Before he tried to join the RAF he says he tried to get a post as a Cabin Boy on the SS Irish Pine, a vessel owned by Irish Shipping Ltd. He was told at the time that he was too young to go to sea.
This rebuff was just as well: on 16 November 1942 the Irish Pine was en route to Tampa, Florida to load a cargo of phosphates bound for Dublin. At 00.14 hours, U608 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Rolf Struckmeier fired one torpedo at the Irish Pine which hit the stern. The crew began to abandon ship, but it sank rapidly at 00.17 hour. All 33 perished:
Bent P. (Carpenter), Cashin K. Charles (O.S.) Clery Patrick (Fourth engineer) Connolly W. (Third mate) Conway J. (A.B.) Crichton Robert L. (Wireless officer) Cowzer Fred. (A.B.) Cusack Michael (Third engineer) Cusack Thomas (Chief steward) Daly Thomas (W.T.O.) Donagh Eamon (O.S.) Dooly M. (Greaser) Duffy Joseph (Cook) Fanning P. (A.B.) Flynn M. (A.B.) Hartnett A. (Second mate) McCarthy John (Greaser) Murphy Frank (Fireman) Nolan John (Donkey-man) O'Brien G. A. (Chief engineer) O'Callaghan Michael (Assistant steward) O'Connell James (Second engineer) O'Connor J. (First mate) O'Donoghue Thomas (Cabin boy) O'Neill M. (Master) Ryan Sean (Fireman) Sheehan P. (A.B.) Smith S. (Bosun) Talbot R. (A.B.) Tobin A. (A.B.) Tracy Francis (Fireman) Ward H. (Greaser) Young H. (Assistant cook)
As with other Irish vessels at the time, the Irish Pine would have been brightly lit. As can be seen from the above photograph it had the words Eire and the Tricolour on both sides. Why it was attacked is unclear.
I have no idea if my dad is telling the truth about the Irish Pine but by November 1942 he was spending an inordinate amount of time giving German AA crews something a target to shoot at....
Some sources of information on Irish shipping during WWII
Irish Ships Cork Local History