independent

Monday 20 October 2014

Heroes of the high seas during WW2

Published 31/12/2013 | 05:32

A UNIQUE role played by a ship's radio operator from North Co Dublin during the dark and dangerous days at sea in World War II is remembered in a newly-published book titled "Irish Shipping Ltd - A Fleet History."

Mr Brian Corbally from The Naul was one of the two wireless operators among the crew of the 7,250-ton ss Irish Elm which was owned by Irish Shipping Ltd. The Irish Elm was built in Sunderland in 1910 and had a number of owners before being acquired by Irish Shipping Ltd in 1941. At the time the country found itself in dire need of vessels to bring carry vital supplies through wartime seas.

At the height of the conflict, the ship made a number of trans-Atlantic crossings. On one occasion in March 1943 she was stopped by a German U-boat whose commander, fortunately, after inspecting the Irish-flag vessel's papers allowed her to resume her passage to St John, New Brunswick.

A very special feature of life on board during the closing days of World War II, according to the new book, was the publishing of a daily ship's newspaper.

The newspaper was produced by the two wireless operators, Brian Corbally of The Naul and D J O'Brien of Cork. Three copies of the newspaper, named "Western Roller," were produced on a daily basis without the aid of any copying process.

It carried news of the war in the Pacific and Burma, news of the Stock Exchange, a regular cartoon and complex mathematical problems. The publication was avidly read by the other 39 men on the Irish Elm at the time, early 1945.

"Irish Shipping Ltd - A Fleet History" runs to 354 pages and deals comprehensively with all the ships of the Dublin-based company, starting with the war years of the early 1940s and continuing right up to the time of the sad liquidation of the State-owned operator in 1984.

The hard-covered book which sells for 30 euros, is published by Rosslare Maritime EnthusIasts which runs Rosslare Harbour Maritime Heritage Centre in Rosslare Harbour, Co. Wexford. The publication contains numerous photographs of the ships of the fleet, including the Irish Elm which remained with Irish Shipping Ltd until 1949 before being sold and eventually being scrapped at the end of that year.

Fingal Independent

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