The "NRP Gonçalves Zarco"
(Picture: Privat Colection)
NRP Gonçalves Zarco
Captain: Cap. Frag. Nuno Frederico Brion
Tonnage: 1784 t
Owner: Portuguese Navy
Built: Hawthorn-Leslie, England (1933)
On June 13, 1942, at 4:15 pm, northwest of the island of Bazaruto, in the Mozambique Channel, the 2nd gunner José Miguel Videira, on watch at the sloop Gonçalves Zarco, saw a small boat with the mast hoisted and slack candles.
The boat appeared empty, but as they approached, they realized that under a cloth were two men, fatigued and injured. They had both manned the Norwegian freighter Wilford, sunk on the 7th by the Japanese submarine I-18. One, with 24 years, had head injuries and open fractures in his limbs, while the other, 35 old, had been hit by shrapnel. After several days at sea, both of them had “fetid clothes”, while the wounds “were infections and festering” or “necrotic”, reported the Portuguese commander later in his report.
They were seen by the board doctor while the ship was heading to Lourenço Marques, where they were admitted in the Miguel Bombarda Hospital.
The Gonçalves Zarco had set sail from Beira for a search and rescue operation on 8 June after receiving a help request from the British consul because two ships - the Atlantic Gulf and Wilford - had been sunk by a submarine in the Mozambique Channel, respectively on the 5th and 7th of June, with no Allied rescue aids in the area.
The Portuguese Sloop arrived in the area of the attacks, at nine in the morning of the following day, but saw nothing. They were also flown over by a plane belonging to DETA, the Mozambican government's aviation company, deployed to help in the search, which also found nothing.
At half past noon, information was received of the sighting of a lifeguard 15 miles southeast of Bocas do Zambeze, where the ship arrived at night. Shortly after, he crossed paths with the Portuguese steamer Sena leaving Chinde with the port captain on board, also in search. With the Sloop in the area the steamer returned to port.
Only on the 13th, while getting ready to abandon the search, they managed to save the two castaways. They would be Wilford's last men to be picked up. Sixteen had been found by the English British Dominion on the 8th and dropped off at Lourenço Marques on the 11th. Another nineteen landed near the Inhanguvo lighthouse, in Mozambique also on the 8th, receiving medical support and food before being transported to Beira on the 10th, where they were expected by the Norwegian consul and the harbor master.
As a thank you act for the effort in the rescue operations, and with the authorization of the Portuguese commander, the British consul in Beira offered one hundred cigarettes to each crew members of the Gonçalves Zarco.
The Wilford had left Mombasa on June 2, 1942, bound for Lourenço Marques. At two in the morning on the 7th the officers were awakened and informed that a distant explosion had been heard. The ship approached shore with the lights off, the communications officer settled over the radio and the crew was woken up and put on life jackets in anticipation of being attacked.
At 2.30 am the Japanese submarine I-18 hit the ship with cannon fire. Several distress calls were sent from the ship, while the engines stopped and the crew lowered three lifeboats. The captain, the second officer and several crew members who were in the vicinity were killed by one explosion. Of the group on the bridge, only the two Chinese who would later be found by the Gonçalves Zarco escaped.
Nine crew members of the Wilford died and 37 survived the attack.
(Noruega - Norway)
Captain: Bjarne Ludvig Thorsen
Tonnage: 2158 t
Owner: Hans Borge
Built: Nylands mek. Verksted, Oslo (1921)