Robert William CANT 
- Born: 4th Qtr 1921, Lewisham LND
- Died: 15 Nov 1942, at Sea aged 21
Robert served with the Royal Navy in WWll, No C/JX 290262. He was on Atlantic convoy duties as an Able Seaman on HMS Avenger, then in the Mediterranean. He was lost when HMS Avenger was torpedoed by U-155 at 0305 on the 15th Nov, she sank in 2 minutes leaving only 12 survivors.
Robert William Cant, born 1921 in Lewisham, London, England; died 15 Nov 1942 in At Sea. Notes: Robert was born in the December quarter 1921, 1d 1884, in Lewisham. He was conscripted to the navy and was given number C/JX 290262. He trained at the HMS Glendower training establishment at the Butlins Pwllheli holiday camp in Caernarfonshire. He was also assigned to HMS Nimrod which was an Anti-Submarine Training Base located in Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula. The facility was an ASDIC training school, partnered with the Anti-Submarine Training Base HMS Osprey, based in Dunoon, which formed when the original base was moved from Portland in 1941, due to the potential danger of easy aerial observation and bombing by the Luftwaffe. The main training was carried out at Dunoon and the Experimental Section was at Fairlie. He then served as an Able Seaman on HMS Avenger. On 3 September 1942 HMS Avenger left Scapa Flow on her first official active duty, as an escort to convoy PQ18 to the north of Russia. She was equipped i with 12 Sea Hurricanes and 3 Swordfish aircraft. Her aircraft sank the German / submarine U-589 on 14 September 1942 with the assistance of the destroyer HMS Onslow. She arrived back in Scapa Flow on 3 October 1942. Her Swordfish had flown 32 sorties and attacked 6 of the 16 U-Boats sighted, while the Hurricanes had destroyed and damaged 26 aircraft in 31 combats during 59 sorties. They had engaged German U-Boats, flying boats, Junkers Ju88 bombers and Heinkel He111 bombers. In all 13 merchant ships were lost, but the convoy claimed 42 German aircraft destroyed. In her second operation, Avenger was ordered to take part in Operation "Torch", the invasion of North Africa. She left the Clyde on 22 October 1942 with her sister-ship HMS Biter and the Fleet Carrier HMS Victorious, to join the slow assault convoy KMS1. On 7 November 1942, HMS Avenger left the convoy and sailed to join HMS Argus off Algiers. From here, the combined ships' 30 Sea Hurricanes and Seafires would provide fighter cover for landings planned for dawn on 8 November 1942. No airborne opposition was encountered on 8 or 9 November and the Vichy French in Algiers surrendered earlier than expected. The Royal Air Force assumed responsibility for air defence, and with her aircraft ashore, Avenger was excused from duties. On 10 November she entered Algiers harbour to undertake repairs to problems with her engines, which had reduced her maximum speed to only 14 knots. After taking part in the Operation Torch landings of North Africa in November 1942, she departed Gibraltar with convoy MKF 1 on 14 November, heading home to the Clyde in the UK. At 0305 on 15 November, Avenger was torpedoed by U-155. Avenger (Cdr. Anthony Paul Colthurst, DSO, RN) was hit on the port side amidships, which in turn ignited her bomb room, blowing out the centre section of the ship. Her bow and stern sections rose in the air and sunk within 2 minutes in position 36215'N, 07245'W, leaving only 12 survivors. On 6 December, the Commanding Officer of the HMS Ulster Monarch, Lieutenant Commander N. F. Kingscote, wrote to the Admiralty. "At approximately 0310Z a 45 degree emergency turn to Starboard was made, and at 0312 a white rocket fired by ALMAACK, to indicate that she was hit....At 0313 a white rocket was seen on the Starboard bow, which was thought to be from ARGUS." "At 0315, a vivid reddish flash appeared on the Starboard side of AVENGER, stretching the whole length of the ship and lasting for about 2 seconds. This flash.made a perfect silhouette of the ship, and was followed by a pall of black smoke." "After the flash, nothing more was seen of AVENGER, but one or two small twinkling lights were observed in the water, obviously from floats. H.M.S. ULSTER MONARCH passed over the position of AVENGER within 3 minutes and nothing was seen...." Macharda sent a signal to the Admiralty on 8 December, pitifully adding "Men were seen jumping through the flames into the sea and others sliding down the flight deck into the flames." However, the most disturbing thing of all, perhaps having caused a greater catastrophe than had to be, is indicated by a report received from Wrestler on 19 November stating, "0257 ordered J for James alarm but not passed due to communication failure in WRESTLER." He is commemorated at the Chatham Naval Base number 53, 2.
Ref: Cecilia Waites