A WEBSITE DEDICATED TO THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE SEABOARD VILLAGES

David McAngus’s War

David McAngus was born, according to his German Prisoner of War Report, on the 16th of September 1887. He was the son of Hugh [Uisdean] McAngus and his wife Jessie. In 1891 they lived in 8 King Street, Hilton, along with his brothers Andrew, John, Alexander [Aly- Uisdean] and Hugh [ Killed in Action in World War 1 on His Majesty’s Trawler Dhoon] and sister Isabella. In 1901 they were living 24 Shore Street, Hilton, but Andrew and Isabella were no longer living with the family and as usual all the male members of the family were fishermen.

David was, like most fishermen in the Seaboard Villages, in the Royal Naval Reserve, you were paid to be on standby in case of war and also went south for training, which most Reservists treated as a holiday.

What David did in the early part of World War 1 we don’t know, as Naval records [most of Mc/ Mac] were destroyed by the German bombing of London in World War 2. What we do know we can get from David’s Prisoner Of War report and the story of his ship and the Action that led to his capture.

David was on board the SS Clan MacTavish in the Atlantic off the Madeira Islands. The SS Clan MacTavish was sailing from New Zealand to Britain with a cargo of wool, zinc, rubber, frozen beef and mutton. Her Captain William Oliver had called in at South Africa and was given orders to stop at Dakar in Senegal to have a six pounder gun fitted aft on the ship. This was done in a day and Dakar is where David and William Rees join the story, for they were the Royal Navy gunners in charge of the gun. The gunners did not have long to wait to see Action, just three days out of Dakar they were found by the German Surface Raider SMS Mowe.

SMS Mowe was the most successful German Surface Raider of World War 1, by not sailing under the German flag and pretending to be neutral or an allied ship, the Mowe was able to get close to her prey before she attacked. On the 16th of January 1916, just as darkness was falling, the lookouts on Mowe spotted smoke in the distance. The Mowe was sailing with the SS Appam for company, a ship she had captured and was now being used to house prisoners from the other ships the Mowe had sunk.

The Mowe moved closer to the smoke and signalled by lamp to the now obvious ship, asking, ‘what ship are you’, in reply, Captain Oliver of SS Clan MacTavish, asked for the Mowe to identify herself first, the Mowe replied she was the SS Author, a British ship she had sunk two weeks earlier, Captain Oliver replied with the identity of his ship. The Mowe now knowing it was a British ship swung into action, she crossed in front of the bow the Clan MacTavish ordering her to surrender. Captain Oliver changed course and called the engine room for full speed, the chase was on, the Mowe fired warning shots, Captain Oliver told his wireless operator to send out distress signals and also told David McAngus and William Rees to open fire at the Mowe. Open fire they did but alas failed to find their target, the Mowe opened up with four 150mm guns and one 105mm gun and they did find their target and soon Clan MacTavish was on fire with eighteen crewmen killed, five wounded and Captain Oliver was forced into surrender. Clan MacTavish’s distress call was picked by HMS Essex, but the Essex’s radio operator never passed the message on to senior officers and a British warship, less than a hundred miles away lost the chance to stop the Mowe. The Clan MacTavish was boarded and explosive charges set to sink her, prisoners were taken aboard the Mowe with many then being transferred to SS Appam and both ships disappeared again into the wide Atlantic Ocean.

Captain Oliver, David McAngus and William Rees were kept aboard the Mowe and were eventually, on the 4th of April 1916, landed in Germany and spent the rest of the war in a Prisoner of War camp.