Windsor Castle (1922)
Message Board

Jan. 13, 2021

My father, Jack Hayes, was the Carpenter on the Windsor Castle when it was torpedoed. He shared a cabin with the bosun, who suggested that when they abandoned ship they should wear their best suits under their boilersuits, which they did. One of Dad's daily jobs onboard was to sound the bilges. After he had left the ship and was waiting in a lifeboat to be picked up by a rescuing ship he was called back on board by the Captain, and likened climbing back up the rope ladder to climbing up the side of a hotel. Once on board he was instructed to sound the bilges to help the captain decided whether or not it would be safe to try to tow the ship. Dad had to run the length if the deserted ship in semi-darkness opening each bilge cap to ascertain the level of water being taken on by the ship. By the time he reached the stern, the bilge was full and overflowing. To be alone at the stern of that enormous, slowly sinking ship filled him with fear that he would drown alone, but he quickly ran back as fast as he could to report his findings. At that he was ordered to return to his lifeboat, and he burned the skin of his palms in his haste to descend the rope!

Their lifeboat survivors were eventually picked up by a destroyer, the Rodney, where the rescued were immediately given a tot of rum ( much needed by Dad after his personal ordeal!). They were still in the vicinity when an attempt was made to tow the ship, and my Dad witnessed the dramatic sinking. As Dad had played a part in the final hours before the sinking, he was required to give evidence at the enquiry which was to take place in Gibraltar. So he was dropped off there and after a delay of about three months hanging around there he at least had his good suit to wear when he eventually gave his evidence to the enquiry panel.

Barbara Thompson

May 9, 2020

My father, Walter John Tobutt, was also on the Windsor Castle when it was torpedoed. He was in the RAF. He told us he was wearing his pyjamas and escaped without getting wet. I had a brief newspaper cutting article about the ship. He died in 2005, aged 89.

Christine Briggs

Feb. 5, 2018

My late father, Graham Mathias, was an AB on HMS Farndale which stood by to tow the Windsor Castle after the troops had been evacuated. The boarding party, which included my father, went aboard her to attach the tow rope. The Windsor Castle's Master and Chief  Engineer also went aboard to assess the ship's buoyancy. Shortly after the boarding party got to the Windsor Castle's focstle to carry out their task, the ship began to rapidly sink. My father and the rest of the boarding party had to jump for their lives from the ship into the sea - a considerable distance. There are a number of excellent pictures of the incident, and HMS Farndale can be seen close to the bows of the Windsor Castle, with her motor boat close by, which rescued my father, unscathed, from the sea. This incident is one of many that my father experienced  at sea during the war, including the Dunkirk evacuation. He survived the war. I hope this information is of interest.

David Mathias

Jan. 14, 2018

My mother Jean (Jane) Hamilton was on this ship when it was torpedoed, she was an army nurse, one of many 'troops' aboard, a sister with the QAIMNS, she never spoke in great detail and sadly passed 25 years ago, aged 83. She came from Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland and did her nursing training in Glasgow. She remained in North Africa for over a year tending the many wounded, but was later transferred to Anzio and Monte Casino in Italy where she tended to her injured brother Malcolm. I think she was in a place called Bone in North Africa, as well as Algiers and Bougie, as she mentioned it and there are some pictures of that area among some souvenirs. She was 'Mentioned in Despatches' and gained an Oak Leaf Medal and a certificate from the King. 

Jim Tarbet

Aug. 7, 2017

My grandfather, Baden Hurt, was a radio officer in the Merchant Navy. I am trying to confirm he was a crew member of the Windsor Castle when she was sunk in the Med. I am in possession of two pewter 1/4pt mugs stamped Windsor Castle (made in Nottingham). Appreciate if you could point me in a direction that will confirm or deny.

Kind regards,
David Baden Sleight

July 25, 2017

My father, Samuel Browse, was on the Windsor Castle the day she sank, he did in fact rescue an LAC Daniel Ferguson from the water four hours after the torpedo struck. This was reported in our local paper (the Northern Scot) on april 10th 1943. What I can't understand is I can find no record of my father in merchant navy records. I can only assume was using a false name as I know he ran away to sea at the age of 13. I have tried with no success to get a crew list so if anyone can help with any information I would be most grateful as my father passed away a few years ago never having talked about his war experience. Danny Ferguson read the eulogy at his funeral, but left before I could question him.

Thank you,
George Browse

Feb. 18, 2016

I have found something interesting, would it be possible to get more info about it please?

Kind regards,
Michelle Dehrmann

Mar. 6, 2016

I have learned that this was bought as a souvenir on the second RMS Windsor Castle... Apparently only a few of them were available! That's why I can't find it anywhere! Very beautiful actually.

Kind regards,
Michelle Dehrmann

Nov. 11, 2015

My father was a Junior Engineer aboard the Windsor Castle when she was sunk on 23/03/1943. I still have his Seaman's Discharge book which clearly provides the date of the sinking and 'discharged at sea'. My father's name was Thomas Mooney he died unfortunately in 1976. There was only one possession that he removed at the time of the sinking and that was his fathers fountain pen. When I followed in his foot steps in 1973 he gave me the pen which I put in my uniform (I was a Navigation Cadet with Ben Line), I left the Merchant Navy in 1976, but even today that pen is still in my old uniform jacket. My father relayed the story of his mother being informed by the mother of one of the other Junior Engineers (who was also from Dundee), that it was my father was killed in the attack, whereas in fact it was her own son William Ogilvie Mann, who was the same age as my father at the time of the sinking. I know that the crew members were taken to Liverpool where they were thereafter looked after by the Salvation Army until they went home.

Kind regards,
Tom Mooney

May 10, 2015

I've just been reading the website about the Windsor Castle and its sinking in the Med and would like to add to the story. My father, William Leith, was in the Army and was onboard the Windsor Castle when she was torpedoed in 1943.  My recollections of what he told me about this are that he was on guard duty that night and when the call came to abandon ship they had to jump overboard into the water.

Regarding casualties, he talked about a young nurse who was frightened of jumping into the sea and when she was convinced she had to jump, she did, but was unfortunately killed. He said he was picked up by a corvette and taken into Algiers then ended up in the 8th Army.

When Dad died, his cousin Jim Leith told me that he was a member of the crew on the Windsor Castle at that time and he said the ship was heading to the Far East. I don't know if anyone can verify that as Jim too has passed away so I can't find out any more.

Irene Doudie
Reply 1
May 13, 2015

Windsor Castle was en route to Algiers, Algeria, but that is not to say the troops would end up at another port later. As far as can be confirmed only one person was killed in the sinking, which is a miracle.

Michael W. Pocock

Jan. 23, 2015

My father, Alfred Cecil Gale, deceased September 2003, was a member of the Royal Army Dental Corp and was aboard the Windsor Castle in 1943 when it was torpedoed. He spent some months at Aldershot for Army dentistry and joined the Windsor Castle with a number of other dental personnel.

They were on their way to North Africa, towards the end of that crossing and apparently the ships' chaplain held a service of thanksgiving for a safe journey (it had been until then). The early hours of the next morning brought the ship under attack and then it was torpedoed; according to an early account of his a total of 6 lives were lost from a total of some 3,000. This contrasts with some other comments which suggest only 1 life lost or very many.

He was ordered to jump ship and get aboard HMS Whadden which eventually came aside. He proceeded to Algiers which is probably what lead to him having the 'nickname' Algy, which became forgotten for other reasons when he became known as 'Windy' (his surname being Gale).

Whilst I hope that this account reference is of use to some here I would also like to know of any others who were with the Royal Army Dental Corp or who may have served alongside them or otherwise been aware of them during that time.

Trevor Gale

Aug. 29, 2014

My father was a merchant seaman and was in Quebec a few days before the Windsor Castle sailed. He told me that the ship was due to sail to Alexandria, but he quit the job and did not sail on it. Can you tell me if I could find out if he was posted to sail on this ship? Is there anyway of finding out what ships he could have sailed on? My fathers name was Joe Lavery, but he passed away in 2001.

Paul Lavery
Leeds, United Kingdom

Jan. 19, 2013

My late father Henry Bishop was part of 103 General Hospital on-board the Windsor Castle when she was torpedoed. Like many men he rarely spoke of his experiences, however I do recall him saying he would never forget the hammering and cries from men locked behind doors that had been closed to seal off compartments
in an effort to keep the ship afloat as long as possible. He was eventually taken off by a destroyer (I don't know which) he commented that when they got on board the captain came on the speaker shouting "will some of you !!!!!!!!!!!!s get on the other side before we capsize. I think this gives some indication on the number of men she was taking aboard. He was eventually landed in Algeria and ended up with 103 General Hospital at Nocera.

Alan Bishop

May 29, 2012

My mother, Nora "Paddy" Dyer, is 2nd from left in the photograph (message #8), she remembers still with great clarity the night the ship was torpedoed, but has delightful memories of both Algiers and Malta. She absolutely loved being in the WRENS and made life-long friends some of whom are still in touch. My mother says she wasn't in her pajamas when the ship was torpedoed as she was at a party (which was very naughty!), but at least she escaped wearing clothes. She is now 96 and as naughty as ever, if anyone remembers her, please let me know, particularly if they were at the party!

Siobhan Taylor

Feb. 11, 2012

My grandfather was on the Windsor Castle when it was torpedoed in 1943. His name was Bernard Ashby. If anyone reading this knew of anyone who knew Bernard then I would love to get in touch.

Paul Gurney

Jan. 22, 2011

My father was on board the Windsor Castle when it was torpedoed. I have read many accounts of the sinking and all maintain only one man was lost. However, my father said that Canadian troops were sleeping in the part of the ship that received the direct hit and they were trapped. He was forever after haunted by the memory of their screams as they tried to escape. It seems it was common practice to seal off the damaged section of a torpedoed ship in order to slow the rate of sinking and allow more time for the survivors to escape. The Windsor Castle took either 9 or 15 hours to sink, depending on which report you read, which appears to support this theory and the photograph of the sinking shows only the stern below water. Can anyone provide any more information on the fate of the Canadians ?

(Mrs) D. Jones

Oct. 25, 2010

Thanks for your website, I have used it to find information about the sinking of the Windsor Castle in March 1943. I particularly like the photo of the sinking troopship with destroyers gathered around.

My interest lies in the fact that my aunt, Lucy Cockeram, was a WREN (W.R.N.S.) passenger during this incident. She and her colleagues were rescued by a destroyer and transported back to Algiers. She mentioned that climbing the scrambling net up the side of the destroyer seemed like ascending a house wall, and at the top a sailor shouted out "Bloody Hell, it's a WREN." Which received the comment from someone behind "That's no WREN, that's Lucy Cockeram from down our street!"

I believe there were 14 WRENS in her party, and they lost everything, escaping in their pajamas. However they were provided with bits of kit, and a couple of weeks later my father who was serving with the RAF in Algeria, met up with her and the rest of the group.

I understand Lucy became a pay-clerk on a submarine depot ship which operated out of Algiers, and later Malta. She was only 19 years old at them time and was a gregarious and social person. She made friends easily, but never really said much about the details of her war experience. My father said she had many acquaintances on the submarines who didn't come back from operations and found it very upsetting to remember them.

Lucy is still alive, but unfortunately now suffering from alzheimer's. However I will be meeting her, and my cousins tomorrow for a day out, and I am told that since she has recently moved into a home, more information about the event has come to light. Thanks again for you efforts in producing such a useful resource.

Tom Cockeram
(Torpedoed From Above by Lucy Cockeram)

Addendum to message 8
Jan. 20, 2015

I am sorry to report that Lucy Cockeram (Windsor Castle survivor) died on 24 December 2014.

Recently I was looking through some of her documents and found the following items. There is the transcript of an article published in a Portsmouth WRNS newsletter, three images of the Windsor Castle sinking (showing on page 2), and a 'Certificate' to the Wrens rescued by the Whaddon. It was drawn by a member of the crew, and records the names of the girl survivors (Lucy was know by her middle name of Anne) and records a little motto at the bottom, finally it is signed and dated by the commanding officer (showing below).

Tom Cockeram

The group of WRENS who survived the sinking of Windsor Castle, Lucy Cockeram is seen in the front row, third from the left.


Nov. 28, 2008

I was a soldier on the Windsor Castle. The night before she was torpedoed, I was on guard duty till midnight, I went below deck to sling my hammock but there was no where to hang it, as below deck was full of troops. I went back on the top deck to sleep on the lid of the holds but there was no room either. I found another space when the ship was hit, the lids were blown off, men as well. Being that there was no room below deck it saved my life returning to the top deck?

A destroyer (The Whaddon) came alongside the Windsor Castle, I was standing at the bow, as the ship was listing, I couldn't swim so I stayed put? I was told to jump by the crew of the destroyer, so I jumped and was caught by members of the crew. We were then taken to Algiers.

Fred Dinham 14250866 103rd RAMC
Earlsfield, UK

Nov. 18, 2008

My late father (Flt Lt J.C.F.Thompson RAFVR) was Adjutant of 283 ASR Squadron, and was on his way east as a passenger on RMS Windsor Castle. They were shadowed all day by an axis plane, and in the early morning  one aircraft dropped one torpedo which struck home, leading to the slow sinking of the ship. Luckily he and
many others were saved by HMS Eggesford and her sister ships, which raced out to pick them up.

Father only got his feet wet, and I believe there was only one casualty out of nearly 3,000 passengers and crew. (Mother complained when she received a water-stained letter from him - apparently someone grabbed the mail as the ship sank, and she did not realize the significance of the stains!)

On board the Eggesford, they were thrust down hatches to keep the ship stable, and she then set off at high speed for Alexandria. Dad remembers the plates rippling due to the speed and load. The incident has always
been part of my childhood, and it is so interesting to find your site.

HMS Eggesford was sold to the German Navy (as the 'Brommy') after the war and lasted into the late
seventies. There are several web-site references one can look up.

Mike Thompson,
Cemaes Bay, Anglesey

Dec. 5, 2007

Delighted to come across your website. My father James Culham aged 87 had recently joined REME and recalls the sinking but was amazed to see the photo. He was fortunate in being on B Deck so he didn't have far to climb to escape but remembers men standing patiently waiting for rescue like there were on parade. He thought there were attacked by a plane but as your other correspondent says it was a long time ago.
(Sinking of the Windsor Castle)

Janis Kirby (nee Culham)

July 17, 2007

I have a close family friend who was on board the Windsor Castle when it got torpedoed of the coast of Algiers on March 23rd 1943. His name is George Honan. He was part of the Royal engineers who where dispatched to North Africa on mine clearing duty. You wouldn't believe the look on his face when I showed him your pictures of the vessel going down. The look of emotion will last with me for a long time
and for this I need to thank you.

According to the stats the ship was hit at 02:30 and never sank until 17:30 a total of fifteen hours. George himself couldn't remember it taking so long but I'm guessing with sixty-four years passing and the obvious hysteria time didn't really come into it. He does remember the call going up for the abandonment of ship which was much to his dismay as he couldn't swim a stroke. However that order was cancelled out as there was a destroyer not to far away by the name of HMS Whodden/Whoddan (can't really remember exact spelling). The troops then climbed down a cargo net on to the above mentioned vessel and proceeded to circle the doomed Windsor Castle as it was eventually engulfed by the vast Mediterranean Sea.

He believes the fatalities on board where RAF troops who's quarters the missile hit. Eventually all the survivors where ferried to safety to the nearest port which was Algiers. I would be forever grateful if you have anymore information regarding this event and in particular information about the HMS Whodden as it would make an elderly man very happy.

Yours Gratefully
Damien Quinn

Feb. 5, 2007

Hi all! I found this photograph of a Fancy Dress Ball on the RMS Windsor Castle in my grandfathers collection of photographs. He went to work in South Africa in 1930. He is the 3rd person from the right Percy Green. I have no other details of any of the other "fancy dressers". Hopefully you might enjoy the photograph.

Geoffrey R. Green

Dec. 9, 2006

I was intrigued to read your message relating to Princess Marie Louise and the Chief Officer of RMS Windsor Castle because I, too, have just purchased 2 letters and 3 telegrams from the Princess. I wonder just
how many more are on the market? I have had no luck so far in establishing how their relationship evolved, but if I discover anything I will let you know. I would also appreciate it if you would kindly reciprocate with any relevant information you might unearth.

Kind Regards,
John Crowther

October 9, 2006

I understand that H.R.H. The Princess Marie Louise was a supporter of this ship, and regularly wrote to, and sent telegrams to, the Chief Officer, Mr. C. Steer. The Steer correspondence recently came onto the philatelic market from a descendant, and is now being sold by a postal history dealer. I was able to obtain one letter and envelope to the Chief Officer from Marie Louise, and a good luck telegram sent before a voyage, as well as a Christmas card to him entitled‘M.L.’. I wonder if anyone reading this website knows anything more about the Chief Officer, and why this special relationship the Princess had with the Windsor Castle.

Dane Garrod
Wallingford, England

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Page published Aug. 25, 2008