THE EDINBURGH A 'MYSTERY SHIP'
My dad,Bob Bogle, was a PO Stoker on the H.M.S. Edinburgh and served on her from her maiden voyage until her sinking.
She was a frequent visitor to the Middle Docks in South Shields where several of her crew met and married local lasses - my Dad included.
The Middle Docks named its canteen Edinburgh Hall. My Dad is 88 this year, in reasonable health and living in Bedlington.
I grew up knowing the Edinburgh - a mystery ship as my Dad liked to call her, although he never talked too much about the sinking.
I suppose being down below he really didn't know a lot of what was going on but it had to have been a terrifying experience in those rough, dark waters.
When they abandoned ship, he remembers it being so cold that they had to put blankets over the rails to prevent their hands from "sticking"
to the cold steel. Once aboard the H.M.S. Forester, an officer took my Dad below and rubbed his hands for an hour to warm them up.
He claims that the officer's actions saved him from severe frostbite (although he still gripes that because of this he missed his tot of
rum that he claims was being issued on the upper decks!)
Many, many years later I was working for a manned submersible company in Leith. We provided underwater services to the North Sea offshore
oil and gas industry. I remember the management meeting where it was announced that we were considering joining a salvage consortium to
liberate "several million pounds" worth of gold from a World War II wreck. The name H.M.S. Edinburgh brought my attention to a focus. On the
phone that night to my Dad, I questioned him about the gold and why he had never mentioned it before. It turns out that he had in fact been
in charge of one of the loading parties and claimed that the Official Secrets Act had kept him from mentioning it to anyone! I remember his
disappointment that someone was even thinking of desecrating a war grave.
I only heard about the book "Last Call for the H.M.S. Edinburgh" a couple of years ago from an old high school friend - coincidentally his
Dad was also on the Edinburgh - and only then did I learn of the real story, surely one of the most heart-rending stories of the war
Exmouth Survivor of The Gold Ship Edinburgh
IT happened just after four o’clock on 1 st May. We were having tea in No.21 Mess when suddenly there was a terrific crash and we were
plunged into darkness. Through a smoky stench we made our way up the hatch to the flight deck….. the ship was listing to starboard.
The event was the end of the British cruiser HMS Edinburgh, recently in the news when a salvage firm brought up £40 million of the cargo in
gold she was carrying from Russia when the Germans torpedoed her in 1942, sending her to the bottom of the Artic ocean 200 miles north of Murmansk.
The words are those of one of the survivors of the sinking, Mr John Horder, who now lives in Bradham lane Exmouth, and who still has the diaries he
kept at the time.
The Edinburgh sunk the day after the first torpedoes struck, after taking a third torpedo hit. With their ship in a sinking condition the crew stood
to quarters until they could be taken off.
I was in ‘A’ turret. Two sloops were standing by, one on either side. Normally, from the side of the ‘ Edinburgh’, they would have been below us.
We had been in the turret firing guns and slowly sinking - -or perhaps not so slowly. When we came out we were so low in the water that the sloops
towered above us.
The sloops carried about 800 survivors to Russia. Some were accommodated in the town of Polyarno, and a second party, including Mr Horder, two miles
away in the village of Vaenga.
Faced with a long wait to be returned to Britain, Mr Horder’s interest in foreign languages prompted him to start learning Russian, and his value as
an interpreter led to his being one of the last to be repatriated.
His command of the language, and the time he spent in Russia gave him a chance, not often found by British servicemen, of seeing everyday wartime life
in that country at first hand. Some of his impressions of Russia and its people, recorded in exercise books with ink improvised by the local Commissar,
who mixed crushed indelible pencil with water for him, will appear in next week’s Journal ....
‘TORPEDO COCKTAIL’ DRINK AS EDINBURGH IS HIT
The Journal’s story last week about Mr John Horder, survivor of the sunken bullion carrying cruiser HMS Edinburgh, sparked off memories
among some of our readers and we were very quickly put in touch with two more local men who were aboard the vessel when she was mortally
damaged in action 200 miles north of Murmansk in May, 1942.
The Edinburgh recently came back into the news when a salvage company retrieved £40 million – worth of the cargo of gold from Russia which
went down with her – an operation which one of the local survivors, former Chief Petty Officer Harold Cooper, of Queens Road, Budleigh Salterton,
felt some reservation about. “After all”, he said, “The ship is the grave of about 60 of the crew”.
Mr Cooper was the Captain’s chief cook on the Edinburgh “I was in my cabin when I heard over the ship’s communications system that there were
three German destroyers in the area. It wasn’t long after that they caught us.”
Edinburgh was hit by two torpedoes, causing extensive damage to the stern.
There was no panic. said Cooper. I said to the purser ‘Take a look at the old man’s wine store,’ and he came back with a jug of spirit.
We christened it ‘Torpedo cocktail’.
The following day the Edinburgh, after taking another torpedo hit, was evacuated, and more than 800 of her company were taken to Russia were
they were billeted at Vaenga and Polyarno to await transport home.
Mr Copper’s first stop ashore, however was a hospital in Murmansk; while helping, as one of the ship’s medical staff, to transfer the wounded
crew members to the rescue ships, he slipped and injured his back.
I was in Russia for seven weeks, he recalled, and during that time, my wife didn’t know if I was alive or dead – our letters home went out on
board the cruiser Trinidad, which was torpedoed and sunk along with all our mail.
Another local survivor was Lt. Cdr. Frederick Northam, of Withycombe Park Drive, Exmouth, who had the unfortunate experience of being one of the
party from the Edinburgh which was to have come back on the Trinidad, and so suffered a second sinking.
He was one of the ginnery officers on the Edinburgh, and later in the war saw action against the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst aboard
Edinburgh’s sister ship, the Belfast, now preserved on a permanent mooring on the Thames. He was mentioned in despatches for his war service.