Ships hit by U-boats

William King

American Steam merchant

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NameWilliam King
Type:Steam merchant (Liberty)
Tonnage7,176 tons
Completed1942 - New England Shipbuilding Corp, Portland ME 
OwnerMarine Transport Lines Inc, New York 
Date of attack6 Jun 1943Nationality:      American
FateSunk by U-198 (Werner Hartmann)
Position30° 25'S, 34° 15'E - Grid KP 9754
Complement65 (6 dead and 59 survivors).
RouteBusreh, Iran - Bahrein (14 May) - Durban - Capetown - USA 
Cargo18.000 barrels of fuel oil in drums 
History Completed in October 1942 
Notes on event

At 13.18 hours on 6 June 1943 the unescorted William King (Master Owen Harvey Reed) was hit on the port side in the #3 hold by one of two torpedoes from U-198 while steaming on a zigzag course at 10 knots about 200 miles east of Durban. The second torpedo was seen to pass astern. The explosion killed the three men on watch below, opened a large hole, destroyed the port boiler and two lifeboats and set fire to the engine room, the #3 hold and the midships house. The most of the eight officers, 34 crewmen and 23 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 5in and nine 20mm guns) abandoned ship in two lifeboats and two rafts. At 13.46 hours, the U-boat fired a torpedo that missed and at 14.04 hours a coup de grâce, which struck on the starboard side, sending flames high into the air and caused the ship to sink by the stern about 10 minutes later. In all, two officers and four crewmen were lost, two of them died of burns in a lifeboat.

The U-boat surfaced shortly afterwards and fired two short bursts from a machine gun to get the lifeboats alongside, questioned the survivors and took the master as prisoner on board before leaving. The survivors on the two rafts were picked up after 36 hours by HMS Northern Chief (4.34), which also picked up the survivors in one of the lifeboats and landed them at Durban on 10 June. The survivors in the other boat were picked up after six days by HMS Relentless (H 85) (LtCdr R.A. Fell, RN) and landed in Durban the same day.

The master Owen Harvey Reed was taken prisoner by the U-boat. On 26 June, he and Henry Townsend Graham, the chief engineer of Dumra, were transferred to the German supply tanker Charlotte Schliemann which landed them at Batavia on 15 July 1943. They were handed over to the Japanese and taken to a POW camp on Java. Both men were killed aboard the Japanese “hell ship” Junyo Maru, when she was torpedoed and sunk by the HMS Tradewind (P 329) (LtCdr S.L.C. Maydon, DSO and Bar, RN) en route from Batavia to Padang, Sumatra on 18 Sep 1944. 5620 men of the 4200 Javanese slave labourers and 2300 Allied prisoners on board died.

On boardWe have details of 7 people who were on board

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