith Henry, of Carmarthenshire sent me some papers. The ships Captain, David Sidney Davies, Judith's late uncle, was taken by the U Boat that sank her, and incarcerated in a POW Camp in Germany. Judith has kindly sent me a photo showing messages drawn on the camp hut rooftops which I have copied below. Also a copy of a Confidential letter entitled Shipping Casualties Section - Trade Division. Report of an interview with the Chief Officer George Hamilton SS St Margaret 4312 GT. The account had been ascanned, using OCR, and some words came out scrambled, I have altered this I have found.

This is an account of what happened, written by Captain DS Davies himself, it appeared in the "Reef Knot" - the House magazine of the Saint Line, published in 1948. The image of Capt Davies and of the St Margaret above are also from the same publication:

February 2nd 1943, found the St Margaret, the second of the three original vessels built for the South American Saint Line, at Liverpool, ready to sail for South American ports. Consigned to the Lamport & Holt Lines, the vessel was fully laden with a very superior cargo consisting of machinery, textiles, whisky, stout, Yardley's products etc; plus a consignment of military stores, destined to the Falkland Islands, by transhipment at Montevideo. There were seven passengers, including a German mother and daughter who had escaped from Germany just before the war and now on their way to join the father in Buenos Aires. The third lady was an ex hospital matron in charge of the hospital at Port Stanley, Falklands Islands, when HMS Exeter of Graf spee fame arrived after the Battle of the river Plate. She had been home to England buying her trousseau and other things in preparation for her marriage. The gentlemen passengers consisted of an estate manager from the Falklands, two Belgians and a Hungarian Jew.

The vessel sailed on the a.m. tide on the 2nd February. It was a typical winter morning, cold, windy and a threatening sky. I well remember the Lock Gates man calling out "Good Luck" as we left the locks. In accordance with our sealed orders, we proceeded to form up with a local convoy, later joining the Belfast portion and finally, the main Atlantic convoy from the Clyde. This convoy was bound for New York and we were given our instructions to "proceed independently" at some suitable date.

On the third morning after sailing, the weather deteriorated rapidly, and from then onwards for almost a fortnight it was a sequence of severe gales one after the other. Whilst normally, most of the vessels in the convoy would be "hove to" for a considerable part of the time, all were now making valiant efforts to remain with the convoy, and thereby gain what protection there was. Two black balls by day and two red lights by night, signifying vessel "not under command" were common in all directions. Vessels in ballast were being blown almost on top of others; laden vessels shipping heavy seas. All this, plus messages from the Commodore, "Try and keep together. Enemy submarines in vicinity" did not add to one's peace of mind. It almost made me wish I had stayed at home and joined one of the guards Regiments or even the NFS. The St Margaret made very heavy weather of it, being fully laden. The crews quarters and passengers accommodation were flooded for days. The more delicate sex had been granted the use of part of the Master's accommodation, the others sleeping in the lounge.

At long last on Friday 19th February, we received our orders to "proceed independently". We left the convoy at 9am on a course which took us due south, through mid Atlantic. The weather had by now eased up and, as we proceeded south, the was a marked daily improvement. Our hopes were daily rising, as we got further from the danger zone (we thought).

Saturday the 27th February, opened with prospects of a good sub tropical day. At breakfast, passengers discussed how they were going to take their trunks out on deck to dry the contents, how they would be sunbathing etc. There was quite an atmosphere of cheerfulness, and some relief on faces. The gunners had started cleaning their guns. We had not heard or received any messages whatsoever of enemy activity for several days.  After breakfast the Chief Engineer was in my room and we arranged to go around the decks and check up on what weather damage there might be, but he was firstly going down to the Engine Room for a few minutes.

Little did I think, when he left me, that it would be the last time I would ever see him.

Whilst I was waiting for his return, I went to look for the Chief Officer. I wanted all our boats which had been carried in the Inboard position, placed outboard as the weather now warranted this. I could see the Chief Officer on the after deck, port side, speaking to someone, and I moved in his direction. Just as I approached him, a terrific explosion took place, followed by huge columns of black smoke, steam, water and oil combined, several hundred feet high, going up from the midship part of the vessel. There was no mistaking, the vessel had been torpedoed.

I made immediate attempts to reach the bridge, but the rush of descending water, etc, cascading down, flooding the deck to a depth to a depth of about eighteen inches was so strong that it made progress very slow and difficult. Besides, I could not see more than a few feet ahead of me. I groped my way along the ships rails and I remember the impression came over me that the ship was sinking there and then.  I suppose if one had the time to think such an impression would not have been a very pleasant one. I was anxious to get to the Bridge, to make sure that the box containing the secret papers had been safely dealt with.

When I eventually reached the Bridge and entered the Charthouse I found to my disgust and annoyance that the box was still there. I carried it out and handed it to the 3rd Officer telling him to dump it. I will not repeat the other remark that was made. Whilst on my way to the Bridge, I had called out Stand by the life-boats” and “See the women in first.” From where I stood on the Bridge I could see the Starboard Big Lifeboat in process of being loaded. The women were in. and the gunners were also boarding it. The 2nd Officer was very ably conducting the operations. The Port Big Lifeboat had been very badly damaged by the blast. I could see it would not be much use, even if we could lau
nch it at all. Because of this I called out that as many as possible. without undue overloading, should go into the Starboard Boat but that about a dozen men should stay behind on board to try and get the other boats away. I then ordered the Starboard Boat to be lowered. I also asked for a hurried Roll Call to be made.

This showed that there were four missing, the Chief Engineer, a donkeyman, fireman and one passenger. I had by that time verified that all communications between Bridge and Engineroom had been completely destroyed. About then. I went down to my own quarters for a moment having noticed that I had nit lifejacket. Inside my starboard door I found the missing passenger, the Belgian. He was alright. but had been caught without his lifebelt. He would not go down to his Cabin even when I assured hint it would be safe if he hurried back. and he then proceeded to cry. It will sound stupid. perhaps incredible. when I say that I could not help laughing. I asked him “What the are you crying for?” I threw my life-jacket towards hi
m and he made record rime for the Starboard Boat and got in just as it was moving off. I entered my bedroom for the last time, it was in a mess, the explosion having occurred immediately underneath I picked up a Welsh Bible from the debris. placed it inside my shirt, I had no coat on, and returned to the deck. The reader will realize that since the explosion until now was only a matter of minutes.


The vessel was still on an even keel and there appeared no immediate danger of her sinking It was certain that should she hold her own for very many minutes, a second torpedo would strike. There was now on board, besides myself, the Chief Officer (whom I thought had gone in the starboard boat),  3rd Officer, who worked very bravely indeed, four sailors, the 2nd Cook, another very brave worker, and one or two firemen. In fact, all these men were extremely cool and were ready to do anything asked of them. As the Chief Officer was not very well I hailed the Starboard Lifeboat to come under stern and he slid down a rope and took his place in the boat. The next boat to get away was the small Starboard Boat, two men were in this and were standing by “ ready to pick up the remainder should anything happen. We still had to try and break the Belgian’s record for it. We then tried the Port Small Boat, but this capsized and was subsequently left.

I asked the 3rd Officer to try and get the Port Big Boat away, it would not last long I knew, but we might be able to transfer the provisions and be glad of them at a future date. Whilst this was being done I left the party with the view to having a look around for the missing men. I first entered the Engineers alleyway. On looking into the Engine Room I saw that it was completely flooded, right up to sea level. There was much floating debris and I looked closely for any of the missing men that might be floating around, injured. I then went along to the Chief Engineer’s room, it was in a shambles, but no signs of life at all. I called out several times, but all to no avail. I then walked aft, and entered every one of the rooms calling, but there was no response.

On going forward again. I noticed the ensign attached to the gaff halyards, lying at the heel of the mainmast. It struck me that the “St. Margaret” should go down with her flag flying so I hoisted the flag but when about two-thirds up it jammed and I had to secure it in that position. I could see that the 3rd Officer and his gallant helpers had succeeded in getting the Port Lifeboat out, and it was hanging about half way down. They were calling on me to hurry as there would be another torpedo soon. I once again entered the Engineer’s alleyway, went into the Chief’s room and shifted some of the debris in case the Chief, who was a very good friend of mine, might be underneath. It was all in vain. I at last had to decide there was nothing more I could do. so I made for the ship’s side, the lifeboat was now in the water and I slid down a lifeline and got into it. It was with a very deep feeling of regret and almost guilt, that I left the “St. Margaret.” The impression came over me that I was deserting her in her time of trial. She was still upright and in an even keel and to me appeared very proud and defiant, although mortally injured, and that it was only a matter of moments before the enemy would strike again. As we pulled away I asked my comrades in the boat to bare their heads whilst I committed our unfortunate shipmates. whom we were leaving behind, to God’s care and mercy.

We pulled away in the direction of the other boat. We were actually sitting in the water and it was touch and go whether we would make it before the boat got full. When we were about two hundred yards or so away and approaching the other boat, the second torpedo struck the vessel, also on the Port Side. She soon commenced to list to port, then go down by the head, and in a matter of minutes slid almost grace­fully under. As she disappeared, I again asked all in the two boats to bare their heads whilst I committed our lost shipmates to God’s care and mercy, and asked for his care and guidance for the remainder of us in the lifeboats. I should have said that on approaching the other boats, we had to abandon the boat we were in as it was completely swamped. I entered the Starboard Lifeboat. Soon after the old “St. Margaret" had completely disappeared, a periscope was observed and a submarine surfaced and made for the boats. When a short distance away, the Commander started howling at us to come alongside. I say “howling” as that is the only way to describe it. He was exactly as if mad. As we got nearer, I observed that we were covered by many guns of different calibre and wondered what was going to happen next. The first to be called to board the Submarine was the 3rd Officer, he wore a badged cap. After asking some questions, the Commander asked for the Captain. I stood up and was ordered to board the submarine. The Commander spoke reasonably good English and had by now calmed down a little. He apologized for having to leave the ladies in the boats, and said that I would be going with him to Germany. He said, “Meeting you like this would be very romantic, if it was not for the circumstances.” Thus commenced a journey on board what I was later to find out was the Deutsch Unterseeboot U66. under the command of Captain Markworth, but that is another story. (Thanks to Tricia, for this information).

This is a scan of a photocopy, hence poor quality

She sailed from Liverpool on February 2nd 1943 with convoy ON165, the convoy proceeded without incident (See (1) below) and dispersed on 19th February 1943 to sail independently.  Here is the transcript of the letter. I tried to scan it but microsoft word scanner does not like WW2 typed paper!

Confidential                                                                                                                                                                                                                           DV

T.D. /139/1757

Shipping Casualties Section - Trade Division

Report of an Interview with the Chief Officer - George Hamilton

SS St Margaret - 4312 GT

Convoy ex ON 165                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sunk by two torpedoes from

U boat, 27th February 1943

All Times are ATS
(+ 3 hours 16 minutes GMT)

Chief Officer Hamilton

We were bound from Liverpool to the River Plate with 6000 tons general cargo, armed with 1 x 4"; 1 x 12 pdr; 2 Oerlikons; 2 twin Marlin, 4 PAC Rockets and Kites. Our crew numbered 43, including 5 Naval gunners, and we carried 7 passengers. Of our total personnel, two were injured and four are missing. We carried approximately ninety bags ordinary mail stowed in no 5 'tween deck; these went down with the ship, and there is no chance of compromise. We also had on board one bag special mail, which was put in the Confidential Book Box, and thrown overboard; again, there is no chance of compromise. The confidential Books and Wireless Codes were thrown overboard in weighted boxes. Degaussing was off.


2. We left Liverpool at 0800 hrs on February 2nd in convoy ON 165 and proceeded without incident until Friday 19th February when the convoy dispersed, and we proceeded independently. On 25th February a message was received reporting a submarine operating in the area, approximately 345 miles SE of our position. At 2100 on the 26th, a further message was received, but owing to some misunderstanding in was not deciphered until the middle of the watch, when it was found to read "if not south of position ....... alter course immediately, and make for St Thomas. If south of this position, ignore this message". When this message was deciphered, 0420 on 27th February, we were making for Pernambuco to refuel, and we had insufficient fuel to reach St Thomas. The Captain therefore decided to carry on the course of 180 degrees to make Pernambuco.


3. At 0942 on 27th February 1943 when in position 27 38N, 43 23W steering 180 degrees (true) at a speed of 9 and one half knots, we were struck by a torpedo. There was an east wind, Force 3, moderate sea with a heavy SE swell. The weather was cloudy, fine and clear, with good visibility.


4. One of the apprentices saw the torpedo break surface, as it was approximately six points from the box, but thought it was a porpoise. It struck on the port side in the engine room, with a very violent explosion, and a flash. A tremendous column of water was thrown up, flooding the after deck. The engine room flooded to the cylinder tops immediately, and the engines stopped. The main wireless was completely destroyed. The deck did not not appeared to be damaged, but the two ports boats, which were swung invoard at the time, were damaged. The ship settled on an even keel, but did not list. The Captain ordered "abandon ship" and No 3 boat got away in four minutes with 25 people, including all the passengers. The No 1 lifeboat, which was cracked and leaking badly, was lowered with seven or eight of the crew in it. Both port boats were lowered, but filled on becoming waterborne. No rafts, two rafts having previously been washed away through stress of weather. Everyone was clear of the ship by 1010. Our wireless operators sent out distress signals for 15 minutes, using the emergency set, before abandoning ship and although the emergency set radiated satisfactorily, no answer was received. The boats wireless set was placed in No 3 lifeboat with the receiving set.


5. No 3 boat was the only really seaworthy lifeboat, and contained 25 people, the remaining survivors being distributed between No 1 boat and two rafts. I transferred provisions and water from the waterlogged No 4 boat to a raft then set it adrift. After trying to effect temporary repairs to No 1 boat, we found it impossible to stop the leak, owing to the planks being split in the bilge streak, so after removing the provisions to the raft, this boat was also cast adrift.


6. At 1045, the vessel was struck by a second torpedo on the port side, in No 3 hold. This was a very violent explosion, which caused cascades of water to pour through the ventilators, the ventilator covers being blown off. We did not see a flash or flame. At the time the boats were about 2 cables away, and we watched the ship sink at 1055, vertically, bow first, with her stern out of the water.


7. Shortly after the ship sank, the submarine surfaced and closed the lifeboat, which contained the Captain, 2nd Officer, all the passengers and some of the crew. The Captain and 2nd Officer were taken on board the submarine and questioned. After a time. the 2nd Officer was sent back to the lifeboat, but the Captain was kept on board the submarine as prisoner of war. The submarine then closed my raft, and I was taken on board to be questioned. The Commander asked me where we were from, and were bound, but I refused to give him our exact destination, saying that we were bound from England to South America. All the time that I was on board, I was covered by bren guns, and after the Commander had finished questioning, one of his crew took a number of photographs of me. I was then ordered back onto the raft.


8. The submarine was obviously a German of about 500 tons, and of the U-33 class (type 9C U-66 - mk) It looked quite new and I could see no signs of rust or seaweed. I noticed one gun forward, and a small AA gun mounted on the conning tower. A Swastika was painted on the conning tower with a wolf through it. The commander was tall, lean, dressed in a rather shabby khaki uniform, and wore a red beard. He seemed very fit. I noticed that he spoke poor English. The crew all worse long khaki trousers, in an equally shabby state of repair. The Commander took our boats wireless transmitting set from the lifeboat, together with a few tins of provisions from my raft. Whilst I was in the conning tower, a Lieutenant asked survivors on the raft for some cigarettes, for which he gave them in exchange some cigarettes of a very inferior quality, of German manufacture. The submarine then steamed away on the surface.


9. After this, I transferred to the lifeboat to take charge, taking the two rafts in tow. I set sail at 1400, and steered a SS Wly course for St Thomas, which was approximately 1230 miles away. The (here some words are missing from the copy).....


each raft carried 10 gallons of water. We had a supply of smoke floats, rockets, red flares; the lifeboats had a red sail and there were yellow protection suits. There were now 26 in the lifeboat, ten on one raft, and nine on the other.  I put everyone on very short rations, in view of the distance from land, a typical meal being 1 and one half ounces of water, 3 horlicks tablets and 2 spoonsful pemmican.

10. We sailed through the night, making about 1 knot, but at 0300 on the 28th the tow rope parted, and the rafts broke adrift. I waited until daybreak before connecting them up again, owing to the heavy swell, as I wished to avoid damaging the boat, the rudder having already been damaged by the raft, necessitating lashing the gudgeons to the pintles. At 0530 I connected up again and set sail. I realised that even given the most favourable conditions, it would take 50 days to reach land, so I suggested to the crew that the rafts be cast adrift, and for the boat to carry on independently, as there would be a better chance of being picked up. The crew did not favour this suggestion, so I shelved it for the time being, and carried on as before. During the course of the day, one of the rafts showed signs of breaking up, so it was necessary to transfer the men from it into the lifeboat. After removing the stores, I cast this raft adrift. There were then 35 in the boat, with ten men on the remaining raft; the lifeboat was very overcrowded, and our limbs soon became stiff, due to the cramped conditions. I feel very strongly that the lifeboats have not sufficient space for the numbers of persons allocated to them.

11. At 0500 on 1st March, some of my crew reported having seen aircraft, and although I did not see anything I fired three rockets, and used three smoke flares, and several red flares. Of course, we received no response to these signals, and I considered the plane existed only in the imagination of those who reported having sighted it. The following morning at 0700, a single aircraft was sighted a great distance away in the SE'ly quarter,  followed 10 minutes later by a second plane.  I again sent up several distress signals but after being in sight for a quarter of an hour both planes disappeared without seeing us.


12. Shortly afterwards, another aircraft was seen in the NE'ly quarter and appeared to be closing us, so I fired our remaining rockets, which succeeded in attracting the attention of this aircraft, at a distance of at least 10 miles. The plane flew over the boat and gave a recognition signal, at approximately 0745, then flew away. I thought it would take some considerable time for a rescue craft to reach us, but at 0900 several funnels and masts were sighted to the NE. I now ordered the motor to be started, and lowered sails on the raft and lifeboat. I had deliberately reserved the petrol for such a purpose. When the ships came into full view we recognised them as United States warships. I manoeuvred the lifeboat and raft to the lee side of the American Destroyer Hobson, and at 1003 everyone was taken on board, after having sailed only 65 miles in 4 days. We were rescued in position 27 17N, 44,34W. The lifeboat and raft were destroyed by gunfire.

13. The Hobson landed us at Bermuda on Friday March 5th. The crew were put on board an HM Ship on March 15th and were landed at Portsmouth on March 22nd.

This is followed by a footnote added much later to the bottom of page 3:


C in C Western Approaches                                          DPD (Cdr Dillon Robinson)
SBNO Western Atlantic                                                DID (Cdr R Lister Kaye)
IMNG                                                                          NID 1/PW
DTD                                                                             NID 3/PW
DTD (DEMS)                                                               NID (Cdr Winn)
D A/SW                                                                       Lieut Kidd USN
DTSD                                                                          DNO (London)
DTMI (Lieut Read)                                                      DNC (Bath)
DSD (Lieut Thomas)                                                    Files



Saint Margaret 4312 tons.

This ship was sunk in position 27 38N 42.23W on 27th February 1943. She was sailing independently at the time. The submarine involved was U-66, Kapt Lt Markworth. The log gives the time of firing the torpedo as 1731. Log book also reports that they took the Captain of the St Margaret aboard as a prisoner.

Markworth was eventually wounded by aircraft attack when returning from a patrol. 3 crewmen were killed and 8 wounded. Date was August 3rd 1943. He did not go to sea again.

Type 9C, similar to U-66

Captain David Sidney Davies was held in the prison camp shown below. On the rear of the original photograph he wrote:

"An aerial view of a Prisoner of War camp I served in for a long period. This was taken a few days before our release by the 2nd Armd Div. The Welsh & Scots Guards overran our camp at 1030 pm 27th April 1945. Noswaith byth i gofio - (Welsh - An unforgettable night). Note the signs painted on the roof POW Still Here. This was on account of the bombing.

This is an enlargement of this image:


U66 (circled left) and U117 under attack August 3rd 1943


Aug 3, 1943     U-Boat 66 On Aug. 3rd a patrol team came upon U-66 at a point 475 miles WSW of Flores. The Skipper, Capt./Lt F. Markworth was headed home after 14 weeks and 2 kills off the east coast. (One of which was, of course, the St Margaret) Wildcats strafed and wounded the deck officer and he ordered the boat to dive. The captain came up the hatch and belayed the order and guns were manned. Avenger pilot, LT(JG) Richard Cromier, (USNR, VC-1) encouraged the boat to dive with two depth charges followed by a FIDO which missed. Markworth surfaced again to fight and was wounded so his next in command took the boat down. That night, he reported to Adm. Doenitz and was told to make contact with U-Boat 117 for refueling and assistance.

Aug 7, 1943     U-Boat 117 On Aug. 7th LT(JG) Sallenger, USNR, spotted two subs on the surface west of the Flores, steaming parallel and about 500 yards apart. Without fighter cover he dove down sun and made a straddle on U-66 and gave a few machine gun blasts on the deck of the milch cow, U-117. After radioing the Card for help he stayed out of range for about 25 mins when three more planes arrived. U-66 started to submerge, Sallenger dropped down again to drop a FIDO while flying through a hail of fire from U-117. This U-boat had the new German anti-aircraft guns and Sallenger reported that they were "rotten", all around but no hits. Unable to submerge, U-117 was a sitting duck for the two Avengers. The two assisting pilots were LT Charles Stapler and LT(JG) Junior Forney. U-66 escaped again from the Card group but was sunk by another Task Group a few months later. Source: http://www.navsource.org/archives/03/cve-11/011u.htm.

Fate of the U-66: Sunk 6 May, 1944 west of the Cape Verde Islands, in position 17.17N, 32.29W, by depth charges, ramming and gunfire from Avenger and Wildcat aircraft of the US escort carrier USS Block Island and by the destroyer escort USS Buckley. 24 dead and 36 survivors. Source: http://uboat.net/boats/u66.htm

Its been a long long time since I had anything to update on this page, but I got this email April 26th 2012.

My father served his first year of apprenticeship aboard the SS St Margaret on her Maiden Voyage. He later rejoined the ship about ?1940. His story goes on rejoining the ship, “The St Margaret scarcely looked the same, peacetime colours had been black hull with white stripes from stem to stern, white superstructure, red funnel with black top and shining brass and gleaming varnished brightwork. Now she was wartime grey from stem to stern, from truck to waterline. And the ugly shape of a four inch gun was being bolted down on the steering house.  The St Margaret had half a dozen Canadian 0.300 Ross Rifles for, supposedly, sinking floating mines. The gun was Japanese of 1912 vintage with separate ammunition.” Dad went into some detail about how these guns worked, or didn’t work, as the case may be, but what is interesting is that he started his four year apprenticeship on this ship and it was on this same ship when his Indentures expired and was signed on  the ships articles as Cadet AB.  My fathers name was Frederick Edgar Barley. Thanks Regards Ellis Burgess