Sutterton man survives sinking

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A Sutterton man sent a telegraph home to let his family know he had survived a sinking by German submarine in 1917.

Mr H J Despicht – whose father was schoolmaster at Sutterton – was second officer aboard the Isle of Arran that was sunk.

Mercifully, he had been picked up, along with the captain and part of the crew, in one of the ship’s boats and safely landed.

It wasn’t the first time the Suttertonian had been involved in a shipwreck, as early in 1915 the ship he was on, the Conway Castle, was sunk by the Dresden in the Pacific. All of the officers and crew had to spend “an enforced and exciting eight days” in the German battleship before being transferred to a passing steamer.

Mr Despicht returned home from his second shipwreck “none the worse for his terrible experience” except for a cold brought about by exposure.

His ship had been on its way to Havre from Queenstown when “suddenly and without any warning” four shells had been fired at them from the submarine which was a mile-and-a-half away.

They had lowered the boats and got off the ship when the submarine came up and took some of the crew aboard, including Mr Despicht.

At the same time German sailors placed bombs in four different parts of the Isle of Arran “and within three minutes the Isle of Arran was no more”.

Mr Despicht and his colleagues then joined the rest of the crew in the boats, where they stayed for almost 30 hours “exposed to the mercy of the wind and waves”, until rescued by a passing steamer.

The sinking had been 100 miles from the coast, but the submarine towed the boats closer to land.