Armed Merchant Cruiser
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Type||Armed Merchant Cruiser|
|Class||[No specific class]|
|Built by||Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Greenock, Scotland)|
|Launched||13 Mar 1923|
|Commissioned||2 Jan 1940|
|Lost||4 Nov 1940|
|Loss position||54° 43'N, 14° 41'W|
On 12 September 1939 the passenger ship Patroclus of the Alfred Holt & Co, Liverpool was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 2 January 1940.
Displacement: 11314 BRT
At 21.40 hours on 3 November 1940, U-99 torpedoed the unescorted Casanare west of Bloody Foreland. Her distress messages brought the armed merchant cruisers HMS Laurentic (Capt. E.P. Vivian) and HMS Patroclus (Capt. G.C. Wynter) to the scene and the U-boat began a dramatic battle at 22.50 hours when the first torpedo struck the engine room of HMS Laurentic from a distance of 1500 metres. At 23.28 hours, a second torpedo hit the vessel, but did not explode. A third torpedo was fired at 23.37 hours from a distance of 250 metres into the hole opened by the first torpedo, at this time the lookouts spotted the U-boat on the surface and Kretschmer had a hard time in evading the gunfire. In the meantime, HMS Patroclus began picking up survivors instead of participating in the fight against the U-boat and her lookouts did not see U-99 only 300 metres away. A first torpedo struck the ship at 00.02 hours, a second at 00.22 hours and a third at 00.44 hours. 14 minutes later, the U-boat opened fire with the deck gun and hit with two of the four fired rounds, before Kretschmer had again to evade the gunfire and hit her with a fourth torpedo at 01.18 hours. After that, U-99 searched for the Casanare to give the crew time for reloading the torpedo tubes, but only found two lifeboats at her position and questioned the survivors, the vessel had foundered in the meantime. At 02.39 hours, a Sunderland flying boat suddenly appeared over the U-boat, which had to dive, but no bombs were dropped. At 04.04 hours, the U-boat surfaced after reloading the torpedoes, went back to the auxiliary cruisers at high speed and fired at 04.53 hours a coup de grâce from a distance of 250 metres at the HMS Laurentic. The torpedo struck the stern and ignited the depth charges stored there, causing the ship to sink by the stern within minutes. Around this time a destroyer was spotted and Kretschmer had to sink the HMS Patroclus in a short time. A fifth torpedo at 05.16 hours had no significant effect, but the sixth torpedo at 05.25 hours broke the ship in two, the stern capsized and the bow sank slowly in position 53º43'N, 14º41'W. After that, U-99 was attacked by HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. D.G.F.W. Macintyre, RN), but the destroyer soon left the U-boat to pick up the survivors from HMS Laurentic (F 51). The survivors from HMS Patroclus were picked up by the HMS Beagle (Lt. C.R.H. Wright) and landed at Greenock.
Hit by U-boat
|U-boat Attack||See our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Patroclus|
Commands listed for HMS Patroclus
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|1||Capt. (retired) Gerald Charles Wynter, DSO, RN||14 Sep 1939||4 Nov 1940 (+)|
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Notable events involving Patroclus include:
4 Nov 1940
Patroclus was leaving her patrol area when she received distress calls from HMS Laurentic, another armed merchant cruiser just arrived to replace Patroclus from Northern Patrol duty. Patroclus turned back and found Laurentic still afloat but in a very poor condition, as it had been torpedoed by Kretschmer's submarine. Told by megaphone from Laurentic not to stop, Patroclus moved around and dropped a couple of depth charges to scare off the sub.
When apparently there were no signs of the German boat, she stopped and began the rescue operation, because it was clear that Laurentic was sinking. Already at night, Patroclus was hit by a torpedo near the stern. The ship listed, and a few minutes later, another torpedo hit the ship. A third torpedo followed. The ship was by then sinking slowly, due to the fact that auxiliary cruisers were filled with empty oil drums to keep them afloat as long as possible if hit. Fortunately for the survivors, the destroyer Achates has received the SOS call from Laurentic and arrived around 2.00 a.m. At first, she tracked the submarine with her asdic, and soon after began the rescue operations. Then another destroyer, HMS Hesperus, turned up.
76 men out of a crew of 306 from Patroclus lost their lives, including her Commander, Cpt. Gerald Wynter (a veteran from WW I, where he commanded the destroyer HMS Magic that fought in Jutland). The rest were picked up by the two destroyers.
Later in the war, the Commander of HMS Hesperus, Cpt. Donald McIntyre, was reassigned to the destroyer Walker, and in March 1941 sunk Otto Kretschmer U-99, taking him with most of his crew prisoners.(1)
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