Ships hit by U-boats

Empire Drum

British Motor merchant

NameEmpire Drum
Type:Motor merchant
Tonnage7,244 tons
Completed1942 - Wm. Doxford & Sons Ltd, Sunderland 
OwnerChellew Navigation Co Ltd, Cardiff 
Date of attack24 Apr 1942Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-136 (Heinrich Zimmermann)
Position37° 00'N, 69° 15'W - Grid CA 9521
Complement41 (0 dead and 41 survivors).
RouteNew York (23 Apr) - Capetown - Alexandria 
Cargo6000 tons of military stores, including 1270 tons of explosives 
History Completed in March 1942 for the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) 
Notes on event

At 23.48 hours on 24 April 1942 the unescorted Empire Drum (Master John Robert Miles) was hit on the port side in #1 hold by one of two torpedoes from U-136, while steaming on a zigzag course at 11,5 knots about 280 miles southeast of New York. The explosion blew off the hatch covers and the flooding of the hold caused to ship to settle by the bow with a slight list. The master, 34 crew members and six gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in and four machine guns) immediately abandoned ship in all four lifeboats due to her dangerous cargo. The ship sank perpendicular by the bow about five minutes after being hit on the port side amidships by a coup de grâce at 00.08 hours on 25 April. The second explosion shattered the last boat to leave the ship and threw the occupants into the sea. Miraculously they all survived with only minor injuries and were picked up by the other lifeboats. One of them was the third engineer who was found floating calmly with a case of TNT under each arm. The U-boat surfaced shortly after the ship sank, questioned the survivors in the lifeboat of the second officer and left after investigating the wreckage that contained many car tires and boxes with explosives.

At daylight the boats set sail independently due west in fine weather, slight sea and a good sailing breeze. In early morning on 26 April, the master and 13 men in one lifeboat were picked up by Venezia and landed at New York in the evening of 27 April. On 29 April, the 14 survivors in the boat of the chief officer were picked up by USS Roper (DD 147) after being located by aircraft in 37°47N/71°28W. The same destroyer also picked up the 13 men in the boat of the second officer which sailed 265 miles before it was located about 15 miles from the coast on 1 May. All survivors were landed at Norfolk, Virginia.

On boardWe have details of 41 people who were on board

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