Vernon Minton 2nd Parachute Regiment
We publish a very explicit account of Mr. Vernon Minton’s experiences onboard Strathallan while serving with the 2nd Parachute Regiment during the period when the torpedo struck on 21st December 1942 in the Mediterranean Sea. Mr. Minton is currently residing in York and is in excellent health. The photograph (which can be found in the gallery) was taken in 1942. “I was a private in the 2nd Parachute Regiment when we boarded Strathallan at Greenock on the Firth of Clyde around 12th Dec1942.
My Regiment was billeted in the lower decks deep inside the troopship. We were told eventually that we were on our way to re-enforce beleaguered troops in North Africa. We heard this enormous explosion in the early hours of the morning. The ship gave a massive shudder as the torpedo struck. It took us a long time to reach the upper decks with the bottleneck of soldiers all with one idea of getting out of the bowels of the stricken ship”. Once we reached the main deck an Officer asked for volunteers to go back into the engine room to man the pumps. My mate and I stepped forward and did what you were never supposed to do., volunteer that is….and went below.
Funnily enough his name escapes me after 58 years. We made our way below and passed members of Strathallan’s crew who were on the way up. During all this upheaval a very human touch took place which would probably have met with disapproval from the authorities but nevertheless was greatly appreciated at the time. The crew had “liberated” some drinks from the bar and offered us a nip of whisky. In the early hours of the morning onboard a sinking ship below decks it was just what the doctor ordered.
Operating the pumps was hot exhausting work. We took spell about having a rest and breather. During a break I took a walk which was not easy because of the list to port. I found myself at an external cargo door with the sea inches below the line of door. While I was at these doors I spotted someone floating close by. He was only wearing a vest and must have stripped off his uniform. He was covered in oil. I managed to grab him but because of the oil I was unable to hang on to him. I don’t know to this day what happened to that man whether he survived or not.
I rejoined my mate at the pumps and stayed there for a considerable period until a crew member told us to get up on deck as there was nothing more to be done. On deck I helped free the last of the rafts. A cruiser sailed slowly past Strathallan and allowed us to jump onboard. We were taken below to the locker where the anchor chains were stored. Not what you would call the best of accommodation but believe me it was more than welcome. We thought Strathallan was going to sink at anytime which it did eventually.
The cruiser turned around and began a anti-submarine sweep. They began dropping depth charges . The noise was horrendous. After every explosion the chains lifted off the deck and came down with an almighty bang. This coupled with the sound of explosions and with dark cramped conditions made it an altogether unpleasant experience ………one I have never forgotten to this day.”