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Manx War veteran relives Steam Packet rescues during WW2
Mona's Queen
The Mona's Queen was sunk in 1940 after hitting a magnetic mine

Harry Crawley from Port St Mary was working as an apprentice engineer on a Steam Packet ship when he was suddenly flung into the heart of World War Two.

In 1940, the ship Harry was working on, the Tynwald, helped to rescue 9,000 troops from Dunkirk.

"It was just a job at the time, get them out," said Harry.

"On our last rescue, shells were bursting on the end of the jetty not far away from the ship. If anybody was scared they didn't show it at all."

Harry made five rescue trips with the Tynwald, saving over 2,000 troops at a time. He had always wanted to go to sea and at the age of 19 joined the Steam Packet as an engineer.

Two years later he was sent to Dunkirk and was only 100 yards away when the Mona's Queen cruise ship exploded.

Huge Bang

"I was in the boiler room and heard a huge bang.

Harry Crawley remembers the moment his ship was torpedoed during WW2

"The floor plates lifted up and we were told the Mona's Queen had hit a magnetic mine.

"She sank so quickly it gave them little chance to get out," he added.

Eight Steam Packet vessels took part in the Dunkirk rescues, helping to save 24,699 British troops, one in 14 of the all those soldiers saved.

The company lost three ships in just twenty hours.

After Dunkirk, Harry and his crew took part in the North Africa campaign in November 1942.

He remembers the moment his ship was was torpedoed by an Italian submarine off the coast of Gibraltar.

"I didn't have time to be frightened. I woke up and was nearly thrown off my bed with the gigantic thump.

'Abandon ship'

"I jumped up and went into the alleyway, where my feet were submerged in water.

Mona's Queen
The Mona's Queen's anchor was recovered from the sea bed in 2010

"The only way out was up a series of ladders. When we finally got out onto the deck, she was right over on her port side."

"I could hear the First Lieutenant shouting 'don't abandon ship yet' but we piled into the lifeboats and waited four hours until we were picked up by a nearby ship."

After the Tynwald went down Harry was appointed to a new aircraft carrier transporting landing craft around Britain.

He retired from the Steam Packet in 1965, as 2nd engineer, and lives with his wife Peggy in Port St Mary.

Harry now wants a memorial on the island for all the Steam Packet staff who lost their lives in WW2.

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