Belgian Steam merchant
|1921 - Merchant Shipbuilding Corp, Harriman PA
|Compagnie Maritime Belge (Lloyd Royal) SA, Antwerp
|Date of attack
|9 Oct 1942
|Sunk by U-68 (Karl-Friedrich Merten)
|35° 00'S, 18° 30'E - Grid GR 5965
|54 (5 dead and 49 survivors).
|Alexandria - Abu Zenima (13 Sep) - Aden (20 Sep) - Capetown – Baltimore
|2500 tons of manganese ore
|Completed in February 1921 as Ala for US Shipping Board (USSB), Philadelphia. 1931 sold to American Diamond Lines Inc, New York. 1935 renamed Black Condor for Black Diamond Lines Inc, New York. 1941 given to Britain and renamed Empire Lapwing by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT), managed by Cairn Line of Steamships Ltd, London. On 15 Feb 1942 transferred to Belgium and renamed Belgian Fighter.
|Notes on event
At 04.54 hours on 9 Oct 1942 the unescorted Belgian Fighter (Master Achilles Costermans) was hit on the starboard side aft in the engine room by one torpedo from U-68 while steaming at about 10 knots 80 miles south-southeast of Capetown. A lookout had seen the phosphorescent track of the torpedo, but it was too late to take evasive action. The explosion killed five crew members and wounded two others. When the vessel settled by the stern the remaining crew members and six gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in and five machine guns) began to abandon ship in both port lifeboats as the starboard aft boat had been destroyed and the other starboard boat swamped during launch. No distress signals were sent as the aerials were brought down and the emergency set became useless when water entered it. At 05.17 hours, the U-boat fired a coup de grâce that hit on the port side aft and caused the Belgian Fighter to sink quickly by stern. The last boat was only about 50 yards away when the second torpedo hit, but was not damaged. It then picked up six men from rafts, waited for daylight to search the wide debris field for other survivors and afterwards set sail towards the coast with the other boat in tow because its rudder was out of action. After about ten hours, the survivors sighted the American steam merchant John Lykes at the horizon, picking up the survivors of Examelia which had been sunk by the same U-boat earlier that night. They attracted attention with smoke floats and parachute flares, were picked up at 15.30 hours and landed at Port Elizabeth, South Africa. On 14 October, two further crewmen on a raft were picked up by Ocean Justice and again survived a sinking when this ship was sunk by U-505 (Zschech) east of Trinidad on 7 November.
|We have details of 48 people who were on board.
If you can help us with any additional information on this vessel then please contact us.