AB Colin Hugh Seaman JX232260
and the sinking of U-761 on 24 February 1944
Colin Seaman was born in
Forest Gate, London, on 19 October 1923, the son of a hairdresser, and
was 93 when he died on 2 February 2017. He left school when he was
fourteen and had a
series of short lasting jobs: a Telegraph boy at the Post Office (he
failed his exam and left), a small engineering firm, a “shop boy” doing
odd jobs in a grocery shop (scrubbing floors, cleaning windows,
delivering customer orders by bike) and as a capstan operator in an
making machine tools. Colin loved cycling and bought a new BSA bicycle
with money earned from a paper round and cycled all round the south
coast staying at Youth Hostels.
Colin is on the right In the photograph on the left taken at Algiers in
December 1942 after the landings in North Africa, Operation Torch, Colin is on the right.
The photograph on the right was taken at Alex in 1943 after the first
through convoy from Gib and shortly before the landings in Sicily,
He volunteered for the Navy on 16 December 1941 when he
was eighteen. After three months training at HMS Collingwood, and two months at HMS Victory, Portsmouth, he was drafted to HMS Wishart at Gibraltar and went there on a troop ship, the Llanstephan Castle.
He joined Wishart on 22 April
as an OD (Ordinary Seaman), was promoted to AB on 15 October 1942 and
remained aboard until 12 May 1944 when she was paid off.
Colin Seaman's action station was on X Gun at the stern. The big 4.7 inch
guns were breech loading without brass cartridges. The gun crew of six
or seven men included the captain of the gun operating the breech, the
loaders who put the cordite case (of thin leather like a silk stocking) in the breech after the shell had been rammed home.
The cordite was detonated by a small cartridge placed in the breech after
it was closed. There was also a gun layer (elevation), gun trainer and
sight setter receiving orders from the Gunnery Officer on the bridge.
Colin was the sight setter. During their "club runs" to Malta they were
bombed so often they slept on the gun deck to be close to their guns.
Colin Seaman's name caused some embarrassment on paydays when the crew
assembled on deck, caps off, stepped smartly forward to the desk, and
gave their name and rank, “Seaman, AB”. Curiously, a stoker on Wishart
was also named Seaman, the only person he ever met who had the same
surname as himself.
In June 1943 Cdr Scott in Wishart
was the senior officer of the Escort for GTX.3, one of the first
through convoy from Gib to Alex after the surrender of Axis Forces in
North Africa. On arrival at Alex the crew went were given shore leave
before returning to their ship to escort the troopships to the
landing beaches in Sicily, Operation Husky.
When Cdr Scott left at Malta and a Lieutenant was appointed as
CO he became his officer’s servant. His duties included taking him his
breakfast in his cabin when in harbour and when at sea bringing his
meals to his sea cabin near the bridge. He did his washing and cleaned
"On the afternoon of the 24th February, 1944, HMS Anthony,Wishart and Witherington,
together with M.A.D. fitted Catalina aircraft were patrolling to the
westward of Gibraltar. At 1558 one of the Catalinas obtained contact
and smoke floats were dropped between Anthony and Wishart.
The former closed and made contact by asdic ; she did not, however,
attack but crossed the target, thereby causing the aircraft to lose
their M.A.D. contact. Anthony prepared to attack but found herself fouled by Wishart who had also closed and the asdic contact was then lost. The ships and aircraft began a search. After about an hour the Catalinas regained contact. Anthony
closed the smoke floats which they dropped and established asdic
contact but on the aircraft reporting that they were about to attack,
she altered course to port and reduced speed to 7 knots in order to
minimize the interference caused by her wake through which contact was,
in fact, held. The Catalinas made three attacks with Retro-bombs. Anthony
attacked herself at 1701 and with a ten-charge pattern brought the
U-Boat to the surface, more or less out of control. As she began to
submerge Wishart attacked with another ten-charge pattern and at 1712 Anthony dropped a third ten-charge pattern set shallow.
The U-Boat again came to the
surface, this time too damaged to continue the fight. Under fire from
the ships and attacked by U.S.N. Ventura aircraft and Catalina G/202,
her crew abandoned her. She sank within a few minutes. 9 crew died
and 41 survived."
HMS Wishart rescuing survivors from U-761
depth charged U-761 to the surface, the crew scrambled on deck to
escape and the U-Boat rose on end like a cigar and went down vertically
taking many of her crew with it. The rescued crew members were put in
the Tiller Flat and the CO, OberLt. z.See Horst Geider, in the
Wardroom. Colin Seaman was given a pistol and told to stand at the door
and make sure he did not leave. You can read his interrogation after
capture on U-Boat Net. You can read his interrogation after capture on U-Boat Net.
Wishart also rammed a Vichy
French sub, damaged her own bow and had to go into a floating dry dock
at Oran for repair. He did not know if the French sub was sunk.
He remained with HMS Wishart until she was paid off at Portsmouth in 1944. He was sent on a gunnery course at HMS Excellent on Whale Island, Portsmouth, before joining HMS Glenroy,
a Landing Ship, Infantry (LSI). They went to the Far East, took troops
aboard at various ports in India and took part in the assault on
Rangoon in May 1945. The LCI could carry 12 or more Landing Craft
Infantry (LCI). They went up the Irrawaddy, anchored and lowered the
LCI over the side and they ascended the river to Rangoon to unload
their troops. Colin's Action Station was on one of the two Oerlikon
mounted on gun platforms either side of the funnel. They also carried
out beach landings on the Malay peninsula. He left Glenroy on 9 February 1946
and returned home from Colombo on the cruiser, HMS Berwick. His last months in the Navy were spent at HMS Victory and he was demobbed on 29 June 1946.
He had no trade and on
being discharged worked as a labourer building roads until he got on a
Government training course and learned joinery and carpentry and in
time became a skilled cabinet maker and worked for a friend, Ken
Halmes, who had his own small carpentry and joinery business. Colin
Seaman married Doreen White and they had three sons and a daughter.
Seaman lived in his own home in Burnham on Crouch, Essex, with family
living neareby and died on Thursday 2 February 2017 at the good age of