Ships hit by U-boats

British Zeal

British Motor tanker

Photo Courtesy of Library of Contemporary History, Stuttgart

NameBritish Zeal
Type:Motor tanker
Tonnage8,532 tons
Completed1937 - Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow 
OwnerBritish Tanker Co Ltd, London 
Date of attack31 Dec 1940Nationality:      British
FateDamaged by U-65 (Hans-Gerrit von Stockhausen)
Position15° 40'N, 20° 43'W - Grid EJ 6315
Complement50 (0 dead and 50 survivors).
ConvoyOB-260 (dispersed)
RouteLiverpool (16 Dec) - Freetown 
CargoWater ballast 
History Completed in December 1937

1959 sold to the Netherlands and renamed Redwijs I for Rederij Gebr. Wijsmuller NV, Baarn. Broken up at Hirao in June 1959. 
Notes on event

At 23.00 hours on 31 Dec 1940 the unescorted British Zeal (Master John Gossland Robson), dispersed on 19 December from convoy OB-260, was hit on the starboard side in the middle of #2 tank underneath the bridge by a stern torpedo from U-65 while steaming on a non-evasive course at 10.5 knots east of the Cape Verde Islands. The U-boat had chased the tanker for about eight hours and missed with a spread of two torpedoes of which one was a tube-runner at 17.52 hours. A lookout had spotted a torpedo track and the helm was put hard to starboard, but it nevertheless struck and the crew (the ship was armed with one 4.7in, one 12pdr and two machine guns) immediately abandoned ship in the lifeboats in rough seas. The Germans could not use the deck gun in the darkness and a first coup de grĂ¢ce missed due to a malfunction, but a second struck on the starboard side at the bulkhead between #3 and #4 tanks about 30 minutes after the first hit. They had observed how the crew abandoned ship in a well-disciplined manner and left the area without questioning the survivors, assuming that the tanker will sink.

However, the crew spotted the still floating British Zeal at daylight, rowed towards her in heavy seas and reboarded the tanker about noon on 1 Jan 1941. Three tanks had been flooded through two large holes in the starboard side and the deck was torn open by the explosions, however the engine room was found intact. The crew raised up steam and tested the engines and steering, but then abandoned ship again for the night in case the U-boat was still nearby. At dawn the next day, the men quickly reboarded her and headed towards Bathurst at 5 knots. A few hours later HMS Encounter (H 10) (LtCdr E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN) arrived, offered assistance and departed shortly afterwards to search for the attacker. The tanker continued alone until joined by the rescue tug HMS Hudson (W 02) from Freetown on 4 January and was accompanied to that harbor, arriving four days later. On 16 July 1941, she left Freetown after temporary repairs to Baltimore for permanent repairs via Trinidad and New York, arriving on 18 August. The ship returned to service in February 1942.

On boardWe have details of 2 people who were on board

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