The Sinking of the Florence M. Douglas and the story of Douglas the Barbadian who joined the German Navy in World War II.

The Florence M. Douglas was a schooner built in Holetown, Barbados, and owned by Peter S. Hassell.  On the 4th May 1942 she was sailing at 07.55N 58.10W from Bonaire, Netherland Antilles, to Georgetown, British Guiana, with a cargo of salt.

At 19:00 the U-162 fired a shot across the bow and Captain Herbert Rexford Every ordered the men to immediately abandon the Florence M. Douglas.  Once they were at a safe distance Kapitän zur See Jürgen Wattenberg of the U-162 opened fire on the Florence M. Douglas with the deck gun. After the rigging and top-masts fell a shot below the waterline sank the schooner.

Soon after a plane was heard approaching and the submarine made a hasty dive.  By the time the plane arrived the submarine had dived deep and no bombs were dropped.  The survivors made landfall at Anna Regina and were then transported to Georgetown, reaching there on the 7th May 1942.

As the Florence M. Douglas was sinking a small black pig jumped overboard and swam to the U-162.  He reached there before the plane appeared and was taken into the control room when the submarine submerged.

The crew of the submarine christened the pig Douglas. They said that he gave them good luck in evading the attacking plane.  Douglas served as part of the crew in the engine room for the remainder of the voyage.

When U-162 returned to base, in the Lorient, Douglas was formally presented to Korvettenkapitän Victor Schutze, the commander of the Second U-boat Flotilla, as war booty.   There is no record if Douglas survived the war.

The U-162 was sunk on 3rd September 1942 south of Barbados, in position 12.21N  59.29W, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Vimy, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Quentin. Of the 51 crew there were 49 survivors. Douglas was not part of the crew at the time.

My father told me that when he, and his brother sailed to Guyana on the Mary M. Lewis in 1939 a pig lived on board. If the captain got lost the pig would be put into the sea and it would swim in the direction of the nearest land. I am not sure if that is true but most accounts of sailing vessels trading between the islands mention having a pig on board.

Here is a copy of an article taken from the Barbados Observer of 30th May 1942:

Survivors of Torpedoed Submarine Arrive in B.G.

(In B.G. Chronicle – Anna Regina May 6 by Telegram)

Ten Men, Survivors of a Torpedoed Schooner, arrived here yesterday in a boat at 11am. They were torpedoed a few days ago. The only message from the Submarine was “Leave your Boat”.  They are being cared for by the Police. No one was killed and the crew are safe.

The men are:

  • Captain H. Every (Saba)
  • A. Hassell, Mate, (Barbados)
  • J. Pilgrim (Barbados)
  • F. Claude (Georgetown)
  • Samuel and N. Charles (St. Lucia)
  • V. Dowick (Barbados)
  • H. Mc Leans (Georgetown)
  • L. Hill (Barbados)
  • C. Whitfield (Saba)

They did not manage to save anything.

After the news of the safe arrival of Captain Every and his crew at Anna Regina reached the city  a launch, belonging to Sprostons Ltd, was dispatched, under Captain Simmons, to bring them to the city. They were expected to arrive about midnight.

Barbados Observer of 30th May 1942

Kai Steenbuck, who works for the German U-boat Museum, sent me the following.  This Museum has a large and comprehensive collection of U-Boat pictures and information.

The crew of U-162 let “Douglas” live because he was third pig to come aboard the U-boat. Pig one and two and a turkey were killed and consumed right away. A crew member was a butcher in his civilian life before the war. U-boat crews were quite superstitious, so the crew of U-162 decided to let the third pig live and adopted it as pet for the remainder of the patrol.

A Barbadian pig on U-162 – what a story!

Kapitän zur See Jürgen Wattenberg U-162 Bajan pig
Kapitän zur See Jürgen Wattenberg of the U-162 with Douglas the Bajan pig that jumped ship and some of the crew on their return to their base in the Lorient, Brittany, France. Photograph courtesy of Erhart Wattenberg.

For information on the German U-boat Museum  check here.

The photograph of the Bajan schooner – Florence M. Douglas going down river in Guyana was taken from Winds of War published on 1st March 2017 in the The Saba Islander by Will Johnson.

From 1968 until 1993 Will Johnson published “The Saba Herald”. In 2013 Will Johnson started the The Saba Islander as his online-voice / blog / newspaper on matters of interest to the people of Saba.

Responses to “The Sinking of the Florence M. Douglas and the story of Douglas the Barbadian who joined the German Navy in World War II.”

  1. Richard Lisle Foster

    Read the one of the Death of the “Mona Marie” by Will Johnson in the Saba Islander. Captain Laurie Hassell was Captain of this schooner at the tender age of 19.

  2. Richard Lisle Foster

    Yes he was family to Lloyd Every captain of the Marion Belle Wolfe which got heavily damaged in the Careenage during a storm and was later put to rest in Carlisle Bay.

  3. Richard Hughes

    Great story! Was the Capt. Every from Saba related to the Every family of Barbados?

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