Soldiers of the Erinpura – VII: The Survivors: How many?  Who?

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:

chaim-atasChaim Ast

ben-ami-melamedBen Ami Melamed

eli-zeilerEli Zeiler

Norman Clothier’s article lists the following men as survivors:

Erinpura Crewmen

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

1919th Company

Private Mokhethi Leluma

1927th Company

Captain (later Major) Bill Westrop, second-in-command

Chief Serjeant Major Gabriel Lehlabaphiri

Private (later Serjeant) Dyke Sebata

– Michael G. Moskow


Soldiers of the Erinpura – VI: The Fallen – Merchant Navy and Indian Merchant Navy Sailors

The Erinpura’s Crew

Commanded by Captain R.V. Cotter, sixty members of the Erinpura’s crew were lost in the sinking:  Fifty-five members of the Indian Merchant Navy, and, five members of the Merchant Navy.

The fifty-five Indian Merchant Navy personnel comprised such ratings as Baker, Boy, Butler, Cook, Donkeyman (an engine room rating who attended to the Donkey boiler), Fireman, General Servant, Oiler, Pantryman, Scullion (lowest job level in Merchant Navy), Seaman, Serang (skipper of a small boat), Topass (sanitary hygeine), and Trimmer (stoker).

Genealogical information is present for twenty-one of the fifty-five men, while ages are given for fifty-four.

Of the twenty-one, sixteen were married, all residing in Goa, a state along the southwestern coast of India.  Ten of the twenty-one were from South Goa, one of the two districts of Goa, the other being (as shown in the map below) North Goa.

Southern India


goa-indiaThe Districts of Goa

administrative_map_of_goaThe twenty-one are listed as having been from:

Agramoda (Agarwada?), Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Assolna, Goa // Assolna / Assoulua, South Goa – 3 men

Baga, South Goa – 1 man

Carosetta / Carsetty, South Goa – 2 men

Cavelsin (Cavelossim?), Carmone, Goa (South Goa) – 1 man

Chinchin, South Goa – 1 man

Dharmpur, South Goa – 1 man

Jeewado, South Goa – 1 man

Karsetti, South Goa – 1 man

Kolsewada (Kolsewadi?), Goa – 1 man

Mapuca, Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Navelim, South Goa – 1 man

Nobai, Saipe (Saipem?), Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Quepen, Laldamwadi, Goa / Quepen, Servia, Goa (Quepem, South Goa) – 2 men

Sukalda, South Goa – 1 man

Wado, South Goa – 1 man

At age sixty-three, the oldest crewman of the fifty-five was Francis F. D’Souza (General Servant), while the youngest was Main Mazhar (Boy), who was nineteen.  The average age of the twenty-one was thirty-nine, probably reflective of career service in the Indian Merchant Navy.

All these men are commemorated at the Bombay / Chittagong 1939-1945 War Memorial.  The Bombay 1939-1945 Memorial Roll of Honour is, “held at the Indian Sailor’s Home, Bombay,” and lists the names of 6,467 WW II casualties.  This total comprises, “over 400 sailors of the former Indian Navy and over 6,000 sailors of the former Indian Merchant Navy who were lost at sea during the war years.”

The Merchant Navy casualties comprised the ship’s First and Third Radio Officers (Ernest W. Erbach – age forty-nine, and Brian Rostron Marsden – age twenty-one), two Junior Engineering Officers (Charles McGill and Ernest Richard Smith), and Carpenter Tham Yout.  These five men are commemorated at the Tower Hill Memorial (Panel 48) in London.  Akin to the members of the Indian Merchant Navy, genealogical information is almost completely absent for them.  However, the father of First Radio Officer Ernest William Erbach is listed as Philip Cort.

Ten Other Casualties – Circumstances Unknown

Searching the CWGC database for deaths on May 1, 1943, in the Mediterranean and European Theaters yields records for nine other men.  Two were Pioneer Corps soldiers from Swaziland, and eight were members of the British Army.  Though it is unknown if there were passengers on the Erinpura or British Trust, or lost in some other circumstance, I have appended their names to the list of Erinpura crew casualties.

The Swaziland soldiers were Privates Shamile Lulane and Msomane Tabede, both of whom are memorialized at the Swaziland 1938-1945 War Memorial, in Bethany, Swaziland.

The British soldiers, all of whose names are commemorated at the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey, England, are:

Pioneer Corps

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Albert E. Clayton, from Shropshire

Serjeant William Nicol

Lieutenant Percey G. Tredwell, from Hampshire

Serjeant Colin Wilde, from Jersey (Channel Islands)

Royal Army Medical Corps

Private Alfred E. Perrett, from Lymington, Hampshire

Corps of Military Police

Corporal William R. Gillett, from Buckinghamshire

Serjeant John Mills, from Liverpool

Indian Merchant Navy, and Merchant Navy, Casualties on the Erinpura

– Michael G. Moskow