A Merchant Seaman's Survival - An Autobiography - An Escape Story of World War II
This is a true-life World War 2 escape story. Edward J Sweeney’s merchant ship was sunk by a German
raider, which led to hair-raising escapes from jails in France and Spain. He was re-captured and
escaped from a German troop train on the way to a labour camp; a concentration camp in Argeles Sur
Mer, France; and from the notorious labour concentration camp at Miranda de Ebro, in Spain... More
The sinking of a WW2 merchant navy ship by German raider that led to escapes from 2 concentration camps by Edward J. Sweeney from two concentration camps in France and Spain, from a German troop train, and from various jails.
“On 20th August 1940, I was a 20 year old member of the gun crew of the refrigerated cargo vessel, the SS Turakina. We were sailing from Australia to New Zealand when attacked by a German raider, Orion. She was disguised as a Japanese vessel, the Tokyo Maru, because German ships had not attacked so far south before.
After continuous bombardment, and an uneven battle firing my single 4.7" gun, we were torpedoed, shelled and soon ablaze. 19 members of our crew of 57 were rescued by the Orion, the remainder killed.
Our attackers praised our courage for fighting against overwhelming odds, but considered us mad English. I was rescued by our attackers who continued to sink other allied ships while I was locked below decks.
Eight months later, after being imprisoned on another German ship, the Altmark, we safely docked in Bordeaux, France. I had no belongings, as everything went down with the ship.
Imprisonment in a transit camp, was followed by being put on a German troop train, taking us to a labour camp. Armed guards were in our carriage – but I escaped by diving from the train 20 miles from Paris, in occupied France.
After hair-raising experiences, I was re-captured and imprisoned – but escaped from a concentration camp in Argeles Sur Mer, Southern France.
I crossed the Pyranees into Spain on foot. But was arrested again and jailed by Franco’s Civil Guard for not having papers to prove my identity.
After a spell in filthy jails, I was imprisoned again. This was the notorious labour concentration camp at Miranda de Ebro, in Northern Spain. I had to help build a new major road, and carry a large basket of heavy stones on my back.
Fifteen months after my leaving England, I was mysteriously released.
Gibraltar was left for Glasgow. I was none the worse for my adventures. Apart from a newly shaven head just before we left, I was quite fit, and glad to be back home in familiar normal surroundings, one of only two merchant seamen ever to escape from Occupied France.” - Edward J. Sweeney
Although not yet reported in media, this story has been described as being bigger and better than “The Great Escape”. This human interest story of numerous escapes, and survival against the odds, will touch many hearts.