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An Epic WW2 Shipwreck and Survival Story
By Neil Carlsen
Descripton: 15-year-old James Nicholson Meeks from South Shields boarded SS Peterton (R. Chapman & Son) bound for Buenos Aires. Still two months short of the minimum age of 16, it was his first voyage as a Merchant Navy Apprentice. He was joined onboard by an even younger recruit, Edward Briggs Hyde from Cullercoats, who had only turned 15 earlier that summer; 18-year-old Able Seaman Jack Morley from Hull, and a crew of forty men with experience ranging from raw recruit to World War One veteran. Less than four weeks later, SS Peterton was sunk by three torpedoes fired by German U-boat U-109, commanded by legendary U-boat Ace Heinrich Bleichrodt. The surviving crewmembers found themselves in two lifeboats drifting in the Atlantic, hundreds of miles off the west coast of Africa. With their Captain seized by the U-boat, the fate of the crew lay in the hands of senior men like 2nd Officer George Howes from Hull and Chief Engineer Thomas Gorman from North Shields. Their struggle for survival had only just begun!