British Motor merchant
|Completed||1929 - William Pickersgill & Sons Ltd, Sunderland|
|Owner||Court Line Ltd (Haldin & Philipps Ltd), London|
|Date of attack||31 Oct 1942||Nationality: British|
|Fate||Sunk by U-172 (Carl Emmermann)|
|Position||30.20S, 02.10W - Grid GP 3211|
|Complement||44 (34 dead and 10 survivors).|
|Route||Philadelphia - Trinidad (9 Oct) - Saldanha Bay, South Africa - Alexandria|
|Cargo||6614 tons of government stores and general cargo, including coal, tractors, fuel and beer|
|History||Completed in May 1929 |
|Notes on event|
At 22.21 hours on 31 Oct, 1942, the unescorted Aldington Court (Master Alfred Stuart) was hit by two G7a torpedoes from U-172 while steaming on a non-evasive course at 10 knots in fine weather about 1000 miles west of Port Nolloth, South West Africa. The ship had left Trinidad in convoy TRIN-16 which was dispersed during the night of 11/12 October. The torpedo tracks were seen to approach from the starboard beam, but it was too late to take avoiding action and they struck below the bridge and just forward of the engine room. The explosions threw up a considerable amount of debris, destroyed both starboard lifeboats, wrecked the gun nest on the starboard side of the bridge and collapsed the bridge ladders. The crew of 32 and twelve gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 12pdr, two 20mm and four machine guns) began to abandon ship in the lifeboats on the port side with great difficulties as it was a very dark night with no moon and the ship soon listed 35° to starboard. The jolly boat in charge of the third officer was launched with 13 men in it and the only intact lifeboat was in charge of the chief officer and left within five minutes with 15 occupants. Others jumped overboard and swam to rafts that were released. The master, second officer, second radio officer and a gunner were still aboard when the ship rolled over and sank about 10 minutes after being hit. They clung to wreckage until two men were picked up by each boat. The U-boat approached the survivors about 15 minutes later and the Germans asked for the master, but on being told that he had not been saved they ordered the chief officer to come aboard. He was taken below for questioning after being blindfolded, asked about the name of the ship, the cargo and port of destination and handed a pack of 20 cigarettes before he was sent back to his lifeboat.
At daylight the lifeboat took aboard six men from a nearby raft and the area was searched for four missing men: three gunners who had been on duty at the stern gun and the first radio officer who was still sending out distress signals when the ship sank. The jolly boat only had capacity for seven men, so the number of survivors was reduced from 15 to 10 by transferring five men to the lifeboat. The master took charge of the bigger boat and set sail towards South Africa, ordering the jolly boat to keep as close as possible, but the lifeboat eventually drew ahead as it had more sails and was last seen about 40 miles east-southeast of the sinking position during the morning of 3 November. It was never found: the master, 21 crew members and six gunners were lost. The jolly boat made about 4 knots over the next days until the wind dropped and continued by pulling at intervals for a week, making very little progress. Thirst became a problem as they were unable to collect rain water despite seeing heavy squalls passing ahead and behind the boat. Once a large whale passed the boat several times and almost capsized it. In the afternoon on 13 November, a ship was sighted and the survivors attempted to attract its attention by igniting all three available smoke floats; these either malfunctioned or had no effect. They were eventually spotted after the third officer climbed the mast and waved with a shirt. The City of Christiania picked up the seven crew members and three gunners, hoisted their boat on board and unsuccessfully searched for the other lifeboat. The overcrowded jolly boat had sailed 260 miles in 13 days and everyone in it complained about swollen feet as they could barely move. The survivors were landed in Montevideo on 26 November, where the boatswain was taken to a hospital. During the rescue he had to be lifted aboard with a rope as he could no longer move his legs and one of them had to be amputated in the hospital as it was gangrenous. The remaining survivors were repatriated on the ship which had rescued them, arriving in the UK on 2 Feb, 1943.
|On board||We have details of 44 people who were on board.|
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