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More Maritime Disasters of World War II - page 2 of 4 - which occurred during 1942.

This 4 page series features stories of the losses of some of the less-well known, "smaller ships":

  1. during 1939, 1940, 1941
  2. during 1942
  3. during 1943
  4. during 1944, 1945, and Notes on WWII Shipping.


SS LANGKOEAS (January 2, 1942)

Dutch vessel, formerly the German 'Stassfurt' sunk by torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-158 north of Bawean Island. Survivors in one of the lifeboats were subjected to machine-gun fire, the other lifeboat was rammed by the submarine. There were only 3 survivors from the 94 persons on board, the 4th engineer, J de Mul, a Chinese seaman and an Indonesian boy. Of the 94 persons on board 24 were Dutch, 55 were Chinese and 12 were Indonesians. 

HMS MATABELE (January 17, 1942)

On duty in the Barents Sea, escorting convoy PQ-8 to Murmansk in northern Russia, the destroyer was hit by two torpedoes from the German submarine U-454. Both her magazines blew up sinking the ship within two minutes. Survivors swimming in the water were then killed when her depth charges detonated or froze to death in the icy waters. There were only two survivors from her crew of 200. The U-454 (Kptlt. Burckhard Hackländer) was later bombed and sunk in the Bay of Biscay. Thirty two of her crew were lost, 14 survived.

VAN IMHOFF  (January 19, 1942)

Dutch merchant ship of 2,980 tons. Immediately after the German invasion of Holland, the Dutch East-Indies government arrested all Germans on their territory and imprisoned them in camps on Sumatra. With the threat of the Japanese invading Indonesia it was decided to move the prisoners to Ceylon. Accommodated on the ship Van Imhoff, the vessel set sail with the prisoners. Only one day out from Sumatra the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The damage done by the bombing was enough to sink the ship. The Dutch crew took to the lifeboats leaving the rafts for the internees but the ships captain (Capt. M.J. Hoeksema) was afraid to let the prisoners free without orders. The result being that many of the prisoners went down with the ship. Of the 477 German civilian prisoners and crew on board, 98 persons lost their lives.

BRUNO HEINEMANN (January 25, 1942)

 German destroyer commissioned on January 8, 1938. Conducted mining operations in the North sea off Newcastle. On this occasion she carried around 60 sea mines which later sank eleven merchant ships. She took part in the invasion of Norway, landing her embarked troops at Trondheim. On January 25, 1942, while en route to a French port, the Bruno Heinemann hit two mines in the Straits of Dover and sank with the loss of 93 lives.

HMS BELMONT (January 31, 1942)

A British destroyer (Ex USS Satterlee) sunk by the German U-boat U-82 south-west of Nova Scotia whilst escorting Canadian troop convoy NA-2 en route to Britain. Eight officers, including her captain, Lt. Cdr. Harding and 130 ratings (all hands) went down with the ship. On February 6, 1942, the U-82 (Kptlt. Siegfried Rollman) encountered the convoy OS-18 en route to the UK from Sierra Leone and was sunk by the escorts Tamarisk and Rochester. There were no survivors from her 45 man crew.

SS SPREEWALD (January 31, 1942)

At the outbreak of WWII, the German passenger-carrying freighter Spreewald of the Hamburg-Amerika Line, was interned at Port Arthur (now Dairen). In 1941, she was brought back to service and set sail from Port Arthur on October 21, 1942, loaded with rubber, wolfram and quinine. While en route to Germany she rendezvoused with the German supply ship Kulmerland and embarked around 200 British prisoners. These prisoners were merchant seamen, survivors of ships sunk by the raider Kormoran.  On January 31, the Spreewald was on her final approach to Bordeaux in France when she was torpedoed by the German U-boat, U-333, whose captain, Korvetten-Kapitän Peter Cremer, believed it to be a British ship. The U-333 fired two torpedoes at the Spreewald which hit the vessel amidships causing it to burn furiously and slowly sink. Eight boats, including the U-333 were involved in the rescue operation in which only 24 crewmembers and 58 prisoners were rescued.

At La Pallice, Cremer faced a court martial but was exonerated because he had correctly identified the ship as the British Royal Mail steamer Brittany which was just what the Spreewald's master had disguised her to be.

USS SHARK  (February 11, 1942)

A 'Balao Class' submarine of 1,315 tons, commissioned on January 25, 1936. Lost during her third war patrol probably due to gunfire from the Japanese destroyer 'Yamakaze'. The last message from the Shark was that she had made contact with a Japanese freighter and was about to attack. The site of the sinking is just east of  Menado in the Celebes. She was the sixth submarine to bear the name 'Shark'.  Lt. Cmdr. L. Shane Jnr. and his entire crew of 86 men perished.

HMS  LI WO(February 14, 1942)

A former river boat belonging to the China Navigation Company and requisitioned by the British as an auxiliary patrol vessel. It rescued some survivors from HMS Lipes (Captain W. Steel) which had been attacked and sunk by three Japanese planes as it sailed past Sultan Shoal. A few days later the Li Wo was sunk while evacuating military and civilian personnel from Singapore to Java and ran into part of the Japanese invasion fleet heading towards Bangka Island. The crew decided to engage the enemy but the fleets' escorting destroyers attacked the Li Wo and soon she was a blazing wreck. Before sinking, her commander, Lieutenant Wilkinson, turned the vessel and rammed one of the enemy transports which sank killing hundreds of troops. For this action 43 year old Lt. Wilkinson was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in recognition of his bravery and that of his crew. Of the 84 persons on board the Li Wo only 7 survived, leaving a casualty toll of 77 dead. The full story is told by one of the survivors, A.V.Sellwood, in the book 'Stand By To Die'.

USS TRUXTUN & USS POLLUX (February 18, 1942)

Two American destroyers blown on to the rocks at Chambers Cove, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, during a vicious snow blizzard. The ships were en route to the US Naval Base at Argentia, Newfoundland, when the blizzard struck. In poor visibility and raging seas, the USS Truxtun headed straight for the rocks at the base of a 200-foot high cliff and broke in two.

About two miles away the USS Pollux became stranded on the beach at Lawn Point. A group of sailors from the Truxtun managed to get ashore and alerted the Iron Spring Mine, a miners camp nearby. The miners hurried to the rescue of the two ships and within hours, 168 survivors were pulled from the boiling seas. From the Truxtun, only three officers and 43 ratings survived. Next day a total of 204 bodies were washed up on the shore.

In June, 1954, the US Government built a hospital on the Burin Peninsula as a memorial to the 204 sailors who died on that fateful night.

USS PEARY DD-226 (February 19, 1942)

Old four stack destroyer of 1,190 tons commissioned on October 20, 1920. On the 10th of December, 1941, The Peary lost eight of her crew during an air attack on the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines where she was moored. In February, 1942, she was sunk during the fifty minute surprise Japanese air attack on Darwin Harbour starting at 9.58 am. This was the first time enemy bombs had fallen on Australian soil.

Four American pilots at a nearby RAAF airfield struggled to get their fighters into the air but were shot down during their attempt to gain altitude. The destroyer Peary, in harbour replenishing her fuel tanks, and now attempting to free her moorings, fought an uneven battle. One bomb hit the forward ammunition magazines, another caught her in the stern. With her guns blazing, she slowly sank stern first at about 1:00pm, taking with her over half her complement of 143 men. Altogether, 80 crewmen died on the gallant Peary and 13 were wounded. One of the Peary's 4-inch guns was salvaged and now forms part of the Peary Memorial in Bicentennial Park in Darwin. A bronze plaque bears the names of all those who died.

SS REDANG  (February 15, 1942)

Launched in Copenhagen, Denmark, and registered in Bangkok, Siam, (Thailand) the Redang, with its Danish captain, Captain Rasmusson, was seized by the British on December 9, 1941, when it arrived at Singapore. She sailed from Singapore on February 12, 1942, with 89 evacuees and a skeleton crew of 10. There were also six women and three children on board. Attacked by two Japanese destroyers, it was sunk near the Berhala Strait. Thirty-two passengers got away by lifeboat but were later captured by the Japanese while making their way to shore on Sumatra. In the end, no one survived the sinking.

HMS JUPITER (February 27, 1942)

The 1,600 ton British destroyer ( Lt. Cdr. N. Thew) part of an Allied force under the command of Rear Admiral K. Doorman of the Netherlands Navy, was hit by a torpedo during the Japanese landings on the island of Java. Four officers and 91 ratings were killed. Survivors were picked up and taken prisoner by the Japanese but 27 died in captivity.

USS JACOB JONES (DD-130) (February 28, 1942)

This old four stack 1,340 ton destroyer (Lt. Cmdr. Hugh Black) left New York to take up anti-submarine patrol duties off the coast of New Jersey. At 5am on the 28th, disaster struck. Two torpedoes fired from the U-578 streaked towards the unsuspecting destroyer and struck with a shattering roar the port side of the ship. It took only a few seconds for the ship to break up, the forward section plunging to the bottom. All the occupants of her living quarters were killed when one of the torpedoes struck the stern.

By now, only 35 crew members of her complement of 149, were left alive on the mid section but managed to lower life rafts and abandon the sinking vessel. No sooner had the ship disappeared than her depth charges exploded killing many of the men on the rafts. Hours later one of the rafts was sighted but only twelve men in it were alive and one died on the way to shore. The survivors on the other rafts were never found.  From the Jacob Jones, 138 crewmembers had died.

The destroyer USS Black (DD-666) was later named in honour of the Jacob Jones' commander.

SS ROSENBOOM (March 1? 1942)

Dutch vessel (Captain M. Boon) loaded with some 500 civilian evacuees and British military personnel from Malacca, was torpedoed by an unknown submarine soon after it had sailed from Padang in Sumatra on its way to Colombo, Ceylon. Only one 28ft lifeboat was launched with about 80 survivors on board, another 55 were clinging to the sides. After 26 days at sea it had drifted nearly a thousand miles from the site of the sinking. Without means of navigation it had drifted in circles finally ending up on the shore of Sumatra near its point of departure. By this time there were only four persons still alive, two of the Javanese crew of the Rosenboomand two military personnel from the Scottish 2nd Battalion of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders.

USS PILLSBURY (March 1, 1942)

An American destroyer of 1,109 tons (Lt. Cmdr. H. Pound) Sunk by gunfire from the Japanese warship Ashigara south of the island of Java while en route to Exmouth, Australia, escorting the Ashville, an American gunboat. All of 149 crew of the Pillsbury perished as did the crew of the Ashville which was also sunk.

USS EDSALL (March 1, 1942)

During World War II, four American destroyers were not accounted for, they had simply 'disappeared', or so it was thought at the time. The Edsall was one of those ships. In February, 1942, she and the destroyer USS Whipple, were ordered to rendezvous with the carrier USS Langley about 200 miles south of Java. The Langley was carrying 32 P-40 fighters, their pilots and ground crews who were to bolster the meagre air defences in the Dutch East Indies. Early next morning the ships were attacked by nine Japanese bombers which soon reduced the Langley to a blazing wreck that had to be abandoned, sixteen of the Langley's crew died. The Edsall rescued 117 of her survivors. Ordered to proceed to Christmas Island to join up with the navy tanker USS Pecos and then proceed to Fremantle, Australia, but not before the Langley's survivors were transferred over to the Pecos (Lt. Cmdr. E. Abernethy).

The three ships parted company and the Whipple set sail for the Cocos Islands to refuel while the Pecos continued on to Fremantle with the Edsall. Underway, just south of Christmas Island, the Pecos was attacked and sunk by Val bombers from Japanese carriers in the area. Altogether 85 men on board the Pecos were lost. The Whipple, after picking up her distress calls, turned back and rescued 232 survivors. The Edsall, last seen sailing over the horizon on her way back to Java, was never heard of again. In 1952, investigators learned that eight of her crew had been picked up by the Japanese warship Ashigara and deposited on Celebes Island. Investigating the long forgotten P.O.W. camp on the island, a group of natives directed the searchers to five graves covered with jungle vegetation.

The five graves were opened and five skeletons found, all identified by their ID tags. All five skeletons were of men from the Edsall. The USS Whipple survived the war.

USS PECOS (March 1, 1942)

US navy oiler of 5,400 tons commissioned August 25, 1921, (Lt. Cmdr. E.P. Abernethy) sunk by aircraft from Japanese carriers south of Christmas Island. The ship was in company with the US carrier USS Langley and the escorting destroyers USS Peary and USS Whipple. When the Langley was sunk with sixteen of her crew the Pecos and Whipple rescued many of her survivors. Of the 317 souls aboard the Pecos, 232 were saved leaving a death toll of 85.

HMAS YARRA (March 4, 1942)

Australian Navy Sloop which, in January, took part in the rescue of 1,804 persons from the blazing liner Empress of Asia. On March 4, while escorting a small convoy on its way to Darwin, Australia, she was attacked by three Japanese cruisers, the Atago, Maya and Takao. Their gunfire was directed by a float plane that was circling overhead. In spite of being outgunned the Yarra headed straight for the enemy ships, her guns blazing. Badly damaged, the destroyer began to sink. 18 men managed to get into rafts but only 13 were alive when rescued four days later.

The gallant ship took 138 crewmen to the bottom.

HMS VORTIGERN (D-37) (March 14, 1942)

Launched in 1917, the British 1,090 ton destroyer, escorting British Coastal Convoy FS-749 in the North Sea off Cromer, Norfolk, on the east coast of Britain, was attacked by German motor torpedo boats (E-boats). The S-104 fired two torpedoes at the Vortigern which sank in about two minutes. Seven officers, including the captain, Lt. Cdr. R.S. Howlett, and 140 ratings, were drowned. There were only three officers and seven ratings saved.

HMS JAGUAR (March 26, 1942)

Launched November 22, 1938. While escorting the tanker Slavol, bringing supplies to the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Tobruk, the Jaguar was torpedoed by the U-652  north of Sidi Barini. Three officers and 190 ratings were lost. Eight officers and forty-five other ranks were rescued by the anti-submarine whaler 'Klo'. The tanker Salvol was also sunk soon after.

USS SIMS & USS NEOSHO (May 7, 1942)

Part of Task Force 17 proceeding to the Coral Sea to try and prevent an enemy landing against Port Morseby and Tulagi. After a refuelling operation at sea, the Sims was detached from the group and ordered to remain with the tanker Neosho. Spotted by Japanese scout planes, the destroyer and tanker were attacked by fighters and bombers from the carriers Zuikaku and Shokaku. The slow tanker received seven direct bomb hits and set on fire. The Sims, her hull plates split open by three direct hits amidships, jack-knifed and sank while her depth charges exploded. Her 14 survivors were picked up by the still blazing Neosho.

After drifting for four days the Neosho was found by the destroyer USS Henley which saved the 14 crewmembers of the Sims and 109 from the Neosho, then sank the tanker with two torpedoes. Prior to her rescue, 68 officers and men had abandoned the tanker in life rafts and were found 10 days later by the destroyer USS Helm. Only four of the 68 souls were alive. All told, the casualties from the Sims and Neosho were 179 officers and men lost.

USS HAMMANN (June 6, 1942)

US destroyer lost during the Battle of Midway. When the aircraft carrier Yorktown was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-168 the Hamman moved close and tied up to the carrier in an effort to protect her from further damage. Sighting the wakes of four more torpedoes, the Hammann's gunners opened fire but failed to hit anything. The first torpedo passed under the keel of the destroyer and exploded against the Yorktown. The second smashed into the Hammann's side and into the No. 2 boiler room. Her keel broken, it took only four minutes for the destroyer to sink. Many of her survivors were killed in the water when her depth charges exploded.

The destroyers USS Balche and USS Benham rescued the survivors from the Yorktown and the Hammann and raced toward Pearl Harbor and safety. Of the Hammann's complement of 241 officers and men, five officers and 71 crewmen were lost. While en route to Pearl Harbor, 26 others died of their wounds.

HMS GROVE (June 12, 1942)

British destroyer, captained by Cdr.J.W. Rylands, was escorting supply convoy MW-11 from Alexandria to the island of Malta when the convoy was spotted by enemy aircraft and soon an intensive attack developed by bombers, submarines and units of the Italian Navy. The Grove was hit by two torpedoes from the U-77(Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder) which blew off the bow of the ship which floated perpendicular in the water behind the main structure. With a list strongly to port and with her stern down, the Grove took only minutes to sink leaving an enormous oil slick on the surface. Two officers and 108 ratings went down with the ship. There were 65 survivors.

The enemy attack by submarine and aircraft was so severe that part of the convoy was compelled to return to Alexandria. Also sunk in this engagement was the light cruiser HMS Hermione which went down with eight officers and 79 ratings. Names of those lost on the Grove are engraved on the Naval Memorial overlooking the town of Chatham in Kent.

The U-77 was sunk by British aircraft off the coast of Spain on March 28, 1943. Thirty-eight crewmen were killed, only nine survived.

SS CHEROKEE (June 15, 1942)

US passenger/freighter proceeding down from Iceland, joined up with a convoy heading for Boston. On board the freighter were 41 army enlisted men, 4 Russian naval officers and an army air force pilot. Around midnight, two torpedoes from a German U-boat struck the Cherokee causing two huge explosions which sank the ship almost immediately and taking to the depths 89 men including 65 of her crew and one Armed Guard gunner. There were 22 survivors rescued by the US Coast Guard cutter UCCGC Escanaba.

CONVOY PQ-17 (July 4-14, 1942)

The convoy, comprising 35 merchant ships (22 American, 8 British and 5 other Allied ships) sailed from the Bay of Reykjavik in Iceland for the Russian port of Murmansk in the Barents Sea. In the belief that the German warships Tirpitz, Scheer and Hipper were on their way to intercept the convoy, the British Admiralty issued the order to "Scatter" and proceed to their destination at utmost speed. During the 700 mile dash to safety, Luftwaffe bombers from the German airfields at Kirkeness and Petsamo, and U-boats had a field day, between them they sent to the bottom a total of 23 ships taking the lives of 153 mariners. Only eleven ships managed to reach port. On board the sunken vessels were 3,350 trucks, 435 tanks and around 200 aircraft, essential war material badly needed by the Soviets. (Under the Lend-Lease agreement Britain supplied a total of 4,292 tanks to the Soviet Union, the United States supplied 3,734 tanks and 1,188 tanks were sent by Canada. The number of aircraft supplied was 5,800 from Britain, 6,430 from the USA.)

The first Artic convoy to Russia, PQ-1, left Scottish waters on September 29, 1941. By the end of the year five others were to follow, landing 120,000 tons of supplies at the northern port of Murmansk. This included 600 tanks, 1,400 motor vehicles and around 800 aircraft. Of the 55 ships taking part in the first six convoys, all reached their destination safely. In the first six months of 1942, ten convoys made the hazardous journey. Comprising 146 ships, 128 made it to port, 18 being sunk on the way. In all, between 1941 and 1945, 42 convoys were sent to Russia. Consisting of 843 ships, 58 were sunk on the way out and 96 were destroyed in port or on the way back.

I.J.N. ARARE (July 5, 1942)

Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer which was part of Admiral Nagamo's carrier force in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Arare was sunk by the American submarine, USS Growler about seven miles east of Kiska Harbour. The torpedo struck the Arare amidships causing the destroyer to blow up and sink. A total of 104 of her crew were killed but her captain, Commander Ogata Tomoe, survived.

HMS NIGER (July 5, 1942)

British minesweeper returning to the UK from Murmansk, sank after sailing into a British laid minefield off the coast of Iceland. The Niger was transporting 39 survivors from the 10,000 ton cruiser HMS Edinburgh which was sunk by the U-456 on May 2nd, 1942, taking with her 57 members of her crew. The captain of the Niger, along with 80 crewmembers and 38 survivors from the Edinburgh went down with the ship. Only 8 men survived, one of whom was from the Edinburgh.

SAGA OF THE U-166 (July 30, 1942)

Reportedly sunk by a US Coast Guard plane which dropped a depth charge on the submarine. An oil slick was the only evidence that a hit had taken place. The aircrew were decorated for the sinking. Sixty years later a sonar device detected a wreck on the sea floor. This turned out to be the wreck of the liner Robert E. Lee. A short distance away lay the wreck of the U-166. The Robert E. Lee had been sailing from Trinidad to the Gulf of Mexico with 400 people on board when spotted by the U-166 which fired a torpedo and scored a hit in the engine room causing the ship to sink soon after. Fortunately most of the passengers survived.

In 1942, U-boats were sent from their base at Lorient in France to the Gulf of Mexico with orders to sink as many US ships as possible. In the first half of 1942, the 18 U-boats operating in the Gulf sunk a total of 62 ships. The US was totally unprepared for enemy submarines operating so close to home and virtually unopposed. They wrought havoc amongst tankers and merchant ships. Hundreds died while swimming in a sea of oil and flame. The U-166 was last seen by the crew of the U-171which was sunk weeks later after hitting a British mine near its base at Lorient, 22 of her crew were killed. After the sinking of the Robert E. Lee, the escorting destroyer dropped depth charges where the U-166 was believed to be. Cut in two by the explosion, the U-166 sank with her 52 crew trapped inside in almost the same position as her last victim, the Robert E Lee.

STRALE (August 6, 1942)

Italian Navy destroyer, torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean by the British submarine HMS Turbulent. Over 150 of her crew perished.

MV MAMUTU (August 7, 1942)

A Burns Philip & Co. vessel requisitioned at the outbreak of the Pacific War as a Stores Issuing Ship for the Royal Australian Navy. In 1942 she returned to Inter Island Trading. On August 6 the Mamutu (Capt. J. McEachem) set sail from Port Moresby en route to Daru on the Gulf of Papua. On board were 32 crewmen and 82 passengers including 28 children being transported to the safety of Australia. Port Moresby had already been subjected to over seventy air raids by the Japanese, ahead of the planned assault on the town. Just after 11am on the 7th when the Mamutu was half way across the Gulf, she was attacked by the Japanese submarine RO-33 which opened fire with its 3.25 gun. Within minutes the ship was on fire as panic stricken passengers jumped into the water, many to be gunned down by 13mm gunfire. There were 28 survivors. The submarine RO-33 was later sunk on August 29, 1942, by depth charges from HMAS Arunta. All hands (42) perished.


Three US cruisers sunk during the one hour 1st Battle of Savo Island by a force of Japanese warships including five heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and one destroyer. The American warships were protecting and escorting US troop transports en route to Gaudalcanal. Total losses from the three ships amounted to 1,077 men killed and 709 wounded. On the USS Astoria 216 men were killed. The Vincennes lost 332 men and 529 men were lost on the Quincy. Many of the blood and oil covered survivors, struggling in the water, fell victim to the sharks. Japanese casualties were only 58 killed and 70 wounded.

The catastrophe at Savo Island was a demoralizing defeat for the Allies and the worst defeat ever suffered by the United States Navy. During this one hour duel, the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra (Captain Frank Getting) was also sunk with the loss of 85 lives. Many of Canberra's survivors were rescued by the American destroyers USS Patterson and the USS Blue which was herself sunk with all hands some weeks later on August 23.  On hearing of the Camberra's sinking, Churchill requested that the British cruiser HMS Shropshire be sent to replace her. In 1943, the US launched a new cruiser and named her Canberra, the first time the US Navy had named a vessel after a foreign warship. Fifty years later, a deep sea diving team, led by Robert R. Ballard, and including one of the Canberra's survivors, Ordinary Seaman Albert Warne, placed a plaque on the battered but upright hull of the Canberra which read "In Memory Of Our Fallen Comrades". USS Astoria, HMAS Canberra, USS Quincy, USS Vincennes.

Quincy webpage located at www.ussquincy.com.

USS JARVIS DD-393 (August 9, 1942)

American destroyer hit by an aerial torpedo while escorting troop transports during the Guadalcanal landings. The torpedo opened a hole 50ft long in her boiler room. After emergency repairs at Lunga Point the ship set sail for Brisbane, Australia. At a speed of only eight knots she was a sitting duck for a swarm of Japanese land based dive bombers of the 25th Air Flotilla from Rabaul which caught up with her near Cape Esperance. A hit from one of their torpedoes caused the ship to split in two and within minutes she sank, taking to the bottom her captain, Lt. Cdr. Graham, and his entire crew of 247 men.

SS WAIMARAMA (August 11-13, 1942)

British merchant ship of 11,100 tons, loaned from the Shaw Savile Line and now part of the fourteen ship convoy Operation Pedestal to the relief of the besieged island of Malta. The 'Operation Pedestal' convoy was the most bombarded convoy in the entire war. The Waimarama was sunk by German Junkers 88 dive bombers off Cape Bon. Direct hits by four bombs ignited aviation fuel stored in cans on her deck. The ship exploded in a sheet of flame and smoke. In less than five minutes the ship was gone. Of her crew of 107, only 27 men survived.

A total of 209 ships in 61 convoys, made the journey to and from Malta from July 9, 1940, to December 31, 1942. Thirty of these ships were lost, resulting in the deaths of 264 seamen. (Britain lost 22 ships, USA 4 ships, Holland 2 and Norway 2.)

HMS MANCHESTER (August 13, 1942)

British light cruiser (9,400 tons) launched in April,1937 and torpedoed four miles east of Kelibia, Tunisia, North Africa, by Italian torpedo boats, MAS-16 and MAS-22. The cruiser was engaged in escorting a convoy to Malta at the time of the attack. Badly damaged, the ship had to be scuttled by her crew. A total of 150 men lost their lives. Three officers and 375 ratings landed on the Tunisian coast and were interned by the Vichy French authorities.

NINO BIXIO (August 17, 1942)

Italian troop transport (7,137 tons) sunk in the Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily, by the British submarine HMS Turbulent. She was carrying New Zealand prisoners of war and around 400 French P.O.W.s captured in North Africa. The Nino Bixio was hit by two torpedoes, one exploding in the prisoners hold and killing many. The injured were brought up on deck and attended to by medical officers. The badly damaged Nino Bixio was taken in tow by one of its escorting destroyers and towed to Navarino in southern Greece. There the dead prisoners were buried, the rest being shipped, via Corinth, to a prisoner of war camp near Bari in Italy. A total of 118 New Zealanders lost their lives.

USS INGRAHAM (August 22, 1942 )

The American destroyer sank after a violent collision with the Navy oil tanker SS Chemung in pea-soup fog off the coast of Nova Scotia. The Ingraham was part of task Force 37 escorting Convoy AT-20 to the United Kingdom. An internal explosion caused the ship to blaze from stem to stern. It was all over in a flash, the burning wreck vanishing beneath the waves taking the lives of 218 of her crew. There were only 11 survivors, one officer and ten men, all rescued by the Chemung's boat crews.

HMS SIKH and HMS ZULU (September 13-14, 1942)

Royal Navy destroyers (1,870 tons) taking part in a early dawn raid on the Libyan port of Tobruk, an Axis supply base. As dawn broke they were illuminated by searchlights when about a mile offshore. Hit repeatedly by shore batteries, the Sikh was disabled and taken in tow by her sister ship, HMS Zulu. When the tow cable was parted by a shell hit, she drifted into the line of fire once more. On top of this, seven German dive-bombers attacked the stricken vessel which had to be abandoned. Loss of life amounted to 15 officers and over 100 ratings. The few survivors were taken prisoner when they reached the shore. The bombers also hit the Zulu which keeled over and sank taking 39 of its personnel to the seabed.

HMCS OTTAWA  (September 13, 1942)

Named after the Ottawa River in Ontario, the Canadian escort destroyer of 1,375 tons, was built in the UK and commissioned on June 15, 1938. While escorting Convoy ON-127, the Ottawa (Lt. Cdr. Rutherford) was sunk in mid Atlantic by two torpedoes from the U-91 (Walkerling). Of her complement of 181 a total of 114 men died (5 officers and 109 ratings) There were 67 survivors including 22 merchant seamen rescued earlier by the Ottawa after their ship was sunk.

HMS VETERAN (September 26, 1942)

British destroyer of 1,120 tons torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic south of Iceland while escorting Convoy RB-1 from Newfoundland to Britain. Nine officers, including the captain, Lt. Cdr. T.H. Garwood, and 150 ratings went down with the ship. Also lost were 78 merchant seamen which the Veteran had rescued from other ships. There were no survivors.

SS CARIBOU (October 14, 1942)

2,222 ton passenger ferry of the Newfoundland Railways, built in Rotterdam. Launched on June 9, 1925 and destined for service in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland. While sailing through the Cabot Strait between St. John's and Port aux Basques on October 14, 1942, escorted by the minesweeper HMCS Grand-Mére, the ferry was blown apart at 3.20am by a torpedo from the German submarine U-69.  The Caribou was carrying 251 crew and passengers of whom 118 were military personnel. Also on board were fifty head of cattle. The fact that the defenceless ferry was carrying military personnel and escorted by a warship made this a legitimate target for the U-boat. The sinking took the lives of 136 persons including 16 women and 14 children. There were 115 survivors, 104 being rescued by the minesweeper.  Two of the survivors died en route to hospital in Sydney, Nova Scotia.  Among those lost was naval nurse Margaret Wilson, the only Canadian nurse killed in WWII through enemy action. Of the crew of forty six, thirty one lost their lives. Six soldiers of the Prince Edward Island Highlanders also died. Of the fourteen children on board only one survived.

The U-69 (Kptlt. Urlich Gräf) was sunk east of Newfoundland on February 17, 1943, by depth charges from the British destroyer HMS Fame. All hands (46) perished.

USS MEREDITH (October 15, 1942)

Lost near San Cristobal Island in the Solomons. While escorting a convoy of two cargo vessels, the minesweeper USS Vireo, the destroyer USS Nicholas and the gunboat USS Jamestown, each ship towing barges loaded with ammunition, bombs and aviation fuel, the convoy was spotted by a scout plane from the Japanese carrier Shokaku. Between Espiritu Santa and Guadalcanal, the convoy was attacked by a group of Japanese dive bombers. One direct hit on the Meredith exploded below deck and four more bombs hit the ship in quick succession virtually blowing the ship to pieces. Then an aerial torpedo hit the stricken ship causing her store of depth charges to explode. The Meredith sank within 20 minutes with the loss of 185 crew members. On the minesweeper Vireo, 51 of her crew were killed. Survivors were rescued by the destroyer USS Grayson.

MV ZAANDAM (November 2, 1942)

Dutch cargo-passenger liner(10,909 tons) on the Java-New York route but escaped from the East Indies in March, 1942. The Zaandam was sunk about 334 nautical miles (618 kilometres) north-northeast of Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil,  by torpedoes from the U-174 (Ulrich Thilo) while en route from Capetown, South Africa, to New York. Her cargo included 8,600 tons of Chrome and Copper ore. Also on board were 299 persons including 112 crewmembers and 18 US Naval Armed Guards plus 169 passengers, most of them survivors from five Allied ships previously sunk off Capetown (Coloradan, Chickasaw City, Swiftsure, Examelia and Firethorn).

Ten minutes after the first torpedo hit, another slammed into the port side sinking the Zaandam in less than two minutes. A total of 134 men lost their lives, leaving 165 survivors. The US tanker SS Gulfstate, picked up 106 survivors from two lifeboats on November 7th. A third lifeboat, containing around 60 persons, made landfall near the town of Barreirinhas, Brazil, some days later. Two men from this lifeboat died.

HMS WALNEY (November 8, 1942)

Escort sloop of 1,700 tons sunk during a commando raid on the harbour at Oran (Operation Torch). HMS Walney (Y 04) was the ex US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Sebago (CGC-51) transferred to Britain under the Lend-Lease agreement on May 12, 1941. On board were around 200 men of the 6th US Armored Infantry Division. After crashing through the log boom at the entrance to the harbour the Walney came under murderous cross fire from the French vessels and in particular the French sloop La Surprise which poured shell after shell into her hull at point blank range. Now a blazing hulk, the Walney capsized and sank. There were seventeen survivors including her commander, Captain Frederick Peters. The sloop La Surprise tried to escape the harbour but was cut off and sunk by HMS Brilliant. The survivors of Walney were taken prisoner by the French but released when Oran fell.

Tragically, Captain Peters was killed when the plane carrying him back to Britain was shot down.

HMS MARTIN (November 10, 1942)

British destroyer of 1,920 tons, (Cdr. C. Thomson)  launched in December, 1940. It escorted six convoys to Russia before taking part in Operation Torch in North Africa. On the 10th of November it was hit by three torpedoes from the U-431 163 kilometres north north-east of Algiers. Of her complement of 224 there were 161 crewmen killed including all her officers. There were 63 survivors. (On May 1, 1943, the Martin was one of the destroyers that rescued 206 men from the destroyer HMS Punjabi  which sank after a collision with the battleship HMS King George V.  Forty-nine members of the Punjabi's crew died in the collision.)

USS MONSSEN (November 12, 1942)

While escorting troop transports and supply ships to Lunga Point, Guadalcanal the Monssen came under fire from Japanese warships near Savo Island. In this engagement the destroyer USS Barton was sunk and the Monssen inadvertently ploughed through the Barton's survivors swimming in the water and killed quite a few. Suddenly she was illuminated by starshells and a devastating hail of high explosive missiles crashed into the ship demolishing the bridge and engine room. Lying dead in the water, the Monssen was abandoned by her survivors. Minutes later, cries for help were heard coming from the blazing wreck and three survivors paddled their raft close to the ship and climbed on board to save eight wounded men who had been trapped below deck. Rescue boats from Guadalcanal picked up all survivors just before the Monssen's magazine exploded and sent the ship to the bottom taking with her 150 members of her crew.

USS LAFFEY (DD-459) (November 13, 1942)

American destroyer sunk during the three day Naval Battle of Gaudalcanal by a salvo of 14-inch shells from the Japanese battleship Hiei. As the order to abandon ship was given, a torpedo hit the Laffey ripping her apart with a violent explosion as her depth charges detonated. She sank immediately with fifty-six of her crew. There were 101 men wounded. The Laffey was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The second USS Laffey (DD-724) was attacked by eight kamikaze planes while on radar picket duty off Okinawa on April 16, 1945, but was not sunk. Casualties were 33 men killed and 60 others wounded. The DD-724 is now on permanent exhibition at Charleston's Patriots Point Museum alongside the carrier USS Yorktown.

USS BARTON (November 13, 1942)

Another destroyer sunk at the Naval Battle of Gaudalcanal. Hit by two torpedoes from the Japanese destroyer Amatsukaza, her forward magazines mass detonated, splitting the ship in two. The stern sank at once but her bows remained afloat for about ten minutes. All those alive jumped into the water but most were killed when the Barton's depth charges exploded beneath them. Other survivors were killed when ships tore through the water where they were swimming. During the melee, shells from enemy ships, firing at the destroyers, also landed among the swimmers, killing more. It is estimated that 80% of the ships crew, about 275 men, were killed. There were 42 survivors.

USS PRESTON (November 14, 1942)

Part of Task Force 64 racing to intercept a Japanese naval unit under the command of Vice Admiral Kondo, as it sailed into Savo Island Sound. The naval unit consisted of the battleship Kirishima, the heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, light cruisers Sendai and Nagara and nine destroyers. When radar contact was made on the Nagara the Task Force destroyers opened fire and scored several hits on the cruiser. The Nagara returned fire with a vengeance and the Preston came under a hail of 6-inch shells reducing the vessel to burning hulk. Minutes later the Preston listed heavily to port, rolled over and sank stern first. Among the tangled wreckage lay her dead captain, Cmdr. Max Stormes and 116 of his crew. Her survivors were rescued by the destroyer USS Meade.

USS ATLANTA (November 13, 1942)

American light cruiser, sunk during the Guadalcanal Landings, by a torpedo from the Japanese destroyer Akaksuki and from shells from the battleship Hiei. The Atlanta ran into the line of fire from the USS San Francisco and received another nineteen 8 inch shells before the mistake was discovered. Fired at from both sides, the cruiser was soon ablaze throughout her whole length, her crumpled decks strewn with dead bodies including that of her commander, Admiral Scott. The commander of the San Francisco, Admiral Callaghan, was killed minutes later by a 14 inch shell from the Hiei. Of the Atlanta's complement of 735, a total of 165 men were killed.

TAKANAMI (November 30, 1942)

Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer which helped sink the USS Minneapolis was sunk by enemy gunfire about five miles south of Savo Island. Her captain, Cdr. Ogura Hasami and 211 members of his crew perished. There were 33 survivors who eventually reached Guadalcanal in a lifeboat.

HMAS ARMIDALE (December 1, 1942)

Australian minesweeper (corvette) one of fifty-six such vessels in the Royal Australian Navy during World War II was commissioned on June 11, 1942, and engaged in the re-supply and evacuation of troops and civilians from Betuno Bay in Timor prior to the Japanese takeover. The Armidale, part of the 24th Minesweeping Flotilla at Darwin, was sunk by a force of nine Japanese torpedo carrying bombers and four fighters 191 kilometres south-southeast of Dili in  Portuguese  Timor at 3.15 pm. She sank in less than five minutes. Casualties on board were 100 men lost out of a complement of 149. (Two officers and 38 ratings plus 58 Dutch soldiers and civilians) Some survivors endured eight days at sea before being rescued. Twenty-nine survivors managed to cling to a makeshift raft and drifted away from the sinking vessel but they were never seen again.

This was the highest loss of life on any Australian corvette during the entire war.

SS COAMO (December 2, 1942)

US freighter of 7,057 tons, built in 1925 for the Agwilines of New York. The vessel was en route from Gibraltar to New York when it simply disappeared without trace. It was later discovered that the ship had been torpedoed by the German U-boat the U-604 The Coamo was carrying 186 persons including the crew. The entire merchant marine crew of 133 men plus 37 Armed Guards and 16 Army personnel were lost, in this, the greatest tragedy to befall a single crew on a US Merchant Marine ship in WWII. (The U-604 was scuttled in the South Atlantic on August 11, 1943. The crew was saved by the U-185 which was then depth charged and sunk on August 24. Fourteen men from the U-604 were killed.)

HMS FIREDRAKE (December 16, 1942)

Destroyer of 1,410 tons, launched in June 1934 at the Vickers-Armstrong Shipyard on the Tyne and sunk by torpedo from a German U-boat U-211 in the North Atlantic, about 400 nautical miles west of Mizen Head, Galway, Ireland. The Firedrake was escorting the forty-three ship Convoy ON-153 to Canada when the torpedo struck breaking the vessel in two. The bow section, including the bridge, sank immediately leaving thirty-five men stranded on the stern section. Another escort, HMS Sunflower ploughed through 60 foot waves to rescue the men who had jumped into the water. Twenty-seven crewmembers (6 officers and 20 ratings) were thus saved, one died later. In all, Commander Tilden and 167 of the Firedrake's crew were lost, plus three survivors who had been picked up earlier from another ship sunk that same night.

HMS BRAMBLE (December 31, 1942)

Royal Navy minesweeper (850 tons) sunk by the German destroyer Friedrich Eckoldt in an action during the Battle of the Barents Sea while escorting convoy JW5-1B to Russia. Eight officers, including her captain, Cdr. H. J. Rust and 113 ratings were drowned.

FRIEDRICH ECKOLDT (December 31, 1942)

German destroyer launched in March, 1937, from the yard of Blohm & Voss, Hamburg and sunk during the Battle of the Barents Sea. After attacking the Allied Convoy JW5-1B and sinking the British minesweeper Bramble, the Eckoldt now headed towards distant gun flashes, her captain believed coming from the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. Instead he was confronted by the British cruisers HMS Jamaica and HMS Sheffield. The Sheffield opened fire at point blank range her shells hitting the aft magazine of the Eckoldt causing an explosion which sank her in seconds. She went down with all hands. The exact number of casualties varies but her wartime complement was usually around 335 men.

HMS ACHATES (December 31, 1942)

Clydebank built destroyer of 1,350 tons and part of a destroyer force escorting a North Russia bound convoy JW 51B. When off Bear Island in the Barents Sea, the Achates was attacked at 9.30 am by the German warship  Lutzov. Hit forward by 8 in. shells and a direct hit on her bridge, which killed her captain, Lt. Cdr. Tyndale Johns and several others. She lost steam and slowed down only to be hit by several more salvos. Badly damaged, the gallant ship sailed on for one more hour before she floundered and within the space of three minutes the Achates turned turtle and sank, taking to the bottom seven officers and 106 crewmembers. The trawler Northern Gem was able to pick up 81 survivors.

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All text researched and compiled by George Duncan. Website by Columbus.