John Remembers The Crew Of The MV Magdala on VE Day

MV magdala_1931_1945

I served as radio officer on two Dutch ships during the Second World War.  The first of these, the New Holland was a large Dutch liner, previously registered in Indonesia but during the war was partly manned by Dutchmen and served the allies as a troopship.  The second was a petrol tanker Magdala, owned by Anglo-Saxon Petroleum and employed in carrying high octane aviation spirit on the North Atlantic convoys between New Jersey and Glasgow.  I had by now been promoted to second sparks. Both ships had a small handful of British sailors to make up the crew.


Most of the Dutchmen’s families were in German occupied Holland.   One of the crew had a wind-up portable HMV record player and it was in great demand.  Their great generosity introduced me to classical music.  Friendships were formed, and I became aware that they lived mostly for the day when we would have victory in Europe and they would return home. From the conversations I became closely aware of their intense feeling about their family lives and their desperate longing for an early victory in Europe.

Subsequently finding myself hospitalised after a particularly arduous convoy fringing the arctic I discovered on my discharge that the Magdala had sailed without me. It was some time after VE Day that I discovered that the ship had been sunk with all hands.

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