Soldier – Carter, Arthur – Torpedoed – Fight For Life (picture)

February 1917

Mexborough and Swinton Times February 10, 1917

Conisborough Sergeant’s Fight For Life

Sgt Arthur Carter (A.V.C.) of High St, Conisborough, who prior to enlistment, six months ago, was a dairy man in Conisborough, in an interesting letter home, recounts his experiences as a survivor of a transport torpedoed in the Mediterranean. He says:

“I somehow felt something would happen and was ready for a fight for life when the ship was struck. When they began lowering the boat, next to the one in which I was, the rope broke at one end of the occupants, 25 them, came crashing down on top of us.

I was bent over the middle thwart. Fortunately for us, our own boat had not quite reached the water, and so by lowering a little more the boat above swung clear, although it killed one of my mates as it did so.

Our boat became waterlogged as soon as it touched the water, we were from 6 inches to a foot underwater all the time we were in the sea. It was an awful see, too, and there was a scramble for anything it was possible to get hold of. It was impossible to get the oars to work, as we were so much underwater and we had to drift away from the transport, which floated along enough to get off everybody who could possibly be saved.

It was an anxious time watching the boats pick up men who had managed to keep afloat. One gallant little lad of 14, whom I tried hard to save, shouted from the water, “Now, then, let us be Englishmen. If we must die let us die like men.” I kept his head up for a time, but a wave came surging along, and when it had passed he was gone.

Two men were washed out of our little boat and four died of exposure. It was no pleasant task heaving the dead overboard, but we had to do it to lighten the load.

A trawler picked us up after it had taken all the other survivors. It pulled alongside to enable our boat to drift to us. The worst was yet to come.

A rope was thrown to hers, but unfortunately it was not held tightly. We had to wait until we touched the trawler’s side, and then some of our men, instead of waiting to be taken on board, dived off and capsised boat, throwing us all into the water. I thought this was the end, as I found myself swinging under the boat with my head down, and the rope wrapped around each muscle. I suddenly thought I would try again, and in a second rope slip from my arms. I open my eyes and found myself among about 20 heads dotted on the surface of the water. I still held the rope and pull myself onto the top of the upturned boat, but was snatched back again by someone who clutch me, and down I went once more. Someone threw me a lifebelt, but the string broke, and this time I got a nasty knock with the boat. Finally, I managed to thrust my head through the lifebelt and to take a firm hold of the rope. I was hauled aboard the trawler, and for 17 hours lay helpless on its deck.

I had no boots, socks, or, and only one leg of my trousers. If I had not lost the trouser I should probably have lost a leg. Here I am now, on board a hospital ship, still alive to tell the tale.

Tell Mr Drabble and the members of the Institute that all their chocolates went down with the boat.”