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November 6, 1942

Discussion in 'Lounge' started by Martin Rohmann, Nov 6, 2020.

  1. Martin Rohmann A Fixture

    Country:
    Germany
    Drama at Sea ...!

    On Thursday, October 1st, 1942 the British steamer "City of Cairo" leaves ...

    [IMG]
    ... under the command of 46-year-old captain William Alexander Rogerson ...

    [IMG]

    ... Bombay for another crossing to Great Britain.


    On board are 200 crew members, 101 passengers (including 28 women and 19 children) as well as ten artillerymen, who are part of the Defense Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) ...

    [IMG]

    ... defend the ship in the event of an attack with gunfire.

    In addition, a total of 7,422 tons of cargo are on board, including wood, wool, cotton, pig iron, manganese and 2,000 boxes of silver coins.

    The "City of Cairo" is clearly a civilian ship, but it has a "Vickers-Armstrong" 3-pounder gun on the stern, which is to be used to defend against German submarines and trade troublemakers ("auxiliary cruisers") ...:

    [IMG]

    This armament makes the ship a legitimate target under international law!

    On the evening of November 6, 1942, the "City of Cairo" was taken over by the German submarine U 68 ...

    [IMG]

    ... under Corvette Captain Karl-Friedrich Merten ...

    [IMG]

    ... sighted in the South Atlantic.

    At 21:36 h, Merten launched a torpedo that hit the "City of Cairo" at the height of the aft mast.

    Captain Rogerson immediately realizes that his ship is lost with this barn door-sized leak and immediately orders the lowering of the boats ...:

    [IMG]
    He also sends out an emergency call.

    While the crew and passengers get into the boats, the steamer slowly begins to sink stern first.

    To be on the safe side, U 68 forwards the "City of Cairo" emergency call to the radio station in Walvis Bay (Namibia) in the UK after Mertens recognized how many civilians were climbing into the boats.

    Twenty minutes after the first attack, U 68 shoots a second torpedo at the "City of Cairo" ...

    [IMG]

    ... causing the boilers to explode and the already battered "City of Cairo" to go down, tail first, within a minute ...:

    [IMG]
    Six people - two crew members and four passengers - are killed in the attack, including chief radio operator Harry Peever ...

    [IMG]

    ... who had sent the SOS signal.

    Everyone else can make it safely to the lifeboats.

    After the ship sank, U 68 appears next to the lifeboats.

    Commandant Merten used a megaphone to ask the 55 survivors in lifeboat No. 6 for the name of the ship, the cargo and whether there were prisoners of war on board.

    Then he shows the people in the boats the course to the next country.

    The closest point is the volcanic island of St. Helena, 480 miles away, known as the last exile of Emperor Napoleon ...:

    [IMG]

    ... who had sent the SOS signal.

    Everyone else can make it safely to the lifeboats.

    After the ship sank, U 68 appears next to the lifeboats.
    The African coast, on the other hand, is 1000 miles away, the Brazilian coast 2000 miles.

    Merten calls out "Good night and sorry for sinking you!" And runs out. This sentence is also the title of a book about the fall of the "City of Cairo" ...:

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    The survivors of the "City of Cairo", a total of 305 people are distributed in six lifeboats, are now left to their own devices!

    Although every lifeboat has a compass in its emergency equipment, there is only one sextant (that of the sixth officer Leslie Boundy) ...

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    ... and only the "Rolex" watch from Captain Rogerson for navigation!

    And the destination, the island of Sankt Helena, is so small that even a deviation of half a degree would mean sailing for miles past the island, not even seeing it!

    Captain Rogerson calculates that Saint Helena can be reached in three weeks - which is why the water supply for each survivor is rationed to only 110 milliliters per day - in tropical heat!

    Although the ship's officers try to keep the lifeboats together ...

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    Three of the lifeboats, including the one that Captain Rogerson has on board, will be on November 9th by the passenger steamer "Clan Alpine" ...

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    ... found by the shipping company Clan Line, which takes the survivors on board and brings them to Sankt Helena.

    Due to the lack of water, a number of passengers, especially women and children, are now dead!

    There is no trace of the other three boats.

    Another boat with 47 survivors was taken from the cargo ship "Bendoran" with dead and completely exhausted living on the evening of November 19th ...

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    ... found the Ben Line under Captain William C. Wilson ...:

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    **continued next post**
    grasshopper and Airkid like this.
  2. grasshopper A Fixture

    Country:
    Canada
    Similar to Laconia..thanks Martin
  3. Martin Rohmann A Fixture

    Country:
    Germany
    Part 2

    The people in the boat had spent 13 days at sea and were brought to Cape Town by the "Bendoran". One of the rescued dies during the trip.

    The occupants of the fifth lifeboat, 17 people, came to the conclusion on November 23 that the Sankt Helena had missed by miles - and decided to sail on towards South America. It hardly sounds believable, but the boat actually does it!

    51 days after the sinking of the "City of Cairo", the boat was taken off the Brazilian coast on December 27, 1942 by the miner "Caravelas" ...

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    ... found - of the 17 people only two are still alive, namely the third officer James Allister Whyte (25) ...

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    ... and the passenger Margaret Hope Gordon ...

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    ... a 32-year-old Australian teacher whose husband was killed in the sinking of the "City of Cairo"!

    Ship's officer Whyte will be awarded the Order of the British Empire for his navigational performance...:

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    ... but don't survive the war!

    He died on March 4, 1943 on the "City of Pretoria" of the same shipping company that was sunk by U 172 northwest of the Azores.

    Most incredible is the story of the sixth and last boat: It was found on December 12, 1942, with only three people still alive on board.

    The rescuers of these three survivors of the "City of Cairo", among them are - Germans!

    It is namely the German blockade breaker "Rhakotis" ...

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    ... who is carrying a load of raw rubber, tin, zinc, fats, rice, tea, cinchona bark, coconut oil and pearls on the journey from Japan, allied with Germany, to German-occupied Bordeaux.

    The three rescued are involuntarily German prisoners - one of them, the 21-year-old Diana Tyrrell Jarman dies of emaciation the day after being rescued on board the "Rhakotis".

    But our story is not over yet, because the "Rhakotis" will never reach Bordeaux!

    The "Rhakotis" was will on January 1, 1943 off Cape Finisterre by the British light cruiser HMS "Scylla" ...

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    ... torpedoed and sunk ...:

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    The two survivors of the "City of Cairo" make it back into the lifeboats, survive their second sinking - and are saved by a German submarine of all things, namely U 410 ...

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    ... under Kapitänleutnant Kurt Sturm (far right in the picture, when the boat is put into service) ...

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    ... that brings you - together with the 56 survivors of the "Rhakotis" crew to Saint Nazaire.

    Of the 305 people who climbed into the lifeboats from the "City of Cairo", 104 remain at sea ...
  4. grasshopper A Fixture

    Country:
    Canada
    Excellent one
    Martin Rohmann likes this.
  5. Airkid PlanetFigure Supporter

    Country:
    England
    What an epic story. Thanks again Martin :D

    Phil
    Martin Rohmann and grasshopper like this.
  6. grasshopper A Fixture

    Country:
    Canada
    We may be the only readers, but I most certainly appreciate Martins effort on these...
    Martin Rohmann and Airkid like this.
  7. Airkid PlanetFigure Supporter

    Country:
    England
    I second that for sure. Anyone not bothering to read these is missing some very interesting historical research.

    Phil
    Martin Rohmann and grasshopper like this.

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