Master Standfast
(MGB 508)

The image below is of the Gay Viking, a partner ship to Master Standfast.

In September 2007 I received an email from David Broadley. His late father was Reginald John Broadley, a member of the crew of the Master Standfast. He provided me with a letter which had been found in the Ellerman Wilson Shipping Offices in Hull.  It is written by one Erich Matern and relates to the capture of the Master Standfast by the Germans in November 1943. It was written in 1950, with the help of a secret diary, so the authors memory was probably quite fresh and accurate. Only 7 years had passed. He starts off:

Seven years have gone .....During the stupid war the German soldiers were absolutely forbidden to have a diary. I have had one and it is lying  before me. I was then the Captain of a German Minesweeper, with my boat in the Skager Rak. It was a long night that black night between the 1st and 2nd of November 1943. Steering along the well lighted Swedish coast we were going to a Danish harbour where we were to supply our depth charges. Suddenly "alarm"!

Gunfire in the east and a wireless message that in the grey dawn of the coming day one of our patrol boats had captured a big British motor launch. The morning came and we steamed to Fredrickhavn where the prize was taken in. She was "Master Standfast" one of the nice group (Under Captain Goodman?), SS Hopewell, Guy Corsair, Guy Viking (see image) etc. Officially she was a small tanker bound for Lysekil (Sweden). The crew consisted of 18 men.

I personally admired the Tommies who had crossed the North Sea to sail into the "jaws of the lion". Now they were taken ashore and the six wounded were transported to the hospital. Speaking English, I was, by chance, the first to question the prisoners before the official "inquisitors" came from Kiel and Berlin. It was interesting for me to conduct the preliminary part of the trial and I made (secretly) a list of the details I heard. Seeing the list of the names before me I remember many particulars of those brave sailors.

What has happened in these "glorious" seven years? In spite of all the trouble of today I should like to know more about "Master Standfast" and her crew. It was a pity I had to leave Fredrikshavn the third of November 1943. Being only a little Lieutenant (navy volunteer reserve) I was no longer needed and had to sail into the North Sea when the numerous professional inquiring officers had arrived in their clean uniforms and in big fine cars.

I include a list of the crew of "Master Standfast" perhaps it is of some historical interest for you. I should like to enter one of your ships and come to see those 17 mariners of Old England.  The event was only of secondary importance for the course of the foolish and terrible Nasi-war, however a lot of details may be told about that singular adventure of your boat, especially as I have never heard about anything aboiut the end of the story.

The most impressive fact was the death of poor Mr Holdsworth, the Captain, who had just replaced Captain Goodman. I sopke to him in his last hours, knowing from the German doctor that the brave hero would soon sleep his eternal sleep in Jutland, far away from his family and his country. When the land was behind us, I had time to think of Mr Holdsworth, as there were long solitary hours on the wintry waters, when we were gazing from the bridge across the wide spaces of the everlasting sea.

I hope for Mr Brown (the second in command) that he has recovered from the loss of his foot, and I hope that the other men had a happy end to the war and came home in safety.

About me, there is nothing to be told except that I am a teacher, now 46 years old, have a nice wife, a daughter (13 years old) and two boys (11 and 8). My country was (not has been) East Prussia, Konigsberg, what is now called Kaliningrad and inhabited by Mongols.

Give my sincere and respectful feeling to all members of your famous boat, especially th the family of Mr holdsworth. Tell them that my thoughts are going these very days to a lonely tomb in Denmark ...

With the best wishes, yours sincerely, Erich Matern.

The Crew of Master Standfast (Ellerman Wilson Line, Hull).

1. Captain George Holdsworth, dead for his country.

Honouring him I remember the poem "The Soldier" of Rupert Brooke:

If I should die, think only this of me
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
in that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learned of friends, and gentleness,
In hearts of peace, under an English heaven ....

2. Alwyn Brown, Chief Officer (had a beautiful beard)

3. Walter Kean, Chief Engineeer

4. Thomas Jardine, Mate

5. Robert Boag, Second Officer (his wife waited for a baby in December 1943, I hope all is well with mother and child. The father had a gospel with him)

6. Albert John Fox, Wireless Telegraphist ("Sparks", I expect him to have forgotten his wound. Had 1943 only one child, how many has he now).

7. Reginald John Broadley, another Telegraphist. (Did he get the promised 25 pounds in spite of the failure of that trip?)

8. Dennis Moore, a good steward (will celebrate his birthday just a week before Christmas)

9. Frederick O'Dell, Cook (Celtic race, famous for his plum puddings)

10. Clarence Patrick, (Did he go back to East asia? Did he marry once more, as he had been divorced?)

11. Arthur John Hannah (the same birthday as Mr Patrick, but 4 years younger.)

12. Bennett Miller (was in love with a nice girl in England. I hope they are married now)

13. Tom East, came just in time at Immingham, a clever helmsman

14. Raymond Colin Hobley, once bombed in Liverpool

15. Benjamin Tomlinson, the good old greaser. How many children has he now? How did his wife come through the war with 6 children?

16. Francis Nicholson, able bodied seaman, typical citizen of grey Hull.

17. James David Tappan. This brave Canadian remembers the Danubian!

18. (last not least) Thomas Joseph Rush, sly like a fox, could be a member of the Secret Service, at least.

http://www.hullcc.gov.uk/portal/page?_pageid=221,95619&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL