Historia y Arqueologia Marítima


Indice Desastres... Indice Accidentes Maritimos

Desastres Maritimos de la 2ª Guerra Mundial


Estas Páginas son una traduccion especial del sitio de George Duncan "Maritime Disasters of WWII" y se hacen con el debido permiso del autor.

Traduccion: CF ARA Carlos Villa

Esta página está dedicada a todos aquellos que lucharon en las batallas navales de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. -

Esta pagina sera traducida a la mayor brevedad

RESCUE SHIPS  Two specialized types of ships evolved during the war, the CAM SHIP and the convoy RESCUE SHIP. After many refinements the Rescue Ships went into service in January,1941. The first rescue was by the 1,526 ton Toward , taking twelve survivors from the sea. Eventually there were 29 rescue vessels who covered 786 voyages and rescued 4,194 survivors from 119 ships. The record holder was the steamer Zamalek with 665 survivors rescued during sixty-eight convoys. The Rathlin  rescued 634, the Perth, 455 and the Copeland with 433. Six rescue ships were lost to enemy action, the worst case that of the Stockport lost with 64 crewmembers and 91 rescued survivors. Some 2,296 British, 951 Americans and 369 Norwegian seamen owe their lives to the Rescue Ships. LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) were also used to rescue wounded after the Normandy landings. A total of 41,035 wounded were safely evacuated back to England.

CAM SHIPS   (Catapult Armed Merchantmen)  In spite of convoy protection, merchant ship sinkings continued at an alarming rate. In March, 1941, some merchant ships were fitted with a launching ramp on which a Hurricane fighter could be launched to engage the enemy Condor bombers. Called 'Hurricats' and manned by volunteer pilots, they were launched from the modified ships called 'Camships '. The first Hurricat kill was on August 3, 1941. The big disadvantage with Hurricats was that they could not land on their mother ship but had to ditch in the sea nearby. Altogether 35 CAM ships were in service but only eight catapult launchings were made in anger shooting down six enemy aircraft. One RAF pilot was killed. Twelve CAM ships were lost to enemy action while sailing with convoys.

'EMPIRE' SHIPS   These were ships built during the war for the British Ministry of Shipping. All were given the prefix 'Empire' as were ships taken as war prizes ie. the Italian hospital ship Leonardo da Vinci  became the Empire Clyde. A total of 196 Empire ships were sunk by various means in WW11. The first ship to enter the port of Cherbourg after its liberation was the Empire Traveller carrying ten thousand tons of gasoline for the US Forces. The last Empire ship sunk was the 8,028 ton tanker Empire Gold, torpedoed by the U-1107 on April 18, 1945.

HMS  BONAVENTURE   (March 31, 1941)   British light cruiser sunk south-east of the island of Crete by a torpedo from the Italian submarine 'Ambra'. The cruiser was escorting Convoy GA-8 from Greece to Alexandria. The Bonaventure took 139 of her crew to the bottom. There were 310 survivors.

CONVOY 'TARIGO'   (April 16, 1941)  Named after the lead Italian escort destroyer Luca Tarigo. The convoy, consisting of four German freighters and one Italian ship was en route to North Africa, when attacked near the island of Kerkennah, in the Mediterranean east of Tunisia,  by the Malta based British 14th Flotilla. The Flotilla consisted of the destroyers HMS Nubian, Mohawk, Janus and Jervis. The freighters were carrying around 3,000 German troops and the Italian vessel 'Sabuadia' was loaded with munitions. All the freighters were sunk and during the engagement. A total of 1,248 German soldiers were rescued from the sea by Italian rescue ships including the hospital ship Arno. Over 1,700 perished. The British destroyer Mohawk (1,870 tons) was torpedoed and  badly damaged by the Tarigo and had to be abandoned by her crew and sunk. The Luca Tarigo was also sunk.

HMS  KELLY   (May 23, 1941)   K-class destroyer (1,695 tons) commanded by Cptn. Lord Louis Mountbatten, was bombarding German positions on the island of Crete in company with the destroyer Kashmir, when at 5.30am on the 23rd they were attacked by German Stuka dive-bombers each carrying a 500-kg bomb under its belly. The Kashmir was hit by a one bomb dead amidships and sank almost immediately with the loss of 79 crewmembers. There were 159 survivors. The Kelly was hit soon after just abaft the engine room killing all in the foremost boiler room. Within minutes she rolled over and sank taking the lives of half of her crew, a total of 128 men. The 38 survivors, including Capt. Lord Louis Mountbatten, were picked up by the destroyer HMS Kipling which also rescued the Kashmir's survivors. The Kipling, when only a few miles from Alexandria on the Egyptian shore, ran out of fuel and lay wallowing in the gentle swell until rescued by  HMS Protector which came along side and replenished her fuel tanks. 

HMS  WRYNECK and   HMS DIAMOND   (April 27, 1941)   British destroyer (900 tons) attacked by German Stuka aircraft and sunk off Nauplia, Greece. She was helping in the evacuation of troops from Greece, and in the process had picked up, with the help of another destroyer, HMS Diamond, around 700 troops and crew from the 11,600 ton Dutch liner 'Slamat' now converted as a troopship and under British control, which had been attacked and damaged earlier. The HMS Wryneck and HMS Diamond were both sunk in the attack with the loss of nearly both their crews and all the survivors of the Slamat. The Wryneck  lost seven officers and 98 ratings, the Diamond  lost seven officers and 141 ratings. Of approximately 950 troops and crews of both ships only one officer, fourteen naval ratings and eight soldiers were rescued.

HMS  CALCUTTA   (May 29, 1941)  
British anti-aircraft carrier, 4,200 tons, taking part in the British and Greek withdrawal from Crete, was bombed and sunk by enemy aircraft. Carrying a complement of 400, two officers and 114 ratings were lost.

SS  AGUILA   (August 19, 1941)   Commodore ship of Convoy OG-71 enroute to Gibralter from Liverpool. The convoy, consisting of twenty three merchant ships and escorted by six corvettes and two destroyers, was attacked by German submarines while off the south western coast of Ireland. On board the Aguila were twenty-two W.R.N.S (Women's Royal Navy Service) the first batch of girls who had volunteered for cypher and wireless duties on the 'Rock'. Also on board were many servicemen, all naval personnel, taking the Aguila's complement to 161. Soon after midnight, the U-204 fired two torpedoes at the convoy and hitting the destroyer HMS Bath, which was manned by the Royal Norwegian Navy. She sank within three minutes drowning 83 of her crew, 13 of whom were British. Another torpedo, this time from the U-201, hit the Aguila amidships sending her to the bottom in ninety seconds. There were only 16 survivors, leaving a death toll of 145. The dreadful, unbelievable truth, was that not one of the twenty two Wrens had survived. Captain Arthur Firth and nine others were rescued by the destroyer HMS Wallflower. Six of the crew were rescued by the tug 'Empire Oak' but sadly lost three days later when the tug was torpedoed by the U-564. As a tribute to their memory, a lifeboat named 'Aguila Wren ' was built and launched on June 28, 1952, for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. (Before the Convoy OG-71 reached its destination, eight of its ships had been sunk plus two escort vessels with a loss of nearly 400 lives)

S.S.  ELLA   (August 28, 1941)   The German steamer 'Ella' was the first ship sunk in the greatest sea-mine disaster of World War 11. Under threat of imminent German occupation, the Soviet Union decided to evacuate its 24,000 troops from the Estonian capital, Tallin. To move the troops to Leningrad, four ship convoys were formed and after the troops were boarded, the convoys set sail. Out at sea the convoys formed a line fifteen miles long. At 18.00 hrs the ships were off the Juminda peninsula and in the gathering darkness sailed straight into a German laid minefield. The Gulf of Finland at this time was probably the most heavily mined area in the world with approximately 60,000 mines laid by Germany, Finland and the Soviets. The SS Ella was the first to go down after which Luftwaffe air attacks and artillery fire from Finnish coastal batteries added to the confusion. Of the 195 ships that left Tallin 53 were destroyed by mines and air attacks. Of the 29 large troop carrying merchant ships in the convoy, 25 were sunk. Loss of life in this disaster were some 6,000 souls.

CONVOY HG-73   (September 17-October 1, 1941)   Of all the convoys sailing the homeward route, Gibralter to Britain, Convoy HG-73 sustained the heaviest losses. In 1941, twenty-eight separate convoys, consisting of 570 merchant ships made the journey with a loss of twenty-five vessels. HG-73, twenty-five merchant ships with escorts, sailed from Gibralter on the 17th of September but was spotted by a German plane off Cape St Vincent and shadowed by the U-371 and three Italian submarines. Other U-boats soon appeared on the scene and battle commenced. After firing their torpedoes the submarines withdrew. Nine merchant ships were sunk (7 British and 2 Norwegian)  leaving a casualty list of 264 men killed.

SS AVOCETA   (September 25, 1941)   A 3,442 ton passenger/cargo vessel built at Dundee, Scotland in 1923. The Avoceta  operated the Liverpool, Casablanca, Lisbon and Canary Islands route with passengers and fruit cargoes. On her homeward run to the United Kingdom in September, 1941, she joined Convoy HG-73 at Gibralter. When the convoy was attacked by U-boats on the 25th (see above) the Avoceta was hit and sank taking the lives of 284 souls.

SS VANCOUVER ISLAND   (October 15, 1941)   The 9,472 ton Canadian freighter was sunk in the north Atlantic by the U-558. There were no survivors. One hundred and four lives were lost including sixty-four crewmembers, eight Armed Gunners and thirty-two passengers. The Vancouver Island was the ex-German merchant ship Weser captured on September 25, 1940 by the HMCS Prince Robert off the coast of Mexico. 

HMS COSSACK   (October 21, 1941)   The fifth of the Tribal Class British destroyers to bear this name, famous for its rescue of prisoners from the German ship Altmark in Jossing Fjord, Norway, on February 16, 1940. While escorting a convoy from Gibralter to Britain the Cossack (1,959 tons) was hit by a torpedo from the German U-boat U-563. The explosion blew off the bow and forward section of the ship killing 159 officers and ratings. Still afloat, the vessel was taken in tow stern first by a tug from Gibralter but bad weather caused the tow to be slipped and the Cossack sank soon after. Some survivors were rescued by the escorts HMS Legion and HMS Carnation and taken to Leith, Scotland. (The Altmark was later converted to a tanker under the name Uckermark and while anchored in the harbour at Yokohama, Japan, sank after a huge explosion ripped the vessel apart while the crew were having lunch. Cause of the explosion was thought to be a spark from tools used by a repair gang working near the fuel tanks. Forty-three crewmen from the Uckermark died)

USS  REUBEN  JAMES  (DD-245)   (October 31, 1941)   An American four stack destroyer that was torpedoed and sunk 300 miles south of Iceland. The destroyer, one of five US destroyers escorting the UK bound convoy HX-156 which had sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, sank after a torpedo fired from the U-562 (Lt. Cptn. Eric Topp) struck her port side at 05.25 hrs and ignited ammunition in her forward magazine. The explosion split the ship in two, her forward section plunging beneath the waves taking all hands on that part of the ship with her. The stern then went under and when about 50 feet down her depth charges exploded killing a number of survivors in the water. The USS Reuben James took 115 men to their deaths including all its officers. There were 44 survivors rescued by the USS Niblack. The Reuben James had joined the convoy escort force in March, 1941, guarding convoy's as far as Iceland where British escorts then took over. The U-562 was sunk on February 19, 1943, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Isis and HMS Hursley. She sank with all hands (49 men).

HMAS  PARRAMATTA   (November 27, 1941)   Australian Navy sloop, launched in June 1939, engaged in escort duties in the Mediterranean, was torpedoed and sunk off the Lybian port of Bardia by the U-559 (Kptl. Hans Heidtmann). The destroyer was escorting a munitions ship from Tobruk to Alexandria when attacked. Lost with the Parramatta were 138 crewmembers including her captain, Lt. Cdr. J. H. Walker. She carried a complement of 164. The U-559 was sunk by depth charges from British destroyers on October 30, 1942. Seven men were killed, 38 survived.

SS CHAKDINA   (December 5, 1941)  Armed boarding vessel commandeered by the British in Tobruk to evacuate their wounded. It sailed from the harbour with 380 wounded soldiers on board including 97 New Zealanders. Some officers and medical personnel were also accompanying the wounded. The ship was heading for Baggush, the H/Q of the 2nd N.Z. Division. At 9 o'clock in the morning a Luftwaffe plane dropped a torpedo which struck the ship in the after hold. It took only three minutes for the Chakdina to sink giving the wounded little chance to escape. Those who were not severely wounded managed to reach the escort destroyer, HMS Farndale, which picked up eighteen New Zealanders from the water. All the medical staff except one, were saved. The Farndale reached Alexandria two days later and the survivors admitted to the No 3 New Zealand General Hospital. 

HMS  STANLEY   (December 17/21, 1941)   Destroyer of 1,190 tons (ex-USS McCalla) transferred to Britain in 1940 under the Lend-Lease Agreement. She was escorting a convoy of around 30 merchant ships across the Atlantic when attacked by a U-boat pack and Focke-Wulf bombers during the five day period of December 17 to 21.The Stanley was sunk by torpedoes from the U-574 (Oblt. Dietrich Gengelbach) with a loss of eleven officers and 125 ratings. The U-574 was sunk on December 19, 1941 by HMS Stork. Twenty eight dead, sixteen survivors.