The Catapult-Armed Merchant Ship (CAM Ship) Empire Eve was sunk in the Mediterranean
by U-boat U-414 on 18 May 1943 with the loss of 5 lives. 70 years later, Radar Mechanic
Jim Dimond, in the document below, recalls his service on board over a period of
almost a year, taking part in 8 transatlantic convoys (4 return crossings).
Jim died on 4th April 2017, aged 96. This is in his memory, too.
In memory of the 5 crew members who were killed on 18/5/1943:
Fireman and Trimmer Arthur Ernest Beynon
Third Engineer Officer James Fletcher
Second Engineer Officer Stephen Rose
Fireman and Trimmer Arthur David Sage
Donkeyman Arthur Clarence Spark
- and of the 47 crew of U-414 which was sunk with all hands 7 days later.
The Empire Eve arrived on the Clyde on 2 June 1942. This is when I joined her as
her radar mechanic. What follows corresponds with my 2013 memory of what happened.
She spent about six weeks being fitted out for a Russian convoy but the previous
convoy got so badly mauled (thre ships were said to have blown up) that ours was
cancelled after we had started loading. We sailed ca. 25 July 1942 in ballast and
without the Hurricane or operational radar, for Montréal via Halifax and Prince Edward
Island. This involved a trip of about 400 miles up the St Lawrence River passing
under the Quebec Bridge.
In Montréal several large Swedish Red Cross ships were loading grain to relieve the
famine in Greece. They were painted white, with the Swedish flag and the Red Cross
painted prominently on their sides. They sailed alone rather than as part of a convoy,
unescorted, floodlit, under guarantee of safe passage from both sides. They were
a beautiful sight, a contrast to the drab grey of the other shipping.
We loaded 4 holds with wheat and one with maize, with a deck cargo of four Sherman
tanks and eight crated Mustang fighters. She sailed via Halifax for Ellesmere Port
and arrived there ca. 18 September 1942. Ca. 26 September she sailed for St John
New Brunswick via Halifax where she arrived ca. 14 October. Having loaded a cargo
of wheat, she sailed from Halifax ca. 4 November for Glasgow where she arrived ca.
18 November. She left the Clyde ca. 1 December bound for St John New Brunswick via
Halifax where she arrived ca. 22 December (on this occasion the crossing took three
weeks instead of the usual fortnight).
She left Halifax for St John at lunchtime on Christmas day when the cook, remarkably,
prepared an 11-course meal! On the return journey, again carrying a cargo of wheat,
she left Halifax 15 January 1943 and arrived at the Clyde 2 February. She sailed
22 February for Halifax where she arrived 17 March after another long crossing. After
loading grain there she sailed 31 March for Avonmouth via Belfast Lough where she
arrived 16 April.
Crossing to Cardiff, to load a cargo of 6600 tons of coal and to be restored to fully
operational status with a Hurricane fighter and a full radar crew. She sailed on
3 May for Algiers via Milford Haven and the north coast of Ireland. On 18 May she
had reached a position off Cape Tenes on the north coast of Algeria. The day before
she had moved from the port to the starboard side of the 80 ship convoy. Just before
the watch changed at eight o'clock in the evening, a single torpedo from U414 hit
the engine room and she sank in about 15 minutes. Five of the Merchant Navy crew
lost their lives, and one Army gunner sustained a broken thigh and arm. Survivors
were picked up by HMS Barfoil and a tank landing craft. Fortunately it was a beautiful
evening with a dead calm sea. Survivors were landed in Algiers and the service crew
returned to Britain on a troop ship, the SS Ormonde, which was carrying prisoners
of war from the German Africa Corps. The injured soldier was left to be treated in
an Algiers hospital.
When the Empire Eve was sunk, 3 torpedos were fired. One passed harmlessly astern
of us, the other damaged the bow of the ship astern of us, but she remained afloat
and reached Algiers safely.
Those killed on the Empire Eve are remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, London.
(Formerly Petty Officer James Francis Dimond R.N.)