Leeds nostalgia: Leeds boy in 1943 ocean drama

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A Leeds boy who was aboard a torpedoed merchant vessel survived after spending 10 days in the open boat, it was reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post on this day in 1943.

Malcolm Hinchcliff, 16, an orphan living with his aunt, Mrs Hogg, at Far Fold Terrace, Theaker Lane, Armley, was recovering from the effects of exposure but when the Evening Post reporter visited him, he said he was ready to go back to sea, adding: “There’s nowt doing here.”

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He left Upper Armley National School at 14, then ran off to join the Navy. At 16, he had already travelled the world, being to America three times and also to Australia and New Zealand.

He was 350 miles off the Azores and part of a crew of about 100 when his ship was hit by two torpedoes. Lifeboats were launched and three managed to get away but a fourth was sunk as it was being lowered to the water.

Malcolm recalled: “I climbed into Number 3 lifeboat with 24 others, including five lads of 17 to 19. We pushed off and when we were about 100 yards from the ship, a submarine came up, then submerged. We heard the swish and bang of a torpedo passing out boat.

“The submarine came up again and someone on board shouted to us to go alongside. They questioned our second mate as to how many we had on board. When he said 25 he was told it was too many to take in the submarine. They took the second mate.

“The skipper gave us some idea of our barings and with the help of the sextant we set off for the Azores. I developed cramp on the third day, we had plenty of fresh water and biscuits and chocolate… we managed to reach land after 10 days. The galley-boy, aged 19, died from exposure the day we sighted land.”

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