Saved by HMS Wallflower and radar

Amazing painting of the rescue by Tom Shuttleworth

29 August 1942

Three days and three nights passed without us seeing anything on the horizon. Which wasn’t that far since our little boats hardly stuck out of water giving us a very short horizon. But then, after three days, we saw a grey spot that was slowly coming closer. It turned out to be a British corvette with the beautiful name of ‘Wallflower’. Coming closer we identified ourselves, but the first question the British Captain asked was: ‘Are there any wounded?’
Assistent Engineer Adriaan Kik

HMS Wallflower is one of the escort vessels of convoy ON(S)124. She’s positioned as the most outward corvette and her new radar gives out a faint signal (echo). To faint to be a ship. Maybe a glitch in the system, a large wave or wreckage but it could also be the conning tower of a submarine. Her captain asks the commander on the destroyer HMS Hurricane permission to investigate the ‘echo’. He grants it.
The ‘echo’ turns out not to be a submarine, not a glitch and not even metal. It’s Abbekerks wooden lifeboats. Significantly further away than the effective reach of 13 miles of these Type 271 radar sets, but the good weather and the calm sea provide for a small miracle. Some time later they can see the lifeboats with the naked eye. Asdic and radio operator Terry from the Wallflower immortalizes this moment with his photo camera. (Special thanks to his son Roy Terry for providing me with these really incredible pictures!) 

We then were hauled aboard by the crew. Everything that could be used was taken out of our lifeboats while the boats themselves were destroyed by gunfire. The ‘Wallflower’ was escorting a convoy from England to Halifax but was thrown off course and fortuitously, with the aid of its radar, had chanced upon our two small boats. We certainly had been incredibly lucky.
Assistent engineer Adriaan Kik

Third mate Visser and gunner MacNab also remember this moment very well. Especially the destruction of the lifeboats. That was necessary (because they could not take them along) to prevent new rescue attempts for empty lifeboats and also to prevent the Germans from finding them and ascertaining from which ship they came. But it’s an emotional moment.

A very painfull moment followed when the commander [of the Wallflower] ordered our lifeboats, to which we owed our lives, to be destroyed.
Third mate Jacob Visser

The anti aircraft gun destroyed both lifeboats in seconds. I remember looking at it with tears in my eyes. I was not the only one.
Gunner Walter MacNab

With an extra 62 men the number of crewmen of the small corvette is almost doubled. The Abbekerk crew is stowed away all over the – now filled to the brim – little ship. But to the Wallflower crew the rescue of so many people will be one of their best memories of the war. Asdic and radio operator Tom Shuttleworth would later make a painting of the moment as featured at the top of this article.

9 Responses

  1. Larissa says:

    Hi S Watts could you please email me

  2. S watts says:

    Larisa. I am sidney great niece in UK. Please get in touch. I can share story.

  3. Alan says:

    Hi Larissa
    I have known the Sidney McConville mentioned here who died in 2012.
    Found records stating he was in UK in 1949 and for years after WW2.
    Sorry my knowledge is that he never went to New Zealand .
    He did not have children.

    I hope you find the person you are looking for.

  4. Sam says:

    Hiya Larissa.

    This Sidney McConville didn’t have any children as according to death notice below.

    Also records indicate he never travelled to New Zealand.

    He has only a niece Patricia and nephew Chris. Confirmed no children.

    McCONVILLE – SIDNEY, December 20, 2012, aged 89 years, peacefully in hospital. Sadly missed by niece Pat and nephew Chris. Ex M.N. Fireman. (Bon Voyage Sid.) Funeral Service at Anfield Crematorium on Monday January 28 at 10.00am.

  5. Larissa says:

    The name on the elections 1949 books was Sidney Thomas Francis McConville is this the same one as this man? Would you know?

  6. Larissa McConville says:

    Yes that’s the same information I got but I found a elections book with names and addresses the name was Sidney Thomas Francis mcconville that lived there for a couple years in 1949 that election year was. I also found a timeliness of his life and during those years it is missing on there… I can’t find any death notice would you have a link?

  7. Larissa says:

    Hi yes that’s every information I’ve got also, it’s all matching up, 1949 was around the time he supposedly was with my great grandmother and had 2 children in new zealamd, I found his name on the elections follow with the address.
    I can’t find his death notice anywhere at all? Do you have a link?

  8. Sam O'Doherty says:

    This seaman Sidney McConville was born 1924 in the UK and lived in the UK in the area of Liverpool for all his life and died there in hospital in 20 December 2012.
    He had no children. Relatives are only a nephew and niece as listed on death notice.
    Good luck in your research. I would try local New Zealand records.

  9. Larissa McConville says:

    Hi, I’m just doing research about my great grandfather Sidney McConville, as our family know nothing about him or where our name is from, he 2 children in New Zealand in 1948 (the year my grandfather was born) he apparently lived here for 2 years, I think this Sidney McConville could be him would you have any idea where I could get more information about him to confirm its him…

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