SS Sachem

S S Sachem (1893-1927)

James Thomas Salthouse (Jim Salthouse) of Liverpool

The S.S. Sachem was grandad’s first ship after he completed his apprenticeship, when he was 20 years old, in 1919.My grandfather used to tell my mother about his war service and told her about the time he was torpedoed:. 

The ship was torpedoed, he (Jim Salthouse) said he had just come up off watch and was lying in his cabin and when the explosion occurred. 

He jumped up and ran out and that was when he found the others. I think I remember him saying that they were three days in an open boat in the Atlantic and I remember the fact that he was only wearing his trousers and a singlet and his uniform cap. He was in the open boat when he realised that if the 

U-Boat surfaced and they saw  his uniform cap they would shoot him for being a spy (because the ship itself was not what it appeared to be, it was a Q boat, and Q boats, when they rolled back these big covers had guns  underneath them), so he had to hide his uniform cap. He couldn’t throw it in the water in case the Germans found  it so he hid it. But the U-boat never surfaced.We remember that the ship involved was the Sachem but we are missing one piece of Jim’s account of the incident which would attribute it directly to the Sachem.

Pictured below is the first entry in Jim’s log; it reads:

1. H.M. Ship “Sachem”    8 June 1917 Liverpool     5th Engineer     31 .12.1917 Devonport     North Alliance     Rob Ritchie [Master]

Next in grandad’s box we found the second page of an account of the torpedo attack on the ship. The accounts was written on notepaper headed “Albion Hotel, Plymouth”, (part of the Home Counties P.H. Trust Ltd). I hope I find the first and second pages! This is what he wrote:
…….to go down below and relieve the watch for dinner so I was lucky. As I got on deck Mr Saunders had come up the stokehold way and was badly hurt about the head and ribs. He and Mr Grey the 3rd were down below at the time and  Saunders had just gone into the stokehold first, as he did, he was hit and he said he was washed across the stokehold with the inrush of water but managed to get hold of the ladder and so up on deck. By this time they told us to take to the boats.  Mr Grey, the 3rd, was killed we suppose. On arriving on the boat deck we found one boat blown away. I looked down below then and the engine room was full up with water. We then got the boat lowered and got into…….
Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd., LiverpoolS S Sachem

at Devonport

December 31st 1917

This is to certify that Mr James Salthouse has served in the above named steamer as 5th engineer from June 8th 1917 until the present date. I have always found him of strictly sober habits, a hard working man and always very attentive to all duties entrusted to him, a good mechanic and can highly recommend him to anyone requiring his services. J Cass (?) Chief Engineer

Rob’t Ritchie Master

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