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M/T South Africa
To South Africa on the "Ships starting with S" page.
Owner: Skibs-A/S Noruega
Completed by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd., Wallsend, Sunderland in May 1930, tonnages as above, 484' 1" x 65' 5", two 4-cyl. two-stroke cycle single acting oil engines by Wallsend Slipway Co., Ltd., Newcastle, driving twin screws.
Captain: Hans J. Trovik
Please compare the above voyages with Arnold Hague's Voyage Record below.
(Received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database).
Follow the convoy links provided for more information on each.
Judging from the information found on Page 1, South Africa was in Port Elisabeth when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. She had arrived there from Bahrein on Apr. 5 and departure is given as Apr. 19, wheren she returned to Bahrein, then on to Mombasa and Durban.
Later that year we find her, along with Grena, Primero and Thorshavet, in Convoy SL 51, which left Freetown on Oct. 12-1940 and arrived Oban on the 31st - ref. external link provided in the table above. She was bound for Liverpool, where she arrived Nov. 1, according to A. Hague, subsequently remaining in the U.K. for a long time.
In Apr.-1941 she's listed in Convoy OB 309, which originated in Liverpool on Apr. 12 and dispersed on the 19th (the Norwgian Fidelio and Inger Elisabeth are also listed). Her destination is given as Aruba, where she arrived on May 6, having started out from Clyde on Apr. 13 (Page 1). With a cargo of gasoline for Clyde, she headed back across the Atlantic later that month in the Bermuda portion of Convoy HX 129. Follow the link for more info; several Norwegian ships took part. Cruising order/Commodore's notes are also available. The following month she shows up, together with Alaska, Ferncastle, Malmanger, Norefjord and Skaraas, in Convoy OB 338, originating in Liverpool on June 21, dispersed July 3. This time she was bound for Baltimore, where she arrived on July 11, having joined from Clyde again. Direct links to the OB convoys mentioned here have been provided in the Voyage Record.
Going back to Page 1, we see that she spent almost 2 months in Baltimore, before heading to Sydney, C.B in order to join a convoy back to the U.K. For this voyage, Arnold Hague has included her in Convoy SC 44, which left Sydney, C.B. on Sept. 11-1941 and arrived Liverpool on the 30th. According to the archive document, South Africa stopped at Belfast Lough Sept. 27/29, before proceeding to Barry Roads and Avonmouth on Sept. 30. This convoy is not yet available among the SC convoys included on my website, but will be added; several Norwegian ships took part (see ships in all SC convoys). The Norwegian Barbro was sunk; follow the link for more details.
It looks like something happened to South Africa shortly thereafter. Page 1 states that she left Avonmouth in tow on Nov. 1-1941 and arrived Falmouth in tow 2 days later. This may explain the big gap in her voyages; according to Page 2, she did not leave Falmouth again until May 6-1942, when she proceeded to Milford Haven. She's now listed among the ships in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 93, which originated in Liverpool on May 8 and dispersed on the 17th - the archive document indicates she joined this convoy from Belfast Lough. ON 93 will also be added to an individual page in my Convoys section in due course. In the meantime, the ships sailing in it are named in the section listing ships in all ON convoys. She was again bound for Aruba, where she arrived on May 29, having stopped at Trinidad where she had joined Convoy TO 2 on May 27 (link in the table above).
South Africa departed St. Nicholas, Aruba under escort for Curacao on May 31-1942 with a cargo of 9614 tons lube destilate and about 4146 tons diesel oil, arriving Willemstad that same afternoon. She left Curacao on June 2 for Freetown, joining Convoy OT 5 (external link - Athos, Norholm and Solfonn are also named). The convoy was dispersed* on June 6 (5?) about 20 n. miles north/northeast of Barbados, and she was sailing alone, on a course 115° true at a speed of 10 knots, when she was hit by 2 torpedoes from U-128** (Heyse) on June 8-1942, 12 47N 49 44W. It was daylight, she was not zig-zagging, radio was silent. There were 4 lookoust, 1 on top of the wheel house, 1 on the bridge and 2 gunners. The weather was clear, sea rough, wind easterly force 4, visibility good, no ships in sight.
According to the captain's report the torpedoes struck at an interval of about 2-3 seconds. He was in the wheelhouse when the first torpedo hit in the engine room, starboard side, causing an internal explosion of the air tanks, and as he ran out to the port side of the bridge he saw a torpedo passing about 10 yards ahead of the bow. She immediately started to sink by the stern, while shrapnel rained in all directions from the first explosion. After having given orders to the 3rd mate (officer on watch) to have the engines stopped, he ran to the starboard side of the bridge, but before he got that far the 2nd torpedo struck in No. 5 main tank, also on the starboard side, sending oil higher than the bridge. When he looked towards aft a few seconds later the poop deck was level with the water, the starboard lifeboats were destroyed, as was the storm bridge, the after part of the bridge, and the 12 lbs gun with its foundation. 6 were killed, 5 of whom had been in the engine room, 1 on deck (British gunner, who had been asleep on deck).
Both port lifeboats were successfully launched, in spite of the fact that the ship still had some speed. Some jumped overboard, as South Africa was sinking very quickly - she broke in 2, probably between tanks No. 5 and 6 and the after section disappeared within 2 minutes. At that time both lifeboats were alongside the after part and attempted to get away from the suction, however, this turned out to be surprisingly limited. About 1 minute later the foreship went down at great speed with the bow sticking up. Shortly afterwards the U-boat was seen coming towards them. All 3 mates were in the captain's boat at that time, but the 1st and 2nd mates were sent over to the other boat before the U-boat reached them, whereupon they proceeded to row around and pick up those who were in the oily water. As the U-boat reached the captain's boat, the commander pointed out another crew member in the water a little further away, and while they rowed across to pick him up the 1st mate's boat with 23 men went over to the U-boat to give the requested information about ship, cargo, nationality, destination etc.
Having picked up all the survivors they could see, the captain's motor boat with 13 men approached the rafts that were seen a little ways off, in order to get as much food and water as possible for the long journey ahead of them. Only 1 of the 4 rafts was found to be intact and they transferred a 20 gallon water tank and other supplies. By the time this was done the 1st mate's boat (port aft) could no longer be seen, and after having looked around for it for about 45 minutes, they set sail for Trinidad
In the morning of June 12 the captain went on board S/S Plaudit of Savannah (Danish captain, mostly Scandinavian crew), which offered to take them along to Pernambuco, but they decided to continue towards Trinidad, so after having been given plenty of provisions and water (a breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee included), they continued. They were in position 10 54N 54 32W and had 380 miles left to go. In the afternoon of the 15th they got 5 gallons of petrol from a small sailboat (name given as Minnie M. Mosher), which offered to take them to Barbados, but they again decided to continue on their original course. At dawn the following morning, June 16, they saw land and at 13:30 they landed at Toko Bay, about 1 mile from Galara Light, where they were assisted by the locals. The captain was able to send a telegram to Nortraship in Port of Spain requesting a search for the other lifeboat. All of them, except the 3rd mate and 3 others who were to take the lifeboat to Port of Spain, were transported by bus to same. On arrival they were informed that the men in the other boat had landed that same morning.
The U-boat commander had handed them some cans of bread and two bottles of German rum, whereupon the commander had told them to steer west(?) in order to reach land. The 23 in the mate's boat had also been "invited to dinner" on June 12 (D/T Acasta), but they too made the decision to continue in the lifeboat after having eaten, instead of accepting the offer to go along to Freetown. They encountered the Argentinian tanker Trece de December (should this be Trece de Deciembre?) on June 13, got some additional supplies from her, declined the offer of transport to Buenos Aires, then sailed on. The following day they were located by aircraft which reported them to the American Seaplan Tender (I have a feeling this is not the ship's name, but a "seaplane tender"), which in turn picked them up(?) in the afternoon of the 15th, about 45 miles east of Trinidad and landed them at Port of Spain the next day, June 16.
The captain and 27 men travelled to New Orleans on July 3-1942, with arrival July 13, departing for New York the following day, arriving July 16. The inquiry was held there on July 21 with the captain, the 3rd mate, Ordinary Seaman Hauge (lookout at the time of attack) and Ordinary Seaman Westin (helmsman) appearing.
Related extrnal links:
Back to South Africa on the "Ships starting with S" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: Leif Høegh & Co. fleet list, "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II, Norwegian Maritime Museum, a summary of statements by survivors (dated Aug. 7-1942 and signed by a U.S.N.R. Ensign), received from Tony Cooper, England, and misc. for cross checking info (ref. My sources).