Claude Holloway died recently at the age of 93. He was one of the most successful motor torpedo boat commanders in the Mediterranean in the Second World War, earning a Distinguished Service Cross for his part in the Caorle Point action of April 1945, in which the 28th MTB Flotilla sank five enemy ships with six torpedoes. He also played a major role in rescuing dozens of sailors in the 1943 German air raid on Bari, Italy. His heroism nearly cost him his life.
on December 2, 1943, 105 German Junkers Ju88 bombers of Luftflotte 2 attacked the harbor, crowded with Allied shipping, sinking 28 merchant ships and damaging 12 others. One of the ships destroyed was the American Liberty ship, the SS John Harvey, which was carrying a secret cargo of 2,000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs. The mustard gas in liquid form was sprayed across the harbor in the explosion which sank the John Harvey. 628 military victims were hospitalized with mustard gas symptoms, and 83 of them had died within a month. The number of civilian casualties is unknown.
Holloway’s command, MTB 242 of the 24th Flotilla, was moored at Bari during the attack. Holloway and his crew pulled dozens of sailors from the harbor waters and from burning ships. Holloway was covered in severe blisters and took three months to recover from his exposure to the chemical agents. The existence of the mustard gas on the John Harvey was covered up until after the war.
Claude Holloway: MTB commander who became a hero during the Bari harbour disaster
Claude Raymond Holloway was educated at Aldenham, Elstree, and started work with the stockbroking firm John Prust & Co of Moorgate, London, before joining the RNVR and serving in HMS Warspite as an ordinary seaman off Norway and in the Mediterranean. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in Coastal Forces, escorting convoys through “E-boat alley” off Great Yarmouth up to Humberside; his first command was MTB 54 at Weymouth.
After the war he returned to John Prust, which merged with Laurence, Keene & Gardner to become Laurence Prust, and rose to be a partner, making his home at Wadhurst in Kent. He helped bring up his daughter’s three young children following her death at the age of 36 after a sudden brief illness, and the family would go sailing off Rye in a dinghy. He was at the helm of an MTB again during the celebrations in the Solent of the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar in 2005.
Thanks to Alaric Bond for passing on the obituary.