by Michael Kirwan on behalf of the Radio Officers Association (ROA) - 20th October 2023
"Title: “Hunter to Hunted.” By Alex. Anderson.
ISBN: 9 781805 411413 – Paperback, 312 Pages. Printed in Great Britain by Amazon in 2023. Available for on-line purchase from www.abebooks.co.uk , and www.amazon.co.uk
Alexander (Alex.) Anderson qualified in 1939 with a Postmasters General Certificate (PMG) in Radio Telegraphy (1st Class) from Dundee Wireless College. The title of the book ‘Hunter to Hunted’ refers to his time on ships owned by both the Christian Salvesen and the Netherlands Shipping & Transport Companies. His first voyage was hunting whales followed by his time during the Second World War when submarines were hunting the ships he was on.
The first ship Alex was assigned to was the ss Salvestria as 3rd Radio Officer on an Antarctic Whaling Expedition. His dad suggested he keep a diary at sea and gave him three school jotters to start off with and his mother gave him a bible. He shared a cabin in the bow of the ship with nine others comprising of five pairs of double bunks. The ship sailed from South Shields for Leith Harbour, South Georgia, calling at Aruba in the Caribbean Sea on the way, with three hundred and fifty men and plenty of cochroaches on board. He quickly became conscious of the most unpleasant smell of whale oil. On the outbound journey some of the ships in the convoy were attacked by U-boats but the Nazis missed the whale factory ship. On arrival at South Georgia, Alex was transferred to one of the whale fleet’s catcher ships the mv Sirra. Like a duck with its new brood the Sirra sailed out of Leith harbour for the fishing grounds on a three month voyage. Harpooning whales and chasing them was a tough job and then towing them back to the factory ship. Alex’s job was to send back messages in Morse code to the base and the floating factory ship. Incidentally the Radio Officer at the base doubled up as the local dentist! Alex’s next ship was the ss New Savilla which he came back to the United Kingdom on from South Georgia on 3rd May 1940. When his leave was up he was invited to join another ship belonging to Christian Salvesen as 2nd Radio Officer. It was the ss Peder Bogen which he joined at South Shields and sailed for Aruba to load a cargo of oil. The voyage out and back to Liverpool was without incident. While in the River Mersey he witnessed nightly bombing raids on Liverpool and he and his colleagues felt very vulnerable with no defences on board. The next voyage was again to Aruba to load oil. She was part of Convoy OB-120 when on 18th September 1940 the ship ss City of Benares beside the Peder Bogen was torpedoed. It was reported that there were 406 people on board, one hundred of who were children. Only 161 survived including 19 children. Alex’s next ship was the oil tanker ss Sourabaya. On this ship he did four round trip crossing the Atlantic Ocean without any major incident. On the following voyage of the Sourabaya after Alex had gone on leave,she was struck by a torpedo in mid-Atlantic. The total loss of crew was ninety-five, including many of Alex’s friends.
The next ship Alex was assigned to was the ss Saluta going over and back to America. During the voyages she experiened serveral threats from U-boats. On one voyage a passenger died at sea and he found the buriel at sea a very moving experience which he never forgot. He joined his last ship the ss Winsum on 10thDecember 1943 as 1st Radio Officer and remainded on her until 8th October 1945. On coming ashore he set up home in Crieff, Perthshire wfhere he ran a successful Radio and TV business and later, a B & B guesthouse with wife Betty.
This is a remarkable first hand account of the author’s time at sea during the Second World War. He served on seven ships and four of them were subsequently sunk. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the war at sea. Well done to his son Bill for publishing the manuscript. Alex was a remarkable brave man. One of the 185,000 merchant seamen and women who served – 1 in every 6 of whom were lost."