Enid Kathleen Hollis

By Linda Wright

Enid Kathleen Hollis was born March 1917, Rochford, Essex  and died, aged 25, at sea,  on 7 December 1942.

Her parents were Arthur John (b. 1878) and Kate Hollis, nee Kentish.  (1884-1970). 

Sister Hollis served in Queen Alexandra’s Military Nursing Service.  Her service no. was 215822.

On 26 Nov, 1942, the HMS Ceramic(Master Herbert Charles Elford, formerly a luxury liner,  left Liverpool for Cape Town, in convoy ON-149 with 264 crew members, 14 gunners, 244 military and naval passengers (mostly nurses of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service) and 133 fare paying passengers, among them 12 children. On 5 December, HMS Ceramic  was detached from the convoy and began sailing independently as routed.

 

At midnight on 6/7 December, the Ceramicwas hit by one torpedo from U-515 about 420 miles west-northwest of the Azores. On action stations were sounded and two or three minutes later two more torpedoes struck the engine room below the waterline. The engines stopped and the vessel was plunged into darkness. There was very little panic among the passengers and the crew launched approximately eight full laden lifeboats, despite of the cold weather, the rough seas and the poor visibility in the darkness. The Ceramic stayed afloat and three hours later U-515 hit the ship with two more torpedoes, which broke her in two and she sank immediately.

By this time, the sea was very rough and it was raining. The lifeboats were becoming swamped and needed continual bailing out. Some lifeboats capsized and threw the occupants into the water, so that many people were floating in the water, supported by their life jackets. Henke reported the sinking to the BdU and was ordered to return to the site to find the master and to find out where she had been bound. At about midday, the surfaced U-515 returned. A lookout first saw a body, then empty life jackets and the broken mast from the ship. A lifeboat whose occupants waved to him was also seen. It was reported later that Henke was very upset at the sight that greeted him. At this time the wind had almost reached Force 10 and a storm started. The sea was almost swamping the conning tower, so Henke ordered his men to take the first survivor that came close enough to his vessel. Two men threw a rope to one of the men in the water, Sapper Eric Munday of the Royal Engineers, took him aboard and U-515 left the area. A distress signal from Ceramic had been heard and HMS Enterprise (D 52) (Capt H.T.W. Grant, RCN) and the Portuguese destroyer Dao were sent to search for survivors on 9 December, but none were found. Other sailors in the area considered later that this storm was one of the worst storms that they had experienced  (source U-Boat.net  website).   

 

A newspaper confirmed this report but added that it took 10 months before the CapeTown authorities admitted the Ceramic had been lost.  The First Lord of the Admiralty  advised in the House of Commons that the Ceramic had not been in convoy at the time of its being torpedoed, but had gone on alone, being  ‘fast and independent’.  Munday  was reported as saying that the Ceramic’s captain was aware of the dangers in the Atlantic and had protested against women and children being taken aboard (source ancestry.com).

 

Upon his release in 1945 from a prison camp in Silesia, Sapper Munday wrote to many Ceramic  passenger’s relatives , telling  them  what had happened.  His letter to Edith’s mother at South Lodge, Outward Common Road, Billericay, was dated 5 September 1945, franked  at 9.45am in Croydon (source ancestry.uk).

Nurse Hollis is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial, near Woking, Surrey, Panel 22, column 2.***

 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Enid Kathleen Hollis' page

This page was added by Jim Devlin on 13/01/2014.