Crew list of Ships hit by U-boats

Peter James Mullan

Merchant Navy (R291373). Irish

Born  28 Jun 1924Warrenpoint, Co. Down
Died  21 Jul 2008(84)

Roster information listed for Peter James Mullan

ShipTypeRank / roleAttacked onBoat
Nailsea ManorSteam merchantApprentice10 Oct 1941U-126 (1)
Duchess of AthollSteam passenger shipPassenger (D.B.S.)10 Oct 1942U-178

Personal information

Peter James Mullan’s account of the sinking of Nailsea Manor:

On the evening of 9th October just before sunset we sighted the convoy on the horizon ahead. At 2a.m. on the morning of 10th October we had a rude awakening when a torpedo, fired from U-126 commanded by Kptlt. Ernst Bauer, struck the vessel on the port side of No. 4 hatch. I was asleep in my bunk approximately 100 feet from the explosion, I proceeded to the scene with some alacrity and reached in time to be nearly struck by one of the mailbags which had been blown out of No. 4 hatch by the explosion, now returning to earth. Looking over the side I saw a large hole in the ship’s side the top of which extended above the water line (It would seem the vessel had rolled a few degrees to port as the torpedo struck). In the tween deck (I think this would have been 90 seconds after the torpedo struck) I could see an intense fire, and the horizontal riveting on the tween deck plating had been ripped apart, I could see the fire through the rivet holes for about 20 feet abaft the hole made by the torpedo. Our deck service fire main pipe which ran along the deck was fractured by the explosion, this was our only means of fighting the fire. As I returned across the deck to the starboard side of the ship, flames were leaping from the corners of No. 4 hatch where the covers had been blown away. The ship was of open shelter deck construction (this means you could walk right through the deck from forward to aft, there were no bulkheads) and the fire quickly ran the length of the ship, the cargo in the tween deck was almost entirely military vehicles all of them with petrol in their tanks, it was quickly apparent that there was no hope of controlling the fire and the order was given to abandon the ship.

The speed with which this order was carried out was no doubt accelerated by the knowledge that the lower holds contained large quantities of ammunition from .303cal to 15”, plus an assortment of land mines and some war heads for torpedoes. The starboard lifeboat was in the water and manned in about fifteen minutes and as we pulled away from the ship we were showered with sparks and burning embers, some of the oil tanks in the ship had evidently been fractured as there was a strong smell of fuel oil. We pulled a safe distance from the ship, which was now blazing from stem to stern, all the accommodation was in flames and the ship’s hull was glowing red, the wooden topmasts were also on fire. As we rested on our oars a star shell screamed over our boat, we learned later that this was fired by one of the escorts who thought he had sighted the submarine. After about 90 minutes we were picked up by HMS Violet, the port boat which had also safely cleared the ship was picked up a few minutes later, all the crew survived and there were no serious injuries. The corvette later attacked the submarine with depth charges, but without result. We then proceeded at speed to rejoin the convoy. One of the escort vessels remained in the vicinity of the ship for some hours and then sank her with gunfire.

By morning we had rejoined the convoy, now another problem arose, our savior HMS Violet was very short of stores and could not feed 42 extra mouths for four days until we arrived at Freetown, Sierra Leone. During the afternoon the Ellerman liner City of Hong Kong dropped astern of the convoy, the corvette closed her and we were transferred to the liner by boat, this was achieved in about 20 minutes. Onboard the liner we were royally treated the passengers gave us clothes, razors etc., and made us welcome; some had left the ship in night wear, and those of us who had gear were badly stained with fuel oil. The next four days were quite memorable, especially the delights of the dining room, where rationing hadn’t been heard of.

He also was an apprentice on passage aboard Duchess of Atholl and injured in the sinking when the tips of the fingers on the left hand were crushed. His account of the sinking:

Just before 0630hrs (local time), on the morning of 10th October, a torpedo fired from U-178 commanded by KptzS Hans Ibbeken, struck us on the port side at the forward end of the engine room, this quickly brought the vessel to a stop, emergency stations were ordered, and passengers and crew assembled on the boat deck, a search was made of all the accommodation to ensure that every body was on deck, at the same time the damage was assessed, at 0650hrs a second torpedo struck the vessel, a little aft of the first one it was clear now that the vessel could not survive. At 0700hrs the order to abandon ship was given and the boats were loaded and lowering commenced, I was in No. 5 boat which was the last one lowered of the starboard side, the other starboard boat were clear of the ship, as the boat came off the falls I heard screams and saw people falling from a boat about a cables length our to starboard of the liner, seconds later a third torpedo struck the liner under the bridge, about 60ft forward of our lifeboat, although a little stunned by the explosion we pulled clear of the ship, the time was then 0730hrs. With the exception of four men killed in the first explosion all the passengers and crew were clear of the ship in 1 hour, in the best tradition of the sea Captain Moore was the last to leave the vessel. The lifeboats, 24 in all grouped together about 3 cables to port of the doomed liner, she remained upright until 0910hrs then she slowly rolled to port, at 0920hrs her masts and funnels were parallel with the surface, I could see down the funnels, she then began to sink by the stern at 0930hrs the bow was pointing skyward and the bridge was just visible above the water, in about 20 seconds she had disappeared completely.

We had sent an S.O.S. so the outside world was aware of our plight and we settled down to await a rescue ship, the day and night passed reasonably comfortably and on the morning of the 11th October a Liberator bomber flew low over the boats and indicated that he had seen us, rescue could not be far away, a little before noon smoke appeared on the horizon and by 1430hrs we were all safely onboard HMS Corinthian, and once again we were bound for Freetown.


  1. Personal communication

Crew list for Ships hit by U-boats