Final casualty of conflict

SS Avondale Park
SS Avondale Park

As commemorations get under way across the country to mark the centenary of the First World War, one local group is remembering a key incident from the second of the great world conflicts.

Anstruther Town Centre Working Group (ATCWG) is raising funds for a memorial to the last British merchant ship sunk by a German submarine in World War Two.

The SS Avondale Park, a 2700-ton liberty cargo ship, was sunk in convoy just one hour before the end of the war in Europe, at 10.40 p.m. on May 7, 1945 – the eve of VE Day.

With a British crew, it was flying the Canadian flag when sunk by one of two torpedoes fired by U2335, commanded by Kapitanleutnant Emil Klusmeier. The other struck the Norwegian merchantman Sneland.

All U boats had been ordered to cease hostilities three days previously – but Klusmeier said he had not received the radio signal during his voyage from Norway to his attack position, a claim disputed by many. This was the last British sinking of the Battle of the Atlantic.

Glenn Jones, of ATCWG, said: “The deaths of donkeyman William Harvey and chief engineer George Anderson, six Norwegian seamen and their English cabin boy, William Ellis, lost on the Sneland, were the final, and most completely pointless, killings by German U boats in the Second World War.”

The memorial will face out to sea, towards the location of the wreck, around 1.5 miles south east of the May Island. It will be constructed of locally-sourced sea-washed sandstone, with a bronze plaque.

At present, £2250 has been raised towards the estimated £8500 cost of the memorial, to be sited beside the former Baptist Church manse on the shore at East Green, Anstruther.

In May 2005, the daughters of George Anderson, both under four years old when their father died, laid a wreath on the spot near the Isle of May, where the ship still lies.

Mr Jones added: “The proposed memorial would be a reminder of the role played by the Forth in the war at sea, and would also be a permanent memorial to the 35,000 merchant seamen who gave their lives in World War Two.”