Bernard Rish

Third Radio Officer, S.S. City of Pretoria
Died 3 Mar 1943
Commemorated at Tower Hill Memorial
Age 19

Bernard was born on 12 December 1923 in Prestwich, Lancashire to Polish father Nathan, a fancy goods merchant, and Esther nee Zonis. Bernard had an older sister Beatrice and after leaving school he worked as an assistant in his father’s shop.

AJEX archivist Martin Sugarman has written about Bernard in his book, ‘Jews in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War,’ Bernard’s friend Basil Sufrin survived the war and his recollections were sent to Martin.

In December 1942 Bernard was aboard the S.S. City of Bombay carrying munitions to Karachi from Liverpool, via Trinidad and the Cape. On the night of the 13 December, the ship was hit by torpedoes from U159. Basil Sufrin rushed to get his friend fellow Jewish radio officer, from the radio room, where he had been on duty; but Bernard had been knocked to the floor by the explosion. Basil pulled him onto a chair and sent off a May Day signal. The two men then jumped overboard when the Captain ordered the Abandon Ship and made for a lifeboat already afloat a few meters away. They witnessed the U-boat shooting at the ship with its deck guns to finish it off. The sea was now quite rough and the lifeboat was swamped, and Bernard was thrown into the sea but managed to hang on to a nearby raft. Basil hung on to the lifeboat side and did not see where Bernard had gone. After a while all 19 men managed to get into the boat and after five hellish days they were picked up by the S.S. Star of Cairo. Basil was taken to Cape Town where he was hospitalised and he sent a telegram home saying that he had no news of Bernard. Bernard had been picked up by the USS Tenacity and taken to New York where he sent a similar message to his parents saying he did not know where Basil was!

Bernard was killed a few months later on the ship City of Pretoria which was torpedoed on 3 March 1943 on the way back to the United Kingdom.