Ships hit by U-boats


British Steam merchant

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Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage4,917 tons
Completed1935 - William Hamilton & Co Ltd, Port Glasgow 
OwnerUnited Africa Co Ltd, London 
Date of attack21 Apr 1943Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-415 (Kurt Neide)
Position55° 46'N, 45° 14'W - Grid AJ 5358
Complement67 (16 dead and 51 survivors).
RouteLiverpool (5 Apr) - Belfast (6 Apr) - New York - Philadelphia 
CargoBallast and 280 bags of mail 

Completed in September 1935

At 00.50 and 00.51 hours on 26 Sep 1940, U-137 fired torpedoes at the convoy OB-218 west of Malin Head, sank Manchester Brigade and damaged the Ashantian (Master Charles C. Taylor) in position 55°10N/11°W. She had been en route from Liverpool to Freetown with 2000 tons of general cargo, including 112 mines and explosives. One torpedo struck on the port side in the engine room, disabling the ship and killing four crew members on watch below. As both port lifeboats had been destroyed, the 38 surviving crew members, two gunners (the ship was armed with two guns) and seven passengers immediately abandoned ship in the starboard boats, but one of them swamped in the heavy swell and they all had to board the same lifeboat. At daylight they reboarded the vessel, recovered the swamped lifeboat and sent distress signals to a circling aircraft, which alerted the nearby HMS Gloxinia (K 22) (LtCdr A.J.C. Pomeroy, RNVR). The commander of the corvette ordered the crew to leave again because a U-boat was reported in the nearby Dromore Bay, picked them up and left to investigate. In the meantime, HMS Wolves (FY 158) (Skipper B. Pile, RNR) arrived and four of her crew eventually boarded the vessel as she drifted towards the Irish coast and dropped the port anchor in 54°21N/09°46W. On 27 September, the corvette returned the master and eight crew members to their ship and then left to land the remaining survivors at Belfast. The master was shocked when he discovered that his ship had been looted by the boarding party of the armed trawler during their absence. The next day, the Ashantian was taken in tow by the rescue tug HMS Superman, which was joined by the tug HMS Seaman (W 44) off Innistrahull and together they towed the ship about 220 miles to Rothesay, where she was beached in Kames Bay on 30 September. In May 1941 the ship was refloated and towed to Glasgow where she was repaired and returned to service in September 1941.

Notes on event

At 08.07 hours on 21 April 1943, U-415 attacked convoy ONS-3 northeast of St. Johns and claimed two ships with 12,000 grt sunk. The Ashantian was hit and sank, while the Wanstead was only damaged, but was later sunk by U-413 (Poel).

The Ashantian (Master Charles Carter Taylor) in station #41 was the ship of convoy commodore Captain Jeffery Elliott, DSO, RD, RN. She was struck by one torpedo on the starboard side between #3 hold and the stokehold and developed a list of 45 degree to starboard and settled by the bow as these holds and the engine room were flooded. The crew of 47, ten gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 12pdr, three 20mm and two machine guns), the commodore and his staff of six and three passengers (Standard Oil employees for Aruba) began to abandon ship in the port lifeboat and a raft as the boat on starboard and the two dinghies carried aboard were destroyed by the explosion. The boat was successfully launched with 47 men despite the heavy list and rough weather. The master and the commodore were last seen trying to release a raft aft, when the ship suddenly sank about 7 minutes after the torpedo hit. The last men had to jump overboard into the very cold water and only a few of them survived by clinging to debris and rafts. The survivors were picked up by HMS Northern Gift (4.50) (T/A/LtCdr A.J. Clemence, RNR) within 3 hours and landed at St. Johns on 25 April, except the third engineer who had died from exposure after being picked up from a hatch cover. The master, the commodore, 13 crew members and one gunner were lost.

On boardWe have details of 26 people who were on board

Attack entries for Ashantian

DateU-boatCommanderLoss typeTonsNat.
26 Sep 1940U-137Oblt. Herbert WohlfarthDamaged4,917  
21 Apr 1943U-415Oblt. Kurt NeideSunk4,917  

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