1 Nov 1941
2nd Lt. Cox, Sub Lt. Davidson and Lt. Rowlandson rescued from their raft
1 November 1941
THE MOST MACABRE EPISODE OF THE WAR AT SEA: MARINE MONSTERS DEVOUR MEN ADRIFT ON A RAFT
Drawn by our special artist Captain Bryan de Grineau, from Notes and Sketches given him by Lieut. R. E. G. Cox, one of the Survivors
THREE STAGES IN THE DRAMA OF A DOZEN MEN MAROONED ON A TINY, OVERCROWDED RAFT, FIVE DAYS ADRIFT IN MID-ATLANTIC, WITHOUT FOOD OR WATER, THEIR TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES, TOLD BY ONE OF THREE SURVIVORS, THEIR SHIP DESTROYED BY A GERMAN RAIDER, HUNDREDS DROWNED, ADRIFT IN TROPIC SEAS, MANY GO MAD, ATTACKED BY HUNDREDS OF SHARKS AND DEVIL-FISH AND FINALLY RESCUED AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR BY A SPANISH STEAMER.
Of all the macabre stories of the sea, nothing can surpass the prolonged sufferings of twelve men on a raft, of whom only three survived the horrors. In this ghastly story enters the destruction of a liner by a German raider in mid-Atlantic, hunger and thirst in a tropical sea, and five days on a tiny raft, assailed by sharks and other marine monsters, which devoured men under the eyes of their comrades, many of whom became stark mad. One of the three survivors, Lieut. R. E. G. Cox, recounted his experiences to our special artist. The crowded ship was attacked by a German raider, flying the Japanese flag, which then hoisted the swastika. The single gun and radio were shot away, the ship was full of dead, dying and wounded, including women and children. The Germans gave their victims five minutes to take to the boats, but these were mostly riddled by shell-fire and sank, leaving masses to drown. Mr. Cox, with three others, threw rafts overboard, but as the raider began to shell the ship again to sink it, achieved a raft no larger than a hearthrug. The Germans waved away all who sought rescue on the raider. Then began five days of ghastly suffering. On the tiny raft harbouring twelve men there was not room for all, so they had to take turns in the water, leaning their bodies on the fragile raft, which was always eighteen inches under water. Mr. Cox, while hanging in the water, was stung on the leg, hand, mouth and head by a “Portuguese man-of-war,” a poisonous jellyfish, which caused excruciating pain. The sun, blazing hot, reflected on the sea like a magnifying-glass, blistered the skin and caused fearful thirst. A naval officer was the first to go raving mad. His body was thrown overboard and the following morning the others found themselves surrounded by hundreds of sharks, whose fins protruded everywhere. Others lost their reason, and frequently the raft capsized when men became utterly insane – one of whom violently attacked Mr. Cox – until on the fifth day an Indian servant first had his legs bitten off by a shark and then, to add to the horror, a huge manta, or devil-fish, seized his body, folded its great fins round the victim, and devoured him. By now desperate, the last three decided to die at night, but were dramatically rescued by a Spanish steamer, whose crew cheered three horror-stricken and starved survivors and landed them at Tenerife.