A cabin boy in the Merchant Navy

Evans' story to be featured on History Television

Darrell Cole webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on February 11, 2009
Retired merchant navy veteran George Evans looks over a replica of a merchant ship he sailed on during the Second World War. Evans was recently interviewed for a four-hour series that will air on History Television later this year. Darrell Cole - Amherst Daily News

AMHERST - The ravages of time have taken their toll on George Evans, but he'll never forget his brush with death in the North Atlantic nearly 68 years ago.

Evans was but a teenager serving in the merchant navy when his ship, the SS Einvik, was shot out from under him on the night of Sept. 5, 1941 beginning a 10-day ordeal in the frozen ocean off Iceland.

AMHERST - The ravages of time have taken their toll on George Evans, but he'll never forget his brush with death in the North Atlantic nearly 68 years ago.

Evans was but a teenager serving in the merchant navy when his ship, the SS Einvik, was shot out from under him on the night of Sept. 5, 1941 beginning a 10-day ordeal in the frozen ocean off Iceland.

The story is expected to be aired on History Television in the fall, probably around Remembrance Day.

"It was quite an honour to be interviewed. It's very important that we take advantage of every opportunity to tell our story because it's a part of our history that not many people know about," said Evans, who enlisted in the merchant navy in St. John's at age 15 only a couple of weeks before his merchant ship was torpedoed by U-501. "We were the lifeline for England during the war. We would not have won the war if not for the convoys."

Evans said everyone knows about the D-Day landings and the Battle of Britain, but their knowledge stops when it comes to massive convoys from ports in eastern Canada and the United States travelling through hostile waters to ports in the United Kingdom.

Evans talks extensively about his experiences off the coast of Iceland in his book, Through the Corridors of Hell.

In the book, the 82-year-old St. John's, N.L. native said he was awaken early in the morning by a loud bang on the starboard side of the boat. He was knocked to the floor as he made his way to the deck and eventually made his way to a lifeboat as the freighter was hit by more torpedoes and came under shelling from the German U-boat.

With the Einvik gone to the bottom, the 23 crewmembers began making their way to Iceland in two lifeboats, being plucked from the waters off the Icelandic coast by a fishing boat 10 days later.

"All I remember is it was very cold," said Evans, who survived the ordeal with a bad cold and swollen feet and arms.

Matthew Booi, an associate producer with Cream Productions, said the four-hour series, tentatively known as Convoy, will feature the Battle of the Atlantic from all sides and will feature interviews from merchant mariners in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Germany.

Booi remembers interviewing Evans and being fascinated by his story.

"He has an amazing story to tell," Booi said. "The hardships these men went through were incredible and the fact he lived to tell about it is amazing."

A stoker, fireman and trimmer, Evans served on various ships during the Battle of the Atlantic, serving on the famed Murmansk Run in 1942 and 1943 that saw Allied shipping supply Russian forces through the northern ports of Murmansk and Archangel.

dcole@amherstdaily.com