Ships hit by U-boats

Empire Ability

British Steam merchant

Empire Ability under her former name Uhenfels. Photo courtesy of Günter Hamann

NameEmpire Ability
Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage7,603 tons
Completed1931 - Deschimag Werk Weser, Bremen 
OwnerElder Dempster Lines Ltd, Liverpool 
Date of attack27 Jun 1941Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-69 (Jost Metzler)
Position23° 50'N, 21° 10'W - Grid DT 3898
Complement109 (2 dead and 107 survivors).
RoutePort Louis, Mauritius - Freetown (18 Jun) - Liverpool 
Cargo7725 tons of sugar, 238 tons of rum, 400 tons of kernels and 35 tons of fibre 
History Completed in March 1931 as Uhenfels for DDG Hansa, Bremen. On 13 Oct 1939, left Lourenço Marques disguised as the Dutch motor merchant Aagtekerk in her third attempt to return to Germany. On 5 November spotted by two aircraft of HMS Ark Royal (91) (Capt A.J. Power, CVO, RN) in Force K about 300 miles west-southwest of Freetown and captured by HMS Hereward (H 93) (LtCdr C.W. Greening, RN). The crew tried to scuttle her ship, but a boarding party from the destroyer prevented the sinking and brought her to Freetown on 6 November. In April 1940 renamed Empire Ability by Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). On 23 Oct 1940, bombed and damaged by German aircraft in Gare Loch, Scotland.

At 01.45 hours on 27 Feb 1941, the Italian submarine Bianchi (Giovannini) attacked the convoy OB-290 in 54°N/14°W and claimed a probable hit on the Empire Ability but this is not possible because the ship was not part of this convoy.

Notes on event

At 01.19 hours on 27 June 1941, U-69 fired a spread of two torpedoes at two overlapping steamers in convoy SL-78 about 200 miles southeast of the Azores and heard one detonation, but no hit can be confirmed from Allied sources. At 01.49 hours, another torpedo was fired that hit the River Lugar amidships, which broke in two and sank within seconds. In a third attack at 02.37 hours, the Empire Ability was hit by a torpedo, caught fire and sank after 21 minutes.

The master, 60 crew members, two gunners, 17 military personnel and 27 passengers from the Empire Ability (Master Herbert Flowerdew) were picked up by the Amerika, transferred to HMS Burdock (K 126) (Lt H.J. Fellowes, SANVR) and landed at Milford Haven.

On boardWe have details of 3 people who were on board

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