Lifeboat Hero's medals sell at auction

29th October 2009

The epic war-time tale of how 70 British sailors spent 20 days and 1,200 miles adrift at sea has emerged after a Hampshire man's logbook was sold at Woolley and Wallis.

The eight page account of how the stricken crew survived the three weeks they were stranded in lifeboats after their ship was sunk by a German U-boat was sold alongside the medal group of the ship's First Mate.

Chief Officer Maurice Case commanded Lifeboat 4 following the sinking of the SS Rhexenor in 1943, and his account tells how the men were often drenched by heavy rain storms, leaving them cold and wet for days afterwards. They were eventually saved when the four lifeboats reached various Caribbean islands a few days apart.

The items at auction included an MBE Mr Case received for leading one of the four lifeboats, along with two medals he earned during World War 1. They sold on 28th October for £1,200.

Daniel Fearon, Woolley and Wallis's medal consultant, said: "It is a pretty epic tale of survival and one that isn't well documented.

"It was something that Maurice Case never really spoke of afterwards, it was just an event that happened during his war.

"He was in charge of one of the four lifeboats and was responsible for navigating, keeping up morale and handing out the rations.

"They had the ship's cook on their lifeboat and he had managed to empty a cupboard of tins of condensed milk before the ship sank, so that was a little bonus for the men.

"The conditions after three weeks must have been pretty awful on board.

"I don't know how much longer the men would have survived for given that three of them died in the lifeboats in the three weeks at sea.

"Having said that I think they were in pretty good shape considering what they had been through.

"Maurice Case's log is fascinating. It is totally without emotion and its very factual."

The steam ship SS Rhexenor was a merchant boat carrying cocoa from Durban in South Africa to Britain via Freetown in Sierra Leone and St John in New Brunswick, Canada.

After leaving Freetown she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-217 at 6.45am on February 3 and sank two hours later.

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