'I'll always have a German to thank for saving my life'

BALLYCLARE man Isaac Higginson's incredible experience on the RMS Laconia has been retold in a new BBC drama.

Isaac was on the ship when it was torpedoed and sunk by the Germans - he then spent 16 hours in shark infested waters before being rescued by the very same Germans that sunk his ship.

"I'll always have a German to thank for saving my life," the 92-year-old told the Times this week.

On Saturday, September 12, 1942 the RMS Laconia was eight days out of Cape Town and 600 miles off the African coast when it was torpedoed.

A converted P&O liner, it was carrying over 2,000 passengers, military personnel, and Italian Prisoners of War.

"There was a dance on that night and I had just taken over the watch at 8pm when the torpedo struck," said Isaac.

"We helped as many as we could onto the lifeboats and there was one left for us - but it only slipped at one side and it was lost.

"Me and two others were left with only a small raft made of Balsa wood to cling onto in the water.

"It took the ship an hour to sink and we spent the night and the next morning in the water.

Isaac went on: "It was shark infested; that was the fear, that something would come.

"We were completely on our own, there was no sign of the rest of the crew or passengers - it was a terrible night."

Then at around 1pm the following day, the German submarine U-149 surfaced in front of the sailors.

"We thought that was it then, it had been known that they would turn the machine gun on you," said Isaac.

"But instead they rescued us. We were fed and given clothing, the Germans were very decent to us.

"But it didn't go down too well with the Nazi headquarters, they didn't like it one bit.

"The sub's Commander said he tracked our ship for eight hours. I asked him why wait until 8pm to strike - on my watch - and he just shrugged his shoulders."

Read the rest of Isaac's amazing story in this week's Times...