Steed, Raymond Victor.

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Steed, Raymond Victor, born 01-10-1928, in St Mellons, Monmouthshire, UK, .the son of steelworker Wilfred Steed and his wife Olive (born Bright), Raymond was one of nine children. The family later moved to Christchurch Road, Newport, near Cardiff. Before joining the Merchant Navy he had been a member of the 1st Newport Scout Group. Raymond signed up to the British Merchant Navy Reserve Pool on 29-12-1942, two months after his 14th birthday. Steed joined his first ship, the former Royal Mail Line SS Atlantis, 1940 2015 on the same day. The Atlantus was used to transport American troops back home from Europe and also to transport coal in New England. After two years of service, the ship was retired in 1920 to a salvage yard in Virginia.

Steed served as a steward’s boy on the Atlantis, which had been converted into a hospital ship. He was awarded the Africa Star with clasp during Operation Torch, when Allied troops landed on the beaches of North Africa. Steed left the ship three months later, in March 1943, to join the SS Empire Morn. She is the only CAM ship whose fighter pilot died in action after his aircraft was launched from the ship. CAM ship is an acronym for catapult aircraft merchant ship

Death and burial ground of Steed, Raymond Victor.

Steed’s service aboard Empire Morn, a 7,092 GRT catapult aircraft merchant ship built by Barrow-in-Furness-based Vickers-Armstrong Ltd in 1941,started on 04-04-1943. The ship sailed from Milford Haven on that day, loaded with military equipment destined for Casablanca and Gibraltar. She arrived at Casablanca on 25 April, and then set off for Gibraltar. At 9:45 p.m. on 26-04-1943, the ship hit a U-boat mine off Rabat, Morocco at 34°08′N 07°58′W. A secondary explosion damaged the stern and blew out much of the crew accommodation. German records later revealed the Morn had detonated a mine laid on 10-04-1943, by U-boat 117.  When the order was given to abandon ship, a head count of crew found 21 men missing. Steed was among this number.

German submarine U-117 was a Type XB minelaying U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine during World War II. She was ordered on 31-01-1939, and laid down on 01-07-1939, at Friedrich Krupp Germania werft, Kiel, as yard number 616. She was launched on 22–07-1941 and commissioned under the command of Fregattenkapitän Hans-Werner Neumann on 25 October of that year. Neumann died on 11-02-1945, off New Jersey, USA. The U-117 found her end as two Avengers and two F4F Wildcats arrived from USS Card and forced U-117 to dive and then dropped depth charges. U-117 was hit by one of two FIDO homing torpedoes dropped by the Avengers and sank with the loss of all crew.

Towed back into Casablanca, the damaged ship was expected to be declared a “total constructive loss”, however it was refloated and towed to Gibraltar, by the tugs Lorient and Schelde, eventually arriving on 01-09-1943. Steed’s body was not discovered until two days after the sinking, in the crew accommodation, on 28-04-1943. The remains of another crewman, 18-year-old Ordinary Seaman John Gardener, were found at the same time. Both had been killed instantly in the explosions. The bodies of the remaining 19 missing sailors were never found. Steed was posthumously awarded the 1939 War Medal, the Atlantic Star and the 1939-1945 Star.

Steed and Gardener were buried at Ben M’Sik European Cemetery in Casablanca, Morocco, on 29 April with full military honours. The captain of the Empire Morn attended the ceremony, as did his officers and members of the crew. The Empire Morn survived the war, serving as a storage hulk in Gibraltar. It was sold in 1947 to F M Pereda, of Spain, and renamed San Antonio. The ship was towed to Cadiz, arriving on 12-03-1947 and again renamed, this time as Rio Pas. A new stern section was added during repairs. Morn was sold on again in 1962, to Maritima Colonial y de Comercio SA, of Spain. It was finally scrapped in 1973 in Santander, Spain.

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