Kenneth Jeynes Andrew
Merchant Navy (R224833). British
|Born||8 Jan 1925||Hong Kong|
Roster information listed for Kenneth Jeynes Andrew
|Ship||Type||Rank / role||Attacked on||Boat|
|British Colony||Steam tanker||Second Radio Officer||14 May 1942||U-162 (1)|
“Connections” written by Kenneth Andrew:
On 13 May 1942 at around 8 p.m. (local time) my ship, the British Colony, a tanker, was hit by a torpedo, chased for four hours, then another torpedo exploded in the hole that the first one had made and we abandoned ship. Some of the crew had been killed and a few injured, of which I was one. My right leg had been smashed when the second torpedo had exploded under the bridge area. How I got from the monkey island and into the lifeboat jammed in its falls halfway between deck and water is another story. A short time later there were nine of us in the lifeboat covered in thick fuel oil, bobbing around in the dark. Increasingly there was the noise of waves breaking, and a U-boat appeared and stopped a few yards away. “Was the ship’s captain aboard?” we were asked. He was but we said “No”. We had taken off our uniform jackets or epaulettes not long before this encounter as we had heard that sometimes ship’s officers were taken prisoner. Some more questions were asked and obvious replies given. And then a surprising thing: “Do you know the course and distance to the nearest land?” we were asked and the course and distance to Barbados was given! The U-boat moved off with words to the effect that “it was the fortunes of war”. Three days later, with the aid of a local fishing boat guiding us in through a reef, we landed at Bathsheba beach, Barbados. I stayed in the General Hospital having many operations on my injury until early in 1943, when I flew to a US Navy hospital and then a mariner’s rest home on the shores of Chesapeake Bay [He flew from Trinidad to Baltimore via Bermuda aboard the BOAC Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat G-AGBZ “Bristol” on 11 March 1943]. I returned to England. Months later I wangled my way back to sea, saw out the rest of the war and was invalided out at the end of hostilities. I came ashore, married, and started to work in an office of a large industrial firm.
In 1974 I had been racing sailing dinghies for 10 years, been involved with the organization of the club and was its Commodore. As such I met most of the members. One day I heard a very familiar dialect and knew it to be Bajan. Its owner was from Barbados and married to one of our newer club members. The outcome of this meeting was a holiday with my wife, two other club friends and the Barbadian girl and her husband in Barbados. I had always, and still do, consider Barbados as my personal “Shangri-La”. Whilst we were there in Barbados, the local newspaper ran a short article on my visit: “Survivor returns”. We had a glorious holiday and I was able to point out, and relate to my wife the places and happenings all those years ago.
Soon after our return to England, I received a letter and a newspaper cutting from the Barbados Advocate newspaper which was an article by W.H.R. Armstrong entitled “U-boats in the Caribbean” and it contained many facts concerning the U-boat and its commander that had torpedoed my ship. The commander, Jürgen Wattenberg, was born in Lübeck and in 1921 joined the German Navy. In 1939 he was the navigating officer in the Admiral Graf Spee and after the Battle of the River Plate was interned in Argentina. From there he “escaped” through Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Africa, Spain and Italy. In 1941 Wattenberg became the commander of U-162, a type IXC ocean going U-boat, which carried out two patrols in the Caribbean in May and September 1942. During that first patrol U-162 sank nine ships with a total tonnage of 47,181 grt, including the British Colony. The second patrol in July 1942 started with U-162 being depth charged in the Bay of Biscay by a British plane but continued on to the Caribbean where they sank four ships with a total tonnage of 30,481 grt. On 3 September 1942 U-162 fired a torpedo at the destroyer HMS Pathfinder, which was in the company of the destroyers HMS Vimy and HMS Quentin. The torpedo missed and a five hour chase and depth charging began which ended when the badly damaged U-162 had to surface and in the glare of the destroyers searchlights abandoned ship. The surviving crew were taken prisoner of war into Trinidad and from there transferred to a prisoner of war camp at Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Whilst in that camp Jürgen Wattenberg and other prisoners of war dug a 70 meters long tunnel and 24 of them escaped into the mountains. Captain Wattenberg and two of his ratings hid in the Colorado mountains for two months until they were forced to give themselves up through hunger. Jürgen Wattenberg returned to Lübeck in 1946 eventually to become an executive of the Lübeck branch of the Bavaria and St. Paul Brewery.
Back in my sailing club I was relating these interesting facts to those with whom we had been on holiday when the German born wife of one of the circle who were listening said that she had been born in Lübeck and her sister was in business there and that she would write to her sister and enquire if she knew Herr Wattenberg. She wrote, her sister did know him and sent his address. I wrote to Herr Wattenberg just stating that we had briefly met one night in 1942 etc. He wrote back enclosing photographs expressing heartfelt sentiments that I had survived…
There were eleven U-boats lost in the Caribbean area in World War 2 and over 300 Allied ships. It was truly a hot spot. The British Colony was one of them. Some of our crew did not survive and it is they whom I remember on each 13 May and again on each 11 November, and am reminded of our meeting with U-162 with almost every other step that I take. I give thanks to the Almighty that we met a seaman, who gave us a course to safety.
The letter sent to Kenneth Andrew by Jürgen Wattenberg:
Your kind and interesting letter with enclosed article from Mr. Armstrong in “Barbados Advocate News” arrived here some days ago, on 9 October 1975.
First of all: I am glad that you are alive and I hope that all – or at least most – of the crew of the British Colony could be saved as you were. Unfortunately, there was a war going on between our two countries, and men on both sides had to do their duty. I regret it very much, that the torpedo hit smashed one of your legs. But – as far as I understand – your leg is now quite up to the mark, and you were able to make that interesting trop to Barbados together with your wife.
Mr. Armstrongs article shows that he got good information about submarine warfare in the Caribbean. The short story of my pre- and postwar life apparently derives from a book entitled “The Drama of Graf Spee and the Battle of the Plate”, author Sir Eugen Millington Drake, British ambassador at Montevideo, Uruguay at the time of the battle, a good friend of mine who died some years ago at Paris. Escaping from Argentine internment in 1940 and from US PoW Camp Papago Park, Arizona were exciting adventures in my life. But sinking of merchantmen were no exploits on my side, as you remark, but only small contributions to worldwide warfare. “Let us hope that history does not repeat itself.”
Today – I should like to send you a picture of a German submarine commander with whom you had a brief meeting on 14 May 1942 approximately 75 miles east of Barbados and who is thankful to fate, that he was able to give you a good course to a nice island and to rebirth after nearly-death.
- Personal communication
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