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Remainder of Bill Loughborough’s letter to his wife regarding the SS Leopoldville

October 6, 2016


Remainder of Bill Loughborough’s letter to his wife, regarding the sinking of the SS Leopoldville:

…Drew and McFall were in the compartment at the time of the catastrophe.  Both were sleeping, and when they awoke they were completely submerged.  “Mac” was on his way thru the hole made by the torpedo in the starboard side by the time he awoke.  The force of the water which had rushed in and back-watered from the opposite side must have carried him out.  He can’t swim a lick.  He came to the surface along side the disabled ship and was pulled back aboard by someone on deck.  Drew surfaced within the compartment as soon as he awoke.  There was still about a foot of breathing space between the water and the ceiling so he worked his way across beams to the hatchway.  A ladder, a steel one, which came down the length of the hatchway was still intact, so he climbed to the deck on that.  Drew is 38 years old, is about 5’1”, weighs about 110, and can’t swim a stroke!  He heard some one in the compartment call out before he left, but there was nothing he could do.  Whoever it was was probably pinned in by a table or something.  He didn’t see a soul.

They said the ship began listing terribly about 9, and most of those still on deck slid down her tipped side and into the water.  Only one other destroyer was able to tie onto the “Leopoldville and remove some boys.  Even this one had to leave when only half full because the big ship was leaning already.  So, I was lucky in getting in on the only full destroyer load taken off.

No order to abandon ship was ever given!  I guess all in authority saved their own necks first.  They say when the big ship slipped beneath the waves there were still boys on deck.  Some of these probably joined in with the others who had jumped and slid off sooner, and fought to get on tugs, rafts, lifeboats, destroyers, and everything that was floating.  Many drowned in the the mad rushes for boats and because of not wearing their life-preservers correctly.

Well, there it is!  If you have any questions, I’ll answer ‘em.    Bill

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