Philip Brewster was the the youngest son of Harold Brewster and Jane Brewster (nee Sutton).
Harold Brewster served in the 1st World War. He suffered a severe gun shot wound to his right arm and was discharged as no longer fit for war service in September 1917. He and Jane Sutton were married in September 1917. After the war they had 4 children: William, Dorothy, John Charles and Philip. Dorothy and Charles were twins. All the children attended Bottesford School. William, Philip and John Charles ((known as Charlie) are noted in the School Logbook as keeping a school allotment in good order.
At the declaration of war in 1939 they were living at Field View on the High Street, Bottesford. All 4 of Harold’s and Janes’s children were called for service in the 2nd World War. William, born in 1920 joined the army and was evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. This contributed to ill health that caused his early death in October 1961 aged 41. Charlie served with the RAF in India. Dorothy was also conscripted for War Work, and was employed on an armaments production line making guns at Grantham Productions, part of British MARCO.
Prior to Philip’s call up in March 1942 at the age of 18 years old he worked as a skin sorter for the Sutton fell mongers in Bottesford. Philip joined the Royal Navy as an ‘Ordinary Seaman’ at the naval training camp HMS Glendower at Pwllheli in North Wales. After 3 months of training he qualified as an ‘Acting Able Seaman’ and ‘Acting Seaman Gunner’. According to his naval record he showed ‘satisfactory efficiency’ and he was of ‘very good character’.
From July 1942 he joined a recently repaired ‘defence equipped merchant ship (DEM) the SS Oporto. Between July 1942 and February 1943 he completed three successful outward and return convoys to Portugal and Spain onboard the Oporto visiting Lisbon, Gibraltar and Seville.
2/8/1942 Sailed Liverpool for Lisbon – 21/8/42 Arrive Lisbon onward to Gibraltar
23/8/42 Arrived Gibraltar
29/8/42 Sailed Gibraltar – 9/9/42 Arrive Preston
10/9/42-16/9/42 Ship repairs at Preston
28/9/42 Sailed Preston – 29/9/42 Arrive Clyde
2/10/42 Sailed Clyde – via Gibraltar 14/10/42 – 15/10/42 Arrived Lisbon
23/10/42 Sailed Lisbon – 23/10/42 Arrived Setubal
3/11/42 – Sailed Setubal – 3/11/42 Arrived Lisbon
21/11/42 Sailed Lisbon – 30/11/42 Arrived Liverpool
2/12/42 -23/12/42 – Repairs NW England
23/12/42 – Sailed Liverpool – 23/12/42 put back to Liverpool
24/12/42 – Sailed Liverpool
26/12/42 Sailed Holyhead – Arrived Milford Haven 27/12/42
Cargo Sulphate of Copper and Seed Potatoes
3/1/43 Sailed Milford Haven – In port Gibraltar 13/1/43 – 15/1/42 Arrived Seville
21/1/43 Sailed Seville – 25/1/43 In post Gibraltar
Cargo Wolfrum (tungsten) and oranges
7/2/43 Sailed Gibraltar – 16/2/43 Arrived Mersey
19/2/43 – 5/3/43 Repairs NW England
5/3/43 Sailed Liverpool
13/3/43 Torpedoed and Sunk 190 nautical miles west of Finistere. Four survivors from the crew of 47
Letters home (posted in Liverpool and Gibraltar (December 28th 1942 and 3rd Feb 1943) show that Philip was anxious for news of his family who were also in the forces – his brother Bill in the army, Arthur (Dorothy’s husband), Bill’s wife Alma and John Charles in the RAF. He wonders what has happened to Arthur and where he is, and that he keeps a lookout for him. It is likely that at the time of these letters, Arthur had become a PoW in Germany. He reports that Christmas 1942 was quiet and somewhat lacking in cheer – no shore leave, just a tot of rum and a tin of canned beer. Philip did however manage to get ‘some comforts – scarfs, polo neck pullover, a pair of sea boots stocking and a nice pair of socks so they will come in handy while on watch’. He also thanks Dot and Lot (Charlotte Bugg) for their Christmas cards.
On his first visit to Lisbon he was issued by the Master of the Oporto a month’s pass to the British Seaman’s Institute. Photographs also show him enjoying shore leave in Lisbon in the Jardim Dom Luis park adjacent to the Seaman’s Institute.
Sadly his fourth outbound convoy was not a success. His ship was part of Convoy OS 44 heading from Liverpool to Seville. On the 12th March enemy aircraft were spotted shadowing the convoy. The convoy was bombed at 14.35 with no damage to any of the vessels. By that time a pack of 4 German U-boats patrolling the area was already alerted to attack the convoy. Only one of the U boats attacked the convoy. U-107 fired its first torpedo at around 04:40 on the morning 13th March 1943. The convoy was 190 nautical miles west of Cape Finistere. The SS Oporto was the first of 4 ships sunk in that attack. It exploded catastrophically indicating that it was most likely loaded with munitions in addition to the listed cargo of seed potatoes and copper sulphate. There were only four survivors from the crew of 47, ten of whom were under the age of 21.
The log of HMS Rochester, one of the nine Royal Navy escort vessels, reported
“”Convoy attacked position 42deg 46min N/13deg 33min W.”
04:42 “An enormous explosion observed which lit up the sky with flames and smoke to a height of 300 feet or more”
04:43 “ Second ship in convoy blew up in same manner as previous”.
Able Seaman Philip Brewster is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 74, Column 1 and on the War Memorial in St Mary’s Church, Bottesford.