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T. J. Cain

Lieutenant Commander

Lieutenant Commander T. J. Cain (click to enlarge in a new window) (43957 bytes)

Lieutenant Commander T. J. Cain

The book HMS Electra, by TJ Cain (click to enlarge in a new window) (10570 bytes)

HMS Electra by T. J. Cain and A. V. Sellwood Published 1959,
London: Muller. Futura Publishing Limited 1986

The British artillery officer (Gunnery Officer on Electra) Lieutenant Commander T. J. Cain from HMS destroyer Electra described the last moments aboard the ship:


At 17.30, Electra was ordered to make a counter-attack. The smoke was very thick and generally view was barely half a mile, although the personnel on the bridge could probably look over the haze. When we emerged from the smoke, we saw on an opposite course an enemy unit, consisting of three heavy destroyers, which entered the smoke. The distance was about 5500 metres. We immediately engaged and thought to have scored hits with four salvoes on the leading ship. Electra did not use torpedoes. As the enemy disappeared in the smokescreen, an enemy shell, a luck shot, hit us in the second boiler room, on the portside. It destroyed the boiler, while the pipelines for the telemotor of the steering gear were ripped off. The pressure dropped, to completely disappear shortly afterwards, despite efforts by the engine room personnel. This was mainly the result of the fact that water from Boiler No. 3 was flowing to the damaged boiler. Electra then halted with a slight list to port and the order "Abandon ship" was given. Shortly afterwards, a sole heavy destroyer emerged from the smoke. We immediately engaged with the guns firing independently, as the communications with the bridge had completely failed. One single, fast destroyer is nothing but a difficult target for a drifting ship. The shells from the second salvo of the enemy were already hits. He then silenced our guns one after the other and caused a heavy fire forward, while our list began to increase.
Only the rear-gun was still firing and the order "Abandon ship" was given. The wounded were brought aboard the whaleboat, the only one still undamaged. Two rafts were thrown overboard and I also saw a destroyed raft floating by. Everyone still able seemed to have left the ship, with the exception of the Chief Steward Gretton, who came asking what was to be done with two wounded on the quarterdeck. With Gretton I dropped them overboard, one with a lifebuoy and one with a wooden grating. Both seemed to be moving towards a raft. The enemy was still firing and had now come so close, the he could start using his "pompoms". Around this time, a shell hit among the men in the water. With Gretton, I then moved around the ship and started throwing floatable objects towards them, such as ammo boxes and smoke buoys. The ship was listing heavily to port, while the forecastle also started to sank. There were no people left alive on the quarterdeck, so I left the ship with Gretton. Barely clear of the ship, I saw someone, apparently the captain, come to the starboard side of the bridge and wave at the men in the water, who shouted loudly. The Electra then started to settle slowly, capsized and sank until only the propellors and almost two metres of the quarterdeck were still above the water. They remained in this position for some time, after which at about 6 pm they too disappeared beneath the waves. 
Of course the number of casualties aboard the Electra was large. The men of the Electra put a good face on it, according to the best traditions, when they were shot up but they remained standing. The Electra was a beautiful ship and I am proud to have served aboard her.

Lt Cmdr. T. J. Cain

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Lt Cmdr. T. J. Cain and CWGC