This blog is for research being done by Eric T. Wiberg for his sixth published book. It is a “sequel” of sorts to his book “Drifting to the Duchess” due out in early 2014 by Brick Tower Press in NYC, and the website www.uboatsbahamas.com and blog www.uboatsbahamas.blogspot.com and www.mailboatsbahamas.blogspot.com. The hope is that members of the Bermuda historical community and citizens who assisted or are related to those who assisted Allied sailors landed in Bermuda in World War II will come forward and contribute stories, anecdotes, family history and photos.
Within a range of 300 to 400 miles around Bermuda some 70 Allied vessels were sunk or attacked, sending nearly 4,000 mariners and passengers into the sea, often hundreds of miles from land. Of these roughly 1,200 persons – roughly one third of those attacked – drowned or were lost in the attacks by German and Italian submarines (called U-Boats for “Undersea Boats”). Another 2,750 or so managed to survive. Crucially some 1,000 or so (perhaps as few as 800) actually landed on Bermuda, just as those on the “Sea Venture” had hundreds of years before – shipwrecked, hungry, emaciated, sunburnt.
The crux of this story is not just the hundred or so Axis submarines who patrolled the waters around Bermuda, often on their way to hunting grounds off New York, Cape Hatteras, Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Gulf of Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad, or to refuel from “Milk Cow” submarine tankers between Bermuda and the Azores, but rather it is the human-interest story about the men and women who set foot in Bermuda, how they were received, fed, housed, entertained, and ultimately repatriated. Some were guided at night through the Cut in St. George’s by friendly local fishermen, others bravely plucked by pilots from the Bermuda air base, who landed on the water to rescue their charges, and yet others were rescued by merchant sea captains that put themselves and their ships at peril to stop and aid the helpless fellow mariners. This is, ultimately, their story.
It is also a cooperative, where it is hoped that readers will contribute stories and anecdotes, some of this history – the individual participants – are after all still alive. The author grew up in the Bahamas – no Bermuda – and though over the past 25 years he has sailed to Bermuda over 30 times on yachts, he’s not a local, has never lived in Bermuda, and will need input, correction, and assistance. So please feel free to provide feedback through this blog or via firstname.lastname@example.org.