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-india-regionalGoa

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

Soldiers of the Erinpura – V: The Fallen – Basotho Soldiers

The majority of troops aboard the Erinpura were members of the Basotho people, an ethnic group of the Bantu people who primarily live in South Africa, and to a lesser extent in the countries of Lesotho and Botswana, and, the South African state of Swaziland. 

The men were members of the African Pioneer Corps H.C.T. (High Commission Territories) and were assigned to the 1919th and 1927th Basuto Companies.  One soldier (Private Malefetsane Manuel Mohale, AS/6946) – going by his CWGC record – was a member of the 1924th Basuto Company.

botswana-lesotho-swaziland_edited-1Lesotho

lesothoBotswana

botswanaSwaziland

swazilandThe CWGC database shows casualty records for 303 members of the 1919th Company, and, 320 members of the 1927th Company.

While genealogical information exists for forty per-cent of the Jewish casualties and one-third of the Erinpura’s crewmen (see below), such information is present for only a sole individual among the Basotho casualties:  Private T. Japheta, AS/9273, born in 1901.  He is buried at the Benghazi War Cemetery, in Benghazi.  The CWGC database lists his father as Bupoe Machaba, but no other information is given in terms of his age or the location of his home.

In terms of military service, the overwhelming number of Basotho soldiers were Privates and Corporals.  The remainder comprised twenty-one sergeants and one warrant-officer.  One man – Jan Poulo (AS/12128) of the 1919th, listed in the CWGC database as a Captain, which information may be incorrect.

With the exception of Private Japheta, all the Basotho soldiers are commemorated at the Lesotho Memorial, which is located in Makoayane Square, in the center of Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.

Soldiers of the 1919th Basuto Company

A Soldier of the 1924th Basuto Company

Soldiers of the 1927th Basuto Company

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – IV: The Fallen – Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company – I

Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company

4253-workingThe above image, posted at the website of the Kedem Auction House Ltd., shows the cover of a Passover Haggadah printed by the 462nd General Transport Unit in Italy, in 1944.  The stylized Magen David, with a winged camel in the center, was the unit’s emblem.

462nd-insignia-from-jwmww2_edited-1Another emblem of the 462nd, more clearly showing the design of a winged camel inside a Magen David, from information about Jewish units in the British Army in WW II, at the website of the Jewish Soldier in WW II. 

While the total number of 462nd casualties is reported as 148 (Henry Morris) or 140 (numerous web references) news articles from the South African Jewish Times and The Jewish Chronicle give the number of fallen as 138, which is identical with my findings.

For a few (only a few) names, such as that of Chaim Cikanowski (PAL /410) and Wilhelm Scharf (PAL/30940), the soldier’s name is not present in either volume of WWRT, but it does appear in Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War.

For some servicemen, like Israel Platzman (PAL/522) and Michael Schlesinger (PAL/32377) the “match” between the name as given in WWRT and CWGC is exact.

For many soldiers (seen in the attached files) there is notable variation in the spelling of the names among We Will Remember Them, Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, and, records in the CWGC.

In such cases, I list every name variant for every soldier, and I have “unified” these variants under a single name that appears to be the best “fit” for these variants.  The following are such examples:

The name “Yaakov Schmerling” (PAL/1272) is derived from “Yaakov (Shneur) Schmerling” and “Yacob Shmerling”.

For “Pinchas Kuflik” (PAL/30343), WWRT 1 gives his name as “Pinchas Kopelik” and “Paul Koplik”, while CWGC gives his name as “Pinkas Kuflik”.

There are two possible names for “Isak Chaim Nussbaum” (PAL/1266).  WWRT 1 gives his name as “Yigal Nussbaum” and CWGC gives his name as “Isak Chaim Nussbaum”.

But…  A man’s name is not merely a string of letters; mere “information”.

It is his identity.

It is him, in senses both symbolic and real.

Who were these men?

Most CWGC records for casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company list only the man’s name, rank, serial number, date of casualty, and place of commemoration.  However, using a combination of CGWC data, and, a variety of genealogical information available at various websites (such as year and place of birth, place of citizenship or residence of next-of-kin, and names of next-of-kin) it has been possible to “reconstruct” – to a limited extent – biographical information for eighty-six men; information which may indirectly be representative of the background of the other 52 soldiers for whom such information is currently unavailable.

How old were they?

The average age of the eighty-six was twenty-eight.  The oldest of the eighty-six was Ahron Ben Shalom Qarawani, whose mother lived in Peta Tikva, and who, born in 1886, was fifty-seven years old.  The youngest were Ouri Baks, from Netanya; Moshe Alter Kaplan from Peta Tikva; and, Pesach Yaacobson, from Ramat Gan.  Born in 1925, they were all eighteen years old.

Where were their families from?

Of those of the 86 for whom a place of residence of next-of-kin (rather than the men themselves) is listed, the following locations are given, with the soldier’s surname listed adjacent.

Afikim – 1 man (Gurevtich)

Bet Hanan – 1 man (Tadjer)

Degania (Kibbutz) – 1 (Tanfilov)

Brooklyn, N.Y., USA – 1 man (Scharf)

Hotin, Bessarabia, Rumania – 1 man (Guterman)

Givat Samuel – 1 man (Spinzel)

Giwatayim / Givatayinu (Givatayim?) – 2 men (Fogel, Milkain)

Haifa – 3 men (Altgenug, Veiner, Zyto)

Jerusalem – 1 man (Rosenzweig)

Kfar Gibton – 1 man (Ben Yisrael)

Kfar Mallal – 1 man (Nadav)

“Kinereth” (Kinneret) – 1 man (Pesach Maimon)

Kiriat Bialik – 1 man (Jashuvi)

“Meia Sharim” (Mea Shearim) – 1 man (Gruber)

Nahalal – 1 man (Betzer)

“Nanthaya” / Netanya – 2 men (Baks, Terbas)

“Peta Tiqva” / “Petak Tikvat” (Peta Tikva) – 3 men (Kaplan, Raphael Maimon, Qarawani)

Post Karkur – 1 man (Simon)

Ramat-Gan – 2 men (Heydermann, Pesach Yaacobson)

Ramat-Gan Bet – 1 man (Stern)

Rehovoth – 1 man (Gotlib)

Rishon-le-Zion – 1 man (Aharon Segal)

Tel-Adashim – 1 man (Steinberg)

Tel-Aviv – 6 men (Bachrach, Busany, Yechye Cohen, Greenberg, Schiefer, Schmerling, Israel Segal)

Two of the eighty-six were born in Latvia.  They were Johoshua Adari, who was born in Zilupe under the name of Truskanovski, and, Itzhak Ben Yeshayahn (Yeshayahu?) Lotz, a member of Hashomer Hatzair, who was born in Rezekne in 1912 under the name of Itzkhak Kisayevitch Lots.

Where were they born?

Along with Adari and Lotz, the countries of birth for some of the eighty-six are:

Austria – 9 men

Bulgaria – 1 man

Israel (Yishuv) – 7 men

Germany – 5 men

Hungary – 1 man

Latvia – 1 man

Libya – 2 men

Lithuania – 1 man

Poland – 14 men

Romania – 4 men

Russia – 1 man

Some were born in Germany or Austria

As listed above, five of the casualties are known to have been born in Germany, and nine in Austria.  Among those men for whom genealogical information is absent, twelve have names with a Germanic “sound”, suggesting birth in either of those countries.  They are:

Hans Carl Altgenug, whose uncle Zwi Alvin was from Haifa

Erich Bachrach, whose parents were Rudolf and Rudoleine, and whose step-father Henry was from Tel-Aviv

Leopold Baumgarten

Fritz Deutsch

Gustav Gavriel Gruber (listed above)

Paul Heiman, whose parents were Berthold and Martha

Gerhard Heydemann, whose mother Ruth lived in Ramat-Gan

Ludwig Levite

Hans Gerd Rosin

Michael Schlesinger

Gunter Schwartzer

Werner Sally Trauman

Hans Yaacobson

Married Men

The married men, and their wives, were:

Yaakov Ben Israel, from Kfar Gibton – Hemda

Gustav Gavriel Gruber, from “Meia Sharim” (Mea Shearim) – Batia

Moshe Greenberg, from Tel Aviv – Bella

Baruch Gurevitch, from Afikim – “Jaffa” [Sheina Peleg]

Pesach Maimon, from “Kinereth Israel” (Kinnererth Israel) – Naomi

Raphael Maimon, from “Petka Tikvah” (Peta Tikva) – Rachel

Aharon Segal, from Rishon le Zion – Jocheved

Shlomo Stern, from Ramat-Gan-Bet – Gnesa

Gershon Haim Tadjer, from Bet Hanan – Victoria

Moshe Terbas, from Netanya – Shoshana [Treves]

Where are their names memorialized?

The names of every man – but one – are commemorated on Panels 15, 16, and 17 at the Brookwood Memorial, in Surrey, England.  That “one” man is Hans Carl Altgenug, whose name is commemorated at the Athens Memorial, in Athens, Greece.

The Hebrew Wikipedia article about the Erinpura states that two casualties of the 462nd are buried in Libya; one in Tripoli and the other in Benghazi.  However, based on information available thus far, I believe that every Jewish soldier lost in the sinking of the Erinpura was genuinely “lost at sea”, as was true for all but one of the other casualties on the ship.

Other casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company

The 462nd incurred the loss of four other soldiers during the war.  Driver Abraham Reznik died on July 6, 1942 and is buried at El Alamein.  L/Cpl. Alfred Freddy Schwartz, whose parents lived at Shepherd’s Bush, in London, died in Italy on October 24, 1944, and is buried at the Caserta War Cemetery.  Private Shlomo Halun and Driver Moshe Zack also died in Italy (on December 11, 1944 and February 15, 1945, respectively), and are buried at the Rome War Cemetery, and, Florence War Cemetery.

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning A through E

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning F through J

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning K through O

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning P through T

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning U through Z

462nd General Transport Company – Other Casualties in the Second World War

– Michael G. Moskow