Charles O'Neill

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Charles O'Neill
Born November 14, 1912
Birkenhead
Died March 8, 1942(1942-03-08) (aged 29)
off the south coast of Java
Cause of death Enemy action
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Margaret O'Neill
Children One.
Parents Father G. O'Neill.

Biography

June 27th. 1937. Joined C.N.Co. on agreement, arriving in Shanghai by the "Ranchi". Already in possession of his 1st Mate's Certificate of Competency No. 39705, issued in Liverpool on February 17th. 1937. Appointed as 3rd. Mate on the Kintang and Shengking II.

July 28th. 1937. Sailed as 2nd. Mate on the Hunan II, Tungchow II / Hsin Peking II, Whangpu., as 3rd Mate for 3 weeks on theShengking II, then joined the Anking I as 2nd Mate and as 1st. Mate on January 1st. 1942.

March 8th 1942. Based on the report by a survivor Bill Mckenzie, he died on a life raft from wounds received, after the Anking I was sunk by enemy action.

Service

Events / Stories

R 3033
Able Seaman Bill McKenzie,
HMAS "Bunbury".
c/o GPO
4th July 1943

Dear Mrs O'Neill,

Lieutenant McWilliams was telling me about you and that you were trying to find out all about your husband who was on the Anking when she got sunk 4th March last year.

Well Mrs O'Neill I will tell you all I know and what I say will be the truth – I know you want that. After the ship went we were all on the rafts and broken up lifeboats and I was one of the many who were on the same raft as your husband. We were all in good spirits just then, you see we all thought we would be picked up within a few hours. Your husband was wounded, I am sorry to say, but I didn't think it was serious because I heard a doctor who was with us say it wasn't bad. The doctor was lost just after that. At one time Mr O'Neill was bleeding a little bit and we tied one of his stockings around the wound and it was all right then. You see they were shrapnel wounds and I will honestly say that your husband was never complaining he said he was all right and even said to us “Stick it out” and that we should make it.

On the second day we were still on the same raft, but there were some of the chaps missing. At about eleven o’clock that morning we saw five ships; we all thought they were ours but sorry to say they were Japanese. They came up to us and had a good look, then went on their way. At that time your husband was all right and he abused them as much as the rest of us.

On the third day there were a couple more missing and by this time we were beginning to feel thirsty and hungry and the sun was not making it any easier for us. It was then Mr O'Neill's wounds started to get infected – they started to swell his arm and leg, and although he said he could not feel any pain unless he bumped them, it would take us some time to pull him back onto the raft any time it was capsized.

By that night we were starting to get delirious and the following morning there were only five of us left – this being the fourth day – Mr O'Neill's wounds were beginning to pain a bit, but honest he never cried out. We just let him lie on the raft and someone would hold his head up and keep the sun off him.

We lost another chap that afternoon.

During the morning we saw a lifeboat but it was too far away. About sunset it was just on thirty yards off. So we made arrangements for one of us to swim to it and bring it over to the raft so we could get Mr O'Neill into it.

An English Petty Officer went over first, but after getting there he just sat and didn't seem to take any notice of us. It was then that Mr O'Neill asked us to look after ourselves and leave him – he said he wouldn't be able to make it. I decided to swim over and see what was wrong in the boat. Two other chaps from another raft had by this time got to the boat. I just made the boat and was hauled in– then I found out why they never came over. There were no oars and there was no other way to get it over. Some of us suggested swimming over with a rope, but it was impossible – you see we were all exhausted and not one of us could have made the return trip. There was a New Zealander left with Mr O'Neill and after a while he swam across, Mr O'Neill had told him to come over and leave him where he was as he was all in and knew he couldn't make it.

I don't know how, but after that we started to drift away.

The last I saw (evening of 8th March) of Mr O’Neill was when he waved goodbye to us. He was lying face down on the raft and he forced himself up on his elbow and waved – that was the last we saw of him. I am very sorry we could not get him into the boat, but Mrs O’Neill even if we had I don't think it would have been any good. He used to ask us to let him go, but we just held him hoping for the best all the time. He told me when on the raft about you and the kiddies, and I think that is why we tried to help him so much.

We were picked up the next evening (9th March) by a submarine which then looked for other survivors. One of the chaps got bad a couple of nights later and he died. They tell me I wasn’t far behind.

Only three of us made it out of the mob that was in the water.

Mrs O’Neill, I am very sorry to be writing this sort of letter. It is not very easy, but I think this is how you would like it. I think it is best for you to know what I know myself.

The chance of Mr O’Neill being picked up after that, well I would say it was negligible, and if he had been, his condition was too bad for his life to be saved.

Well Mrs O’Neill, I think that is all I can tell you so I will come to a close now.

If there is anything else you would like to know, and if I can tell you, I would be only too pleased to do so.

I remain,
Yours faithfully,
(Sgd) Bill McKenzie

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