Captain Stanley Kirby, Master of the s.s. Pass of Balmaha, had a full load of petrol to deliver to Tobruk, a besieged city on 17 October 1941. The ship was to make an escorted journey from Alexandria, as she had done several times before, but on this occasion Captain Kirby had a problem – he lacked two watch keeping officers and without them the Army in Tobruk wouldn’t receive its fuel.

The s.s. Pass of Balmaha was a tanker built on the Clyde in 1933 and on charter to H.M. Government.

The delivery of the petrol was vital for the survival of the British Forces in Tobruk and so the C in C Malta directed that two RFA Officers should be signed on the tanker so she could sail as a matter of urgency.

Third Officer Joseph A Condy RFA from RFA Reliant and Third Officer Douglas B Martin RFA from RFA Slavol signed on the s.s. Pass of Balmaha as 2nd and 3rd Officer respectively.

The tanker sailed on time. When she was approximately 50 miles west of Alexandria she was torpedoed by the German submarine U97. The ship disintegrated in a ball of fire. All 18 members of the crew including Mr Condy and Mr Martin perished and they all have no grave but the sea. All eighteen are remembered with pride on the Tower Hill Merchant Navy memorial, London.

Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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