The Beirut File 1943

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To read the full background of my father's time in North Africa and the Mediterranean during WW2 please link here

The following, and seemingly unconnected, locations, sea-going vessels and people, eventually lead onto a path of a common thread culminating to an event in the early hours of 11 February 1943 off the coast of Beirut!


The German U-Boat 'U-81', the Royal Naval aircraft carrier HMS 'Ark Royal', Oberleutenant Friederich Guggenberger, Johann Otto Krieg, the Dutch vessel 'Saroena' , my father W.H.M-Jones (RE) and Beirut



WHM-Jones Royal Engineers North Africa

This account follows a sequence of unusual, and what appears at first unconnected, events amidst the background of the early part of WW2 in the Mediterranean and Middle East. A sequence of events culminating in the salvage of a Dutch vessel off the coast of Beirut in the early hours of 11 February 1943 - what I call 'The Beirut File of 1943'



1. Authors Preface

2. The Players Sergeant WHM-Jones RE;

Friederich Guggenberger

Johann Otto Krieg


3. Setting the scene

4. Encounters: U-81 and HMS Ark Royal

5. Encounter: U-81 and Saroena

6. The Beirut incident – all paths lead to Rome


7. Where are they now?




The Saroena Salvage Payment Form


My father, William Hugh Middleton-Jones ('Bill') deceased, served with the Royal Engineers 1017 Doc Coy (Dock Operations Company) during WW2 in North Africa, Middle East, Italy and the Mediterranean from 1941 to 1945.

While trawling through his personal papers and army records, I came across a small piece of paper, an army payment slip dated 28 February 1947. The payment was for the sum of 20 issued as a 'special award' for assistance in salvaging the 'Saroena'.


Needless to say this pricked my interest as I knew nothing of this matter and commenced on what was to prove a long but intriguing research path.

As many readers will appreciate, relatives who served with the armed forces during WW2 rarely discussed their often harrowing experiences during this troubled period. While my father when alive related 'some' of his war time exploits, this salvage event relating to the 'Saroena' was never mentioned.

Little did I realise, when embarking on this research trail of my father's war time experiences, would it lead me on many intriguing pathways of discovery. From the deserts of Egypt and Libya, Syria, Palestine, Italy and the Mediterranean I encountered many riveting accounts through the war diaries of the 1017 Doc Coy unit. On my journey I encountered the connections with the German U boat U-81, HMS Ark Royal and eventually, as they say ‘All roads lead to Rome’, the Saroena off the coast of Beirut in the early hours of 11 February 1943.

This account is but one of many I will be collating in the near future.



Go to Chapter 2 'The Players'