BBC Says Record dive rescues $50m wartime silver from ocean floor

city_of_cairo

 passenger ship SS City of Cairo owned by Ellerman Line circa 1939

Sunk on 6 Nov 1942 by U-68 under the commmand of Korvettenkapitän Karl-Friedrich Merten. (Photo from U-boat.net)

 

FROM the BBC

“A British-led team has recovered a $50m (£34m; €47m) trove of silver coins that has lain on the seabed since the steamship carrying it from Bombay to England was sunk in 1942.

The SS City of Cairo was torpedoed 772km (480 miles) south of St Helena by a German U-boat and sank to 5,150m.

The 100 tonnes of coins, recovered in the deepest salvage operation in history, belonged to HM Treasury.

The silver rupees had been called in by London to help fund the war effort.

But they never made it. The steamship’s tall plume of smoke was spotted by a U-boat on 6 November 1942 and it was torpedoed.

The remainder of the article is here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32316599

 

Info on SS City of Cairo and her sinking from Uboat.net

Type: Steam passenger ship
Tonnage 8,034 tons
Completed 1915 – Earle’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Hull
Owner Ellerman Lines Ltd, London
Homeport: Liverpool
Date of attack 6 Nov 1942 Nationality: British

Fate Sunk by U-68 (Karl-Friedrich Merten)
Position 23° 30’S, 5° 30’W – Grid GF 3811
Complement 311 (104 dead and 207 survivors).
Convoy Route Bombay (1 Oct) – Durban – Capetown (1 Nov) – Pernambuco, Brazil – UK
Cargo 7422 tons of general cargo, including pig iron, timber, wool, cotton, manganese ore and 2000 boxes silver coins
History: Completed in January 1915.
On 1 Nov 1942 the City of Cairo (Master William A. Rogerson) left Capetown with 150 passengers, of whom nearly a third were women and children and followed the African coast until she reached a longitude of 23°30S, where she turned westward across the South Atlantic. She was unescorted, only capable of 12 knots and her engines burned smokily. On 6 November, the smoke trail was sighted by U-68 and at 21.36 hours one torpedo struck the City of Cairo. The master gave order to abandon ship and all the women and children left the ship safely, only six people were lost in the evacuation. Merten fired a second torpedo after 20 minutes, which caused the ship to sink by the stern about 450 miles south of St. Helena. Then U-68 questioned the survivors in the six overcrowded lifeboats and left the area.

The survivors were over 1000 miles from the African coast, and twice as far from South America. Because of their limited supplies, they set sail for St. Helena. The survivors calculated that they should reach St. Helena in two to three weeks and rationed the drinking water accordingly. Everyone was limited to 110 milliliters a day, even though they were exposed to tropical heat. Over the course of the next three weeks, some of the boats were found by other ships, but others disappeared. 79 crew members, three gunners and 22 passengers were lost. The master and 154 survivors were picked up by the Clan Alpine and landed on St. Helena. 47 survivors were picked up by the British steam merchant Bendoran and landed at Capetown.

One boat with 17 people on board had calculated that they reach St. Helena on 20 November, but by the 23, several were already dead and the island was still not in sight. They were certain that they must have missed St. Helena and, rather than circle around in a vain attempt to discover it, they decided to head west to the coast of South America, which they knew to be a further 1500 miles distant.

On 27 December, after a voyage of 51 days, two exhausted survivors (third officer J. Whyte and passenger Margaret Gordon) were picked up by Caravelas (C 5), only 80 miles off the coast and landed at Recife. The third officer was awarded the MBE and was repatriated on City of Pretoria, but died when this ship was sunk by U-172 (Emmermann) on 4 March 1943. The woman was awarded the BEM and refused to cross the Atlantic until the war was over.

Three survivors were picked up by the German blockade runner Rhakotis (Kapitän z.S. Jacobs) on a voyage from Japan to Bordeaux. On 1 Jan 1943 the ship was torpedoed and sunk by HMS Scylla (98) (Capt I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, DSO, RN) about 200 miles northwest of Cape Finisterre. One of the survivors from City of Cairo died. The remaining two men were picked up by U-410 (Sturm) and landed as prisoners at St. Nazaire three days later.

These two men must have had one hell of a story to tell.

www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/2383.html

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/