Thursday, June 27, 2013

Final Installment on WW II

Interview with Newton Williamson of Grey's Point Bonefish Inn

To refresh your memory, Eric Wiberg is writing a book about German Submarines in WW II in the Bahamas. To see the original post about the survivors of the U-boat attack in FLY PAPER click here. 
The survivors arrive in New York City
Eric Wiberg summarizes the arrival of the survivors to Acklins Island saying:

"It turns out that after passing Hogsty Reef and arriving of Castle Island the 47 survivors and the body of Parson headlined north up the coast, looking for buildings and a landing. They found one by Pine Field, a small settlement on the northeast of Acklins, not Salinas after all. The adults were mostly out cutting bark ( Cascarilla bark is used to make the liqueur Campari. - Ed. ) so children like Newton Williamson and Remilda Cox ran down to the beach to meet the emaciated men. Then a child or two was dispatched to find adults, who were summoned from the fields and the settlement of Hard Hill. They bought some basic foodstuffs which were devoured on the beach.
Remilda Cox
Newton Williamson

Rev. Capt. Collie ordered his sailboat, which lay at anchor in Anderson Settlement a few miles down the coast, to go up the coast an bring them men south, which was done. The men then had a painful walk under the sun up the hill a few miles to Hard Hill where large cool stone buildings - the Methodist Church and the school house provided shelter (see photos).

Methodist Church
The old school house

Then they recuperated and the following day a modest service for Parson was held, and he was interred. When they were ready the lifeboat was abandoned and they all boarded the GO ON, which was quite a sizeable gaff-rigged sloop which was used to making the ocean-going run up to Nassau. They took the men around Castle Island, around Long Cay / Fortune Island to near Bird Island Rock many miles away off Crooked Island, where Betty Carstairs in the VERGEMERE IV intercepted them and rushed them by speed boat to Nassau in less than 24 hours....

By Mari Anderson and Fritz Damler & friends

Mr. Williamson points to where the survivors were first seen.

Go on Helped w/ the rescue of the lifeboat and they landed in Hard Hill
Does that sound familiar to you – US sailors torpedoed in 1942 – 33 days crossing the ocean
You bringing something new to me now – I remember a ship sank and a number of men who were drifting for days – they came right here in the same settlement out there – I was the only one, me and 2-3 more of us right here, I remember it quite well
I was young very young – maybe maybe I was no more than 7 or 8 – 
From what we understand sloop GO ON towed their metal raft to Hard Hill
They towed it to Hard Hill – I can show you the spot
Yes I remember one of them did die, buried right in Hard Hill cemetery
Alfred Samuel Collie he was the pastor of the church
I remember that – I following you now..
What come’s to mind? Stands out/
Well all we know is that these people came ashore right out there – the boat came ashore only us here, children, our parents were working on the cays off the coast there – only was 3 or 4 of us, my sister in law she was the older one, they came in and we cooked for them b/c they didn’t eat for – 
Yeah, they didn’t have anything
We kept them at the school house in Hard Hill, we cooked and feed them what we had, corn grits and whatever
Then that evening, Sammy Collie, Alfred Collie then that evening they towed the other boat down to Hard Hill they carried the boat that they came in, then I think after they contact the commissioner them, then Alfred Collie he took them to Nassau on the GO ON . I remember it now, it rings a bell
Lifeboat – I don’t know if he carried it but the lifeboat didn’t stay around  it wasn’t around, I don’t know if he carried but maybe they took it with them? Yes
GO ON – well that was some of the biggest sail boat we had those days, went from here to Nassau and back and after a few years after sold it – 
To someone not on Acklins – sold it to another family islands
She was a two –master, had in it a little engine plus a sail. I remember it quite well now
How big was it? She was big, about maybe about 40 feet overall, maybe 30 feet on the bottom – bowsprit
Any photos? No all houses all mash up by hurricane in hard Hill, if something would have been in there but all destroyed, but a hurricane called Donna in 1961- whacked bird rock Landrail Point – yeah that was the one 
Laughter – such a young boy big deal for you
Very young we really only us a children, only one grown person, the other family members farming out there, go there to farm, get some bark and fish and – we were small about 3 or 4 of us and sister in law Remilda – she the one that did the cooking – she live till just a month ago now she in Nassau
I have her # you can call her – she has good rememberence – would love to get the # he would love to follow up. 
The one, I know he was the captain, kept saying “food, food!” He went and trying to do whatever he could – and we gave whatever we had, and would do it again.
There are a few survivors of that who are still alive
This young man who is still alive feels it is an important to tell the story – if you would like to take a photo of where the men came in – right out there – straight down the road – I’ll go and drive – before you make that bend before you go that way – straight as though you going to the sea. Since you came this far, might as well (laughter) we were going to go that way anyway to talk with Leonard collie.
He might have some memories -
He was not living here then, he was out of Chester’s You are talking to the man now, whatever we could do then we did – I ain’t young now but that ring a bell back , as you say back then I remember there was a boat came in here and they say their sink ship out there and they say they was drifting for so many days, and they came right in the bay here, and from there we help take care of them until the other men – we didn’t have no grown people much here, so we went to the Hard Hill and told them about it, and they went this way, and that evening they took them all that way – that was the long walk
Yeah long walk to Hard Hill – do you remember the GO ON
Our account said the GO ON towed the lifeboat to that point NO NO NO the boat, they towed it from HERE to Hard Hill but the raft itself on its own – it arrived and it drift right in here – well god had that planned to them so it came through the channel – they didn’t even touch the reef, god had that plan for them, came in right to the beach here. Yeah I could go – would you mind… phone # just in case – they walk to beach. 
It’s tremendous – STANDING ON BEACH – Interviewer narrates:
So they hit here, your brother down there let them know then they brought the GO ON back here and then they took everyone down that way, towed em down there, they buried him at Hard Hill Cemetery then they took them overland to the Bight there and the mailboat took them (he says NASSAU) to Long Cay – yeah wow! What a story – he confirms by murmuring yes and saying Yes Mam.
Williamson says; Plane went down someone down there – she came here just to look at the place where the plane went down – maybe it gave her some kind of comfort – went down between here and Plana Cays. Very sad. To give her some comfort. Look at all that rope there in the pile.
TAPE 4 – walking in bush This is where you can’t see but I was born in the house behind that one that’s building – the roof that is showing, I was born right there – I was there and was looking out - and right there I saw this, boat, it came right here – right through the channel here..
Let’s go by the beach a bit more. Mr. Williamson you are one of the only people who has an eyewitness memory of this after all these years. 
W: Yes eye-witness (wind) – I kind of hesitate to remember because it was a long time, but after you came here and said there was a couple of people in this boat, then it came back to me. 49 people that is amazing. This boat came and all of these people – inaudible – I remember that, this boat came, right here, where we was. (sounds of walking in bush, wind)
It was right here – pointing on beach. “Get closer”
Now you are going to be a celebrity – laughter – wind
Around this point here…. Wind – they came in and how was it that the GO ON was able to tow them – Collie – Albert Collie, he lived in Hard Hill and the GO ON was anchored down there, so we were able to run down and tell him – I send my younger brother and another one, I send them…. They all died now. Passed away – we called them Policeman – 
What was the constable’s name – He had another one on Bain in the crew too - well we had one Bain in the crew too, all of them was from Hard Hill but he wasn’t the constable – they the one that took the body and buried it up in the graveyard up there – they would - when they do things like that in those days the government would pay the cost, take care of them and tow them to Nassau and feed them. 
Right – then the GO ON took them to Long Cay then another larger boat took them to Nassau – cause all they had was the mailboat but the mailboat never used to come here – took them from the other side, Crooked Island. They took them over there and sailed from there.
This is the place where they came – it bring it fresh to me now! Yes, laughter – brings it back (emotion)
Boat run from Nassau to Long island Crooked island Long Cay and Inagua they called it the AIR PHEASANT. Yes – laughter. Like the bird PHEASANT – yes she made the trip per week, she was big, 107 (or 170?) feet, it was a steam ship, it wasn’t like the DEBORNE (?) - it was owned by the salt people in Inagua – supply ship for all of Inagua – yeah. (ericksons and Morton owned the salt works in Inagua)
We can’t thank you enough – I was glad I was of some help – you were carrying in your head that would be so useful to people you haven’t met – Mr Parsons’ family would have appreciated what you did
There was only a little track road, you had to walk it – I had to walk from here to Hard Hill to school, from morning come back in the evening – I had a little horse one time but not for very long – we used to go 5 days to school and 1 day to church – 6 days – pity you didn’t have a dinghy you could sail down – we did that some times – coming back would be yeah – difficult
Pleasure to meet y’all – glad to give you something of an idea of what had took place up in here.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fascinating story. One thing that stands out for me is the humble attitude of all the Bahamians. They struggled to put food on their own tables (note that all the adults were away, leaving the kids to be minded by an older sibling), and yet the first thing they did was feed and shelter the survivors. Yet, when they tell the story it's "yeah, they came ashore, we ran and got the adults, then we towed them to a safe place with shelter and we fed them, and helped them bury the deceased guy". No big deal. And we'd do it again. I love the Bahamians and the Bahamas.