No.67 A Concatenation of Events

Last week I wrote about multiple wreck events in which two ships happened to come ashore at the same place at different times, so to continue this ‘multiple wrecking’ mini-series within the blog, I’d like to focus on crews who have been doubly shipwrecked in a short space of time.

In May 1940 Hervé Cras, a ship’s doctor aboard the French destroyer Jaguar, survived the S-boat attack which sank her at Dunkirk. He finally made it out of Dunkirk aboard the Emile Deschamps and later recalled how the Jaguar‘s survivors stood up to salute their ship as they steamed out of Dunkirk, but were barked at to sit down again, because the vessel was dangerously overloaded. The Emile Deschamps picked her way carefully to Kent, but was mined close to safety off the North Foreland, the very last vessel of the Dunkirk evacuation to be lost in English waters. Once more Cras survived to tell the tale – literally: he became a leading naval historian, including a book on Dunkirk itself. (1)

On 3 January 1891 the Caroline Robert de Massy foundered off Dungeness while bound from the Black Sea port of Batumi for Antwerp with oil, following a collision with the Raithwaite Hall. The crew were saved, as were the seven crew of the vessel Ferdinand van der Taelen of Antwerp, returning home on the de Massy instead of their own ship, sunk in the Mediterranean on 23 November 1891, homeward-bound from Nikolaiev with grain. (2) All on board were taken up by the Raithwaite Hall and landed at Dover, the Ferdinand‘s crew presumably awaiting the next passing ship for Antwerp. It must have taken them at least three ships to get home, possibly four, if they were picked up by another ship in the original incident before being transferred to the de Massy, as the next available vessel bound for Antwerp.

Similarly, one of the survivors of the Earl of Dalkeith packet off Boulmer in November 1807 turned out to have also been rescued from the wrecking of the Leith packet off the Humber just a few months earlier.

On a related note seamen usually (not always . . . !) exerted themselves to save the crews of other vessels in distress, since they were painfully aware that another time they would themselves be in need of help. So it proved for the crew of the Anne Henrietta: on Christmas Eve 1768 they saved the crew of the William and John: their courage was rewarded within a few weeks, when they were themselves picked up by a passing fishing smack after their ship went down off Norfolk.

This post prepares the ground for October’s edition of the War Diary, looking at a notable wreck of late October 1914.


(1) under the pen name of Jacques Mordal, Dunkerque, 1968, Paris: Editions France Empire

(2) erroneously reported in the original source as Friedrich van der Taelen


One thought on “No.67 A Concatenation of Events

Leave a Reply