The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Sinking of the SS Britannia 1941

Commander Stanley Spurgeon

Commander Spurgeon commanded Dad's lifeboat and I found a short summary of the experience in the account of Commander Spurgeon's Naval career:

"In March 1941 Spurgeon was on passage to Cape Town in SS Brittania when his ship was sunk by the German merchant raider Thor in the mid-Atlantic. The raider made no attempt to help the" survivors and more than half of those onboard the merchant vessel eventually perished in the action and aftermath. While abandoning ship, Spurgeon came across a naval nurse visibly distressed and fearful that she could not manage the descent into the already crowded life raft below. He immediately lifted her down the 30-foot rope ladder, injuring his foot and rupturing a tendon in his shoulder. With 67 others Spurgeon found himself in a 25-foot open lifeboat which was holed in several places and had onboard negligible food and water. As the senior officer Spurgeon established a system of rationing and a suitable routine to maintain morale. After six days adrift the boat was picked up by a Spanish steamer and taken to the Canary Islands where Spurgeon was interned for four months. He later received a commendation for his courage and fortitude in the trying circumstances he had faced. "

King's commendation

Commander Spurgeon was interned in Tenerife after the rescue by the Cabo de Hornos, and is mentioned by some of the survivors including Alfred Warren.

A fuller account of Commander Spurgeon's career may be found online:

The distinguished Naval Officer who commanded the lifeboat

Colin Bower
30 May 2020

Link to:

Britannia Index

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