Torpedoed crew of SS Langeeford land at Fodry Bay. 1940.

SS Langeeford
Picture of Fodry Bay on a calm day
Robert Brown
Site of torpedoed SS Langeeford

On 14th February 1940, The Langlee Ford was torpedoed and sunk off the West Clare Coast and the surviving crew landed in Fodry Bay between the Bridges of Ross and Loop Head some 56 hours later on Friday 16th February at 5.45 p.m. The lifeboat was commanded by Chief Officer Hugh Thompson of Sunderland England.

The ship was the SS Langleeford (4,622t ) steamer from Boston,U.S.A. to the Tyne in England. At 08.00 hours on 14 Feb 1940 the Langleeford (Master H. Thompson), a straggler from convoy HX-18, was hit amidships by one G7e torpedo from U-26 ( Heinz Scheringer). The ship broke in two and sank within 13 minutes about 70 miles northwest of Fastnet, Ireland. Four crew members were lost. The Germans questioned the survivors, handed over two bottles of rum, 100 cigarettes, bread and dressing materials and told them the course to the nearest land. The master and 29 crew members made landfall at Ross, Co. Clare.

Chief Officer Hugh Thompson sighted land late on the previous evening (Thursday) but he had to make the difficult decision that it was too risky to attempt to land on a rocky coastline. At daybreak next morning Friday 16 February 1940, land was no longer visible as the boat had drifted out to sea on the tide. Consequently, when they landed at Fodry they had been 56 hours in an open boat fighting hunger, wind, tides, rain and hail after their boat had ben torpedoed and sunk by a submarine.

Local man, John Carmody of Fodry remembers the “Sea was mighty rough that evening”

There were 30 men in the lifeboat and according to reports from those who helped them ashore in Fodry there was only one man fit enough to row and all survivors were suffering from exhaustion and exposure.

The one fit man in the lifeboat was seaman C. Connelly of Cape Clear, County Cork, and said “The submarine crew treated us very kindly” He added, “I had been rowing for 61⁄2 hours when we landed, another night would have finished us.”

One of the survivors who was in a bad condition when they landed was taken immediately by ambulance to Kilrush hospital.

The survivors, the youngest of which was fifteen years old, were brought to Haier’s pub in Kilbaha (currently called the Loop Head Hotel) by motor cars where they received food and clothing organised by Stephen Haier. Five of the survivors under the care of Doctor R. Counihan were taken to Kilrush Hospital suffering from exposure and frost bite. They were Gunner F Miller, Seaman Michael Harrington, Seaman D Thomas, Fireman Joe Formosa and Steward A Williams. Their condition was described as not serious.

The other survivors were taken to the Stella Maris Hotel in Kilkee and when ready were returned “quietly” to England via CIE Limerick to Kingsbridge Station, Dublin on Tuesday 20 February 1940 by Lloyds of London agency representative Mullock & Sons, Limerick –See Mullock web site

As per the Mullock records the survivor’s costs for the 5 days spent in Ireland amounted to a very modest total of 40 Pounds, 0 Shillings, 2 Pennies.

The survivors were greatly appreciative of all the help received in Fodry, Ross, Kilbaha, Loop Head, Carrigaholt, Kilkee and Kilrush, and the ships owners sent a letter of thanks to the Clare Champion. Before leaving Kilkee, Chief Officer Hugh Thompson expressed on behalf of himself and the other survivors their high appreciation of and thanks for the generous treatment afforded them since their arrival in Co Clare. He said they could not have been more hospitably received. He also paid a high tribute to the Loop Head coast watching service without whose assistance they would have met with great difficulty, if not mishap in reaching land. He also thanked Doctor G P McCarthy C.M.O., Clare Hon secretary of the Clare Red Cross who was in charge of the arrangements for the comfort of the survivors. Dr McCarthy was assisted by Mr T McInerney, Town Clerk, Kilkee, and Mr J Clancy, Town Clerk, Kilrush, who were also members of the Clare Red Cross

Within two months Chief Officer Hugh Thompson’s ship was torpedoed again when he was Captain of the S/S Swainby transporting iron ore from Norway. It was torpedoed and sunk on 17 April 1940 by U-13 north of the Shetland Islands. He survived this sinking and saw out the remainder of WW2 from a shipping post as a shore-based superintendent. Chief Officer Hugh Thompson died in 1976 aged 67.

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