An amazing escape

3 April 2014 by Sarah Starkey

A black and white photograph of sea and sky with an upturned table barely visible in the centre of the image.

Photograph taken during the aftermath of the sinking of Nova Scotia, Mozambique Channel, 28 Nov 1942 (Maritime Archives reference DX/2592).

This photograph doesn’t look like much, just a grey sea and sky, but if you look closely there is a speck in the middle of the image.  This is a photograph of the aftermath of the wreck of the Liverpool registered Furness Withy ship Nova Scotia which was torpedoed on 28th November 1942 off the coast of Mozambique.  The speck is a man floating on an upturned table in shark infested waters.  He was rescued, one of only 194 survivors of a compliment of 1052.  The photograph is contained within a fascinating diary donated to the Maritime Archives & Library by a couple who used to live in Mozambique.  It was kept by a British businessman, Charles Francis Spence, who was in neutral Mozambique with his family during the Second World War.  The family did their best to assist any merchant navy seafarer or other Allied personnel who came ashore after being sunk in the Mozambique Channel and recorded their photographs and stories in this diary.  It contains some amazing tales of survival against the odds and is a great read.  The diary, and its transcript, is available to view at the Maritime Archives & Library.

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