Alister has left his own record of the ships on which he travelled by annotating his copy of a book on the Donaldson line by P J Telford; published by The World Ship Society, Kendal, LA9 7LT.

Merchant seaman carried a discharge book. This is stamped when they join a ship and again when they are discharged, however this was not done while he was indentured and so Alister’s discharge book starts to record voyages in July 1943. Alister’s service from 1940 is however recorded by Donaldson as part of the document signing off his Indentures. The discharge books are kept by the family.

The Public Records Office at Kew provides two types of document that tell us what happened to a ship. Normally during the war records of the ship’s movements were not kept on the ship but a central movement card was maintained and this is available at Kew. Kew have also preserved the log books and crew lists for the war period, recognising the historic significance of the contribution of the Merchant Navy.
  • BT 381/830 Dorelian Log Books and Crew Lists 1940
  • BT 381/1449 Dorelian Log Books and Crew Lists 1941
  • BT 381/2383 Dorelian Log Books and Crew Lists 1943
  • BT 289/9 Dorelian Movement Card
  • BT 381/1423 Norwegian Log Books and Crew Lists 1941
  • BT 381/1911 Norwegian Log Books and Crew Lists 1942
  • BT 381/2366 Norwegian Log Books and Crew Lists 1943
  • BT 381/3714 Samtrusty Log Books and Crew Lists 1945
  • BT 381/4040 Samtrusty Log Books and Crew Lists 1946
  • BT 389/18 Samtrusty Movement card
  • BT 389/25 Samtrusty Movement card

Alister’s medals are retained by the family, including his Atlantic Star and Burma Star. His medal card available from the public records (BT395/1) office indicates he received:
·    1939-1945 Star medal and ribbon
·    Atlantic Star, medal, ribbon and clasp
·    Burma Star, medal, ribbon and clasp
·    War medal

The National Archive keeps many records that relate to convoys. These are the real sources of information and usually the documents to look at if you want to be certain of a fact but it is hard work. Fortunately we have the Internet and some dedicated, clever (and maybe obsessive) people have read these documents and more and correlated the information and made it far more accessible.  These people are marvelous. is a good start. You can find some details (merchant ships and escorts) of almost every convoy and it leads you on to: Among other things this site gathers together the Advanced Sailing Telegram, Cruising Order and the convoy Commodore’s notes. It indicates the fate of each ship, not just U-boat hits but other events such as weather damage and stragglers. You can see ships that were planned to be in the Convoy but did not join and where each ship came from. Is very good at scoring the U-boat hits. I suppose the U-boat crews were just playing hard for their team; they had a tough and often short life. They were not concentration camp guards and while they were trying to kill soft targets their targets were not as soft as civilians unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of bomber attacks from both sides. Still I will not glorify their achievements.