Gordon, Margaret Hope Maberly (b.1910 - d.1999)

Accession Number PR01900
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Memoir, Document
Maker Gordon, Margaret Hope Maberly
Place made Australia: Victoria, United States of America: New York
Date made 1943; 1981-1982; 1999
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection relating to the Second World War experience of Margaret Hope Maberly Gordon.

Collection consists of a 13 page typed account of Margaret Gordon's experience of 52 days in a lifeboat after the sinking of her ship in 1942; photocopied correspondence about her story; photocopied newspaper clippings about her survival; a photocopy of the British Empire Medal Citation Mrs Gordon received; business cards of Margaret's from the State Library of Victoria.

Margaret Hope Maberly Smith was born in Colac in 1910. In 1936, she stopped off at Quetta, India to stay with family and friends en route to England to attend the coronation of Edward VIII. There she met Crawford Gordon, a Scot and deputy chief-engineer with the Bengal-Assam Railways. They married the following year in St Thomas' Cathedral, Bombay. In 1942 they boarded the British passenger steamer SS City of Cairo bound for England. The Cairo’s lone trans-Atlantic voyage, with an average speed of barely 10 Knots, made it a sitting duck for a U-boat wolf pack. Six days out of Cape Town, on the 6th November 1942 at 8.30pm, a German U-boat fired a single torpedo at the Cairo from a range of 500 metres. The ship sank with heavy loss of life.

Margaret and her husband managed to evacuate, but the lifeboat Margaret boarded was cast adrift from the ship before her husband had time to enter it. Crawford Gordon drowned. Margaret’s boat capsized after the U-boat fired another torpedo and she was thrown into the sea. She was pulled into another lifeboat (No.4) commandeered by the Cairo’s Third Officer, James ‘Knocker’ Whyte. There were 17 survivors in Lifeboat No 4. Over the course of the next 51 days all perished except Margaret Gordon and James 'Knocker' Whyte. On 27th December a Brazilian corvette spotted the lifeboat and brought the pair to safety.

In February 1943 Whyte sailed on the SS City of Pretoria for Liverpool. The ship was torpedoed and sank with complete loss of life.

For her gallantry at sea Margaret Gordon received a British Empire Medal. After recovering in Recife, Margaret went to New York, where she became a librarian in the office of the Australian Trade Commissioner, New York. For two years, from 1944 to 1946, she served in the Women's Royal Naval Service, first in Washington and then in London. For her mother she wrote a chronicle describing her ordeal, and then firmly closed the door to this part of her life, looking ahead rather than dwelling in the past.
Margaret Gordon returned to Australia in 1946 and a year later married farmer Roy Stanley Ingham. They farmed in Victoria until Roy Ingham’s early death in 1959 by suicide.

At 50, Margaret went back into training and became a qualified librarian. She began as a children's librarian at South Melbourne, and in 1965 she oversaw children’s library services in public libraries throughout the state.

Margaret Hope Maberly Ingham died in 1999.