|HMS Bedfordshire one of the 24 British trawlers sent to help the United States
The end of 1941 saw the Americans losing many tankers and other shipping to the U-boats that were now active around the east coast of the United States. During March and April 1942 the U-boat problem had reached a crescendo. As the US navy had no real anti-submarine fleet the British Admiralty answered their desperate plea and agreed to loan them twenty four AS trawlers. These British trawlers would come under American command and be used for patrol and escort work.
One of the twenty four trawlers or, 'rugged coal burners' as the Americans liked to call them, was HMS Bedfordshire. Serving as a stoker was Sam Nutt who had recently joined the ship before she sailed to the States.
Sam recalls the arrival of HMS Bedfordshire and her duties.
"The Bedfordshire was one of twenty four that was sent over to the States. We sailed down to Norfolk Virginia then down to Morehead City, which was our base, and we worked from there convoying, escorting and then patrolling".
On May 10th 1942, Sam had been on shore leave and was due to join the Bedfordshire the next morning. That night while leaving a bar in Morehead City, he was arrested by two policemen and locked up in a cell without an explanation.
The next day on May the 11th, HMS Bedfordshire, with their stoker still missing, went out as usual and patrolled the coast. During that night her luck suddenly run out and she was torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat. All 37 crew were lost and only four bodies were ever recovered from the sea.
Meanwhile after being released with no charge, Sam had been trying to join his ship.
"I never did know what the Americans were going to charge me with. I spent a night in the cells and they let me out and the American soldiers took me down to the dock to join the Bedfordshire ... but she had gone to sea. We had to go aboard another boat to go and look for the Bedfordshire. They were going to take us out to join the ship at sea but when we got there ... there was no trace of her at all."
A few days later it was concluded that the trawler must have been sunk by a U-boat. Evidence of this was later confirmed in the diary of U558.
The last moments of the Bedfordshire can now finally be revealed. Two trawlers HMT Bedfordshire and HMT ST. Loman were sent out on the 11th May 1942 off the coast of Ocracoke to look for a suspected U-boat that was thought to be in the area. As night began to fall, they were at times within sight of each other while travelling at around six knotts. They continued to Patrol using the ASDIC to try and pick up the signal of a lurking U-boat. Unknown to them they had already been sighted by U-558. Her commander, 27 year old Gunther Krech, decided to attack as he thought the U-boat had been detected by one of the trawlers. Two torpedoes were immediately fired at ST. Loman but a keen lookout on the ship saw the torpedo's tracks in the water, and immediate evasive action luckily saved the trawler. The Bedfordshire was not so lucky, and on the morning of the 12th May 1942 at 0540, two more torpedoes fired from U-558 found their target. The Bedfordshire just disintegrated and Gunther Krech's determination to sink her had succeeded.
Although at the time, Sam realised he had a miraculous escape, even to this day he never forgets the crew of the Bedfordshire.
"I think they were a dam good crowd, we lost a good bunch of lads. You can always easily replace a ship but not 35 men. Why I kind of missed that boat is another story only him up there can answer I presume?".
|Casualty List, HMT Bedfordshire. Published in June 1942.
|Lt. R.B. Davis, RNR (In Command).
Temp. Sub. Lt. H. Clutterbuck, RNVR.
Temp. Sub. Lt. B. Hall, RNVR.
Temp. Sub. Lt. T. Cunningham, RNVR.
F.W. Barnes, Engineman.
S. Bennett, Ordinary Seaman.
L.P. Bickford, Seaman.
E.S. Carruthers, Ordinary Seaman.
G.W. Cerrino, Leading Seaman, RNR.
W.F. Clemence, Ordinary Seaman.
F. Cragg, Ordinary Seaman.
S .R. Craig, Ordinary Telegraphist.
J.R. Dick, Seaman.
T.M. Dicks, Ordinary Seaman.
A. Dryden, Seaman.
A.W. Duncan, Chief Engineman, RNR.
G. Featherstone, Ordinary Telegraphist.
G.H. Fisher, Stoker 2nd. Class.
|H. Ford, Seaman.
J. Kelly, Seaman.
W. Lee, Leading Seaman, RNR.
E.W. Lukins, Act. Stoker Petty Officer (Ty).
A.A. McCrindle, Seaman.
A. McKenzie, Stoker.
F.F. Maltby, Leading Seaman, RNR.
E.N. Morton, Ordinary Seaman.
W.J. Myers, Stoker.
S.W. Smitten, Ordinary Seaman.
P.E. Stone, Seaman.
C.T. Travell, Ordinary Signalman.
C.W. White, Ordinary Telegraphist.
L.J. Williams, Stoker, 2nd. Class.
R. Davis, Ordinary Seaman, RCN.
J.L. McCauley, Ordinary Seaman RCN.
T. A. Watson, Ordinary Seaman
The end of U558
Fourteen months after sinking the Bedfordshire, U558 was also to meet her end off Cape Finisterre after being caught on the surface by two Alied anti-submarine aircraft, a Halifax and an American Libarator. After U558 had been sunk by depth charges, 40 survivors had been spotted but when HMCS Athabaskan had found them after five days afloat, only five were still alive . Amongst the remaining survivors of U558 was Commander Gunther Krech.
Kapitänleutnant of U558 which sunk the Trawler HMT Bedfordshire off the North Carolina Coast on 11 May 1942