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General and evidence of crew member       Internet Discussion of who was aboard    German U-boat Info: 

U-155 History    Serooskerk's History

 

ANTHONY ROBERT GILLITT born 22.12.1925, entered the School in September 1937.  In December 1939 he was transferred to The High School, Durban. 

In 1942 he joined the Hall Line Co. Ltd.  as a Merchant Navy Cadet.  After his first trip, he became a Senior Cadet.  On his second voyage, December 1942, the “Serooskerk” was lost while proceeding to Bombay, and he was reported missing.  He was then under seventeen years of age. 

He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Gillitt, The Lodge, Westfield Place, Near Battle, Sussex. 

 

Cadet Anthony Robert Gillitt, aged 17,  had already been torpedoed on his first voyage in his first ship.  After returning safely home, he was travelling as a passenger  on the Dutch ship SEROOSKERK to Bombay to join his second ship.  Sadly, the SEROOSKERK  was torpedoed  by U-155 and lost with all hands in the mid Atlantic on December 6, 1942 (the date recorded in the British records is December 7th). 

In summary:   At 22.06 hours on 6 Dec, 1942, the Serooskerk (Master D. de Boer), was hit by one of two torpedoes from U-155 and stopped. The ship had been spotted at 19.50 hours on a zigzag course. A first strike at 23.17 hours struck in the stern, but the ship settled only a bit. She sank within two minutes after being hit amidships by the coup de grâce at 23.55 hours. Apparently the torpedo had hit at deck level, probably wounding and killing many of the crewmen and destroying the lifeboats because despite of the long time between the attacks no survivors were seen to abandon ship. 

According to Von Münching (Münching's “De Nederlandse Koopvaardijvloot in de Tweede Wereldoorlog”  Part 2, page 238, Appendix I).   "The Serooskerk was in a position NE of the Azores when on the evening of December 6th she was hit by a torpedo of U-155. The Serooskerk sank within minute

No Crew survived: reason given above;  Or Isolation  Or  Terrible Weather Conditions ?

 

Right:    http://www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/2493.html

Anthony's mother knew the name of the ship he was travelling on but nothing about what  actually happened.  The only real sources of evidence are general convoy information (however, Serooskerk left the convoy before she was sunk), the U-boat records and the memory of the one surviving crew member of a fellow ship.

 

General and evidence of crew member

The following is from a book of troopship disasters, one of which was in convoy with Gillett's ship: In November 1942 Ceramic left Liverpool, England with convoy ON149. She carried a crew of 264 and 14 British seamen or D.E.M.’s. who manned two deck guns for a total crew of 278. Her military passengers…. On 5 December seven ships were detached from the convoy to take up specified routes to African ports. They sailed independently on a southeasterly course unaware that a “wolfpack” of U-boats (code name “Westwall”) awaited them. Ceramic sailed in company with a Dutch freighter Serooskert until she pulled away in the evening. Sapper Munday remembered their detachment from the convoy amid

 a bright sunny day and calm seas; however when the ship left Serooskerk the seas had become moderate and light rain fell causing poor visibility. By 8.p.m.the ship’s position was approximately six hundred miles north-west of the Azore islands. Ceramic was torpedoed 6.12 the following morning by U-515 0100 another torpedo into Ceramic. 6 or 8 boats got away.

Following day   storms of rain and sleet with high confused seas.  Huge waves were breaking over the boat, we bailed furiously , but t was impossible to free the boat of water before another wave crashed over, swamping it so that it capsized and we were all thrown into the water.  After a struggle the boat was righted, but it was three quarters full of water; two or three men climbed in and tried to bail it out, but again it was capsized by the huge waves. It was then about 8am on the 7th and I decided to swim off.  I found some wreckage and clung to that for a little while but the seas were too strong and it was washed away.

 “At noon on the 7 Dec. I was hauled aboard the submarine”    In a post war briefing, Munday said “I am of the opinion that the weather was so bad when the storm blew up during the early hours of the 7th December, that no boat could have survived and this accounts for the great loss of life. Sapper Munday, the only survivor of the Ceramic:   1 crew POW. total crew 655 lost

 Source of above:  James E Wise Jr.,  Scott Baron, 2004,  Soldiers Lost at Sea:  A chronicle of Troopship Disasters   p115-p120

 

From German U-boat sources:

07.11.1942 - 30.12.1942
Fourth Sailing - active patrol  U-155 left Lorient under the command of Adolf Cornelius Piening on 7th Nov 1942 and after seven and a half weeks returned on 30th Dec 1942.
Adolf Cornelius Piening hit four ships on this patrol and all of them were in convoy: three were from convoy MKF-1Y and one was from convoy ON-149.

 

Internet Discussion of who was on board the Serooskerk - Dutch Sources

Since all on board the Serooskerk were were lost and the Serooskerk is a merchant ship it is fortunate that the web is available, because much of the information below comes from a series of individuals all doing their own research into who was on board. Only in that way, could we have discovered information based:

in Dutch archives       Source:  http://warsailors.com/forum/read.php?1,8831,8970#msg-8970. 

   German archives  Similarly, the fact that the ship was torpedoed, means that U boat records became available after the war.

 

British seamen on Board as passengers

On the Dutch freighter SEROOSKERK there at least 4 British Merchant Seamen lost in the sinking. (notice the date is not the same).

ANWYL, Second Officer, JOHN LLOYD, S.S. Serooskerk (Netherlands). Merchant Navy. 2nd December 1942. Age 33. Son of Jonathan and Martha Anwyl.

GILLITT, Cadet, ANTHONY ROBERT, S.S. Serooskerk (Netherlands). Merchant Navy. 7th December 1942. Age 17.

MACILWAINE, Third Officer, GORDON, S.S. Serooskerk (Netherlands). Merchant Navy. 2nd December 1942. Age 34. Son of Shepheard and Mary Macilwaine; husband of Eileen Mary Macilwaine, of St. Helens, Lancashire.

WILLIAMS, Cadet, STUART JOHN QUARE, S.S. Serooskerk (Netherlands). Merchant Navy. 2nd December 1942. Age 17. Son of George Charles and Mabel Williams, of Putney, London.

The different dates are not a major issue because the actual date was presumed at the time.

 

British Gunners on Board to defend the ship.

.......Visited the Dutch archives.  To start with the crew: 90 is definitely correct. Apart from the lists there are various letters stating that 75 Lascars were lost, as well as a letter for “Loss of Outfit Compensation”, which puts over 936 Pounds towards “75 Lascars”.
In a file where I had not expected to find it I found a list of D.E.M.S. gunners on board when she disappeared. These are:
A/AB W.A. Clarke, P/JX 237456 - 20.10.02 to 7.12.42
A/AB H. Clements, C/JX 241063 - 20.10.42 to 7.12.42
A/TY SGT. F.H. Whitconhe, CH/A.2197( - 31.10.42 to 7.12.42
A/AB M. Vickers, C/JX 336266 - 7.11.42 to 7.12.42
A/AB J. Rugg, P/JX 336865 - 17.11.42 to 7.12.42
Bdr. F.E. Croucher, I506793 - ?.11.42 to 7.12.42
Three Army Ranks - ?.11.42 to 7.12.42
Giving a total of 9, but regrettably the last three not named. Another sheet gives the sentence "D.E.M.S.5 & 6 forms for 9 gunners attached", proving the number of 9 gunners as well.

Whitcombe & Vickers were onboard the Serooskerk. They are not on any list I have of DEMS, but are on the CWGC as a Royal Navy AB and a Royal Marine.
In Memory of     FREDERICK HAROLD WHITCOMBE , Sergeant, CH/21979
S.S. Serooskerk., Royal Marines. who died on Monday 7 December 1942. Age 42
In Memory of     WALTON VICKERS , Able Seaman, CJ/X 336266
S.S. Serooskerk, Royal Navy, who died on, Monday 7 December 1942.

 

Serooskerk’s Armament

According to a letter dated Nov. 20, 1942 for SEROOSKERK "when leaving Middlesbrough this week was armed with: 1 x 4 inch LA, 4 Oerlikons, 2 twin Hotchkiss, 1 American 37mm, 4 P.A.C.-rockets and 3 Kites".

 

Serooskerks History

Name

Serooskerk

Type:

Steam merchant

Tonnage

8.456 tons

Completed

1922 - New Waterway Shipbuilding Co, Schiedam 

Owner

Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaart Mij NV, The Hague 

Homeport

The Hague 

Date of attack

6 Dec, 1942

Nationality:      Dutch

Fate

Sunk by U-155 ( Adolf Cornelius Piening)

Position

37N, 38W - Grid CD 2658  - See map above, position of red dot

Complement

83 (83 dead - no survivors) - Only crew referred to.

Convoy

ON-149 (dispersed)

Route

London (7 Nov) - Loch Ewe (26 Nov) - Saldanha Bay - Durban - Colombo - Calcutta 

Cargo

4246 tons of general cargo and 2314 tons of military stores 

History

Built as Gemma, 1931 renamed Serooskerk. 1934 rebuilt

Notes on loss

At 22.06 hours on 6 Dec, 1942, the Serooskerk (Master D. de Boer), dispersed from convoy ON-149 the day before, was hit by one of two torpedoes from U-155 and stopped. The ship had been spotted at 19.50 hours on a zigzag course. A first coup de grâce at 23.17 hours struck in the stern, but the ship settled only a bit. She sank within two minutes after being hit amidships by a second coup de grâce at 23.55 hours. Apparently the torpedo had hit at deck level, probably wounding and killing many of the crewmen and destroying the lifeboats because despite of the long time between the attacks no survivors were seen to abandon ship. 

 

U-155 History

Type

IXC

 

Ordered

25 Sep, 1939

 

Laid down

1 Oct, 1940

AG Weser, Bremen (werk 997)

Launched

12 May, 1941

 

Commissioned

23 Aug, 1941

Kptlt. Adolf Cornelius Piening (Knights Cross)

Commanders

23 Aug, 1941 - Feb, 1944  

KrvKpt. Adolf Cornelius Piening (Knights Cross)

Feb, 1944 - 14 Aug, 1944  

Johannes Rudolph

15 Aug, 1944 - Nov, 1944  

Ludwig-Ferdinand von Friedeburg

Nov, 1944 - Dec, 1944  

Johannes Rudolph

Dec, 1944 - 20 Apr, 1945  

Kptlt. Erwin Witte

21 Apr, 1945 - 8 May, 1945  

Oblt. Friedrich Altmeier

Career

10 patrols

23 Aug, 1941 - 31 Jan, 1942  4. Flottille (training)
1 Feb, 1942 - 14 Aug, 1944  10. Flottille (front boat)
15 Aug, 1944 - 8 May, 1945  33. Flottille (front boat)

Successes

25 ships sunk for a total of 126.664 GRT
1 warship sunk for a total of 13.785 tons
1 auxiliary warship damaged for a total of 6.736 GRT

Fate

Transferred from Wilhelmshaven to Loch Ryan, Scotland on 30 June, 1945 for Operation Deadlight.

Operation Deadlight (post-war Allied operation, info)
Sunk on 21 Dec, 1945 in position 55.35N, 07.39W

 

Commonwealth War Grave Commission 

Name: GILLITT, ANTHONY ROBERT

Initials:  

  A R

Nationality:  

 United Kingdom

Rank:  

 Cadet

Regiment/Service:  

 Merchant Navy

Unit Text:  

 S.S. Serooskerk (Netherlands)

Age:  

 17

Date of Death:  

 07/12/1942

Casualty Type:  

 Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:  

 Panel 95.

Memorial:  

 TOWER HILL MEMORIAL