James Mohan

Donkeyman James Mohan served in the Merchant Navy and was working in the engine room of HMS Dunvegan Castle when the Belfast-built ship came under attack.


James Mohan

James Mohan from Belfast, Co. Antrim worked as a donkeyman on board the HMS Dunvegan Castle when it was struck by three torpedoes on 27th August 1940.

Donkeyman James Mohan served in the Merchant Navy during World War Two. A donkeyman on a ship looked after a small steam engine known as the donkey engine.

Born around 1880, he was the son of Thomas Mohan and Mary Ann Mohan of Belfast, Co. Antrim. His wife was also a Mary Ann Mohan of Belfast, Co. Antrim.

He worked on board the armed merchant cruiser HMS Dunvegan Castle when it came under attack from U-Boat U-46 at 2147hrs on 27th August 1940. A single torpedo hit aft of the bridge where retired Royal Navy Captain H Ardill was in command around 120 miles southwest of Cape Clear.

The Dunvegan Castle continued onwards. U-46 fired two more torpedoes striking the engine room at 2212hrs and just before the bridge at 2251hrs. The vessel stopped, caught fire, and foundered the next day.

The captain of U-46 was Engelbert Endrass when it sank the merchant vessel in the Atlantic Ocean about 75 miles northwest of Ireland. The ship was bound for Belfast from Freetown as part of Convoy SL-43.

With a mass of 15,007 tons, the Harland and Wolff built Dunvegan Castle was one of the largest merchant ships sunk by a U-Boat. The world famous Belfast shipyard completed the vessel in August 1936 as a motor passenger ship for Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co. Ltd, London. The Admiralty requisitioned the ship on 7th September 1939, converting it to an armed merchant cruiser before 20th December 1939.

Of the 277 crew on board, 27 died and 250 survived the sinking. The dead comprised 3 officers and 24 ratings. Of the survivors, 12 sustained serious injuries. James Mohan was one of these. HMS Harvester and HMS Primrose rescued survivors taking them to Scotland.

James Mohan died on 18th September 1940 aged 60-years-old. The cause of death was due to wounds received in the sinking of the ship. His grave is in Section B, Row OF, Grave 50 of Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim.

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