Ships hit by U-boats


British Troop transport

Photo courtesy of Paul Johnson Collection

Type:Troop transport
Tonnage5,954 tons
Completed1935 - William Denny & Brothers Ltd, Dumbarton 
OwnerBooth Steamship Co Ltd (Booth Line), Liverpool 
Date of attack5 Jul 1941Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-96 (Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock)
Position44° 25'N, 28° 35'W - Grid BD 9419
Complement1316 (254 dead and 1062 survivors).
RouteGourock - Freetown 
Cargo1210 RAF and military personnel 
History Completed in December 1935. In 1940 the steam passenger ship was requisitioned by the Admiralty and used as troop transport. 
Notes on event

In the morning of 5 July 1941, U-96 was pursuing a convoy contact report from a Condor aircraft through fog about 300 miles north of the Azores when the she came upon a curious formation of six vessels: the British survey vessel HMS Challenger (J 98) (Cdr W.C. Jenks, OBE, RN), leading the troopship Anselm (Master Andrew Elliott), the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cathay (F 05) (A/Capt C.M. Merewether, RN) and three corvettes, HMS Petunia (K 79) (LtCdr G.V. Legassick, RNR), HMS Lavender (K 60) (LtCdr J. Whayman, RNR) and HMS Starwort (K 20) (LtCdr N.W. Duck, RD, RN) which were deployed to port, starboard and astern of the troopship.

At 08.29 hours, U-96 fired a salvo of four torpedoes and thought that she had scored hits on the AMC and a yacht (the survey ship). However, two torpedoes hit the Anselm, sinking her within 22 minutes, but that was time enough for the crew to launch all but one of the lifeboats. Nonetheless, four crew members and 250 of the service personnel on board were lost.

The three corvettes immediately started a counter-attack on the U-boat but the sonar of HMS Starwort was out of commission, so HMS Petunia and HMS Lavender which had firm contacts, delivered the attack. The first corvette launched six depth charges and the latter twenty. Then the attack carried the corvettes close to the survivors in the water, so the depth charging had to be broken off, but they had damaged U-96 so badly that she had to abort her patrol. In the meantime the master, 93 crew members, three gunners and 965 service personnel were picked up by the survey ship (including 60 men from the water) and the third corvette. The survivors were later transferred to the AMC and landed at Freetown.

On boardWe have details of 190 people who were on board

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