Dave Hunt - Kings Own Royal Regiment
My memories of “Strathallen” a doomed troop ship that was torpedoed as we sailed for the North African Coast and the invasion of Algeria:- By Dave Hunt Ex 325 troop carrying company and the Kings Own Royal Regiment.
We set out from Scotland and joined a convoy of various other ships, we had on board some 7000 troops and many nurses, I along with others volunteered to work in the cookhouse on nights peeling potatoes etc.
Going through the Bay of Biscay we ran into a very severe storm, looking out to sea I saw the escorting destroyers going straight through large waves and out the other side it was fantastic to see, our troop ship rolled from side to side. Soldiers were sick everywhere, many who tried to move about were hurt, some had broken arms.
Then Strathallen came to a halt for about half an hour and rocking and rolling of the ship became severe “I could write on regarding this”, however soon we got under way and regained our position in the convoy and proceeded on course, eventually we passed through the straights of Gibraltar and at about 2.15 am in the morning a terrific explosion took place, and all the lights went out.
At the time I was walking along a corridor that led to some stairs and on to the decks, I wasted no time to go up them, the first life boats that we went to had big holes in them from the up blast of the torpedo, but we soon found a good one, the boat was soon full and the ships sailors were about to lower off, when an officer came along and said ,Sorry lads out you get there are nurses here who must go first, no one complained and we all started to get out.
I stood up and a soldier jumped from the deck above and the impact must have broken his leg at the hip or knocked it out of joint, for it was up in front of his chest.
A nurse said this man will have to stay in the life boat.
Back on the deck I met a Lance Corporal “Rennie” from our own company, he said to me Dave one of our lads named “Wooding” was in a cabin on the side of the ship that was hit by the torpedo, lets get down there to see if he is hurt and cant get out, I said ok lets go. When we got to the steps to the cabin the sea water was to the top of the door, it was obvious that he was killed out right or perhaps badly injured and then drowned when the cabin filled with water.
We returned to the decks where we got separated. I managed to get to the ships rail, a destroyer called “Panther” came alongside and a Navy Officer called to the soldiers to jump down onto their deck, onto tarpaulin sheets that the sailors had put down to break the fall.
Soldiers poured onto her decks, the navy officer called out stop jumping we have to pull away for a while, she quickly pulled away, quite a lot of soldiers made a late jump and went into the sea.
Panther went round our stricken ship dropping depth charges, when she returned a short time later, she came along side, right where I was standing, soldiers went over the side like a wave, the navy sailors grabbing them then throwing anywhere to save others landing on them, when I jumped as soon as I hit the canvas I did a forward roll and no one came down on me.
Soon Panther was off again full speed for the African coast, we looked back and saw “Strathallen” was on fire __ I thought of my poor pal Wooding that was back on the troop ship.