The Survivors: How Many?
Based on numbers given in Norman Clothier’s (primarily) and Henry Morris’ accounts, and Volume 2 of Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, it has been possible to derive reliable (I hope) totals for the number of the survivors of the Erinpura.
The original compliment of soldiers in the 462nd is given as 334. Given 138 fatalities, 196 Jewish soldiers survived the ship’s sinking.
The 1919th, 1924th, and 1927th Basuto Companies lost – respectively – 303, 1, and 320 soldiers. Norman Clothier reported that there were 25 survivors of the 1919th, and 75 of the 1927th. This suggests that the original compliment of 1919th and 1924th soldiers were 328 and 395 men, respectively. Including Private Malefetsane Manuel Mohale of the 1924th therefore brings the total number of Basotho soldiers to 724 men.
Norman Clothier reports that the ship’s crew comprised 179, with 11 DEMS gunners also aboard, of the latter 5 surviving. Given that 55 Indian Merchant Navy and 5 Merchant Navy personnel were lost (60 men), this brings the total surviving crew to 119 sailors.
“Running the numbers” – never forgetting that human beings by definition are not reducible to numbers – therefore brings the total number of men aboard the Erinpura, passengers and crew both, to 1,248 souls.
Of these, four hundred and twenty – one in three – survived.
The Survivors: Who?
I am certain that the original crew manifest of the Erinpura during her May voyage exists – somewhere – but I do not know its location. A possibility would be The National Archives, in Kew.
In terms of lists of the members of the Basuto Companies aboard ship, Norman Clothier stated that the Lesotho Archives had “been handed over to the National University for re-organisation,” but were unavailable to researchers. Similarly, he was unable “to trace in England any records of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps.”
Regarding a list of the members of the 462nd General Transport Company (and the ship’s company), I am certain that relevant documents exist “some-where”, either in The National Archives, or, in Israel. But, where is the where in that some-“where”?
Still, the names of at least a few survivors are known.
462nd General Transport Company
At YNet News, Roi Mandel lists the following:
Major Harry Yoffe (also mentioned by Henry Morris and Yoav Gelber), commander of the 462nd.
Chaim Ast (mentioned earlier, in Yishuv Volunteers For the Biritsh Army During the Second World War 1939-45).
Mordechai Barkai (Berkowitz)
Jacob Bichovsky (possibly “Bijovsky”, in Henry Morris’ account)
A video of a commemoration ceremony for the fallen of the 462nd, uploaded by Amikikaro on May 7, 2011, includes interviews with (among other individuals) survivors Haim Ast and Aleks Rabinovitz.
Chaim Ast can also be seen being interviewed about his experiences, in a YouTube video uploaded by TheJwmww2 on April 17, 2011.
Here is another interview, uploaded in April of 2013, of survivors of the 462nd.
At Boaz Tsibon’s Dvar Dea Blog, his post on the Erinpura, dated December 27, 2011, elicited three responses. On December 19 of 2012, a commentator mentioned that his father, Alfred “Yakov” Wajcman-Rachman, was a survivor of the sinking.
Two other survivors include Ben Ami Melamed, and Eli Zeiler, also mentioned in Yishuv Volunteers For the Biritsh Army During the Second World War 1939-45. Their recollections appeared in an earlier post.
Amiram Ben-Zvi (“Ben-Zion“?), whose handwritten letter – composed shortly after the sinking of the Erinpura – appears in the (earlier) post, covering the ship’s sinking.
Wartime photographs of Ast, Melamed, and Zeiler, from the above publication, are shown below:
Norman Clothier’s article lists the following men as survivors:
Captain R.V. Cotter, the commander of the ship.
Motiur Rahman, an Indian seaman. He rescued Captain Cotter after the latter had been knocked unconscious on the ship’s bridge by a column of water.
Gun Layer Albert Whittle, who, with the ship’s other DEMS gunners, maintained fire against the German planes until the Erinpura slipped into the depths.
Members of the Basotho Companies
Private Mokhethi Leluma
Captain (later Major) Bill Westrop, second-in-command
Chief Serjeant Major Gabriel Lehlabaphiri
Private (later Serjeant) Dyke Sebata
– Michael G. Moskow