On March 21, 1941, the British steam merchant ship SS Benwyvis was sailing in convoy SL.68 with a cargo of rice, lead, timber and and 150 tons of tungsten ore from Rangoon via Capetown when she was torpedoed by U-105. The approximate position was 20.00N, 26.00W (N of the Cape Verde Islands). M/V King Edgar rescued seventeen crew members and took them to Freetown. One survivor was rescued by a French vessel after spending twenty-eight days in a life-boat and landed in Madagascar. The master (Henry John Small), thirty-two crew members (all from Leith) and one DEMS gunner (name unknown) were lost. It should be noted that tungsten was a very valuable metal used in the making of armor steel, electronics, machining tools, radar, armor piecring shells………..over 15,000 war items used tungsten.
Statistics show that the allied merchant marines was a dangerous job during WW II:
Total Losses for Allied Merchant Marines
In 1942, the average sinking of Allied merchant ships was thirty-three ships each week.
If we look at the total Merchant Marine Navy losses during World War 11 the figures look like this:
British Merchant Marine: 25,070 Men Killed 2,426 Ships Sunk
US Merchant Marine: 6,838 Men Killed 848 Ships Sunk (+1800 Naval guards Killed). 1 out of 23 U.S. Merchant Marine seaman were killed during WW2.
Canadian Seamen 1,146 Men Killed
The failure of the Japanese to sail their merchant ships in convoy without adequate protection was one of the most appalling blunders in naval history, which resulted in the loss of 63% of their merchant shipping and contributed to their losing the War.
Of the 5,150 Allied merchant vessels sunk during WWII, 2,828 were sunk by Axis submarines. In the end, the U-boat fleet suffered extremely heavy casualties, losing 793 U-boats and about 28,000 submariners (a 75% casualty rate, the highest of all German forces during the war).
Let us not forget these brave seaman who supplied the war material and supplies during WW2.
Also did you happen to get that info out of the book ''Battle of the Atlantic'' by Andrew Williams?
I am an ex British merchant seaman, and a Marine artist, and the first thing I realised that you have to do is research and accuracy when painting on commission, otherwise sadly you get people like me on your back.......I love your light effects and the way you have captured the ocean, really lovely...I do hope I haven't offended you, but I do have hundreds of ship photographs including both "Benwyvis'es" actually there were 5 in all the last one built for the Ben Line in1966.
Ian Boyd ,Hillcrest South Africa
i do try to take my time in the research of my artwork out of the respect of the men and women involved with the subject. I missed this one. I will verify my next work more closely.
its nice to here from a professional artist with your talent and background and to make a new friend with the appreciation of nautical art.
Can you send me a photo of the ship that was sunk in 1941? If not I will pull this work and replace with another maybe. I wanted to show the perils and danger of the Allied Merchant Marines during WW2.
Thanks for your reply, I'll try to send a photo of the 1929 Benwyvis to you but I'm new to the site and still finding out how it works !
I appreciate your sentiment regarding the Allied Merchant Navies in WW2, there is a wonderful Memorial to all the British and Commonwealth seamen who perished just doing their job at Tower Hill in London, it has a sort of eerie feel about which is hard to describe. Every ship lost is there with all the names of the crew member who didn't make it.....
Anyway lets see if I can send the picture, perhaps you can give me a few tips...
All the Best
The 'down-below' seamen were responsible for working the boiler rooms and their adjacent coal bunkers. Collectively, they were known as the 'Black Gang', a term that lasted well into the diesel era. Strictly speaking, 'Black Gang' referred to the trimmers and firemen - the men in the stokeholds and the bunkers. 'Stoker' and 'fireman' are two different titles for the same job, but the term 'fireman' is almost exclusively used on ships. The normal 'Black-gang' might consist of six firemen, two trimmers and a 'peggy'; altogether, on a '3-watch' ship, a total of 27 men.