On April 16, 1943, she attacked and sank the merchant ship Galiolo, two miles off Capo di Milazzo. After firing, the Sahib almost broke the surface, which was noticed by an aircraft, which dropped a bomb but to no effect. The torpedo boat Climene began a heavy depth charge attack resulting in the submarine’s pressure hull being holed at the aft ends. Unable to repair the damage, the ship was abandoned. She surfaced and was attacked by the aircraft. Sahib was scuttled to prevent her capture. One of the crew was wounded and died on 3 May 1943.
I did not know about the sinking of HMS Sahib nor did I know about the sinking of the HMCS Athabaskan when my wife’s uncle told us he was a stoker aboard that destroyer on April 29th, 1944.
Since 2009, I have been writing about some forgotten stories about WWII. That’s the mission I want to fulfill.
This is the start of a series of articles about people I have never met, but who led me in a way to HMS Sahib.
Jim L’Esperance’s son sent me a document with many drawings.
This one caught my attention.
PENFOLD Harry, Gunner 1099081
68th Medium Regiment , Royal Artillery
Killed in Action 14 November 1942 aged 27.
Harry, who was unmarried, enlisted on 14 November 1940. Initially he was posted to 16th Field Training Regiment but later was posted to 72nd Regiment and from there to 68th Medium Regiment Serving in the Middle East from 23 April 1941. He was taken as a Prisoner of War by the Italians from 20 June 1942 and was last known to be in Campo 154 in Benghazi prior to embarkation on the SS Scillin. This Italian cargo/passenger ship was en route from Tripoli to Sicily with 814 Commonwealth prisoners of war on board, a naval gun crew and 30 Italian guards when on 14 November 1942 it was torpedoed by the British submarine HMS Sahib (Captain Lt. John Bromage) 10 miles north of Cape Milazzo in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Italians were not fussy about how they transported prisoners from Libya to Italy. Often tramp steamers, which transported coal, munitions and war materials to Tripoli, were used to take live cargoes on the return trip. On these occasions, little regard was shown for the comfort of or safety of the Prisoners of War, who were treated little better than animals. So it was with both those on The Scillin and, later, those of us on the final convoy to leave Tripoli.
How very, very, fortunate I was not to have remained with the main body of prisoners who, on the 15th November, 1942, were taken to the Spanish Mole at Tripoli Harbour… On arrival they saw several ships at berth by the quay. One of these was a small coal-burning steamer of only 1,600 tons. This was the SS Scillin. After being kept standing on the quay for several hours, the prisoners were ordered to board the Scillin.
Once on the deck, they were directed to the main hold from where two ladders led down into the dark. The hold was really only large enough to take about 300 men, if they were to be allowed to lie down during the three days of travel. But this did not deter the Italians. Although Captain Gilbert protested, more and more men were sent down the ladders. When 810 prisoners had been loaded, a halt was called. The men were then so tightly packed that no one could lie down…
The boat finally sailed on the evening of 15th November. Either that night or shortly afterwards, the Scillin was attacked by a British submarine at about 20:30 hours. At that time Captain Gilbert was on deck treating some fifteen of the most seriously ill prisoners. Suddenly, out of the darkness, came a shell, which burst on the superstructure of the cargo boat. A second shell caused casualties. Then there was a violent explosion as a torpedo struck the Scillin in the hold carrying the prisoners. All on deck were thrown into the sea. Those below had no chance at all to escape. Captain Gilbert (the medical officer), Staff Sergeant Regester (a South African) and others were in the water for several minutes. The boat had sunk.
Then the submarine, HMS Sahib or P212, came out of the darkness and began to pick up survivors. Reports from the submarine crew tell a little of what happened then. The captain, Lieutenant Bromage, and his men were astonished and deeply shocked to find so many men in the water. One crew member is said to have shouted,Any Englishmen in the water? Back came the reply, Nae, but there is a Scotsman The rescue went on for about half an hour before the Sahib was forced to retreat as an escort vessel approached. During that time 26 British and 35 Italians were rescued. Bromage and his crew were most upset by what had happened. However, the Scillin had been unmarked, in total darkness and had been carrying enemy materials.”
Later the Captain was absolved from all blame (one of the widows known to my mother (widow of Bert Dummott) said Not by me)