Porter, S.S. Umona
Died 30 Mar 1941
Commemorated at Tower Hill Memorial
Julius was born on 9 March 1918 in Liverpool, Merseyside to Hyman and Dinah nee Muscovitch who were both born and married in Grodno in Belarus. Their first child Rebecca was born in Grodno and the family then moved to Liverpool in 1905 where they went on to have a further eleven children. Hyman worked as a cabinet maker and in later years he ran a drapery shop.
Julius joined the Merchant Navy in 1939 as a laundry boy and his first trip was on the S.S. Duchess of Richmond which travelled from Liverpool to Montreal, New York and San Francisco. He then transferred to the S.S. Westernland and his records state that he was classed as a D.B.S. (Distressed British Seaman) and was transferred to the S.S. Umona to bring him back to his home port.
In March 1941, the Umona sailed from Durban for London, with a cargo of 1,549 tons of maize, 50 tons of pulses and 47 tons of jam. She called at Walvis Bay in Southwest Africa on 20 March and headed unescorted for Freetown to join an inbound convoy. When she left Walvis Bay, she was carrying 14 passengers including seven distressed British seamen (DBS), i.e. British mariners who had survived the sinking of their ships and were going home.
In the evening of 30 March, the ship was about 90 nautical miles southwest of Freetown when the German submarine U-124 attacked her, hitting her with one torpedo at 23.01 hours and another two minutes later. She quickly sank, killing the master, 81 crew, seven gunners and 13 passengers. Umona only managed to launch one of her six lifeboats before she sank. It was commanded by her fourth officer, 20-year-old Edwin Clarke, but U-124 surfaced, captured Clarke and submerged. Three other survivors managed to board a small life raft and after they had drifted for four days, they sighted a submarine and attracted her attention. The submarine came and gave them fresh water but the next day the weather worsened, and in the afternoon the radio officer died. On 7 April, while escorting Convoy WS 7, the Destroyer HMS Foxhound rescued three crewmen from the lifeboat from which Clarke had been captured. Foxhound did not see the raft, which continued to drift. On 12 April the British cargo ship Lorca sighted the raft and rescued the 2 survivors, and they were landed at Freetown.
In all, 99 men and two women from Umona died, Edwin Clarke was unaccounted for after being captured and was presumed dead, and only five survivors were rescued.