Ships hit by U-boats

South Africa

Norwegian Motor tanker

Photo Courtesy of Library of Contemporary History, Stuttgart

NameSouth Africa
Type:Motor tanker
Tonnage9,234 tons
Completed1930 - Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend, Sunderland 
OwnerLeif Høegh & Co A/S, Oslo 
Date of attack8 Jun 1942Nationality:      Norwegian
FateSunk by U-128 (Ulrich Heyse)
Position12° 47'N, 49° 44'W - Grid EF 7392
Complement42 (6 dead and 36 survivors).
RouteSan Nicholas, Aruba (31 May) - Willemstad, Curaçao (2 Jun) - Freetown 
Cargo9614 tons of lube destilate and 4146 tons of diesel oil 
Notes on event

On 31 May 1942 the South Africa (Master Hans J. Trovik) had departed Aruba under escort and arrived in Curaçao the same afternoon. Two days later, she left in a convoy, which was dispersed on 5 or 6 June about 20 miles north-northeast of Barbados.

At 14.19 hours on 8 June 1942 the unescorted South Africa was hit by two torpedoes from U-128 about 400 miles east of Trinidad. The first torpedo struck on the starboard side in the engine room and the second hit in the #5 tank. The explosions destroyed the starboard lifeboats, the storm bridge, the after part of the bridge and the 12 lbs stern gun with the gun platform. Five men on watch below and a British gunner sleeping on deck were killed. As the tanker immediately began settling by the stern, the survivors abandoned ship in both port lifeboats and by jumping overboard. Shortly thereafter, the ship broke in two and the stern sank within 2 minutes. The lifeboats had some troubles to get away from the suction and the forepart followed about one minute, sinking at a great speed almost vertically.
The U-boat then surfaced and approached the lifeboats, which were busy in picking up men swimming in the oily water. As the U-boat reached the boat of the master, the commander pointed out another men in the water a little further away. The Germans then questioned the men in the boat of the first mate and handed over some cans of bread and two bottles of rum. After they were told to steer west in order to reach land, the U-boat left the area.

The motor boat of the master with 13 men went to investigate four rafts that had floated free in some distance and took a 20 gallon water tank and other supplies from them, but doing so they lost the second boat out of view. After an unsuccessful search, they set sail for Trinidad and encountered the Plaudit in 10°54N/54°32W en route to Pernambuco in the morning of 12 June. After a breakfast, the men decided to continue in the lifeboat on the 380 miles voyage towards Trinidad, provided with plenty of rations and water. In the afternoon of 15 June, they got 5 gallons of petrol from the sailing vessel Minnie M. Mosher and declined their offer to take them along to Barbados. The following afternoon, they made landfall at Toko Bay, about 1 mile from Galara Light, where they were assisted by the locals and taken by bus to Port of Spain.
The 23 survivors in the second lifeboat also continued in the lifeboat after having eaten aboard the motor tanker Acastra on June 12, because the ship was en route to Freetown. The next day, they met the Argentinian steam tanker 13 de Diciembre, which provided some additional supplies and declined their offer to take them to Buenos Aires. On 14 June, the survivors were spotted by aircraft and reported to an American seaplane tender, which picked them up in the afternoon of the next day, about 45 miles east of Trinidad and landed them at Port of Spain on 16 June.

More infoMore on this vessel 
On boardWe have details of 42 people who were on board

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