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Cyril Clemitson - more

The following article appeared in the Haydon News of July 2015.

Cyril Stuart Clemitson - Merchant Navy

The steamship ‘Dalryan’ was sunk by a mine a few miles off the south-east coast on December 1st 1939. The thirty eight crew members and the pilot were all saved and one of the survivors was Haydon Bridge’s Cyril Stuart Clemitson; the only son of Thomas and Mary Stuart Clemitson (nee Curry) of Brigwood. The Dalryan was due to dock at a British port afterbeing away from home waters for ten months during which time it covered 50,000 miles, calling at ports in China, Japan and India. Cyril left an account of his survival, published in the Hexham Courant on December 9th 1939.

‘I was down below in my cabin, having forty winks before preparing to get the landing gear ready. I was aroused from my sleep by a terrifying noise. The metal side of the ship was ripped like so much paper. Metal spars and other heavy deck materials were thrown into the air. Those who were unfortunate enough to be on deck were blown clean off their feet, several sustaining broken bones. I was thrown from my bed and my cabin was totally shattered, my portable radio, wardrobe and other furnishings being turned to matchwood. Broken glass was strewn all over the cabin and the contents of the drawers were scattered. The electric current was cut off, together with all radio communications. I groped around for my torch and lifebelt and ran up on deck where we re-rigged the radio mast and our wireless operator got the radio going again.’

Once on deck, there was a second explosion and Second Officer Clemitson and his shipmates had to take cover from the falling pieces of wreckage.

‘The ship by this time had gone down bow first, my cabin being one of the first places submerged, and before we left in the ship’s boats she was half under water.’

Fortunately, the coastguards had seen the ship’s plight and the crew and pilot hadn’t been in the ship’s boats for long before they were picked up and landed on shore.

Sadly, Cyril was not so fortunate in August 1943. By then a Chief Officer, he lost his life when his ship the SS Dalfram, was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean.

Cyril Stuart Clemitson went to sea in 1931 after leaving Hexham Grammar School and gained his First Mate’s Certificate in June 1938 and, at the time of the Dalryan incident, was completing his training before entering for his skipper’s ticket. Before going to sea, Cyril was a member of St Cuthbert’s Church choir and actively involved with the 1st Haydon Bridge Boy Scouts, leading the troop to the World Jamboree at Birkenhead in 1929.

By kind permission of the Haydon News

This story also is re-told in 'Tynedale at War' by Brian Tilley, Pen and Sword Books, 2017