John Clifford Brackstone

Date of birth: Not known
Place of birth: Not known
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Able Seaman
Vessel: HMS Dunedin  D.93
Service: Royal Navy
Died: 24th November 1941 aged 22 years
Death location: At sea in the central Atlantic

 

John was the son of George and Beatrice Elizabeth and would have been born or living in Southampton at the time of his death for his name to be included on the Cenotaph.

HMS Dunedin

HMS Dunedin

Crest of HMS Dunedin

Crest of HMS Dunedin

 

At the time of his death John was serving on HMS Dunedin, a ‘Danae’ Class Cruiser of 4,850 tons laid downin November 1917.

Built by Hawthorn Leslie of Hebburn-on-Tyne this cruiser was launched 19th November 1918, completed at Devonport RN Dockyard and commissioned in October 1919.

 

Commanded by Captain Richard Stratford Lovatt, RN, Dunedin met her fate at the hands of the German U-boat – U-124 (Capt. Mohr), at 1526 on the 24th November 1941 in the Central Atlantic – east of St Paul’s Rocks, north-east of Recife in Brazil in position 3 degrees south, 26 degrees west.  She was hit by two torpedoes fired by the German U-boat and of her 486 complement only 4 officers and 63 men survived!

Fortunately for these survivors, all clinging to a number of rafts, the US Merchant Ship Nishmaha (which had been en-route from Takoradi in West Africa to Philadelphia and somewhat off course after an enforced period of being stationary and drifting due to engine trouble) on resuming her journey happened to stray into the area where Dunedin’s survivors were bobbing around on their rafts.

Roy Murray

Roy Murray

Loss position of HMS Dunedin

Loss position of HMS Dunedin

Aboard Nishmaha and in the late afternoon of the following Thursday, 22 year-old Third Mate Roy Murray who had the watch, spotted a small raft and ordered a change of course; so due to a freak chance of fate the  men of Dunedin were saved from their awful ordeal on ‘Thanksgiving Day’.  Over the next few hours Nishmaha rescued 72 men spread out on six rafts over an area of 10 square miles.  It was dark by the time the rescue was completed and then she set a course for Port of Spain in Trinidad. This journey took a week and a half, during which time five of the rescued men unfortunately died of their injuries. Those who did make it received wonderful treatment from Nishama’s crew.  But for an engine failure surely these men also would have perished! At the time of this incident the United States was not at war with Germany, Dunedin’s sinking happening about two weeks before the infamous event of ‘Pearl Harbour’.

 

John’s name is recorded on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 51, Column 3 as are those of his shipmates who perished.  In 2005, sixty-four years on, a very emotional reunion took place in Portsmouth, England when the only four men remaining from the original survivors met once again their saviour of that time long ago, Captain Roy Murray.

Fate of U-124
On the 2nd April 1943, during an attack on Allied Convoy OS-45, two of the escort ships, HMS Black Swan and HMS Stonecrop, depth-charged U-124 and sank her with the loss of all hands.

 

Researcher: Terry Randall
Published.: 29th January 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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