All Brave Sailors: The Sinking of the Anglo-Saxon August 21,1940

All Brave Sailors: The Sinking of the Anglo-Saxon August 21,1940

by J. Revell Carr
     
 

In the darkness before moonrise on the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast on August 21, 1940, the night erupted in a fusillade of bullets and shells. The victim was a stalwart English tramp steamer, Anglo-Saxon, part of the lifeline that was keeping besieged England supplied. The attacker was the Widder, a German surface raider, disguised as a neutralSee more details below

Overview

In the darkness before moonrise on the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast on August 21, 1940, the night erupted in a fusillade of bullets and shells. The victim was a stalwart English tramp steamer, Anglo-Saxon, part of the lifeline that was keeping besieged England supplied. The attacker was the Widder, a German surface raider, disguised as a neutral merchant ship.

When it was near its prey, the raider unmasked its hidden armament and with overwhelming force destroyed the target ship. Only seven of the forty-one man crew of the Anglo-Saxon managed to get into a small boat and escape the raiders. Seventy days later, two of them, half dead, stumbled ashore in the Bahamas.

The account of the sailors' ordeal -- how first the badly wounded and then the less strong died and were thrown over the side of a fragile boat that had almost no supplies -- is suspenseful and riveting.

On the same day the two survivors reached the Bahamas, the Widder arrived off Brest, in occupied France, her murderous voyage over. Her captain, Hellmuth von Ruckteschell, who sank a staggering twenty-five ships, was eventually tried as a war criminal.

All Brave Sailors is a story of endurance, heroism, brutality, and survival under the most terrible circumstances. It fills a gap in the history of World War II, telling the story of the much neglected sailors and the ships of the merchant marine, fighting against great odds in the early days of the war.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
In the tale of the merciless assault by the German raider the Widder on the Anglo-Saxon, a British merchant marine vessel, Carr has chosen a typical WWII subject with untold riches beneath the surface, crafting a story that remains, generations later, well worth telling. In the war's early days, the heavily armed Widder commonly disguised itself as a neutral Swedish freighter and pummeled unsuspecting enemy ships with massive artillery. On August 21, 1940, the victim of this remarkably effective (and much frowned upon) technique was the defenseless Anglo-Saxon, which came under attack off Africa's western coast. What's unique about this story is its aftermath: the Widder's incredibly effective ambush method resulted in a fatality rate of 100%-but not this time. Seven seamen were able to escape undetected on a tiny, meagerly provisioned "jolly boat"; their fate constitutes the utterly riveting heart of the book. The 70 days before the boat finally washed up on shore in the Bahamas (carrying only two living sailors) is by turns gut-wrenching and inspiring, and always enthrallingly detailed and vividly imagined. Carr also profiles Hellmuth von Ruckteschell, the captain of the marauding Widder, who was eventually tried as a war criminal. Carr, former director and president of Mystic Seaport, where for decades the jolly boat resided before being returned to the U.K., is unquestionably the expert this story needs. Clearly interested in the subject for some years and intending his book to be a tribute to the undersung and heroic sailors of the merchant marine, Carr wrings every fascinating last drop out of this powerful material. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (Jan. 13) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An elaboration of a footnote in WWII naval history: the sinking of a tramp steamer and its long denouement. While serving as director of Mystic Seaport, Carr took an interest in a particular item in the museum's holdings: the jolly boat of the ill-fated Anglo-Saxon, an artifact that is now "the central object in the Battle of the Atlantic exhibition in London's Imperial War Museum." The boat had carried the survivors of the ship's sinking at the hands of a suitably nefarious Nazi U-boat skipper named Hellmuth von Ruckteschell, only two of whom lasted the weeks at sea until finally making shore in the Bahamas, halfway across the Atlantic from where their ship went down. Their ordeal was terrible enough, as their wounded and less able comrades died one by one, some simply by deciding to slip away into the sea to avoid a lingering death by gangrene or starvation. The aftermath was little better; one of the survivors died in another U-boat attack during the return to England, while the other lived a haunted existence for the next 20 years before finally committing suicide. Von Ruckteschell, for his part, stood trial as a war criminal-and deservedly so, by Carr's account, for the good Nazi had fired on survivors of other sinkings and had made no effort to rescue those from the Anglo-Saxon. His defense, naturally enough, was that "he was acting as a soldier with good conscience and admitted that 'Undoubtedly I made mistakes but not from malice.' " Von Ruckteschell died soon after being sentenced to prison, and with his death the ship was all but forgotten, just one of the more than 3,000 Allied vessels to rest on the ocean floor. A sad tale, one that has not figured outside a few officialreports until now-and quite well illuminated by Carr. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743238373
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
01/01/2004
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.20(d)

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