The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Sinking of the SS Britannia 1941

Lifeboat Number Seven
- book written by Lieut. Commander Frank West

One of the many moving stories of World Way II was the 1535 mile journey undertaken by Lifeboat Number Seven, the longest lifeboat voyage by an officer of the Royal Navy.

The lifeboat sailed to Brazil in 23 days during which of 82 people just 38 Survived:

Personnel in Lifeboat Number Seven

Lt. Commander Frank West kept a log of the journey and had an excellent book called Lifeboat Number Seven published in 1960. The original diary is lodged with the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich

I have extracted some information from the book, which fills in a lot of the gaps that would otherwise remain:


I have read the book in an objective way, concentrating on:

- the convoy on leaving Liverpool
- the crew and passengers taking to the lifeboats
- the names mentioined in the book

The content of the book consists of the diary that Frank West kept enhanced by copious notes made afterwards and contributions from other companions in Lifeboat Number 7 (including MacVicar, McIntosh and Wheater)

Throughout the book Frank West expresses his admiration for the other occupoants of the lifeboat , particularly William MacVicar and Ian McIntosh, to whom he openly says they saved his life and other survivors.

The book candidly yet sensitively describes the ordeal of being cast adrift in an over-crowded lifeboat with limited rations and the need for constant baling, with the sadness as 44 people died, some of whom had contributed greatly to the others surviving.

Photo of Lifeboat Number 7

One of the extraordinary amd misleading sub-stories covered in the book is a picture of Lifeboat Number Seven:

The explanation in the book is that, while Lifeboat Number Seven was in the harbour of Sao Luiz, the British Consul thought that he would like to see what it looked like with 82 men in it. He mananged 74!

Colin Bower
9 October 2020

Links to:

Chapter "Other Survivors" incuding an account by Lt. Rowlandson

Britannia Index

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