Story of the S.S. Alexander Ramsey Sent in by Charles R. Amidon, Jr., 522 Brandon St., Owosso, MI 48867-1833 This story is dedicated to all the men who sailed aboard the S.S. Alexander Ramsey Voyage #7, August 4, 1944. It was started by our signalman Vern Anderson and completed by Charles Amidon, also in remembrance of Eldor Goes GM2/c. Yesterday we left Loch Ewe at 1945. Heavy fog set in at 0830. By 0845 we had our first close call, nearly hitting a tanker on our port side. Rudder hard right, engines stopped. Rudder kept on hard right til another ship loomed out of fog on starboard side. Rudder hard left. Everyone was on his toes, as forward holds contained bombs with detonators already attached, and remaining detonators for other six thousand tons of demolition bombs which completed our cargo. Rudder was put hard left until still another ship suddenly appeared off our port bow. About this time, the general idea in mind was to get out of fairway and drop the hook until the fog lifted. "'Chips,' the ship's carpenter, take a sounding" was the first order heard from the bridge. "Sixty fathoms," came the reply from the bow. Orders were given to report depth regularly. Second report fifty fathoms, third report forty fathoms. Fourth report four fathoms, but before report reaches bridge, ship was reported on port bow. "Engines full astern, redder hard right." Mate sings out, "Captain can't clear beach." Altman and aft gunner ring general alarm. Everything seems to happen all at once. Shoals are spotted, breakers are heard on beach, and extremely high cliff looms up on port side. Charles Amidon was on the bow and was thinking the wake in front of our ship was a fog buoy on a cable, but it was land, as our ship was climbing the rocks. Ship is vibrating violently as result of engines full astern with way on, and bottom scraping rock. At this time all hands have answered alarm, some having only dungarees and life jackets on. We have come to a halt on the rocks, engines are stopped. All hands are very badly shaken and shocked, but nothing compared to our captain who has been a complete nervous wreck since our cargo of demolition bombs were loaded. Hardly taking time to look the situation over, engines were put full astern again, with helm still hard over. Ship again shook violently as she inched her way off the rocks. Finally cleared engines were changed to half ahead, with intentions of clearing cliff. Gunnery officer suggests to captain to wait until fog lifts before proceeding. Being a headstrong master and believing his navigational ability not to be questioned, he decides to proceed against protest by mates and gunnery officer, who have safety of crew in mind. As ship begins to make headway, captain states, "Look, we are clear, we're making headway." At this moment a deep ramble was heard forward and we were almost shaken off the bridge as she swayed from side to side. Men on the bow were thrown to the decks as she finally jumped to a distinct halt. Engines were put to full astern for some time but to no avail. Here we are high and dry with twelve feet forward instead of our usual twenty-four. Tide is maximum. Radio silence is broken, distress rockets are fired, colors are hoisted upside down, and ship's bell is being rung continuously. When sharks are reported swimming nearby, some wise guy reports vultures hovering overhead. Johnston, who just this morning offered Andy thirty dollars for his watch, now flashed a "fin" in his face in hopes of making a fast deal. Heavy oil slicks appear around the ship, giving evidence of punctured fuel tanks and bilges. As fog begins to lift, we realize that our distress signals have not been in vain, as the image of a man is spotted on top of the cliff. Oral communication is difficult, but after some time, we manage to understand "Spearhead." The charts reveal that this position is four miles off our course. Our radio operator sent out a distress signal; later on, I did find out the radio distress signal was received by Joe Marrah of my home town of Owosso, Michigan. I met Joe on leave in an Owosso ice cream parlor. I was telling him about our going on the rocks and he advised me that he received the SOS as he was stationed in Ireland as a radio operator for the navy. Later we learned that four miles off course in these waters put us in about the most dangerous spot in this hemisphere. At 1015 merchant ships spotted off starboard quarter. Pete fired distress signals and Andy tried to contact it with blinker, but ship continued on without answering either signal. Captain sends "Pat" down for coffee for mate and himselfi Pat being a bit on the jumpy side hurriedly made his way below. In no time flat he was back with a pitcher and two cups. As luck would have it for Pat's sake, the mate tried the coffee first and was astonished to find the coffee salted instead of sweetened. Pat was full of apologies and rushed below again to make a fresh batch. (1100) The man on the cliff was spotted again and by this time visibility was clear enough to make out his uniform to be that of a British Naval officer. He brought news that help was on its way. Evidently we were near some lighthouse or lookout station. (1115) Ship sighted on starboard beam. Rockets are fired, whistles blown, bell rang, 20mm gun fired and blinker used to draw his attention. He turned out to be a HM Man of War. After revealing our plight to him, he said that he could be of no assistance but would stand by for our protection against enemy boats or submarines who evidently must have picked up our position from our radio message. (1130) Small boat with a British Naval Lt. Comdr. alongside followed by two salvage tugs. After a slight conference by the officers attempts were made to free us from the rocks. The boats, being too small were unable to move us. At this time word was received by man on cliff that Navy salvage trawlers were on the way to our rescue. (1330) Salvage crew arrived, salvage officer (Robinson) boarded ship. Upon boarding, the salvage officer finds by checking out draft that we are aground aft as well as forward. By this time the tide is receding fast and ship is creaking, particularly midships, caused by the strain of the weight of the cargo. Realizing that low tide might cause friction enough to ignite our cargo, Lt. Harper suggested that we abandon ship during low tide. Ship was abandoned at 1530, including kittens. Draft is seven feet forward and 19 feet aft. Sure are sitting high. We all put to sea on the trawler "Melinda." No one got sea sick. We were taken to Scapo Flow, Scotland, a British Navy base. I remember staying in a hospital in Scapo Flow, where I met a British sailor. He never could pronounce Amidon right. He used to perform by eating razor blades. He said he did this in a circus in England. Reboarded the Ramsey at 1730 and the cooks got busy with chow, as we were all starved. The following three hours were spent waiting for high tide before salvage work could begin. (2030) Tugs have begun work, as tide is nearly maximum. They are rocking us a lot but so far we haven't moved so that anyone can notice it. The boys hope those potatoes (bombs) from Maine can stand the bumps. The gunners are all on deck enjoying the weather and scenery on top of the cliff, and I do mean scenery. "Whoops, where is Pete? .... Yep, that's right, in the sack as usual. Whatta man." We have quite a gallery on the cliff top. About a dozen gals are the center of attraction for the boys aboard ship. Amidon decided the girl in green was pretty nice. All in all, the gunners seem more interested in the gals than the rocks below. (2045) The stern has finally moved out about a foot. The chief engineer just called the bridge saying he had the forward pumps going like hell. The oil slick is getting thick and the sides are taking an awful beating,. Looks like rocking around isn't doing us much good. Hope she doesn't get a notion to blow up. Look-out very alert. He just spotted the girl in green sitting on some guy's lap. All the boys are hoping it gets better as time goes by. (2120) Stern is finally clear, bow still hanging. Captain tries to be funny at this point and calls the bow telling Bos'n to shove off with a boat hook. Bow must be hung up on starboard side as ship is listing to port. Things are beginning to look better, everybody seems happy. Even Pete is out of the sack. All we are hoping for now is that she doesn't sink when she does finally come clear. A small boat full of native sightseers are approaching our bow, showing off some dandy fish they caught on the way out. Seems like the boys on the bow talked them into giving them up. Somebody reported them to be six feet long and that they were going to haul them on board with the winch, but I see they finally agreed to three feet and six are now hauling them aboard by hand. They really are some nice looking fish though. If these people only knew what we were loaded with, I don't imagine they would come alongside. Our bow is finally starting to move and the gang is praying that it doesn't part with the rest of the ship. It's coming slow but sure. A few bumps and a lot of noise. That's all and we're clear. His Majesty has done it again and sure saved the taxpayers back home a lot of money this time. Whistle blowing like it is the Fourth of July or something. Sure feels good to be afloat again and we are actually floating. Show is over for the audience on the cliff. It is now 2144 and we are on our way again. Hope it is smooth sailing from here on in.
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