Ships hit by U-boats


British Steam merchant

Photo courtesy of the Allen Collection

Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage5,378 tons
Completed1924 - Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead 
OwnerElders & Fyffes Ltd, London 
Date of attack30 Nov 1940Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-101 (Ernst Mengersen)
Position57° 08'N, 20° 50'W - Grid AL 0245
Complement69 (36 dead and 33 survivors).
RoutePort Antonio, Jamaica (16 Nov) - Halifax (21 Nov) - Avonmouth 
Cargo1600 tons of bananas and grapefruit 
History Completed in March 1925 
Notes on event

At 00.41 hours on 30 Nov 1940 the unescorted Aracataca (Master Samuel Browne) was hit on the starboard side just ahead of the foremast by one G7e torpedo from U-101 while steaming on a zigzag course at 13 knots about 230 miles west of Rockall. The engines were stopped immediately and as the ship was settling by the head with a list to port the master ordered the crew to abandon ship after distress signals were sent. Despite strong wind, rough sea and heavy swell all four lifeboats were lowered safely, occupied by all 66 crew members, one gunner (the ship was armed with one 4in and one machine gun) and two passengers. The Germans observed how the boats remained nearby and prepared to shell the vessel to prevent them from reboarding her, but the weather was too bad to use the deck gun so another G7e torpedo was fired as a coup de grâce at 01.11 hours. However, the ship remained afloat after being struck underneath the bridge. The U-boat then went alongside the nearest lifeboat and Mengersen asked the master about the name of the ship, but he could not understand the answer due to the strong wind. Afterwards U-101 returned to the Aracataca and fired one G7e torpedo from the stern tube at 02.04 hours. The torpedo hit the engine room and caused the ship to sink fast after a boiler explosion.

The lifeboats initially remained in the vicinity, not knowing that their distress signals had not been heard. They began to set sail independently with the boat in charge of the master being the last to leave after 34 hours. 17 crew members and one passenger were picked up by the British motor merchant Potaro and landed at Buenos Aires on 23 December. The master, twelve crew members, one gunner and one passenger were picked up by the British steam merchant Djurdjura after having sailed approximately 180 miles in position 56°48N/16°18W on 3 December and were landed on Christmas Day in St. John, New Brunswick. The remaining two lifeboats were never seen again: 36 crew members were lost.

On boardWe have details of 52 people who were on board

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