Ex-servicemen had not met since 1943

TWO men who had not seen each other since their ship was sunk by a German U-boat nearly 60 years ago got together at Halesworth over the weekend thanks to a local history enthusiast and the EADT.

TWO men who had not seen each other since their ship was sunk by a German U-boat nearly 60 years ago got together at Halesworth over the weekend thanks to a local history enthusiast and the EADT.

Peter Swinscoe, who lives near Halesworth at Middleton Moor, and Ted Rose, of Oxted in Surrey, were both serving on board the New Columbia cargo ship when she was sunk in October 1943.

The ship was transporting logs and other general cargo off the coast of Africa when disaster struck.

Both men remember the incident very clearly and their accounts are backed up by the official version of the sinking discovered by Halesworth history enthusiast Richard Pymar.

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Mr Rose, 81, first got in touch with the Halesworth Airfield Museum at Holton (see xref at endd,,,) to learn more about a Lancaster bomber that had crashed in north Suffolk during the war.

It was during discussions with Mr Pymar at the museum he mentioned his own war-time experiences and being on board a cargo ship sunk by a German U-boat.

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"When Ted told me what had happened to him I recalled reading the account of Peter Swinscoe in the EADT and realised that both men had been on board the same ship.

"I just wanted to help get them together," said Mr Pymar.

Mr Rose visited the airfield museum at Halesworth on Saturday and Mr Pymar arranged for him to meet with his former colleague.

Mr Swinscoe, 78, had been 18 and on his first sea voyage as a merchant seaman when the torpedo struck home.

"It was a very hot night about 9.30pm and I had been working since the early hours that day so I was in my bunk with just my red running shorts on," he recalled.

"The logs must have deadened the sound of the torpedo hitting us in the hold because the first I knew we were in trouble was when I was woken up to be told that we had been hit and were abandoning ship," he said.

Mr Rose was a Royal Navy gunner on the ship and was also off-duty in his bunk when the order came to abandon ship.

"You have to remember that we were working four hours on duty and four hours off all the time so you got what rest you could," he said.

The stricken vessel did not sink immediately and there was time to launch the lifeboats.

Fortunately all 70 crew members got away from the sinking vessel and there were no lives lost.

The German U-boat commander waited for the lifeboats to get away before sending a second torpedo into the New Columbia that caused her to sink.

"The U-boat surfaced and we were asked where our captain was because he would have been taken prisoner.

"He had stripped off all his gold braid when we abandoned ship so we lied and said he had gone down with the ship," said Mr Swinscoe.

The lifeboats were at sea for 24 hours during which time the sailors had to be wary of sharks that were circling ever closer.

"Eventually a Sunderland aircraft flew overhead and dropped supplies. It also signalled that help was coming," said Mr Rose.

The men were taken back to Africa where the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy sailors went their separate ways.

That was the last time the two men had seen each other until the weekend.

They enjoyed meeting up again and not surprisingly, had plenty to talk about.

"It was marvellous of Richard to help us get together like this. He even researched the sinking of the New Columbia and told us what U-boat had sunk us," said Mr Rose.

The U68 and its commander, Oberleutnant Albert Lausemis, did not survive the war.

It was sunk on April 10, 1944, to the north-west of Madeira by aircraft from the US carrier Guadalcanal. There was only one survivor, an Ordinary Seaman.

Halesworth Airfield Museum, is on the site of the former Second World War airfield on Sparrowhawk Road, Holton, and is open for the 2003 season every Sunday from 2 to 5pm.

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