News from 1940 The Sinking of Laurentic II

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Mark Baber

On 3 November 1940, Laurentic II was torpedoed and sunk while trying the rescue the crew of Elder & Fyffes' Casanare, which had also been torpedoed. The Blue Funnel Line's Patroclus, mentioned in this article, was torpedoed when she came to Laurentic's assistance.

The New York Times, 5 November 1940

The Laurentic, Patroclus and Third British Ship Claimed by One Submarine
631 of Their Crews Rescued Admiralty Says---Sinkings by Planes Reported by Nazis
BERLIN, Nov. 4 (AP)---Three British ships, totalling 35,414 tons have been sunk by a single German submarine, and five others including a destroyer and a 19,000-ton merchantman have been badly damaged by Nazi bombers, the High Command said today.

It listed the U-boat's victims as the auxiliary cruisers Laurentic, 18,724 tons, and Patroclus, 11,314 tons, and the armed merchantman Casanare, 5,376 tons.

The submarine was in command of Lieut. Comdr. Kretschmer, the communiqué said, with the observation that the tonnage sunk by his craft had thus been increased to 217,198. He was declared to be the second U-boat commander to top the 200,000-ton mark, the first being Captain Guenther Prien.

No details of the sinkings or the fate of the crews were given out, nor was the big merchantman identified. German sources said, however, that a single plane had made a direct hit on the 19,141-ton steamer Windsor Castle several hundred miles west of Ireland.

The other ships, listed merely as “one destroyer, a patrol boat, a large merchantman and a freighter," were reported by the High Command to have been hit off Kinnairds Head, on the east coast of Scotland.

Nazi planes, officials said, bombed two 6,000-ton merchantmen in a convoy and both vessels began listing. The others fled to the shelter of the coast, they reported.

[The Berlin radio, in a broadcast heard in New York yesterday, The Associated Press noted, said another British convoy had been attacked "in the northern part of the North Sea" and a 6,000-ton steamer "apparently incapacitated" by bomb hits amidships.]
British Admiralty's Statement
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, Nov. 4---The British Admiralty announced tonight the loss of the liner Laurentic, an erstwhile cruise ship that had been serving as an armed merchant cruiser. She was reported torpedoed and sunk.

Fifty-two officers and 316 man had been rescued, the Admiralty's laconic statement said. The added note that the next of kin of casualties would be informed as soon as possible indicated the disaster was recent.

The Admiralty also reported the loss of the liner Patroclus, likewise serving as an armed merchant cruiser, and the trawler Tilburyness. Warships rescued thirty-three officers and 230 man of the Patroclus, it was stated. The trawler was damaged and sank as a result of action with Nazi aircraft.

The Laurentic, operated before the war by the Cunard-White Star Line, was built at Belfast in 1927 and was popular in the North Atlantic service. Among notable trips was her voyage to Montreal in 1932 at the time of the Imperial Conference at Ottawa, when the liner was designated as an "Empire trade ship,” and carried samples of British manufactures.

She bore the name of a famous White Star vessel sunk by a mine off County Donegal, Ireland, during the World War, on Jan. 28, 1917, with £6,000,000 in gold aboard. Much of the gold was afterward recovered.

The second Laurentic had a mishap in the Mersey in 1935, colliding with the ship Napier Star and killing six men. Captain E. P. Vivian or the Laurentic was a veteran destroyer officer.

The Patroclus formerly plied routes between England and the Far East for the China Mutual Steamship Company.


Inger Sheil

Poor old Laurentic! Not one of the great success stories, was she? But she did alright. Lowe was one of her earliest deck officers.
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