Ships hit by U-boats

HMHS Somersetshire

British Hospital ship

Photo courtesy of State Library of New South Wales

NameHMHS Somersetshire
Type:Hospital ship
Tonnage9,716 tons
Completed1921 - Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast 
OwnerBibby Brothers & Co, Liverpool 
Date of attack7 Apr 1942Nationality:      British
FateDamaged by U-453 (Egon Reiner Freiherr von Schlippenbach)
Position32° 13'N, 26° 34'E - Grid CO 6896
Complement187 (7 dead and 180 survivors).
RouteAlexandria - Tobruk 
History Completed in June 1921 as motor merchant Somersetshire for Bibby Brothers & Co, Liverpool. 1927 converted to a troopship with accommodation for 1300 troops. In October 1927 the ship sailed to China and from January to May 1928 she transported troops to Karachi and was laid up in Dartmouth thereafter. During another voyage to China in 1931, influenza broke out which affected 300 person but fortunately there were no deaths. In September 1939, the Somersetshire was requisitioned and converted into HM Hospital Ship No.25 with 507 beds, 118 medical staff and 171 crew members. She participated in the withdrawal from Narvik in April 1940 and on 6 Dec 1940, was bombarded from shore as her launches brought of the wounded at Tobruk. In February 1941, the ship joined her sistership HMHS Dorsetshire in evacuating the wounded from the besieged Tobruk, before operating from the Red Sea to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand repatriating wounded soldiers.

From 1944 to 1946, the Somersetshire sailed all over the world as a hospital ship and finishing up in the Pacific. In February 1948, the ship was decommissioned and rebuilt until November by Harland & Wolff to a passenger ship with accommodation for 550 passengers. In 1953, the ship briefly returned to trooping to East Africa during the Mau Mau troubles and in March 1954 was broken up by Thos. W. Ward in Barrow-in-Furness. 
Notes on event

At 12.57 hours on 7 April 1942, U-453 fired a spread of four torpedoes at a steamer of 10,000 grt and heard three detonations after 47 seconds. HMHS Somersetshire was not recognized as a hospital ship by the U-boat. The ship, which was carrying no patients, was hit on the starboard side forward and settled by the head with a list. Seven lives were lost. 114 crew members, 64 medical staff members and two stewardesses abandoned ship in 13 lifeboats. The crew later reboarded her and managed to reach Alexandria on the port engine and assisted by tugs. The remaining survivors were picked up by a Greek destroyer.

On boardWe have details of 12 people who were on board

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