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Willowpool - Crew's Dash for the Boats

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, Monday, December 11th, 1939:
West Hartlepool Steamer Sunk. CREW’S DASH FOR THE BOATS. “Miracle” All Saved. Men taken aboard a Lightship. One minute playing cards ... the next moment racing for the boats for their lives. This was the dramatic experience of the crew of 36 of the 4,815-ton West Hartlepool steamer Willowpool, who were landed by lifeboat at an East Coast port today, having been picked up by a lightship after the Willowpool had been mined.
A few of the men were slightly injured, but there was no serious casualty. For three hours the men rowed about before they were able to reach the lightship, where they waited until the lifeboat took them off.
Members of the crew told a Press Association reporter that the ship was set afire, and while they struggled to get to the boats, masts and stays collapsed around them. The wireless operator of the Willowpool had barely time to send out an S.O.S. “Somehow he managed to get out his message," said one the crew, “and then the apparatus 'conked' out”. “We were all of us playing cards one moment and racing to the boats the next. It was a miracle that we all got away." Another member of the crew said “we can thank our lucky stars that not one of us was killed. Water poured in. We abandoned ship and rowed away to the lightship. The Willowpool was then still afloat, but taking water at a great rate. She was heavily laden and it would have been hopeless to have stayed." He added that it was tight fit on the lifeboat later.
In the early days of the war the Willowpool rescued the crew of a Fleetwood trawler which had been shelled by a submarine in the Irish Sea.
The Willowpool is owned by the Pool Shipping Co. Ltd., of West Hartlepool. She was built at Stockton in 1925. The master of the Willowpool is Capt. N.G. Oliver, of 219 Park Road, West Hartlepool, and the chief officer is Mr. R. Elliott, of 6 Portinscale Terrace.

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