HMS “President III” was a shore based administrative and payroll facility for Royal Navy trained gun crews who served on “Defensively Armed Merchant Ships”. These Gunners served on Merchant Navy ships as Merchant Seamen, signing on to each boat in turn and acting as one of the crew [even wearing civilian dress when in neutral ports] until trouble broke out and they needed to man the guns. He died in action aboard the S.S. Gretavale
The S.S. Gretavale commanded by Master Frank Passmore, a steam freighter built in Glasgow in 1928, of 4,586 tons, she was bound from Sidney, Nova Scotia to Loch Ewe, Scotland during late October/early November 1941, in Convoy SC-52, with a cargo steel and trucks.
Just before midnight, local time, on 2nd November she was torpedoed, about 180 miles E, of St Anthony, Newfoundland, by the German submarine U 202 which fired a spread of three torpedoes into the convoy, hitting the Gretavale and the SS Flynderborg, both of which were sunk.
The Master, 31 Crew and 6 Gunners, including James, were killed in the attack on the Gretavale.
6 Crew Members were picked up from the water by the Canadian Corvette HMCS Windflower (K155) (Lieutenant Comander John Price) and landed at St Johns, Newfoundland. HMCS Windflower was also lost with 23 of her crew in a collision in thick fog with a vessel she was in convoy with on 7th December 1941.
SC-52 had been intercepted by a “Wolfpack” of 13 U-boats and lost two further boats later the next Day [S.S. Everoja and S.S. Empire Gemsbuck], the remaining 30 freighters, faced with overwhelming odds and worsening weather turned around and headed back to port – The only Atlantic convoy to do so during WW2.
U 202, Commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans-Heinz Linder, was a type VIIC U-boat, four weeks into her third patrol when she sunk her third victim, the S.S. Gretavale. She survived a total of nine patrols [including one in 1942 which landed a 4 man saboteur team on the coast of Long island, USA.) and sank 9 Allied ships before she was finally sunk by depth charges from HMS Starling on 2nd June 1943. 30 men were captured and 18 lost their lives.