Over twenty-five years have passed since the events in this story took place and my wife has long insisted that it should all be told.
The story is compiled from notes I made after my recovery and from the memory of incidents as they occurred, while they were fresh in my mind.
Originally the tale was written for my wife, son and daughter. For my wife, who wondered where I was during those anxious days, for my son, who wondered at my scarred leg and for my daughter, who still hopes that the scars will vanish.
It is also written in memory of those who were adrift with me at that time, I think it is only proper that others should know of the courage and integrity of men who fought and served in the last war.
With the writing comes the memory of my friends and companions who survived the sinking of the Britannia and of the good friends we found amongst the British and Allied inhabitants of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. I owe a great debt of kindness to Mary Golding and her family, to Dr Tomas Soraldo and all those who nursed me back to health. I have endeavoured to portray, in words, a picture of those days, a thing of shade and light, perhaps a highlight of colour here and there, and like all pictures faded with the passing of years.
There is much that is repetitive in this tale, the fight for survival was in itself repetitive. The beat of the sea, the sun, even in the deaths that followed. My companions died, not in the heat of battle with blood, hot and careless. They did not die with a quick gasp of wonder and leave a mark of their passing. They died slowly, with courage and uncomplaining faith, they differed only when privation brought madness as a prelude to death. Even then they did not turn upon their companions.
They spoke only of those they loved and who loved them. They went quietly over the side, sometimes with a last word, but more often than not, in silence and at night.
It is to them and their memory that I dedicate,
They went not to a coward's death
Death it was that coward turned.
He came in darkness and in darkness
Stole, their strength, their honour
And all the promise of their bright young days.