Edwin Clarke

Merchant Navy

Edwin Clarke signed on as 4th officer on S.S Umona for one round trip from the UK to South African. On the homeward voyage the S.S. Umona was torpedoed.  He managed to launch his lifeboat, the only officer to do so.  He was taken on board the submarine, and nothing more was heard of him.

For a full list of veteran stories, please visit our veteran archive:

Name:  Edwin Basil Clarke


Born:  1921


Died:  1941









Edwin Clarke - His Story

Thanks to John Clarke, brother of Edwin Clarke for sharing this story with us in his own words.


My brother joined the Port Line as a cadet sometime before WWII on voyages between the UK and Australia.  During the autumn of 1940 he had been ashore studying for his 1st mate’s certificate at a college in London.  When this was finished he had some spare time before his next voyage with the Port Line.  To gain some experience he signed up with Bullard and King’s “Natal” Line as fourth officer on their S.S. Umona for a voyage to Durban, South Africa and back.


The ship left Walvis Bay in March 1941 on passage to London via Freetown, West Africa with a cargo mainly of foodstuffs and 16 passengers including 5 Distressed British Seamen (d.b.s).  On 30 March 1941 she was torpedoed and sunk 90 miles SW of Freetown by U.124 with the loss of 83 of the 86 crew, 2 of the 3 R.N. gunners and 15 passengers.



Apparently my brother managed to get his lifeboat away, the only boat to be launched.  He was then taken off into the submarine and we don’t know what happened to him after that.  Three Lascar seamen who survived were rescued by H.M.S. Foxhound.  Three other survivors, the Radio Officer, Gunner Elliot R.N. and a passenger were afloat on a small raft and were given food and water by a submarine 4 days later.


Unfortunately, the Radio Officer died but the others were picked up by another ship and landed at Freetown. Gunner E G Elliot was awarded the Lloyds War Medal.


U.124 met her end off Oporto on 3 April 1943 after another 15 attacks on Allied shipping.


My parents’ last word from their son was in the form of a radio communication the day before the sinking of the SS Umona.