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Gallois Went Aground Fleeing U-Boat

By James Donahue

The Gallois was a 321-foot merchant ship that holds the distinction of being one of nine vessels from World War II Convoy FS 559 that became disoriented in fleeing a German submarine attack and wrecked on the Haisborough Sands off the east coast of England.

The strange multiple-disaster happened on the night of August 5, 1941. The convoy was moving in rough weather toward London from Newcastle under light escort by two outdated naval destroyers from the First World War and two trawlers. When the convoy came under attack, the convoy broke up and scattered in groups. The Gallois and seven other merchant ships followed the trawler Agate which apparently was unable to see the Haisborough Light in the rough weather, became disoriented, and led the ships into the sands where they wrecked.

As rescue operations unfolded, Coxswain Henry Blogg, in command of Cromer Lifeboat H. F. Bailey said that as he approached the scene the following morning, he heard RAF aircraft patrolling overhead and all seven big cargo ships stranded with their backs broken. All that was visible were the ship’s bridges as the seas broke over their decks.

Blogg brought the Bailey alongside the Gallois. He said this steamer was still just above water and its engines were still running. As the lifeboat pulled alongside the ship, crew members jumped aboard. Others slid down ropes. One man fell into the sea but was pulled to safety. The Bailey rescued 31 sailors that day from the Gallois. It also rescued 16 men from another stranded ship, the Oxshott.

Among the other freighters wrecked in that ill-fated convoy were the steamships Deerwood, Betty Hindley, Aberhill, Taara, Afon and the Paddy Hendly. The trawler Agate also lay wrecked with the others. The Hendly was a new ship making its maiden voyage.

The Gallois was an older ship, launched in 1917 at Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Her original name was the SS Tynemouth. When sold to Wales owners the vessel was renamed Lord Aberconway. Then in 1930, when sold to a French firm, the ship was given its final name, Gallois. At the time it wrecked, it had been requisitioned by the British Government as part of the war effort.