One of Gordon’s duties was to lower lifeboats in case of need. The windward side was extremely rough and so, with the assistance of the ship’s carpenter and two navy gunners, he organised the lowering of the leeward boats. The ship’s crew immediately scrambled down rope ladders and cast off leaving Gordon and his mates behind.
The four of them, together with two junior engineers that had been late getting on deck then launched a life raft that immediately turned turtle and was swept away. The second also capsized and they had no alternative but to cling to the upturned raft and fashion some paddles from chunks of wood as the proper paddles were submerged. They wished to get away from the ship in case it sank and dragged them under.
The ship’s carpenter was accepted as leader but his nerve failed him and he whimpered like a young boy. Gordon was next in charge and tried to calm the situation by suggesting the rest of the crew that got away in the lifeboats would summon help.
In the event, rescuers arrived in about 4 hours when HMS Borage, a corvette hove into view. The small vessel still appeared huge from sea level on board the raft and Gordon had to persuade his colleagues to be patient and wait until scrambling nets were put out for them to allow them to shin up the ship’s side like monkeys.
They were landed at Campbeltown and Gordon caught transport back to York arriving home at 0400 dressed in part uniform and wellingtons. Frances nearly collapsed with worry but Gordon was rather matter of fact. “I’ve only been wrecked off Scotland.”
They heard later that the captain of the Empire Tarpon was disciplined for leaving his ship without ensuring the safety of all the crew. Gordon’s mate, Patrick Joyce married his Irish girlfriend and subsequently emigrated to Sydney, Australia.