Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Short Story re North Africa, S.S. Clan MacTaggart

The Sinking of "The Staggering Maggie"

by Leading Seaman Jim Gibb (later Lt. Cdr)

S.S. Clan MacTaggart. Photo credit - Clydebuilt Ships Database

("The Staggering Maggie" is a nickname for S.S. Clan MacTaggart, carrying the landing craft of the 88th Flotilla, 1942. It was torpedoed "while proceeding alone off the Spanish coast", after the invasion of North Africa.)

The Lascars* did not cut the falls on the lifeboat. There were three of us on the forward falls. We had two turns on the Staghorn bollard and were lowering the boat. When the boat reached deck level the Lascars with their gear stampeded into the boat knocking all three of us down, and away went the falls and the bow dropped, cascading the Lascars into the water. We then stabilized the falls and were lowered. The boat was launched.

"Three Lascars on the Viceroy of India" 
Photo - wikipedia

Chief Smith realized that the three lifeboats on the starboard side had their bottoms torn out when the water from the torpedo explosion came down. He decided we had to get the Carley floats into the water. He commandeered myself and Seaman Wright and the three of us went aft using the guardrails as a ladder. There we released five Carley floats, finishing up on the stern. All three of us jumped and were picked up.

Leading Seaman "Bo's'n" Grimmon passed me when we were preparing to lower the lifeboat - he was going forward. I believe he decided (to see) if he could get his LCM unsecured. It might float free as it was on the No. 2 hatch. I think he did (succeed) but was possibly killed when it swung away. It was the only landing craft in the water after the Clan sank. This craft was sunk by HMS Coreopsis after she had picked us out of the water. (It was not the Vanguard). We were transported to her and also the Lulworth and finally some were taken on to the frigate Londonderry.

Our pick up was delayed when Coreopsis appeared and informed that the U-boat was submerged directly below our lifeboats - he hoped the commander was a gentleman and he would return, which he did two hours later.

Photo as found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, page 117

*Lascars - A lascar was a sailor or militiaman from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope, employed on European ships from the 16th century until the middle of the 20th century. Reference - wikipedia

Story by L/S Jim Gibb, as found in St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War, Vol 1. page 117.

Unattributed Photos by GH

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