Ships hit by U-boats

Vassilios A. Polemis

Greek Steam merchant

Photo Courtesy of Library of Contemporary History, Stuttgart

NameVassilios A. Polemis
Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage3,429 tons
Completed1907 - Chantiers Navals Anversois, Antwerp 
OwnerGhikas John Goumas, Athens 
Date of attack22 Jan 1942Nationality:      Greek
FateSunk by U-333 (Peter-Erich Cremer)
Position42° 32'N, 52° 38'W - Grid BB 9600
Complement33 (21 dead and 12 survivors).
ConvoyON-53 (dispersed)
RouteGlasgow - Clyde (2 Jan) - St. John, New Brunswick 
History Completed in September 1907 as German Oehringen for Seetransport GmbH, Hamburg. 1919 allocated to Britain as war reparation, managed by G. Heyn & Sons. 1921 sold to Gascony Steamship Co Ltd, London. In March 1927 sold to Greece and renamed Vassilios A. Polemis
Notes on event

At 20.45 hours on 22 Jan 1942 the unescorted Vassilios A. Polemis (Master Vasileios N. Michas), dispersed from station #71 in convoy ON-53 on 19 January, was hit on the port side amidships by one torpedo from U-333 about 300 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The ship drifted along in a long swell at about 3 knots because the crew was cleaning the tubes when the torpedo struck in the cross-bunker, just aft of the bridge and broke her in two. No emergency message could be sent as the explosion brought down the funnel and the foremast with the aerial. Two Portuguese crewmen launched the starboard lifeboat, the only boat or raft that remained, before the ship sank after 10 minutes. They then began to pick up the survivors that had been blown overboard by the explosion or jumped into the water when the ship sank. The U-boat surfaced and went alongside the lifeboat for an hour to thoroughly question the survivors, but apparently the Germans did not believe the ruse of the British chief officer that all men in the boat were Greeks and misidentified the ship as the British steam merchant Burdwan (6069 grt). They also refused the appeal of the second officer to be taken aboard and handed the survivors a box of biscuits and 40 cigarettes before leaving the area. The lifeboat was occupied by 17 men, but five of them died of exposure and were buried at sea before the remaining survivors were picked up exactly two days later by the Greek steam merchant Leonidas N. Condylis (Master Tatakas) from the same dispersed convoy in position 44°04N/54°28W. All survivors were suffering to a greater or lesser extent from frostbite and exposure and were taken by ambulance to Halifax Infirmary after being landed in Halifax on 27 January.

On boardWe have details of 25 people who were on board

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