Giffin, D/JX 243308 Able Seaman Archibald,
H.M.S. President III, Royal Navy, aged 18, was killed on 5/6th October
1941. He was the son of Francis and Mary Giffin, of 64, Moat Road,
Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. He is remembered on Plymouth
III was the accounting base for Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships in
World War 2 and SS Thistlegorm was one such ship, the British
munitions ship sunk in the Straits of Gubal in the Northern Red Sea
off the coast of Egypt and opposite Aden by a German bomber in 1941.
was one of a number of "Thistle" ships owned and operated by the Albyn
Line, which was founded in 1901 and was based in Sunderland. It had four
vessels at the outbreak of World War II, and SS Thistlegorm was one of
these. It had been built by Joseph Thompson & Sons shipyard in
Sunderland. The vessel is regarded as an armed freighter in WW2 because
she was armed with a 4.7-inch (120 mm) anti-aircraft gun and a
heavy-calibre machine gun.
Thistlegorm in its wartime role had completed just three wartime
voyages to the USA, Argentina and the West Indies before its ill-fated
mission to Suez. She had set sail on her final voyage from Glasgow on 2
June 1941, destined for Alexandria, Egypt. The ship’s cargo included
Bedford trucks, Universal Carrier armoured vehicles, Norton 16H and BSA
motorcycles, Bren guns, cases of ammunition, and 0.303 rifles, as well
as radio equipment, Wellington boots, aircraft parts, railway wagons and
two LMS Stanier Class 8F steam locomotives. These steam locomotives and
their associated coal and water tenders were carried as deck cargo
intended for Egyptian National Railways. The rest of the cargo was for
the Allied forces in Egypt. At the time the Thistlegorm sailed from
Glasgow in June, this was the Western Desert Force, which in September
1941 became part of the newly formed Eighth Army. The crew of the ship,
under Captain William Ellis, were supplemented by nine Royal Navy
personnel to man the machine gun and the anti-aircraft gun.
to German and Italian naval and air force activity in the
Mediterranean, SS Thistlegorm sailed as part of a convoy via Cape Town,
where she refuelled, before heading north up the East coast of Africa
and into the Red Sea. On leaving Cape Town, the light cruiser HMS
Carlisle joined the convoy. Owing to a collision in the Suez Canal, the
convoy could not travel through the waterway to reach Alexandria and
instead moored at ‘Safe Anchorage F’, in September 1941. She and HMS
Carlisle remained at anchor until her sinking on 5/6th October 1941.
was a large build-up of Allied troops in Egypt during September 1941
and the Germans suspected that there was a troopship in the area. Two
Heinkel He 111 aircraft were dispatched from Crete find it. The actual
search failed but later one of the bombers discovered the vessels. It
dropped two bombs on SS Thistlegorm, both of which struck Hold 4 near
the stern of the ship at 01.30 hrs on 6 October. The bomb and the
secondary explosion of some of the ammunition stored in Hold 4 led to
the sinking of the ship and the loss of four sailors and five members of
the Royal Navy gun crew. The survivors were picked up by HMS Carlisle.
Captain Ellis was awarded the OBE for his actions following the
explosion and a crewman, Angus McLeay, was awarded the George Medal and
the Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea for saving another crew member.
casualties aboard SS Thistlegorm were: Fireman Alfred Kean, Merchant
Navy; Ordinary Seaman Joseph Munroe Rolfe, Merchant Navy. He was just 17
and the son of Samuel Richard and Eliza Munroe Rolfe, of Hendon,
Sunderland, Co. Durham; Donkeyman Sakando Kahil, Merchant Navy; Fireman
and Trimmer Alexander Neil Brown Watt, Merchant Navy. He was 21 and the
son of Mary A. L. B. Watt, of Paisley, Renfrewshire; D/JX 243308 Able
Seaman Archibald Giffin, Royal Navy. CWGC have him listed as the son of
‘Francis and Mary Gimn (sic), of Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland’;
D/JX 243316 Able Seaman Arthur Kain, Royal Navy; C/SSX 12629 Able
Seaman, Donald Masterson, Royal Navy. He was aged 32 and the son of
Thomas William and Edith Mary Masterson; husband of Violet Masterson, of
Isleworth, Middlesex; D/JX 243317Able Seaman Christopher Travers Todds,
Royal Navy; D/JX 237855 Able Seaman Thomas Woolaghan, Royal Navy. He
was aged 24 and the son of Mrs. A. Woolaghan, of Morecambe, Lancashire.
Most of the Royal Navy men were all drawn from the ‘stone frigate’ HMS President III.