Bill Carlin RAFVR - 103 Squadron.
Bill flew a tour with the Belgian Florent Van Rolleghem in 1943 as Air Bomber. He trained in South Africa and was torpedoed on the voyage home. Spent 10 days in a lifeboat. Below is an article I wrote about Bill a few years ago plus some photos from his time at 81 OTU with some other former 103 Squadron airmen.
A Difficult Passage
Above - A very youthful Bill Carlin in South Africa during training.
The Orient Royal Mail Liner RMS Oronsay ( 20,000 gross tons) was sunk on the 9th October 1942 off Freetown, West Africa, by the Italian Submarine Archimede, commanded by Lieutenant Saccardo, 5 crew members of Oronsay died, and 412 survived.
Amongst the survivors was Bill Carlin, later Bomb Aimer in Van Rolleghem's crew in the summer of 43. Bill, pictured right, was returning from his Observer's training course in South Africa.
The Oronsay left Cape Town on the 30th Sept 42 UK bound. On the 9th Oct at 05:30 hours the ship was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side and started to list to port. Bill was able to get away in a life boat and 30 mins after the first torpedo the submarine fired again.
The Oronsay settled by the stern and sank at 8.05 hours leaving much wreckage and a dozen lifeboats.
After 8 days 21 hours the survivors were picked up by the HMS Brilliant which was at the absolute limit of its endurance and taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone arriving on the 17th October.
Bill left a very graphic account of his voyage and subsequent ordeal. Regrettably it is far too long to include in the newsletter. The experience clearly made a considerable impression on him which is understandable of course. As a souvenir he kept one of the rowlocks from his lifeboat which is still amongst his RAF memorabilia retained by the family. Also at Freetown at this time were the survivors of the troopship the SS Duchess of Atholl (20,119 gross tons).
At 08.19 hours on 10 Oct, 1942, the unescorted Duchess of Atholl was hit by one of two torpedoes fired by U-178 about 200 miles east-north-east of Ascension. At 08.37 hours, a second spread of two torpedoes were fired of which one hit. Another torpedo fired at 09.18 hours missed, but a coup de grāce fired three minutes later struck. The vessel sank slowly until finally disappearing at 11.25 hours. Five crew members were lost. The master, 267 crew members, 25 gunners and all 534 passengers were picked up by the British ocean boarding vessel HMS Corinthian and landed at Freetown on 14 October.
Among the survivors from that ship was Bill Brears who was also returning from South Africa after having completed training as an Observer. Bill also served as an Air Bomber with 103 Sqdn at Elsham Wolds in F/L JER Rawstorne's crew in the summer of 43, the same time as Bill Carlin
All this reminded me that Bunny Masters, wife of David Masters of 576 Sqn, had a similar experience outbound for Cape Town when the SS City Nagpur was sunk by the U 75 in April 41. A very dangerous voyage by the sound of it.
Above - The RMS Oronsay which served as a troopship in WW2. This ship was no stranger to action and was damaged by bombs at St Nazaire on the 15th June 1940 when the SS Lancastria was sunk with such heavy loss of life.
81 OTU Whitchurch Heath
Bill Carlin was at 81 OTU where he crewed up with Van Rolleghem. Year ago his sone Alan sent me a nice Group photo showing his father and several others who went on to serve at Elsham Wolds. These four pilots in particular stand out.
On the left we have Doug Finlay, Next to him we have Harry England who was a Squadron Leader/ Flight Commander with 103 Squadron in the summer of 1943. Third from the left is the unmistakeable figure of the the legendary Belgian Florent Van Rolleghem who flew with 103 Sqn in 43 and 44. On the extreme right is Basil Templeman-Rooke who completed his first tour with 100 Sqn and was posted to 576 Sqn in May 44 as a Flight Commander.
Above - Back row - Harry Wheeler, Wireless Operator in Doug Finlay's crew who was killed at Elsham Wolds on the 23rd August 1943 when W4323 exploded at its dispersal. Sgt Wheeler rests at Camberwell New Cemetery.
Front row left is "Gill" Gillespie RCAF who was Air Gunner in the same crew and became a POW when this crew were shot down on the 23rd September 1943. The pilot, Doug Finlay, John McFarlane, "Jock" Fletcher and Sandy Rowe were the other survivors.
Above/left is Bill Carlin and also Tom Proctor who was the Wireless Operator in Van Rolleghem's first crew. Tom was best man at Bill Carlin's wedding when he got married shortly after the conclusion of his first tour. Van Rolleghem attended the wedding.
Written by David Fell. Thanks to Alan Carlin for the photos and copy of his father’s memoirs