MV Kerlogue An Embattled Ship

A Symbol of Irish Neutrality

A Symbol of Irish Neutrality


The MV Kerlogue, was part of the cobbled together Irish Merchant Fleet during the second world war. When other shipping was not available, the country used all sorts of ships on the high seas, some of which would barely be allowed on the water at all today. The Kerlogue was a fine boat, but a Coaster and so not really meant for long journeys to Portugal from Wales and back to Wexford. However that was her job through out the war. She was reported sunk in 1960 having survived hitting a mine, being bombed and rescuing both British Merchant Sailors and German Seamen, in the the Second World War.

The most famous incident the Kerlogue was involved in happened on 29th December 1943, following repairs, and Captained by Tom Donohue she was traversing the Bay of Biscay filled with oranges, on the way home. The ship was circled by a German reconnaissance plane which signalled SOS and headed south east. The Kerlouge changed course to follow and came upon what must have been a dreadful sight. Three German ships including a destroyer had been sunk by the allies, and there were now 700 men in the sea many of whom were already dead.

The Kerlogue spent ten hours pulling German seamen freezing and injured from the water. It was only when she could not possibly take on any more, that she turned and headed away from the scene. The orange crates were opened, and hot orange drinks were made for all, to make up for there being not nearly enough supplies on a ship normally crewed by 10 people. Captain Donohue ignored the German requests to berth at Brest or Rochelle, avoided contact with Allied forces who would have wanted them to head to Fishguard, and instead headed for Cobh. Cobh was nearer and woud be able to provide the injured with the care they needed. All the Germans spent the rest of the war interred at the Curragh, once they were well enough to travel to Kildare.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the rescue, in an article in the Irish Examiner, TD Dick Roche son of 3rd Engineer Gary Roche is quoted as saying “My father didn’t speak about it an awful lot. It was a very painful memory for him. The thing that haunted him, he told me, was the men they had to leave in the water when
Captain Tom Donoghue told them they had to head back. He very graphically described all the men, who were barely hanging onto life at that stage, and calling ‘comrade, comrade.’ I know that image stayed with him through his life.” It is not hard to imagine how difficult the experience must have been for all the crew.

The crew of the M.V Kerlogue rescued 168 men from the water.


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