The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Sinking of the SS Britannia 1941

Ten Little Sailor Boys
- A Story of Survival by Spencer Mynott

I have been provided with following details by the son of Spencer Mynott one of the survivors of the sinking of the SS Britannia and who, like my father, was picked up by the Cabo de Hornos

“My late father, Spencer Mynott, was one of the survivors of the SS Britannia. He is listed in column six of Frederick Bower’s menu as S Mynott:

The menu (i.e. the inside pages)on which my father obtained the signatures of nearly all the survivors picked up by the Cabo de Hornos

I can identify my father as the second person rescued on a life raft, the other being Alf Warren whose leg was injured by a shark. Between them they managed to get  the shark to give up his hold.

My father was interned in Tenerife and following my mother’s death I now have the letters he wrote back to England at the time. I have to say on reading them that he might have been a little insensitive in his account of life on Tenerife compared with that back in England. He wrote of eating bananas, playing cards and generally enjoying life.

My father wrote an account of his shipwreck which in the early 1960’s entered into a Sunday Mirror competition for short war stories. He won one of the runner up prizes and the account was later published in a book of which I have a copy. The competition prompted the other survivor on his raft (Alf Warren) to contact the paper and the following week there was an article on them meeting again.

I must have been about 10 or so as I have pictures of me with Dad as part of the papers story – my father never really talked about his war experience. It seems, from what I have now worked out was that he was on his way to his first posting after training as a radio operator and after eventually getting back to England set out the rest of the war in a desk job.

The Newspaper Story

The story of the sinking of SS Britannia and subsequent rescue of my father featured in a competition run by the Sunday Pictorial ‘I was there’. My father’s story was entitled Ten Little Sailor Boys and was published in the April 17th 1960 issue, the Pictorial was the Sunday version of the Daily Mirror. A follow up story appeared in the 24th April edition when my father met up with Alf Warren. Alf recalled that he had been the only serviceman in Britain discharged for ‘shark bite on active service’.

Subsequently we discovered that a fuller story ( the paper had condensed the original copy) appeared in a book called Escape to a Firing Squad by Bob Masters which was a Daily Mirror book published in 1960 to tell all the winning stories.

My father was interned in Tenerife for 4 months before being repatriated to England.

He made many handwritten notes of his story whilst on Tenerife saying he left Liverpool on the morning of March 12th in convoy with an escort of three destroyers and a Sunderland aircraft, bound for the Far East and a posting in the Persian Gulf.

On the third day they left the convey and escorts as the skipper had decided to go it alone as he felt by travelling at 10 to 15 knots he could out run any sub.

It was on the 13th day that they spotted another ship flying the Japanese flag (neutral) and not wishing to take any chances altered course. A warning shot was fired across the bows by the German light cruiser but the Scottish captain dropped a smoke screen and made a run for it.

They were an unarmed merchant ship and hit 50 times or more before the captain surrendered.”

Colin Bower
23 October 2020

Link to:
Britannia Index

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