Ships hit by U-boats

Empire Heath

British Steam merchant

Photo courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, P22329

NameEmpire Heath
Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage6,643 tons
Completed1941 - Bartram & Sons Ltd, South Dock, Sunderland 
OwnerJoseph Robinson & Sons, North Shields 
Date of attack11 May 1944Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-129 (Richard von Harpe)
Position29° 31'S, 29° 50'W - Grid FR 4583
Complement58 (57 dead and 1 survivor).
RouteVictoria, Brazil (9 May) - Freetown - Loch Ewe 
CargoIron ore 

Completed in June 1941 as CAM ship for Ministry of War Transport (MoWT), intially managed by Mark Whitwill & Son Ltd and since 1942 by Joseph Robinson & Sons.

On 1 November 1942 the Empire Heath in convoy HG-91 launched her Sea Hurricane Mk.I V7070 (MSFU, pilot F/O Norman Taylor, DFM, RAF) to chase the German Focke-Wulf Fw200C F8+DS (7./KG 40, pilot Oblt Arno Gross) which was shot down, leaving no survivors. Return fire had damaged the fighter and the pilot had to bail out over the convoy, being a non-swimmer and he almost drowned before picked up by one of the escorts. It was victory number 6.5 for F/O Taylor and he was awarded the DFC for this action.

In July 1943 the catapult was removed.

Notes on event

At 14.45 hours on 11 May 1944, U-129 fired a spread of three torpedoes at the unescorted Empire Heath (Master William Thompson Brown, DSC) east-northeast of Rio de Janeiro, but missed. The U-boat surfaced and overtook the vessel despite of the aircraft operating in the area, firing one FAT torpedo at 23.00 hours. The ship was hit after 6 minutes 20 seconds and sank within a few seconds. The Germans rescued one of the survivors, the chief steward Frederick Wakeham, for questioning and took him prisoner. He was landed in Lorient on 19 July and taken to the POW camp Marlag und Milag Nord. The master, 46 crew members, one passenger (DBS) and nine gunners were lost.

On boardWe have details of 58 people who were on board

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