Remembering Avondale Park

From left, organiser Glenn Jones, Graham Turnbull, Pamela Harper, Sydney Rapley (survivor), Celia Turnbull, Claire Atkinson, Matilda Atkinson (Picture by George McLuskie)
From left, organiser Glenn Jones, Graham Turnbull, Pamela Harper, Sydney Rapley (survivor), Celia Turnbull, Claire Atkinson, Matilda Atkinson (Picture by George McLuskie)

As much of the nation commemorated VE Day at the weekend, poignant memories were stirred in Anstruther of the victims of the last U-boat attack of World War Two, who perished only minutes before hostilities officially ended.

Around 10.40 p.m. on May 7, 1945, the liberty ship S.S. Avondale Parkwas sunk in convoy, a mile and half south east of the Isle of May, by the Type XX111 German submarine U2336.

Sydney Rapley

Sydney Rapley

Chief engineer George Anderson, of County Durham, and engine room donkeyman William Harvey, also from the north east of England, died when a torpedo struck the Avondale’s engine room.

Soon after, another torpedo sank the nearby Norwegian ship, Sneland 1, killing seven.

Within minutes, the war in Europe came to an end and U2336, which was depth-charged by the convoy escort, escaped in the early hours of VE Day, May 8.

The order for U-boats to cease hostilities had been given three days earlier – but the U2336 commander claimed he had not received it.

It’s beena moving occasion for the relatives

Glenn Jones, project coordinator

On Saturday, a commemorative plaque was dedicated to honour the victims and to mark the wartime contributions of three nations – Canada, which built and owned the S.S. Avondale Park, Norway, which contributed men and ships to the Battle of the Atlantic, and Great Britain, whose crew sailed the S.S. Avondale Park.

Paying a special visit were descendants of the victims, including George Anderson’s daughters, Pamela Harper and Celia Turnbull, who brought their father’s medals – including the Atlantic Star and the Arctic Star – and laid wreaths.

Also present was Sydney Rapley, from Sussex – who was a 17-year-old cabin boy on board the ship and survived the sinking.

He had written a poem about the disaster, which was read by his son Philip.

Ltr Clair Atkinson, Matilda Atkinson (10), Graham Turnbull, Celia Turnbull & Pamela Harper.

Ltr Clair Atkinson, Matilda Atkinson (10), Graham Turnbull, Celia Turnbull & Pamela Harper.

The service of dedication was performed by local minister the Rev Arthur Christie, while Canada and Norway were represented by officials. Piper Martin Doig played the
lament.

Glenn Jones, project co-ordinator for the Anstruther Town Centre Working Group, which organised the memorial with the help of many local groups, said it had been a moving occasion for the relatives.

It was fitting that the event had been properly commemorated, he added, as little had been known about it for many years.

Glenn Jones

Glenn Jones

Glenn Jones with the flags of the three nations

Glenn Jones with the flags of the three nations