Marcus Isaacs

First Radio Officer, S.S. Empire Bison
Died 1 Nov 1940
Commemorated at Tower Hill Memorial
Age 39

Marcus was born on 20 December 1900 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire to Harris, a tailor machinist, and Leah nee Marks. Marcus married Blanche Wasdell in 1928 in Birmingham and they had three children. In 1939, Marcus was working as a radio and electrics travelling salesman and was recorded as being on the Mercantile Marine reserve list.

Marcus was the first radio officer on S.S. Empire Bison which left from Halifax together with forty three other vessels as part of convoy HX-82 on 20 October 1940. The freighter was under command of Captain William Herbert Harland, had a crew of thirty two, and additionally carried eight passengers and one gunner. Soon after the departure the weather started to change for the worse and by October 23 turned into a strong gale. The ship started to fall behind the rest of the convoy, first being in the company of four other vessels, but by the next morning she found herself completely alone. The weather remained stormy for the duration of the trip, but the freighter was able to maintain the speed of approximately 9 knots (10 mph). During the night of October 31 when the vessel was about 200 nautical miles northwest of Rockall, she was spotted by U-124. The U-boat immediately abandoned her meteorological observations and started shadowing the ship. At approximately 06:18 on November 1 U-124 fired a torpedo from her only functional bow tube but missed. After reloading, the submarine fired another torpedo at the steamer at approximately 07:06. The Empire Bison was hit on her port side between the No. 1 and No. 2 holds. The resulting explosion brought down her foremast, and the ship began filling quickly. Due to stormy weather no lifeboats could be lowered and the entire crew hastily abandoned the vessel by jumping overboard. The ship sank in one minute. Out of forty two people on board the ship, only three crew members and one passenger managed to survive as they were able to find a raft floating among the debris. The survivors remained afloat for the next several days until they were spotted and picked up on 5 November by the steamship Olga S and landed at Gourock.