British Steam merchant
|Type:||Steam merchant (North Sands)|
|Completed||1942 - Davie Shipbuilding & Repairing Co Ltd, Lauzon PQ|
|Owner||Larrinaga & Co Ltd, Liverpool|
|Date of attack||12 May 1943||Nationality: British|
|Fate||Sunk by U-456 (Max-Martin Teichert)|
|Position||46° 05'N, 25° 20'W - Grid BE 4714|
|Complement||56 (37 dead and 19 survivors).|
|Route||St. John, New Brunswick - Halifax (3 May) - Loch Ewe - Manchester|
|Cargo||8500 tons of grain and 700 tons of military stores, including four aircraft in crates and trucks|
|History||Completed in November 1942 for US War Shipping Administration (WSA), lend-leased to Britain on bareboat charter for Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). |
|Notes on event|
At 04.41 hours on 12 May 1943 the unescorted Fort Concord (Master Francis Prideaux Ryan) was hit on the port side by one torpedo from U-456 while steaming on a non-evasive course at 10.25 knots about 440 miles north of the Azores. The ship had been in station #13 of convoy HX-237, but became a straggler in thick fog off Newfoundland on 6 May and eventually proceeded independently at full speed after reaching the rendezvous points for stragglers on 10 and 11 May in order to rejoin the convoy without encountering it. The U-boat had spotted two stragglers in the evening of 11 May and chased the Fort Concord for about 11 hours before getting into a favorable attack position. The torpedo struck the after part of the engine room with a very heavy explosion that collapsed the accommodation on both sides, opened a split in the boat deck on port side and blew away the motor lifeboat. The master gave order to abandon ship as she settled rapidly on an even keel, so the 48 crew members and eight gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in, four 20mm and two machine guns) tried to lower the three remaining lifeboats in moderate sea and swell while the radio operator attempted to send distress signals. Some men were apparently trapped in the collapsed accommodations or the A.N.D. nets that were blown inboard by the explosion. However, only the starboard aft boat could be lowered before the back of the ship suddenly broke. The Fort Concord sagged amidships and sank with her bow and stern in the air about four minutes after being hit. The master, 27 crew members and all eight gunners were lost.
Two of the 15 men in the lifeboat clambered out of it onto a raft, thinking that it was sinking as it was full of water. The boat succeeded in picking up two more men from the water and they could hear several others shouting and blowing their whistle, but were unable to reach them owing to the large amount of wreckage and the practically unmanageable boat. Being in charge of the lifeboat, the chief officer ordered the men in it to get into the bottom when U-456 surfaced about 100 yards away at about 05.00 hours and turned her searchlight onto it. The Germans apparently thought it was empty, so the U-boat went to the nearby raft and questioned the two men before leaving after steaming around the wreckage. Shortly afterwards three more men managed to reach the raft and were taken aboard. The survivors experienced a heavy rain and hail storm during the night, but the 15 occupants of the lifeboat began to bail out the water as soon as the weather cleared. By daylight the boat was dry, so they hoisted sails and steered northeast until they were spotted by a Swordfish aircraft from HMS Biter (D 97) at about 15.30 hours on 12 May. It seems the Fort Concord had been about 50 miles east of the convoy HX-237 when she was sunk and HMCS Drumheller (K 167) (T/Lt L.P. Denny, RCNR) was sent from the escort screen to rescue the survivors in the lifeboat. At 17.40 hours, the chief officer, 13 crew members and one passenger (DBS) were picked up by the corvette and landed at Londonderry on 16 May.
However, the raft with the five survivors was not found by the escorts, but U-103 (Janssen) encountered it on 18 May. The Germans took the two Europeans (the second engineer officer and the mess room boy) as prisoners on board and gave biscuits, cheese, sausage and water to the remaining three survivors (two Indians and a Brit of Japanese descent) before leaving the area. In the evening of 25 June, ORP Orkan (G 90) (Kmdr por Stanislaw Hryniewiecki) was escorting the convoy XK-9 when a raft with a small sail and two survivors was sighted in position 48°45N/11°33W. They were taken aboard at once and given medical care because they had been adrift for 44 days and were left without food after about 30. The third man had died the day before rescue and was buried at sea. The survivors reported that several times ships came quite close but turned away sooner or later and also aircraft came very low over the raft, one even dropping a bag of provisions but owning to their weak state they were unable to pick it up. They were landed at Plymouth on 1 July.
|On board||We have details of 43 people who were on board.|
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