The Boys of Lifeboat 12
“I managed to get into a lifeboat and I can clearly remember the ship going down with all the lights blazing. I was only wearing pyjamas and my life jacket.” Billy also recalls the strict rations of water, each from a little dipper; the very hard ships biscuits, almost impossible to eat, topped with a sardine; and little drops of condensed milk. A member of the crew Doug Critchley massaged his feet to keep the circulation going.
Derek remembers the howling gale as the lifeboat was lowered into the sea and that two members of the crew came down the lowering gear ropes. He was with Billy who had been in the cabin next to him. Mary Cornish, the escort told them stories to keep up their spirits and massaged the boys’ feet and legs.
"The boat was tipping, slinging everybody out," Fred recalled of the launch of the boat. “We were virtually out of water and foods, what was left the crew in the stern were giving to us kids," he remembers.
"They tried to collect any rainwater they could on the sails, but the trouble is as soon as it hit the sail it was salt, so we couldn't use it."
Howard was from Kenton, Middlesex. He recalled how Mary Cornish took charge of them in the lifeboat. “One day each of us got an eighth of a peach to eat. At tea time we had a biscuit and some water. He said that on the morning of the rescue he woke up knowing they would be saved.
“The worst of it was rowing all day and night. We ate ship’s biscuits, sardines and tinned salmon...and had a little water to drink. I was the first to see the flying boat, I shouted and we all prayed.
We had to be lifted up the steps of the warship as none of us could walk."
Paul Shearing suffered most of the 6 boys in the lifeboat; he developed trench foot which was very painful. The day before the rescue he became delirious and very ill. When HMS Anthony docked he was too sick to go on deck with the other boys and was taken off by stretcher.