Uncle Bob

In Memory of


Son of James Patterson, of Mata Grande, San Julian, Argentine, 

and of the late Elizabeth Patterson (nee Frazer)

who died as a result of enemy action on Sunday 5 July 1942. Age 29 

Commemorated in the S.S. "AVILA STAR" Section of the Civilian War Dead Register

Segun figura en: http://www.cwgc.org.uk/commemoration.asp?casualty=3167633

En Agosto 2002, investigando sobre familias britanicas en la Patagonia, encontramos la siguiente referencia: 


Frazer, John
Prov. Santa Cruz

Arrived from Scotland in 1895 and settled at San Julián; the great grandson of John Frazer, an Inverness schoolmaster; in 1879 he embarked at the Port of London to establish the first school at Port Darwin in the Falklands; his wife left a superb diary of the journey south and arrival in the Falklands; in 1900 he left Port Darwin with his wife and three adult children to settle at San Julian;

the ship that took them there was the famous 'Rippling Wave', long a beached wreck near Punta Arenas; the family acquired Estancia La Colmena some miles from the town and developed a successful wool business, purchasing other estancias in due course; John's elder son, John Bruce Frazer, ran the business after John Sr's retirement to Arbroath in c.1910; John Bruce had nine children, two of whom were lost in the 'Avila Star', torpedoed by U201 in the Atlantic in about June 1942 with a number of members of British community in Bs.As.; several remained in the Argentine, others settled in England and one in Australia; most are now dead; a number of family members are buried at La Colmena itself; La Colmena was sold to an American company in 1978; throughout their time in Patagonia the Frazers were closely connected to the Patterson family, also Kelper Scots

Esto nos recordo los comentarios de Jacqueline Patterson sobre "uncle Bob" que se habia enrolado como voluntario y su barco habia sido hundido antes de llegar a destino. 

Esos eran todos los datos... 

Sobre los mismos, pensando que podia ser el mismo barco, 
comenzamos la busqueda del AVILA STAR...

... encontramos que si, que era ese mismo barco el que llevaba al tio Bob... encontramos fechas y datos... encontramos jirones de historia y de familia entrelazados, la historia de un drama mas de la Segunda Guerra, recordado por una familia lejana a la misma.

Esta es apenas una recopilacion de datos de uno de ellos, sus tripulantes, sus ultimos momentos, la salvacion de algunos. Tambien sobre quienes lo hundieron, victimas tambien de una guerra que seguramente tampoco quisieron.

El Avila Star fue uno de los cinco grandes buques encargados por la Blue Star Line en 1925, llamados: Almeda, Avila, Andalucia, Arandora, y Avelona. 
Los cinco fueron hundidos durante la WWII...

Su nombre y sus datos:

Blue Star's S.S. "Avila Star" 1
Built: John Brown & Co. Ltd., Clydebank
O.N.: 149791 
As Built Gross : 12872 Net : 7878 Dimensions: 510.2 x 68.2 x 33.9 feet
As refitted 1928/29: Gross : 14443 Net : 8836 Dimensions: 550.4 x 68.2 x 42.6 feet
Propulsion: Four steam turbines by shipbuilder, single reduction geared to two shafts
Passengers: 162 1st Class 
Launched : 22/09/1926 ( Yard No.514) as Avila for Blue Star Line (1920) Ltd. 
Completed: 3/1927
Renamed: 5/1929 Avila Star 
Refitted and lengthened: 1935 by Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Co. Ltd., Jarrow, together with the fitting of a Maierform bow
Lost: 5/07/1942 when torpedoed by the German Submarine U-201, NE of the Azores, in position 38.04N, 22.48W. She was on a voyage from Buenos Aires to Freetown, Sierra Leone with a cargo of 5,659 tons of frozen meat. Forty five crew and 17 passengers were lost. 
Sister ships: Almeda Star , Andalucia Star , Arandora Star, and Avelona Star

Cammell Laird of Birkenhead built the Almeda, Arandora and Andalucia, whereas John Brown of Clydebank built the Avila and Avelona. As built the ships were virtually identical, with a slightly raked cruiser stern and two splendid funnels with Admiralty tops.

Powered by two sets of Parsons combined impulse and reaction turbines developing together some 13,880 shp, driving twin screw at some 120 rpm, giving a full sea speed of 16 kts. 

Steam was raised by three double-ended cylindrical boilers operating at 200 lbs/sq", these were oil fired although coal bunkers could also be carried.

In later years they were all altered variously, with the removal of the Admiralty tops and in the case of the Almeda and Avila the fitting of a Maierform bow. This did nothing for their looks and spoilt the graceful lines they had originally. The Arandora was considerably altered, with the passenger accommodation being extended twice.

In 1929 the Vesteys added the word "Star" to each of the passenger ships, probably to differentiate them from the ailing Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., whose ships' names bore a close resemblance.

In 1974 the name, Avila Star was resurrected with the launching of a new Avila Star, this time a fully refrigerated cargo liner to carry on the famous name.

La noche del Domingo 5 de Julio de 1942, El Avila Star fue torpedeado por el Submarino aleman U-201 en la posicion señalada, al NE de las islas Azores.

Segun descubrimos despues, Robert no era el unico miembro de la familia en el barco. Tambien viajaban en el: Ronald Frazer McDonald (de 32 años) y su hermana, Thelma Norah Frazer McDonald, tios en segundo grado de Robert, descendientes todos de John Frazer, maestro de Inverness-shire que llego a las Falkland en 1879 para fundar la primer escuela, en Port Darwin.

Los catorce records que siguen son, aparentemente, las victimas civiles del Avila Star.
Estan citadas en los links mencionados abajo, con records borrados para hacer de separadores, entre el SS Athenia y el SS Avoceta. 
El recorrido individual fue util, ya que por un error de nombre pensabamos que Norah Frazer no estaba registrada entre ellos.

Records del site oficial de la Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Special Constable. Son of John and Mary Beere, of 106 Blake Street, Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire; husband of Dorothy Beere, of 6 Hill Road, Barrow-in-Furness.


Son of Charles A. and Beatrice Cushing, of 28 Floss Lane, Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire; husband of Jenny Cushing, of 5 Andover Street, Barrow-in-Furness.

of 22 Gerard Road, Barnes, Surrey. Widow of Thomas Dods.

of Talleres Gorton Perez, F.C.C.A., Prov. Santa Fe, Argentina. Son of Elizabeth Florence, of 2 Craigie Loaning, Aberdeen, Scotland; husband of Emily Nollval Florence.

Son of John Frazer and Helen Frazer (nee Mcdonald), of Estancia La Colmena, Puerto San Julian (Patagonia), Santa Cruz, Argentina.

Daughter of John and Helen Frazer, of Estancia La Colmena, Puerto San Julian (Patagonia), Santa Cruz, Argentina

Died in lifeboat before rescue, following the sinking by enemy submarine in the Atlantic of the S.S. "Avila Star" on 5 July 1942, east of the Azores. died as a result of enemy action on 20 July 1942

of 8 King's Gardens, Hove, Sussex. Daughter of the late Alexander and Isabella Tait Donaldson, of 4 Salisbury Road, Edinburgh; widow of Ernest Gibson.

of War Coppice House, Caterham, Surrey. Son of Stuart D. and Eveline Greig.


of Paseo Colon 476, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Daughter of Joseph and Mabel Annie Jordan.

Son of James Patterson, of Mata Grande, San Julian, Argentine, and of the late Elizabeth Patterson. 

Daughter of Edith Maude Sutton, of Navarro 4145, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and of the late Harry William Sutton.

Corresponden a los links http://www.cwgc.org.uk/commemoration.asp?casualty=3167621 al http://www.cwgc.org.uk/commemoration.asp?casualty=3167634


Blue Star Line Postcard Avila Star - Tucks Postcards - Fraser Darrah Collection

Testimonios de la epoca...

Del diario de Bill Goodalls

Bill Goodall's Diaries: 1941/1945, 'Journal of William Motion Goodall, ordinary member of the RAF during World War II'.

14 October 1941 to 25 October 1941

Saturday, 18 October 1941. All crowded on deck to see the last of Britain for a few months and very soon many chaps were seasick.

There are about 5000 on board including crew, civilian passengers, 3000 RAF personnel, Dutch soldiers going to the E Indies, Canadian troops returning home, Norwegians, French sailors and our own Navy men going to join ships in America. We are a small convoy consisting of 'Pasteur', 'Avila Star' escorted by aircraft carrier 'Indomitable', 'SS Canton' (Armed Merchantman) and five destroyers. I soon began to feel uneasy and after the evening meal I was sick but quickly recovered and was not troubled by seasickness for the rest of the voyage.

Conditions on board throughout the following week were difficult with little to do and very cramped quarters; meals too were a problem as they had to be fetched from the galley by six orderlies who worked in a rota system. Some famous RAF officers were on board and each morning they gave lectures to sections of the troops - they included Tuck, Malan, Boothman and Edwards of whom we heard the middle two. There were some cinema shows and two evening concerts organised by Michael Redgrave who was an Ordinary Seaman in the Navy.


In October, like many others, our Squadrons were relieved by RAF 23 Squadron Night Fighters of the Royal Air Force. 

Our movement was secret but in the middle of one night all three squadrons were entrained and we travelled to Liverpool an embarked in a liner, "The Avila Star" and put to sea the next day. Before we reached the open sea we were hit by another ship and enough to make us return for repairs. While back in Liverpool I met a former shipmate, Stoker Reading ex-Hood. After 10 we were at sea again and joined a convoy of 5 ships with a 2 destroyer escort. We steamed out into mid Atlantic and we, in darkness, left the convoy and started south. The rest of the convoy carried on west to Canada & America. We heard at a later date, that convoy was carrying children to Canada. 

On our journey south, it was alarming and sad to see the remains of ships torpedoed by U boats. We were very lucky.

Otro que escolto al Avila Star en momentos duros fue el buque: Jacob van Heemskerck, de origen holandes.


July 7 1941
While escorting the liner Avila Star through the Bristol Channel, the latter is attacked by some German bombers. The AA-fire produced was so impressive, that the Germans broke off their attacks.

Algunos links con fotos del Avila Star


Frans Naerebout Schepen Series Postcard of T.S.S. Avila Star 1927 - Fraser Darrah Collection

Plans from the 5th September 1927 copy of "Shipbuilding and Shipping Record"




De: Memories of the New Hutterite Bruderhof 1920, 1961 and 1993 extraemos un dato curioso. Aparentemente cinco tripulantes del Avila se salvaron. Otras versiones hablan de mas.


I have written little about the years 1935-1960 because there are enough witnesses in KIT. Gestapo on the Rhon Bruderhof, Silum [Liechtenstein], Oaksey [England] to Paraguay on ten ships across the submarine-infested Atlantic. The Avila Star ship was sunk after the trip with our last group. Only five survived after floating on the ocean for three weeks!

(recordemos que Lawrence Gahan muere recien 15 dias despues del hundimiento, todavia en un bote salvavidas, el dia 20)

Sobre eso habla el site de la armada de Portugal


Durante a 2 Guerra Mundial, os Centros do Bom Sucesso e de Ponta Delgada foram chamados a realizar algumas dezenas de missões de busca de náufragos dos navios torpedeados pelos submarinos alemães. Essas missões eram geralmente efectuadas em complemento das missões de busca e salvamento efectuadas por navios da Marinha de Guerra.

Um caso especial que teve grande projecção, foi o do afundamento do paquete inglês Avila Star, a oeste da Península Ibérica, tendo sido pedida a intervenção do Centro do Bom Sucesso nas buscas dos náufragos, mas já muitos dias depois do afundamento do navio. Com vários hidros Grumman G-21, desenvolveu-se uma operação de busca sistemática cobrindo uma vasta área do Atlântico, voando-se vários dias entre o nascer e o pôr do Sol. Quando se decidiu suspender as buscas por se considerar inexistente qualquer vestígio de náufragos na vasta área pesquisada, o último avião em operação, tendo prolongado um pouco o seu voo num rumo adequado para efectuar uma observação do Sol, avistou finalmente uma embarcação com os náufragos sobreviventes. Tinham decorrido cerca de 2 semanas desde o afundamento do seu navio. A persistência dos nossos aviadores, beneficiada por mera casualidade de última hora, permitiu o salvamento de algumas vidas.

Hidroavion del tipo usado en el rescate de los sobrevivientes del hundimiento.

En otro lugar se encuentran mas cifras, y el testimonio de un sobreviviente...

The Portugese Governemnt dispatched naval vessels and aircraft to the site sinking and rescued approximately 134 persons.

Quizas uno de esos sobrevivientes fuera el Capitan Low, cuya historia se cuenta en
donde nos enteramos que el Avila Star fue torpedeado de noche, y leemos una dramatica historia de los momentos finales del Avila Star y muchos de sus tripulantes...

Low was dropped off at Freetown, after another week, his Chief Officer, plus his 2nd. Officer arrived by courtesy of the "Avila Star." Captain Low arranged to take passage to Liverpool in this ship, but, on the night of the 5th. of July, "Avila Star" was torpedoed North East of the Azores. 
The first lifeboat that Low was to board, quickly sank before it could take survivors, he made it into a second boat, which was immediately by a second torpedo fired at the sinking vessel. Low was tossed into the water being wounded in an arm and shoulder, he swam as best as he could, covered in oil, to be picked up by another boat, which quickly sank. 
Other life boats rescued these seamen, including Low, and finally, they were picked up by a Portuguese destroyer. What a saga for one brave, determined Captain from the Merchant Navy! 

A los pocos dias de haber subido este site, tomamos contacto con Dr. Bruce Taylor, de Los Angeles, de la familia Frazer, quien nos da mas datos de los sobrevivientes...

...Despues de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Brydon, que mantuvo relaciones muy estrechas con la familia de su mujer difunta, sin duda a instancia de ellos investigo muy detenidamete las circunstancias del hundimiento, hablando con sobrevivientes de la tripulacion y los pasajeros. 
Lamentablemente al morir ahi por 1969 todos los papeles del mismo Brydon fueron botados y asi hemos perdido este recurso. 
Sin embargo unos pocos datos de la investigacion sobreviven para transmision oral.  En principio tengo que decirte que mi padre esta totalmente convencido que no uno sino DOS Patterson murieron en el 'Avila Star'.  El William de que hablas y una hermana de el cuyo nombre habia cambiado por razon de casamiento.  Esta seguro de esto. 
Como sabes, dos Frazer tambien murieron, incluyendo su primo favorito, Ronald, asi que el siempre se ha interesado mucho en la tragedia. 

Esencialmente, despues de ser atacado, los tripulantes y pasajeros escaparon a una serie de lanchas, los dos Patterson y los dos Frazer quedando juntos en una.  (Los cuatro estaban viajando juntos de Buenos Aires a Gran Bretaña con la intencion de prestar su ayuda en la guerra.) 
Esta lancha al principio estaba atada a otra que despues fue salvada, pero al amanecer despues de la primera noche la lancha de los Frazer y Patterson habia desaparecido y no se volvio a ver. Esa es la tradicion que te puedo relatar. 

De la tragedia salio una heroina, Maria Elizabeth Ferguson.  De ella se ha escrito una biografia John Frayn Turner, 'A Girl Called Johnnie: Three Weeks in a Open Boat' (London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1963).  El libro tiene poquisimas menciones de los F. y los P.  Esto me sorprende pues el numero de pasajeros en ese viaje no era mas de 30 y habian estado juntos varios dias y por lo tanto se esperaria mas contacto entre ella y los nuestros.  Puede que realmente no se conocieron bien, o quizas se cayeron mal.  Quien sabe.

Bob Patterson era el menor de tres hermanos y es dudoso que la muerte de otra hermana no haya quedado registrada en la tradicion familiar, con muchos sobrinos nietos vivos hablando del tema a hoy, Agosto del 2002. Sin embargo, notamos que una de las victimas, Dorothy Botham, es la unica mujer que no tiene referencias de origen ni familiares, que en las otras victimas explican su apellido por casamiento o paternidad. 
Si era o no una Patterson o Frazer, casada con un Botham que sobrevivio o no viajaba en el barco... esta por averiguarse todavia...

Estuvimos con Lynette Patterson el 15 de Septiembre 2002 y nos dijo tambien que testigos recordaban haber visto bajar al bote a Norah Frazer, vistiendo su saco de piel... estaba en el bote que se perdio... Bob la acompañaba. Viajaba en el Avila Star porque estaba enamorado de su prima...

Dinner Menu from the maiden voyage of the Avila Star - Courtesy Rick Andrews

En el site de la familia Gahan, irlandeses de Argentina, vemos:

Lorenzo Gahan y Murphy. Estanciero. Murió en el naufragio del "Avila Star", en julio de 1942. Casado en matrimonio con 
Joan Mary Stenning. Tuvieron una hija.

Tambien se encuentran busquedas...

From: <Robbo2110@aol.com>
Subject: SS Avila Star
Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 08:13:22 EST

Can anyone tell me anything about this ship.
My uncles friend Ronald Ingham served on it during the second world war and he was killed in action.
I have found his records on the Commonwealth war graves commission site and would like to know more about the ship. 
Where would she have sailed from, what missions she would have been on and finally where she went down.

Any help would be most appreciated.


En esta foto, de la «apertura de la temporada de tenis en Mata Grande» -la estancia de su familia en la Patagonia- 
en 1931, se ve a Robert (abajo, tercero desde la derecha) con 19 años.

¿ Que lo llevo a presentarse como voluntario a los los 29, y viajar a una Gran Bretaña que en 1942 vivia el peor momento de la guerra ? 
Murio unos dias antes de cumplir los 30.  60 años despues, recuperamos parte de su historia y sus ultimos dias.

El 15/9/02 nos dieron una pista... Lynette Patterson nos conto que Norah Frazer tambien estaba en el bote que llego a evacuar el barco, con Robert, y que la vieron bajar abrigada con su tapado de piel. A la mañana siguiente, el bote habia desaparecido con ellos. 
Al parecer, el padre de Norah y Ronald los hizo viajar a presentarse como voluntarios.

Bob los acompaño porque estaba enamorado de Norah...


El U-201 a su vez, fue hundido siete meses y medio despues, el 17 de feberero de 1943 por cargas de profundidad del HMS Viscount, muriendo sus 49 tripulantes, en la posicion detallada abajo.

Hay abundante documentacion sobre el mismo y su tripulacion, victimas tambien poco despues, de la misma guerra.

El Submarino


Laid down 20 Jan, 1940 Germaniawerft, Kiel
Commissioned 25 Jan, 1941 Oblt. Adalbert Schnee (Oak Leaves)
Commanders 25 Jan, 1941 - 24 Aug, 1942 Kptlt. Adalbert Schnee (Knights Cross) 
25 Aug, 1942 -17 Feb, 1943 Kptlt. Günther Rosenberg Career patrols 25 Jan, 1941 - 1 Apr, 1941 1. Flottille (training) 1 Apr, 1941 - 17 Feb, 1943 1. Flottille (front boat)

25 ships sunk for a total of 111.073 tons
2 ships damaged for a total of 13.386 tons

Fate Sunk 17 Feb, 1943 in North Atlantic, in position 50.50N, 40.50W, by depth charges from the British destroyer HMS Viscount. 49 dead (all hands lost).


El U-201 estaba dirigido en Julio de 1942 por el Korvettenkapitän Adalbert Schnee, quien lo comando hasta Agosto de ese año. 
Tenia tambien 29 años.

En Septiembre de 1942 le asignaron el U-2551, un submarino de nuevo tipo, que comando hasta el fin de la Guerra, en Mayo de 1945.


Adalbert Schnee joined the Navy in April 1934. After some months on the light cruiser Leipzig, he began his U-boat career in May 1937. 

He spent two pre-war years on board U-23 under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Otto Kretschmer. There he completed his first five patrols before going on to win great success with his own boat, U-201. On his seventh patrol he sank ships for a total of 41,036 tons, and for this achievement was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knights Cross. 

In October 1942 he joined the BdU staff. In his position as the "Geleitzugs-Asto" (A I op), he planned and organized operations against the enemy convoys. 

In September 1944 he took over the command of the new "Elektro-boot" U-2511, the first and only Type XXI boat to go on patrol*. On this patrol in the last days of the war, in the hours immediately after the cease-fire orders on 4 May, 1945, Korvettenkapitän Schnee had an excellent opportunity to sink the British cruiser HMS Norfolk. Simulating an actual attack, he approached the vessel, evaded the destroyer screen, closed to point-blank range, and then simply left the area.

After the surrender he served for six months in a minesweeper unit.

Later Schnee completed a commercial training course and worked for some years as a commercial representative. Then he retired from this profession to become the director of a sailing school on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean. 

Schnee quiere decir nieve en aleman, e hizo pintar en la torreta del submarino esta figura
(ver ultima foto)

Tripulacion del U-201 (34 hombres)

El ataque al Avila Star puede no haber sido muy diferente a esta escena. Solo se sabe que fue de noche.

El Capitan Schnee en la torreta

Notese el muñeco de nieve de Schnee pintado en la torreta.

Por la recopilacion:

Martin Romano Garcia
Agosto 2002