Ships hit by U-boats


British Steam merchant

Photo Courtesy of Library of Contemporary History, Stuttgart

Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage5,237 tons
Completed1919 - Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Hebburn-on-Tyne 
OwnerBritish India Steam Navigation Co Ltd, London 
Date of attack17 Feb 1941Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-101 (Ernst Mengersen)
Position50° 00'N, 14° 00'W - Grid BE 3437
Complement86 (85 dead and 1 survivor).
ConvoySL-64 (detached)
RouteCalcutta - Freetown (30 Jan) - Galway, Ireland - London 
Cargo2600 tons of pig iron, 1765 tons of tea, 2369 tons of general cargo and 200 tons of silver ingots and coins (£600,000) 
History Laid down as War Roebuck for The Shipping Controller, completed in October 1919 as Gairsoppa for British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd, London. 
Notes on event

At 00.08 hours on 17 Feb 1941 the unescorted Gairsoppa (Master Gerald Hyland) was hit on the starboard side just behind the bridge in #2 hold by one G7a torpedo from U-101 about 300 miles southwest of Galway Bay, Ireland. The ship had been in convoy SL-64 which was slowed down by bad weather and running low on coal, she was detached alone to Galway on 15 February. At 18.00 hours on 16 February, the U-boat spotted the ship but had troubles to hit the target due to heavy seas and missed with a spread of two torpedoes at 23.28 hours and one G7e torpedo at 23.32 hours. The Gairsoppa caught fire and settled slowly by the bow after being hit in the third attack, but Mengersen decided to give up further attacks when a coup de grâce missed at 00.20 hours, assuming correctly that the burning freighter will sink anyway in the heavy seas. The survivors managed to abandon ship in three lifeboats before she sank within 20 minutes. However, two of the boats were never seen again and its occupants presumably perished in the cold and bad weather. The boat in charge of the second officer set sail with eight Europeans and 23 Lascars aboard, but after seven days most had died of exposure and only four Europeans and two Lascars were still alive when the boat reached land on 1 March. Sadly, it capsized in the swell and surf of Caerthillian Cove on The Lizard, Cornwall and all occupants drowned except the second officer, who was rescued unconscious by a coastguard. The bodies of two Europeans and the two unidentified Lascars were recovered and buried in the Landewednack Churchyard. The master, 82 crew members and two gunners were lost.

On boardWe have details of 86 people who were on board

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