Ships hit by U-boats

Empress of Britain

British Steam passenger ship

NameEmpress of Britain
Type:Steam passenger ship
Tonnage42,348 tons (one of the largest ships sunk).
Completed1931 - John Brown & Co Ltd, Clydebank 
OwnerCanadian Pacific Steamships Ltd, Montreal 
Date of attack28 Oct 1940Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-32 (Hans Jenisch)
Position55° 16'N, 9° 50'W - Grid AM 5455
Complement623 (45 dead and 578 survivors).
RoutePort Twefik, Egypt - Capetown - Liverpool 
Cargo300 tons of sugar and 300 tons of government stores 
History Completed in May 1931. In March 1940 brought troops from Australia to Europe and then brought troops to Suez via Capetown. 
Notes on event

On 26 Oct 1940 the unescorted Empress of Britain (Master Charles Havard Sapsworth) was struck by two 250kg bombs from a German Fw200 Condor aircraft of the 2./KG 40 piloted by Oblt Bernhard Jope (awarded the Knight Cross on 30 Dec 1940 and the Oak Leaves on 24 March 1944) and caught fire in 54°53N/10°49W about 70 miles northwest of Aran Island, Co. Donegal.

The most of the 416 crew members, two gunners and 205 passengers (military personnel and their families) abandoned ship, leaving only a skeleton crew on board and were picked up by HMS Echo (H 23) (Cdr S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSC, RAN), the British A/S trawler HMS Cape Arcona and ORP Burza (H 73) (LtCdr Pitulko), which took the ship in tow until she was relieved by HMS Marauder (W 98) (Lt W.J. Hammond, RNR) and HMS Thames on passage to the Clyde. Later the tugs HMS Seaman (W 44) and Raider also participated in the salvage operation.

The salvage convoy, making four knots, was escorted by HMS Broke (D 83) (Cdr B.G. Scurfield, RN) and HMS Sardonyx (H 26) (LtCdr R.B.S. Tennant, RN) and had air cover from Sunderland flying boats during daylight. On 28 October, two of three torpedoes fired by U-32 which followed convoy for almost 24 hours, struck the Empress of Britain and sank her northwest of Bloody Foreland, Co. Donegal. 25 crew members and 20 passengers were lost.

On boardWe have details of 37 people who were on board

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Media links

The Floating Inferno

Seamer, Robert

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