Thursday 14th September sees the launch of a fascinating book by Captain Peter Thomson which uncovers a largely forgotten or even ignored piece of Merchant Navy history from the Second World War.
The event, which is by ticket only although the tickets are FREE, starts at 1pm on the 4th Floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
The book – Frank’s Bench – starts with a tale that many on Merseyside could tell, a tough upbringing before heading off to sea at an early age. For Frank the Second World War came along when he was fifteen, and a year later he found himself a deck boy on the Blue Funnel Line cargo ship SS Automedon in the Indian Ocean where she was attacked by the German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis. It was an unequal fight and the Automedon was forced to surrender but not before six of the crew had been killed including Captain W B Ewan. In spite of what might have been Captain Ewan’s last words, “Come on! We’re going to fight!’ – there was no return fire from Automedon, which makes the deaths and injuries sustained by crew the more tragic.
Frank and his fellow prisoners eventually reached shore in the Nazi occupied French port of Bordeaux but that was far from the end of the journey for the unfortunate prisoners who were taken by train on a six-day journey to Sandbostel, near Bremen in Northern Germany, and then on to Milag-Marlag Nord when conditions at Sanbostel became overcrowded with military and political prisoners. Frank’s life did not improve much once inside this prisoner of war camp with food scarce and discipline harsh.
The book itself gives a fascinating insight into the fate of Allied Merchant Seaman held in appalling conditions in a prisoner of war camp but it has awoken an interest of this little-known piece of Merchant Navy history in Peter Thomson. Peter would like to make contact with former merchant seamen who were prisoners of war or the families of these men in order to tell as many of their stories as possible.
Peter would be grateful if you could circulate the attached flyer to as many people as possible on your mailing list in the hope of locating those who have a story to tell in order that this largely forgotten if not ignored piece of Second World War history can receive the attention it deserves.
Free tickets for the event can be obtained by clicking on this link:
Contact details for more information:
Captain Peter Thomson by email at – firstname.lastname@example.org