British Steam merchant
|Completed||1919 - South Western Shipbuilding Co, San Pedro CA|
|Owner||Sir R. Ropner & Co Ltd, West Hartlepool|
|Date of attack||1 Nov 1940||Nationality: British|
|Fate||Sunk by U-124 (Georg-Wilhelm Schulz)|
|Position||59.30N, 17.40W - Grid AL 3465|
|Complement||42 (38 dead and 4 survivors).|
|Route||Baltimore - Halifax (20 Oct) - Clyde|
|Cargo||6067 tons of scrap steel and 94 trucks|
|History||Completed in June 1919 as West Cawthon for US Shipping Board (USSB), Los Angeles. 1920 sold to Green Star SS Co, New York. 1921 sold to Imperial Shipping Co, New York and returned to US Shipping Board (USSB) in 1923. 1926 sold to American South African Line Inc, New York. 1940 taken over by Britain and renamed Empire Bison for Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). |
|Notes on event|
At 07.06 hours on 1 Nov, 1940, the unescorted Empire Bison (Master William Herbert Harland, OBE), a straggler from convoy HX-82 since a gale on 23 October, was hit on the port side between #1 and #2 holds by one torpedo from U-124 while steaming on a zigzag course at 9 knots in bad weather about 200 miles northwest of Rockall. The ship had been spotted about three hours earlier and missed by a first torpedo at 06.18 hours. The explosion felled the foremast that struck the starboard side of the bridge. The crew and passengers tried to abandon ship in the lifeboats, but none could be launched as the ship sank rapidly by the bow within one minute. The master, 29 crew members, seven passengers and one gunner (the ship was armed with one 4in and one machine gun) were lost. The only survivors were the second officer, the boatswain, one fireman and one passenger who rescued themselves on a raft that floated free. After about 24 hours, they spotted a U-boat surfacing nearby which soon left without investigating the raft further because the occupants played dead to avoid being taken prisoner. On 5 November, the survivors were picked up by the British steam merchant Olga S. and landed at Gourock.
|On board||We have details of 33 people who were on board.|
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