Canadian Officer Tells of Sinking


Nov. 17, 1941

(By Canadian Press)

VANCOUVER, Nov. 17.-Lieut. Ralph Raymond Pithart of the Royal Canadian Artillery told from a sickbed here Saturday how he survived with four other soldiers the torpedoing of the passenger liner Nerissa in the North Atlantic last summer. Twenty-eight others who survived the torpedoing died while awaiting rescue.

(It was in the Nerissa sinking that nine Saskatchewan soldiers lost their lives.)

"Three torpedoes hit us in rapid succession," he said. "The liner went down in four and a half minutes.

"I was below decks lying in my bunk when the first torpedo struck the ship and with a violent shudder it listed right over.

"I tumbled out of my bunk, picked up my grab bag, put on a haversack and scrambled on deck. As our lifeboat was being lowered into the water another torpedo struck the side of the ship.

"We were thrown pell-mell into the water and a fierce suction from the Nerissa drew me down. Then a side current threw me to the surface. I came up under an overturned lifeboat.

"I managed to swim round to the side and a group of my companions who were sitting on top of the lifeboat pulled me on top with them.

"The sea was rough and most of the men, too exhausted to hold on, were washed into the sea."

The four who managed to cling to the raft were picked up by a destroyer 11 hours later. Lieut. Pithart was in hospital in England for four months before being sent home and is still suffering from the effects of his exposure. He hoped to stay on in the army as an instructor.

Two brothers are on active service, one of them, LAC. John Charles Pithart, being stationed at Patricia Bay near Victoria.