George Edward Matkin (1921—1992)

Chief Gunner George Edward Matkin was a member of the Cap d'Antifer's crew right up until her last patrol. He was drafted off the ship to go to hospital for a routine operation so, along with another crew member, Arthur [Rittin?], escaped by a whisker the fate of those who perished with her. The two were sent to Gibraltar and later ended up on another famous trawler converted for war duties, the Paynter (FY 242).

He is pictured here (on the left in duffel coat and hat) on the Cap d'Antifer with other crew members. Like most who cheat death in similar circumstances, George had mixed feelings. He was naturally grateful to be alive, but could never quite put to rest the pain he felt for his lost comrades, right up until his death in 1992.

George Matkin aboard the Cap d'Antifer -- image number 1 George Matkin aboard the Cap d'Antifer -- image number 2

From George's accounts, as told to his relatives, we learn that the Cap d'Antifer's final encounter with the enemy E-boats was not her first. We also learn something of its weaponry. On her penultimate patrol the Cap d'Antifer was attacked by two E-boats off the Humber, events that were to be echoed in her final patrol. As gunlayer it fell to George to select the shells and fire at the E-boats. The Cap d'Antifer did not have on board any direct-action shells that explode on impact, which would probably have best suited the job in hand, she carried only armour-piercing and anti-aircraft shells. George first fired armour-piercing shells at the E-boats and saw a shell go straight through one of them. Realising these were pretty useless in this situation, he switched to anti-aircraft shells, dropping the initial range by 100 yards at each firing. With the shells exploding all around the E-boats they sheared off and left the scene.

George also related a tale (in the best tradition of otherworldly sea stories) of the time when on watch with his friend aboard the Paynter off the Lincolnshire coast. Midway through their watch that evening he went down to the galley to make some cocoa for them both. Whilst there, the engines cut and the lights went out. Within a minute he'd made his way back to his post to a still night, and an eerie silence. He asked his friend as he motioned to the blackness if he knew what buoy lay out in the general direction — to which he replied, "That's where the old Cap' went down, George..." After spending a short time thinking about their fallen shipmates, the engines fired up and the lights came on again.

Return to homepage