The deck gun of the Thistlegorm, a ship destroyed in the Second World War by German bombers who were actually meant to destroy the Queen Mary, a troopship carrying Grafton man Henry Caldwell and 2000 other soldiers from Sydney to Egypt.
The deck gun of the Thistlegorm, a ship destroyed in the Second World War by German bombers who were actually meant to destroy the Queen Mary, a troopship carrying Grafton man Henry Caldwell and 2000 other soldiers from Sydney to Egypt. Bob Tomlinson

Luck saved veteran from bombing

SECOND World War veteran Henry Caldwell may have had a lucky escape on his way to battle, according to Grafton diver and photographer Bob Tomlinson.

Enlisting in the Australian Army as a young man, Grafton’s Mr Caldwell found himself assigned to the Workshop Recovery Unit due to his electrical skills.

In 1941 Mr Caldwell joined 2000 Aussie soldiers aboard Cunard ship the Queen Mary, which took troops on the treacherous journey from Sydney to Suez in Egypt.

Last Friday, The Daily Examiner published a story about Mr Caldwell attending an event aboard the Queen Mary II in Sydney commemorating the Queen Mary’s important role as a troop transport in the Second World War.

However, after reading this story, Mr Tomlinson wrote to the Examiner and said this important role came very close to being cut short by the German Air Force.

“In 2009 I was lucky enough to dive on the wreck of the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea off Sharm el Sheik which was sunk by German bombers (Heinkel HE 111s) sent from Crete,” Mr Tomlinson wrote.

“These bombers had been sent by German High Command to bomb and sink a troopship that their intelligence had discovered was on the way to deliver fresh troops to the conflict. The bombers searched ’til their fuel supplies were running low and having found no troopship (the Queen Mary with Henry on board), they bombed the Thistlegorm.”

“Luckily the German intelligence was wrong and the Queen Mary was still too far south for the bombers to attack, so Henry and the rest of the Australian servicemen arrived safely.”

Although fortunate for Mr Caldwell and the other troops on board the Queen Mary, the Thistlegorm ended up going down in 30m of water, taking nine servicemen with it.

Mr Tomlinson said the Thistlegorm’s cargo of wartime supplies and vehicles (much of which is still in the ship’s cargo holds) has made the wreck an extremely popular site for modern divers.



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