Aircraftman 1st Class John Tyndel Farquhar RAFVR (1107691) of RAF 200 Squadron was a passenger onboard the SS Anselm on route from Gourock on the Clyde to Freetown, Sierra Leone, when it was torpedoed by the German submarine U-96, 300 miles off the Azores on 5 July 1941.
The SS Anselm was built in Dumbarton in 1935 and owned by the Booth Steamship Company, Liverpool. It was a coal-fired passenger ship that was converted to a troop ship in 1940. The warship HMS Challenger and the SS Anselm were in line ahead and were being screened by HMS Lavender and HMS Petunia. HMS Starwort was stationed astern, the Starwort’s Asdic (anti-submarine detection equipment) was out of order at the time.
A listening watch was kept by the escorts due to the thick fog. At 03.50 the fog lifted. HMS Lavender and HMS Petunia took up screening positions on either bow of HMS Challenger. They commenced a zigzag course at a speed of 11 knots. At 04.26, not far from the Canary Islands, the SS Anselm was stuck by a torpedo on the port side, amidships. The SS Anselm settled rapidly by the head and sank 22 minutes after being hit. All the lifeboats got away except for No.6 lifeboat which was damaged by the explosion. HMS Challenger placed her bow alongside the SS Anselm’s port quarter and rescued 60 men.
On the ship were 1,200 troops, 250 (including 175 RAF personnel) and four crewmen were lost. Many of those who were killed were probably killed by the explosion of the torpedo which struck the ship immediately below the accommodation space.
Aircraftman 1st Class John Tyndel Farquhar, age 31 was the youngest son of John T and Isabella Farquhar of Rockville, Letham Road, Perth. He was married with a son to Elizabeth Webster Farquhar, Far Row, Kinnaird Bank, Craigie, Perth. Farquhar was a junior partner in the city firm of Farquhar & Son, Stationers, and Bookbinders, 7 Atholl Street, Perth. His father was head of the business. Farquhar was educated at Balhousie Boys School and Perth Commercial School. Aircraftman 1st Class John Tyndel Farquhar was married with one child. He was home on leave about a month before setting sail on the SS Anselm.
Farquhar joined the RAF in 1940 and is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.
Leading Aircraftman Douglas Carr from Comrie was also killed when the SS Anselm was torpedoed, see extra details – U-Boat U96: https://madeinperth.org/flyers-from-perthshire-in-the-second-world-war-leading-aircraftman-douglas-carr/
The cargo and passenger liner SS Anselm, 5,954 gross tons, of the Booth Steamship Company. Item is held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Identified as out of copyright and anyone can use without requesting permission