The signal to Abandon Ship! is only given in dire straits and it was almost always followed by the sinking of the ship.
In wartime, of those who survived the initial attack, it was not certain they would live long enough to be rescued. Sailors of the Merchant Navy were aware of the risks when they signed on, but they still went off to sea, to do their bit.
The following extract is taken from the poem Abandon Ship! by former Merchant Navy captain (Master) and poet Joe Earl:
“Your ship becomes a victim, so thoughts run through your head,
Shall I find my shipmates, are they maimed or dead?
Better grab my cigarettes – wrap `em water tight,
Is the enemy still waiting to kill us all for spite?
Should I try to put the fire out, that’s blazing on the deck,
Am I wasting time, if the ship’s a total wreck,
Shall I jump overboard, and swim beneath the oil,
Before I’m blown asunder and depart this mortal coil?
I may not hear `abandon ship` or any firm dismissal,
If there is a smashed up bridge or no steam on the whistle,
Where the Hell’s my lifejacket? – that I mustn’t spurn,
The vessel now is listing and sinking by the stern.”
[From MERCHANT SEAMEN – A TRIBUTE IN VERSE by Joe Earl]
To find out more about the experience of abandoning ship, join us on board the HQS Wellington for our free mini lunchtime lecture at 1.15pm on Monday 10 July. The talk will be given by Abandon Ship volunteer Simon Q.
Written by SNiF