Leslie George Hooker

LesliePics-a

Date of birth: 26th January 1911
Place of birth: Not known
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Steward
Service: Merchant Navy
Vessel: MV Cedarbank
Died: 21st April 1940 aged 29 years
Death location: At sea off the coast of Norway

 

Life before the War
Leslie was the second youngest child in a family of eight brothers and sisters:

Dora and Leslie (front)

Dora and Leslie (front)

Henry b.1899 who died in infancy
Gwendoline b.1901
Eva b.1902
Reginald b.1904
Sidney b.1906
Doris b.1907
Dora b.1915

His parents were Henry Birt and Martha Jane, nee Legge.  Henry was also a Merchant Seaman.  At the time of his death Leslie’s family were living at 36 Rockstone Lane, Southampton.

Older brother Reginald signed on in the Merchant Service ‘in an act of retribution’ when Leslie died in the Cedarbank, unfortunately he fell ill while serving in the Empire Trumpet and died while on active service on the 28th July 1943.  When his story is researched it will be available to read on this website.

 

 

Service history
Two photographs of MV Cedarbank:

Bank Line Motor Vessel (diesel) Cargo.                  Built in 1924 by Harland & Wolff at Govan, Clydebank.
Owner – Andrew Weir & Co. London.         Home Port – Glasgow.                Tonnage 5,159 tons.       Speed 11kts.

On the 21st April 1940 Cedarbank was part of Convoy AP1 – bound Leith to Aandallsnes (Norway) – carrying military stores, vehicles and ammunition needed in the Norwegian Campaign, when at 0749, north-west of Bergen, she was torpedoed by a ‘stern-shot’ from U-Boat 26 (Korvettenkapitän Heinz Scheringer).

Fifteen of her 45 crew perished, with one of the other casualties being the ship’s DEMS Gunner W McGrath, 200 Commercial Road, Liverpool, while Cedarbank’s Master, William James Calderwood and 29 other crew members were rescued by the destroyer HMS Javelin.

 

Information re U-26:

U-26

Launched 1936 in Bremen this boat was originally used as a training vessel for submarine crews until, because of the shortage of ‘front-line’ vessels, it was transferred to patrol work at the outbreak of WW2.  Her short career (11 months) as a ‘front-line’ submarine was quite successful, sinking 11 ships and damaging one other; the SS Zarian!  Mines laid by U-26 during her first patrol accounted for four ships and she sank a further three ships during her February 1940 patrol.  Then it was the turn of the MV Cedarbank in April 1940 and finally three more vessels during June patrol, when her luck ran out!

 

 

U-26 sighted Convoy OA-176 (30 merchant ships bound Southend to USA) which was escorted by a solitary Flower-Class Corvette – HMS Gladiolus (K34), Lt/Cdr H M C Sanders RNR – but  lookouts on the ship carrying the convoy’s commodore had spotted U-26 shortly before she dived.  At 0118 on the 1st July she again surfaced and torpedoed the Zarian, alerting Gladiolus to her position.  U-26 was at this time experiencing problems with her diesel engines and was unable to evade the corvette, so she dived to 80 metres but suffered serious damage from the corvette’s subsequent depth-charging.  This caused uncontrollable flooding of the after ballast tank and she sank by the stern to a depth of 230 metres. Gladiolus continued her attack until she had only five charges remaining, then stopped amidst a large patch of diesel oil and waited for the U-boat to surface and signal for assistance.

Map showing loss position of Cedarbank

Map showing loss position of Cedarbank

Six hours later, and with the starboard electric motor and one compressor out of action, U-26 was finally forced to surface – surprisingly just 800 yards from the corvette and somehow remaining unseen – and managed to escape undetected!  But at 0815 she was spotted by a Sunderland of No.10 Squadron RAAF, piloted by F/Lt. W.N. Gibson, who dropped four 250lb (113 kg) anti-submarine bombs as it dived.  This forced the U-boat to surface again almost instantly.  The Sunderland attacked with a second stick of four bombs that detonated about 40 metres away from the stricken U-boat.  Gladiolus had spotted the U-boat’s  diesel exhaust smoke at the same time as the boat had been seen by the Sunderland and made for it at top speed (16knots), with the much faster (21knots) Sloop, HMS Rochester (L 50) Cdr GF Renwick RN, joining in after arriving from the dispersed convoy OB-174.

 

Unable to dive, the crew of U-26 prepared the boat for scuttling and began to abandon ship with the Gladiolus approaching and firing over their heads in an attempt to discourage scuttling.  However, the U-boat sank stern-first, near Fastnet, with the entire crew of 48 being picked up by Gladiolus and taken prisoner. U-26 was unique in that she never suffered onboard casualties, even during her sinking!

Note– DEMS = Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship. These gunners would be either serving members of the Army or Royal Navy.

 

Researcher: Terry Randall
Published.: 4th February 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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