Written by: Tom Sheehan
As many of our readers will already know, the 15th MGB Flotilla consisted of the following boats, MGB 2002 (ex 502), MGB 2008 (ex 503), MGB 718 and MGB 318.
This Flotilla was primarily engaged on secret operations to enemy held territory and if you have read C. Hampshires' book "The Secret Navy", you will understand what these type of operations entailed.
MGB 2002 sailed from Aberdeen at 0800 hours on the 11th May 1945 on a mission to Gothenberg in Sweden.
In addition to her crew of twenty five, four additional RN and Merchant Navy personnel were embarked. E.T.A. Gothenberg was 2000 hours on 12th May. At approximately 0345 hours on that moming, MGB 2002 struck a floating mine. About two thirds of the boat was blown to pieces, the Bows, Messdeck, Midships Galley, P.O.'s Mess and Bridge were gone; all that remained was the Engine Room Ward Room and Tiller Flat.
There were only two survivors, P. O. Motor Mechanic Thomas H. Sheehan and Able Seaman Norman T. J. Hine, D.S.M.
One of the crew of MGB 2003 received the following letter dated 28th May 1945 from Tom Sheehan, who was in Christiansand Hospital, Norway.
This letter is quoted verbatim with the approval of the writer. Any alteration would detract from the narrative and pathos of the situation.
"Hi ya kid How you going pal; alright I hope, as it don't leave me so good at present. I am lying on my back in a Norway hospital waiting for an operation, you see Bert, I am going to have three of my toes taken off (Frost Bite). Gangrene has set in. Yes pal, we have had a rough time Norman Hine and myself; it has been a proper nightmare son.
The Boat was mined about 3.45 a.m. I was very lucky, I relieved Hearn at 3.30 and he went up forward along with Jock. I was on watch with Bristow when all of a sudden ‘Wipe’ Bigger Bang than that. Bristow runs up the hatch, don't worry I was behind him. See how much damage, when I looks, all Forward didn't exist, it was blown to smithereens, so you can guess what happened to Jock, and Charlie, also Andy can't you, including Jim, Gordon, Coddy, Olly. Anyway Taff Bartley he had half a face and arm hanging off; Jeeny Wren he was alright; Norman, Hugh Coppins and Bristow and a couple of Merchant Navy Officers.
She was sinking very fast Bert, and we couldn't cut away the SN 1, it was well lashed down. The Dinghy had a great hole in it. We were properly in ---- street, the time came when we had to abandon. When I dived in I had no life belt, come to think of it none of them did. I managed to hang on to a Carley float which had been blown apart; along with me was Bristow. Well kid, you can imagine how long it lasted with our weight. All of a sudden Bristow said he thought he saw another Carley float drifting well out. Well, Bert, I took off my jacket I still had on and swam for it against the tide and believe me pal what a swim; yes, it was one and intact as well but I was dead beat. Anyway I managed to get back to Bristow and he climbed aboard and Bert, the cries of someone was terrible, it proper shook me up and we couldn't see them because of the Swell.
We paddled around to find anyone, when old Norman popped out from somewhere hanging onto a hammock and an SN 6 standard. We pulls him aboard and we started off again, and pal the sights that we saw was something terrible. I felt like spewing and breaking my heart crying. We saw one bloke in the water tank - he must have got wedged inside and couldn't get out and suffocated or drowned. I don‘t know who it was but the tide was carrying the water tank away very fast, and we could just see him bobbing up and down. Anyway Bert, everything went very quiet and we couldn‘t hear anyone else about; we kept shouting "Is there anyone about" but no answer, and then the tide started to carry us away. We kept with the wreckage the best we could thinking that we would be picked up but we never saw a thing; in fact, I think I can go as far as saying that nothing was sent out to look for us - we were like God left the Jews.
Well Bert, we drifted about on that raft for 7½ days without food and very little water and what water we did have was stale and what a horrible taste. It was that canned water Bert. Anyway it lasted for about four days and then we had none at all, and Bristow started to get panicky. I kept cooling him down by saying think of your Mrs. and children, we shall be picked up by someone in a minute. No, it was no good, pal, down went his mouth into the oggin, more mouthfuls than that, you ought to have seen him Bert, he kept drinking mouthfuls of salt water until he went completely stark raving mad. Oh, what a sight, I couldn't hit him as I was weak as a kitten and my hands were that soft and tender with the water, if I had have hit him I should have broken my wrists.
You can imagine what his ending was Bert, poor old Fred. That left Norman and I, and I might tell you I started losing hope a couple of times, but old Norman soon talked me round soon as he mentioned my old kid.
A very bad incident happened one of the days Bert, about 8 planes passed over us and we waved and shouted but after two of them flashed us up nothing came of it. Was we wild. Another day we were within a stones throw of some fishing boats and the tide absolutely carried us away from them, and we finished up losing our paddles. We were eventually picked up by a Norwegian merchant ship who were very good to us and fetched us here. Norman was unconscious and I was laying there talking to the water, so you can see what state we were in. Oh, by the way Bert, Norman has got to have all his toes off, he likewise is waiting for the operation.
Well kid, how's Myra, remember me to her, also your mother and family, also all the boys aboard, especially old Tubby. Tell Ken about Jim and Coddy, Bert, will you let me know if there is any more survivors please. God knows what is going to happen to me when I come back. Do you want another Motor Mechanic (Ha: Ha!) I know how to grease water pumps 'ahern'. Don't you forget to write Bert, won't you and don't hang it about kid, let's know all the news and whether Coppins survived. Remember me to Bill Shaw and tell him the lighter he made for the Mrs,is at the bottom of the oggin with my No. 1 suit and everything else. We haven't got a stitch of clothing. Well pal, nurse is waiting to wash my bum so I will love you, leave you. All for now, Cheerio kid, your old pal, Tommy.P. S. Say Bert, would you ask old Turner to write and tell the boys to make sure there's some corned dog in your Carley rafts we almost starved to death. Norman.
The two survivors were picked up at 2200 hours on 15th May (actually 3½ days after being mined) by the Norwegian MV "Uranus", approximately miles NW of the Lisra Light and were taken to Christiansand Hospital suffering from exposure.
Tom Sheehan had both his legs amputated and Norman Hine lost all his toes.
CFVA News: Edition: December 1978 Volume: 16 Page: 13