Sink the Manchester


Linda Sherlock

There was an excellent documentary on the History channel here in Britain tonight about the decision by Captain Drew to scuttle the cruiser, H.M.S. Manchester off the coast of North Africa in 1942.

As well as taking us through the story of the torpedoing of the Malta convoy by Italian E-boats that resulted in the damaging of the Manchester and Captain Drew's decision to scuttle her, the programme deals with a present-day dive on the wreck. The purpose of the dive was to assess the damage to the cruiser and judge whether the captain's decision to scuttle was justified.

In 1942, at a court of Inquiry, Captain Drew was adjudged to have been reckless in scuttling Manchester, despite the fact her steering gear was ruined and the risk of annihilation or capture was imminent. The verdict shocked him and all his crew.

The dive organisers arranged for some of the Manchester's crew to be aboard the dive vessel. She is a HUGE wreck and the underwater pictures were quite spectacular. The divers treated the ship, a war-grave to 13 men, with great respect and nothing was taken but pictures.

The sheer scale of the wreck and the constraints on the length of the dives made it hard to assess the degree of damage inflicted upon the ship.

Naval experts examining the wreck and the film footage, feel she was more seriously damaged than the court of Inquiry was aware.

Her surviving crew are unequivocally of the opinion their captain did the right thing. They feel the verdict ruined an innocent man.

Interestingly, the papers of the so-called inquiry reveal that it was in fact a court martial, though Captain Drew was undefended throughout it. He was dismissed the ship and reprimanded. He never fought the decision out of respect for the Royal Navy, though clearly, he had been badly treated.

Captain Drew never commanded another vessel, though he went on to work with Mountbatten, who felt he had been wrongly convicted. Captain Drew died in 1987 at the age of 92. Deeply wounded inside, he never showed his feelings on the matter or spoke out about it.

The old comrades laid wreaths at the wreck site in honour of the dead. The dive team flew a full battle ensign on the wreck as a sign of respect and left a plaque.

If you missed it, the programme is well worth watching when it is repeated.

Here is a link to the article about it:

Similar threads

Similar threads