HMS Hecla left Greenock on the 15 April 1942 as part of Convoy WS.18 for South Africa
to join the Far Eastern Fleet but on the 15 May hit a mine off Cape Agulhas near Cape Town. Stan had a lucky escape:
was down on the mess deck having tea when it happened. It was about 5pm
and I would have been on watch at 6pm, the 2nd dog watch from 6-8. All
I can remember is that I didn't have my life belt on. The next thing I
knew was when I woke up in the bakery on a higher deck, somebody had
pulled me out, and taken me up there."
Twenty-one of the crew were killed and Hecla was under repair at Simonstown, the naval base outside Cape Town, until October when it headed north to support the landings in north Africa. Disaster struck at 11.16 pm on the 11 November (1116/11) when Hecla was hit by the first of five torpedoes fired by U-515. Soon after the third torpedo struck at 0022/12:
Captain ordered 'Abandon Ship'.
Naturally everybody rushed for the boats, including me; they were far
too crowded and the Gunnery Officer pulled out a pistol and said
'everybody out of the boats, take it easy' and threatened to shoot the
first man to ignore his orders. I eventually got into a Whaler which
was lowered into the water, but there were so many of us
that it capsized and sunk. Myself, an officer and about six others got
onto a Carley Float, and I remember the officer shouting 'if you want
to live, paddle'. We paddled and paddled but the float just went round
and round; it was tied to the Whaler that had capsized. We left it and
managed to hang onto some wreckage and eventually reached HMS Marne.
pulled us on board after we had been in the water for about an hour. We
were covered with oil and had a bit of a wash but nothing else. All
night long HMS Venomous circled round the Marne
firing star shells to light up the area to see if any U-boats were
still around. We wondered if we would see the night thro’. The next day
a tug and corvette came out from Gibraltar to take us aboard and tow
the Marne. We reached Gibraltar that night and were taken aboard HMS Nelson, had
a bath and something to eat and were given underclothing, overalls and
boots. We were then put onto a troopship, the requisitioned Dutch
liner, Dempo, and joined a
convoy for Liverpool. On arrival we were sent to Chatham Barracks where
we were kitted out again and given two weeks survivors' leave."
is some doubt as to when "abandon ship" was ordered. There are
significant differences between the times given by Captain G.V. B.
Fauulkner RN, the CO of Hecla, and Lt Cdr H.N.A. Richardson, CO of HMS Marne, in their Reports of Proceedings. Although Captain G.V.B. Faulkner RN did not leave Hecla until
after the fifth torpedo struck (which he reported as being at 0105/12, much earlier than Richardson) he and his
senior officers were among the first to be rescued. The order to
abandon ship could not be conveyed throughout Hecla
due to loss of power and most men took the decision to to leave the
ship earlier and were already in the water when a torpedo struck
the stern of Marne blowing off its stern and rendering it dead in the water. Many were heading for Marne
and were killed by the fragments of metal which rained down or by the
mines on the quarter deck exploding as they reached the depth at which
they were set to detonate; and then the munitions went up ... as so vividly described by Herbert McWilliams. They swam
away from the Marne, became dispersed over a wide area and some were in the water for ten or more hours before being picked up by HMS Venomous which in addition to rescuing survivors had to fight off the U-boat and protect Marne. Stan Juson was lucky, he left Hecla after Marne was torpedoed and was pulled aboard when he "had been in the water for about an hour".
Stan was one of 54 ratings and 10 officers rescued by HMS Marne. The CO of HMS Marne
was Lt Cdr H.N.A. Richardson RN and its crew included Michael Flanders
(1922-75) who went on to achieve fame for his comedy duo with Donald
Swann in "Flanders and Swann".
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A Hard Fought Ship contains the most detailed account of the loss of HMS Hecla yet published
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