Submarine Detector (ASDIC) on HMS Venomous (1942-3)
Wilson was 18 when
he joined the Royal Navy in September 1941 but already married. He was
from St Helens in Lancashire and joined Venomous
its refit at Troon in March 1942 and left at Falmouth in October 1943.
As the ASDIC operator he would
have reported to Warrant Officer Herbert J.B. Button DSM RN who was
responsible for anti-submarine operations. George Wilson had a crucial role to play on the 11 November 1942 listening for
"pings" from the U-boat which sank Hecla
but, sadly, left behind no written record of what happened that night.
These family photographs are the
property of his grandson, Andrew
Wilson. Take a look at
George Wilson's photographs and if you can provide further details or
identify any of those on them please e-mail me.
on bow of Venomous beneath "B" Gun while berthed
alongside unidentified ship
Studio photographs of three of George's shipmates on HMS Venomous
Do you recognise George Wilson's
The young man on the right closely resembles the rating on the right in the photograph below.
"Repatriation ship, Algiers" written on reverse and with distinctive markings on hull What do the markings on the hull signify?
And who were being repatriated?
Although the facts are still far
from clear some progress has been made in
identifying the "Repatriation ship" at Algiers. The white cross on a
dark background is not as at first suspected either the Red Cross or
the Swiss flag both of which might have been thought to have operated
repatriation ships after the surrender of Axis forces in North Africa.
It has been identified by the Swiss Shipping Foundation as the
cross of Savoy used by Italy under the fascist regime of
Mussolini. The ship closely resembles the oil tankers of the
Corsino Italiane line and three of these ships, the Arcola, Taigete and Lucania
were authorised by the allies in 1942 to bring back oil from Curacao
for the repatriation of Italian civilians from Ethiopia and the Italian
colony of Tunisia by the Italian hospital ships, Giulio Cesare, Vulcania, Saturnia and Duilio. There were 120,000 Italians living in Tunisia in
1943 and the Italian government asked Switzerland to help reach an
agreement with the allies for the repatriation of some of their
The tankers were required to
identify themselves as neutral with the highly distinctive hull
markings visible on the ship in this photograph but despite this one of
them, the Lucania, was sunk by a British submarine. The tankers in the photograph may be the Arcola
which was either confiscated or chartered by the British Government in
1944. The story is further complicated by the coastline more closely
resembling Gibraltar than that of Algiers.
This confusing story is told here
to illustrate the wealth of historical information which can be gleaned
from a single photograph and also the scope for misinterpreting the
evidence. The details given here were uncovered by the enthusiastic
researchers of the Swiss Shipping Foundation.