The Day We Mistook the Conning Tower of a U-boat for a Buoy!
Most people are aware of the fact that the first Merchant Navy casualties of WWII were on the Athenia. But what was the last casualty the Merchant Navy suffered?
It was the SS Avondale Park on 7 May 1945, whilst sailing in Convoy EN 491, was torpedoed by U2336 at 23.00 in the last hour of WWII.
At that time I was a crew member of the steam coaster SS Plasma on passage (light ship) from N E Scotland to Sunderland.
During the war a line of navigation buoys were laid down the east coast. The buoy we were looking for next appeared on our starboard bow and as we were supposed to pass it on the port side, we altered course. Being a light ship (no cargo) one could not see dead ahead, and we waited for the buoy to appear on the port bow.
No buoy appeared and eventually we resumed course. Shortly afterwards the buoy did appear. We joked about this miracle when we changed watch and no more was thought about it.
The skipper returned on board when we arrived in Sunderland and informed us that the ‘buoy’ we thought we saw was indeed the conning tower of the U-boat! As the convoy in the area in question, Bell Rock, Isle of May, was were the SS Avondale Park was sunk.
Survivors were landed at Leven, Fifeshire and whilst being conveyed by bus through the town saw everywhere displaying bunting and local people celebrating the end of WWII. Two members of the SS Avondale Park were lost.