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Sound: seafarer recalls German air attack on his convoy

Audio file

Jim Blundell was born in Napier in 1924. Determined to get overseas, in May 1943 he got a job in the engine room of the Port Line cargo ship Port Fairy. Two months later, the ship was sailing in a small convoy with two troopships when it was attacked by German bombers off Portugal. After completing a number of voyages between the UK, South America and New Zealand, Jim joined an American ship supplying US naval forces and air bases in the Pacific.

Hear Jim Blundell recall the German air attack on his convoy.


And the next thing we left with these - and there were only two of them - two troop ships, the Duchess of York and California, and off we set sail. I think it was the Sunday night, the 11th of July, which in England at the time I think they were commemorating the seamen's day of prayer. And these four Focke-Wulf Kondors come over, and before I got up to where my action station was – it was in the ammunition party, and down in the locker and bringing it up – I remember running. It was very vivid because you had to grab your tin hat and all the crap that went with it. I said to this Harry Bryce who was a Welsh guy with me, I said, 'Christ, Harry, look at the sunlight in the portholes.' But what had happened, it wasn't [sunlight] – both ships were raked from stem to stern with bombs. Of course they were on fire, and they were drifting back from us as we were going on.

And the next thing, from memory, is that we turned about and lay off, as you say, to bring some of these victims aboard. The chief steward-purser opened the bond locker –  everything, grog, you could get and give to these guys. They were coming aboard up a sort of a net, and, actually, it was my first experience of seeing men with the shit running down their legs – that's the condition they were in. You'd light a cigarette and give it to them; you'd hand out, you know, could have been whisky, brandy, and they were that tense from the trauma they'd been through they wouldn't touch much. But we were into it and it had no effect; that's from the stress you were under. You heard men yelling out. They used to have a life jacket and a red light would come up, and they were all over the bloody place, and I remember one guy, it was getting dark, and we could hear him yelling out not to leave him, he had a wife and kids, you know, that sort of thing. These were the distressful parts of that night.

Jim Blundell's United States merchant marine certificate

Jim Blundell's United States merchant marine certificate, 1945


Image: Jim Blundell collection

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Sound: seafarer recalls German air attack on his convoy, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated