Centenarian celebrates life after lucky escape from bombed ship

Scottish born Joe Maxwell survived the first bombing of a merchant ship during WWII and counts his blessings to this day, celebrating his 100th birthday last week by turning his attention to Remembrance Day.

CARINA’S Joe Maxwell’s commemoration of Remembrance Day last week held special significance for the World War II survivor – as he chalked up a century, turning 100 on November 8.

Joining the Scottish Merchant Navy as a 16-year-old, Mr Maxwell was only 21 when his iron ore cargo ship became the first merchant ship to be bombed during World War II.

“I was a third officer on the ship, the Imperial Monarch and we had just left Sweden bound for England,” he said.

“The Germans dropped two bombs on us and then the fighter plane sprayed us with machine gun fire. It was a miracle no one was killed, and we didn’t sink. We managed to get to the coast of Scotland.”

Mr Maxwell was with the Merchant Navy from 1935 to 1948 and said there was much secrecy around the Merchant Navy’s role in the war.

“Very secretive and many bombings and sinking tragedies were not reported by the newspapers of the day,” he said.

“We have become more recognised in recent years. The Germans targeted the merchant ships on the British trade routes in order to stop supplies that might aid the British war effort, so it

was important for morale not to add to any tragedies of the conflict.”

Mr Maxwell marks another milestone in February 2020, when he celebrates 70 years of marriage to his wife Margaret.


After the war the couple lived in South Africa before emigrating to Australia, several years ago, to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Now residing at Prescare’s Vela Residential at Carina, chaplain George Michael turned to Mr Maxwell to lead this year’s commemoration and accept a new Australian flag for Vela from Doboy Councillor Lisa Attwood.

Cr Attwood said it was an honour to meet Mr Maxwell.

“Joseph is truly inspiring in every way andI was pleased to present him with an Australian flag on behalf of Federal Member for Bonner Ross Vasta,” she said.

“I’m so grateful to him and to all who have tirelessly contributed to the defence of our country.”

Mr Maxwell said his secret to long life was that he has never smoked but enjoyed a “wee dram of scotch’ every night.

Source: Courier Mail