Ships hit by U-boats


British Motor merchant

Crista off the Comoros Islands. Photo courtesy of Robert Gallacher

Type:Motor merchant
Tonnage2,590 tons
Completed1938 - NV Werf Gusto v/h Firma A.F. Smulders, Schiedam 
OwnerAnglo-Saxon Petroleum Co Ltd, London 
Date of attack17 Mar 1942Nationality:      British
FateDamaged by U-83 (Hans-Werner Kraus)
Position32° 21'N, 25° 00'E - Grid CO 6775
Complement39 (7 dead and 32 survivors).
RouteAlexandria (16 Mar) - Tobruk 
Cargo2100 tons of cased fuel oil 
History Completed in December 1938. On 9 Feb 1941, the Crista was slightly damaged by a mine at Tobruk. On 2 Dec 1943, the ship was heavily damaged by bombs during the air raid of German bombers on the harbor of Bari, Italy. After temporary repairs at Augusta, she was repaired at Alexandria and returned to service in May 1944.

1957 renamed Tong Peng for Kie Hock Shipping Co Ltd, Singapore. 1967 renamed Gammewah for the same owner. 1978 renamed Bomari and broken up at Hong Kong in May 1978. 
Notes on event

At 23.03 hours on 17 March 1942, U-83 fired a spread of three torpedoes at a steamer in convoy AT-34 about 45 miles north-east of Tobruk and missed. At 23.17 hours, one torpedo was fired that hit Crista (Master William Blackstone) on the starboard side abreast of the mainmast and set her on fire immediately. The explosion opened a hole 30 feet wide and destroyed the superstructure, but did not affect the engine room. The ten British and 25 Egyptian crew members, four naval gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in, two 20mm Breda and seven machine guns) and one naval signalman began to abandon ship on three rafts and two lifeboats, but the starboard boat was lost when it became water-logged upon launch. The third and fourth engineer, one gunner and the cook jumped overboard and tried to escape by swimming away, but were overcome by the burning oil on the water and only the gunner was later picked up by the other lifeboat, which had left the ship about 40 minutes after the hit. It was swamped during the launch and despite the water in the boat the 12 men in it evaded the burning oil, rescued the gunner that had previously jumped overboard and five others from a Carley float. They were picked up after about one hour by the South African M/S whaler HMSAS Boksburg, which afterwards rescued nine men from one raft and a few Egyptian crew members from another, but the third raft with four Egyptians was not found despite a search of the area. The whaler then rejoined convoy and later landed the survivors at Tobruk.

The abandoned Crista continued to burn and was the next day located by the British motor torpedo boat HMS MTB-266 which anchored her off Bardia in the Sollum Bay, where the fires were extinguished. Later she was taken in tow by HMS St. Monance (W 63) to Alexandria for repairs, escorted by the British armed trawler HMS Southern Isle and the British motor launches HMS ML-1005 and HMS ML-1069, arriving on 28 March. The ship was repaired and returned to service in August 1943.

On boardWe have details of 10 people who were on board

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