Donald Owen Clarke GC

Donald Owen Clarke (05/03/1923 – 08/09/1942) was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions on 08-09/08/1942 off coast of Trinidad while a crewman of the tanker San Emiliano.

“On the night of the 8th-9th August 1942, Clarke was serving on board the tanker “San Emiliano” when it was hit by two torpedoes and her cargo of petroleum burst into flames, turning the ship into an inferno. Clarke was trapped in his cabin but fought his way out on deck and boarded the only lifeboat that was still intact. It was full of burnt and wounded men, and he himself was badly burnt on the face, hands and legs. When the boat was lowered onto the sea, it started to drift back towards the flaming tanker and it was evident that it would require a tremendous effort to pull it out of danger. Most of the occupants, however, were so badly injured that they were unable to help. Despite his injuries, Clarke took an oar and pulled heartily for 2 hours without complaint, and only when the boat was well clear did he collapse and then his hands had to be cut away from the oar as the burnt flesh had stuck to it. He died a few hours later of his injuries.”

Clarke’s body was lost at sea off the coast of Trinidad, and he is commemorated on the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill in London.

 

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