Ships hit by U-boats


British Steam merchant

Photo courtesy of the Allen Collection

Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage1,578 tons
Completed1920 - Ramage & Ferguson Ltd, Leith 
OwnerEllerman & Papayanni Lines Ltd, Liverpool 
Date of attack1 Dec 1940Nationality:      British
FateSunk by U-37 (Asmus Nicolai Clausen)
Position40° 30'N, 13° 30'W - Grid CG 18
Complement29 (1 dead and 28 survivors).
ConvoyOG-46 (straggler)
RouteLondon – Oban (20 Nov) - Oporto 
Cargo230 tons of general cargo and 1000 bags of prisoner mail 
History Completed in May 1920 
Notes on event

At 20.22 hours on 1 Dec 1940 the unescorted Palmella (Master Joseph Every) was struck on the port side a little forward of the midship line by one torpedo from U-37 while steaming on a non-evasive course at 7 knots about 225 miles west of Oporto, Portugal. The ship had been in station #65 of convoy OG-46, but proceeded independently after straggling due to very bad weather on 24 November. The explosion broke the back of the ship, causing her to sag in the middle, but as a precaution all ventilators had been plugged and the locking gear was wedged across the hatch beams and it seems that this prevented her from sinking at once. No distress signals were sent as the radio had been damaged and the 28 crew members and one gunner (the ship was armed with one 12pdr and one machine gun) began to abandon ship in the starboard lifeboat as both boats on port side had been blown out of the davits. While doing so the U-boat was seen to close the ship from astern and shone a small searchlight on them before leaving in a northerly direction without questioning the survivors. The crew left the ship about 20 minutes after being torpedoed in rough sea and just when they got clear, the Palmella broke clean in two. The two halves floated separately for a little while, the after part disappearing first followed by the fore part. The boat then searched the area for a missing crewman but only found an empty raft. He had been on watch below and was probably killed by the explosion. At daylight the boat set sail for the nearest land, but on the second day the weather became very calm and they were unable to make any headway. However, they were in good spirit as the master made fire in a bucket and used a bully beef can as a saucepan to provide the survivors with hot soup and milk. In the morning of 5 December, they were picked up by the Spanish trawler Navemar in 38°33N/12°11W and landed at Lisbon in the night of 5/6 December.

On boardWe have details of 3 people who were on board

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