The loss of S.S. Bennekom 31 October 1941 - Masters report.

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by CXX, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. CXX

    CXX New Member

    The following report was made by the Master of the S.S. Bennekom, Captain L H. Mager. It describes the events directlty after the ship was torpedoed by U 96 on 31 October 1941 whilest sailing with convoy OS10. UK- Freetown. It makes interesting reading.


    24 December 1941

    Shipping Casualty Section. Trade Division.

    Report Of Interview With The Master, Captain L H Mager

    S.S. Bennekom 5,998 gross tons

    Convoy O.S.10

    Sunk by torpedo from U-boat on October 31st 1941.


    We were bound from Liverpool to Freetown with a cargo of 1,700 tons' of war material. We were armed with a 4" gun, 2 Hotchkiss, - 1 Twin Marlin, 1 Twin Lewis, 4 Single Lewis, 2 P.A.C. rockets and Snow Flakes. The ship was degaussed but the apparatus was not working. The crew, including 7 Military Gunners and myself, numbered 53 of whom 9 are missing (including 3 Military Gunners). We also had on board 3 passengers. The confidential books and wireless book's were thrown overboard in a weighted box.

    2. We left Liverpool on the 25th October and joined up in
    convoy OS10, which was sailing in 9 columns, taking up station

    3. We proceeded without incident until 2143 G.M.T. on the
    31 st October when two white rockets were fired by No.11 and we
    heard gun-fire from one of the ships In the convoy. We
    immediately rang the alarm bells and informed, the engine room,
    and the 4-i:ich gun was manned. One minute later 1 saw some
    white foam about four points on the port bow coming straight
    towards us. I ordered the wheel hard to port and as we
    swinging, at 2145 GMT in position 51° 20 N. .23° 40' W , the
    ship was struck amidships by a torpedo In the deep tank in No. 4 hold
    The sea at the time was calm, wind was SE force 3.
    Weather was fine and visibility good. We were making 9 knots
    on course 150° "Our mean course was 180° but we altered coarse at 1830to 1500 and would have again altered course to .180° at. 2200.

    4. The explosion was not loud. The deep tank contained
    750 tons of fuel oil and this caught fire immediately. some of the oil was blown up into the saloon and over the bridge, and the saloon and accommodation also caught fire. The fore side of the bridge and the machine-gun nest in front of the bridge were blown away, and on account of the flames amidships we were out off from the boat deck. The engine room remained intact but the Engineer on duty immediately stopped the engines. I had previously arranged with the Chief Engineer for the engines to be stopped if we were attacked without further orders from me.

    5. We secured the signal halyards to the fore part of the
    bridge and slid down to the forward deck. The first lifeboat
    on the port side had disappeared, leaving three "boats.
    Unfortunately, the Officers were on the forward deck and the
    Engineers, stewards and crew were on the after deck. We saw
    the other port "boat being lowered "by some of the crew from the
    after deck and this "boat pulled away, but I do not know how many
    people were In It. Although we called out to them, they did
    not apparently hear us. We saw the starboard boat being lowered and shouted to the men who were lowering it, but although they answered us they pulled away from the ship and did not attempt to rescue the people on the fore deck. The raft on the starboard side was thrown overboard and drifted away leaving only the port raft for the 5 people left on the forward part of the ship. This raft was capable of accommodating 18 persons. Six men volunteered to swim, the Chief Officer, 4th Officer,- a Greaser, a Fireman, an A.B. and the Cook's boy, so we threw a hatch overboard and the six men swam towards it, leaving 19 of us behind on the ship.

    6. About 2230 G.M.T. the ship began to sag in the middle,
    until the shelter deck was under water and her stern low in the
    water. The port raft was now safely launched with 18 men on it,
    and I hung on to the grab lines on the raft. We drifted for
    about an hour and were then picked up by H.M.S. CULVER and later
    transferred to H.M.S. LULWOHTH. The crew in the boats were
    picked up by H.M.S. LULWORTH. They explained that they did not .
    return to the ship as they were frightened of the ship sinking and
    dragging the boats under.

    7 We were landed at Bathurst on the 20th November. "Whilst
    on H.M. S. LULWORTH we had four alarms.' One night we fired star
    shells as it was thought that a submarine was in the vicinity.
    On another day a submarine was seen on the surface about 0900, and H.M.S. LULWORTH dropped depth charges and thought she had sunk a submarine.

    8. The Captain specially mentioned the 2nd Officer,
    S. Heimansan, whom he said kept the crew calm when they were on
    the raft, and was of great assistance in getting the raft launched
    and placing the people on it. He displayed cool courage and
    resourcefulness throughout.



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