Allan MacKenzie

Allan MacKenzie was born in 1894, the son of John and Christina MacKenzie, husband of Esther Mildred MacKenzie of St. Mawes, Cornwall.

Allan MacKenzie was an able seaman in the Merchant Navy. He had been a merchant seaman for all his working life (he was a recipient of the Merchant Seaman’s 1914-18 Campaign Medal). In 1940 he was serving aboard the S.S. Cymbeline, a tanker registered in Liverpool and operating out of Falmouth.

On the morning of 4 August 1940, the German raider Widder (Ram, the German for the star-sign Aries) sighted a merchant vessel. She tracked the vessel all day and made a surprise close range attack after nightfall. The attacked vessel was the 6114-ton Norwegian motor tanker Beaulieu in ballast and en-route from the Azores to Aruba. Four of the crewmen, including the captain, were killed and the other twenty-eight took to the lifeboats and endeavoured to evade capture. After an attempt to torpedo the tanker failed the Widder sank her with demolition charges. The Widder left the scene without picking up any of the survivors despite their being over 1,200 miles from land. However, on 9 August the twenty-eight survivors were picked up by the S.S. Cymbeline and taken to Gibraltar.

On the morning of 2 September 1940, the Widder spotted a tanker. This was the S.S. Cymbeline, sailing in ballast from Liverpool to Trinidad. The Widder began accelerating to intercept the Cymbeline, but this caused the raider to emit large amounts of funnel smoke. The Cymbeline spotted this and began evasive manoeuvres. During the chase, which lasted all day, Captain J. A. Chadwick aboard the Cymbeline was able to radio an armed merchant cruiser to report the raider. Korvettenkapitän Hellmuth Von Ruckteschell aboard the Widder was not aware that his presence had been reported.

By the end of the day the superior speed of the Widder had enabled her catch up with her prey. Shortly after dark the Cymbeline was illuminated by a star-shell fired by the Widder. The Widder then opened fire at a range 2,600 metres. The first salvo caused the explosion of one of the tanker’s boilers. This resulted in scalding steam covering the entire stern section of the ship and preventing the gun crew from even approaching the tanker’s only gun. Following the explosion, the Widder ceased fire. However, upon being told that the Cymbeline was transmitting distress signals, the Widder’s captain ordered his ship to resume fire, concentrating on the tanker’s bridge, which was quickly devastated and set ablaze. Finally, the Widder used a torpedo to dispatch the Cymbeline.

Seven men, including Allan MacKenzie, lost their lives during the action. The Widder spent four searching for survivors and picked up twenty-six. Three men, Captain Chadwick, his First Officer and his Third Engineer evaded capture by lying doggo in their boat. After the Widder had departed they attempted to make for the Azores. Fourteen days later, on the 16 September, they were rescued by the tanker Yolonda and taken to Venezuela.

Ships

Widder – 7,852 tons, lahk widder 01unched 1929, built by Howaldtswerke, Kiel, converted by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg, previous name Neumark, speed 14.8 knots, crew (wartime) 363. Armament: six 150mm L/45 C/16 guns, one Creusot-Schneider 75mm L/35 cannon, one twin 37mm C/30 L/83 and four single 20mm C/30 L/65 flak, two Heinkel He-114 A-2 seaplanes, and four, two twin-mounted, 53.3cm torpedo tubes, with 24 torpedoes. Fate – reverted to original name of Neumark and converted to a repair ship for the Tirpitz. Sold as a merchant vessel she became the Greek Ulysses in 1947 and the German Fechenheim in 1951. On 3 October 1955 she ran onto rocks in the Maalöysund, near Bergen. The wreck was broken up the following year.

S.S. CymbelineSS Cymbeline 19366317 tons, built 1927 by Wm. Hamilton & Co. Ltd., Glasgow, speed 10 knots, crew 35, owned by Bowring C. T. - Oil Tank S.S - Bear Creek Oil & Shipping Co. Ltd. - English & American Shipping Co. Ltd.,

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