Leeds nostalgia: Mariner tells of dramatic sea rescue attempt in 1945

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On this day in 1945, in the Yorkshire Evening Post, there appeared a report of a dramatic sea rescue attempt...

It read: “Further details of the loss of the Empire Patrol, an account of which from a Leeds eye-witness was given in the Evening Post recently, come from another Leeds man, Able-Seaman P Watson, of HMS Brigand, whose home address is King’s Mount, Leeds 7. His father, J C Watson, sends the following extract from a letter: ‘Have you read in the papers recently of the ship Empire Patrol, outward bound from Port Said to Greece, burning at sea? Last Sunday we had orders to proceed forthwith to try to tow her back again. We had no time to pick up stores so our diet consisted of bully beef, biscuits and sardines. We cleared the boom about noon and steamed all out into a heavy swell. This thing can roll worse than anything afloat I think, she is built ‘for it, she is like a barrel below the water...

“‘We picked her up about 1.30 in. the morning and with the sloop stood by her until about 5 o’clock, when dawn was just breaking. The fire had gutted her completely, even her plates were buckled. We went alongside her and tied up, then brought all available hoses to bear. We had to slip again as we couldn’t hold the fire and the swell had smashed us against her side and smashed all the port wing of the bridge and even torn lumps out of the rubbing stake. She had an approximate list of 20 degrees to port. Her forepart was ripped open by a ship rescuing the passengers. Incidentally, fifty were lost. Before we had time even to have a wash the wire parted and... with the engines going half ahead we could just hold her on the course [but] she suddenly listed and halted us in our tracks. She damn near pulled us down with her. She sank in less than a minute.”