Monday, November 03, 2008

HMS Sturdy Memorial

HMS Sturdy was wrecked during a severe gale on the coast of Tiree on the night of 30th October 1940.  Sixty-eight years later to the day, Lt. Cdr. Michael. J. Gibson RN RD (Retired), whose father, E. J. A. Gibson, was the Engineer Officer of Sturdy, revisited the site of the disaster.

HMS Sturdy was on passage on the night of the 30th October 1940 to meet an incoming convoy, when she ran into severe gale force conditions that drove her several miles off course and onto the west coast of Tiree.

During the gale Michael’s father was caught by a wave that smashed him against one of the engine room ventilators, breaking his knee.

The ship was driven onto the rocks and broke in two. An attempt to launch the sea boat was made. This resulted in its immediate destruction, sadly with the loss of its crew who were drowned.

On shore the event was noted and a Merchant Navy Captain, on leave and living nearby, managed to communicate with the ship by Morse light advising the crew not to attempt to leave the ship until daylight. This advice was followed.

Michael understands that another destroyer, leaving behind a salvage party, picked up the crew of Sturdy. Meanwhile his father was taken to Oban cottage hospital from where he and his mother received word of what had happened.  They set off for Scotland as soon as they could. Apart from a fractured kneecap, his father was in good order.

Michael was dispatched to Tiree to see if I could recover any of my father’s belongings.

“I remember the hospitality and consideration that I received. I was treated as a guest, put up at the local hotel and transported out to the wreck site.”

An indication of the force of the gale was that the bows of the front section of the ship were actually in the grass on the shore. The stern section was about 40 yards off shore and only accessible by breeches buoy.

Through his father, Michael was well known to the crew of HMS Sturdy.

“The salvage party were pleased to see me and looked after me well. I recall some people who lived in a nearby cottage who had collected all the personal belongings that they could find and were holding them carefully against collection by the owners. I did collect some bits from them. I left Tiree with a great deal of respect for the considerate and concerned hosts and pleasant memories after an otherwise sombre visit.”

The survivors and relatives of the crew of HMS Sturdy still remaining would like to place on record their gratitude and thanks to the people of Tiree for the help, assistance and compassion shown and given to them in their hour of need.  To this end, a memorial plaque is planned, perhaps as part of a small cairn.

But where should the memorial be located?  At Sandaig, where the Sturdy ran aground?  If so, should it be near the beach or by the roadside?  Or should it be established in Scarinish?  Michael is anxious to hear what the people think about the appropriate location for the memorial.  Please contact him at mgibson829@btinternet.com 

HMS Sturdy was an Admiralty “S” Design destroyer completed in 1919. She was 1,075 tons displacement and armed with 3 x 4 inch guns and 4 x 21 inch torpedo tubes. At the time of her running aground, she was on the way to escort Halifax/UK convoy SC8. The five men who died were Leading Stoker A. Trahearn, Able Seaman P. R. Cornford, Stoker 1st Class T. W. Cowler, Able Seaman F. Greenshields and Ordinary Seaman J. H. Rivett.)

1 comment:

donald tosh said...

I think I am right that the MN Captain was my Gran's elder brother, Donald Sinclair. Sadly he was drowned on his next convoy. His home was at Greenhill, Tiree.