Sinking of the Windsor Castle
By Janis Kirby

At 14.30 on 23 March 1943 the Windsor Castle was torpedoed 8 hours from Algiers by an Italian torpedo plane. After the initial shock and confusion, he remembers that there was little panic although as he was on B Deck they were able to get on deck quite quickly. Someone in his group managed to get some sort of light working after the collision (a kind of vertical torch-like lamp which was on the wall) so that they could see what they were doing. He only had one flight of stairs to climb and was soon on deck mustering near the designated raft station. He remembers his group (about 30-35 men) were eventually told to abandon ship and their superior officer basically told them “your own your own”. Fortunately they were at the bow of the ship which was well out of the water and eventually they were picked up by a destroyer and my father found himself a safe position high up  on HMS Whaddon where he was able to get a birds eye view as the dawn broke. 

He remembers being fired on by a plane and had always believed it to be German   while on the deck awaiting rescue. Jim thinks most of the troops were saved although he thinks some WRENS may have died. They were picked up by HMS Whaddon and HMS Eggesford and taken to Algiers with only the clothes they stood up as they lost everything. When they landed on the docks they pinched oranges that were piled on carts on the dockside and were taken to a racecourse, which served as a posting depot and eventually kitted out again. My father remembers part of the voyage was stormy and very few of the people on his mess deck made it to their meal and they were told to eat as much as they like.  Dad couldn't understand why the stormy sea would put anyone off their food as he felt fine and he tucked into a hearty meal.  It seems he was naturally at home on the sea as in later life he joined the RNLI at Lowestoft and became radio operator and was never sea sick at all despite being in one of the worse places aboard.
-Janis Kirby

My father James Alfred Culham of Lowestoft had recently joined REME and was unaware of where the Windsor Castle was heading when they left Greenock. He believed the Windsor Castle was the biggest ship in the convoy and my father was fortunate to have a quick look around the ship and said even though it had been converted into a troop ship it was very luxurious.
-Janis Kirby


June 27, 2008
Sadly I must report that James Alfred Culham passed away in April 2008.

Page published Dec. 6, 2007