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

Badly Wounded Often Exchanged in World War Two

Excerpts from account of wounding and repatriation by Bill Williams of 50th Royal Tank Regiment from the BBC. The entire piece is here.

www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/86/a2889886.shtml

“At the end of the action (during which his tank was destroyed in an attack in Sicily July, 1943), I was collected by the German troops with one other survivor. They called, ‘Come, Tommy’… I could not raise my left arm and shouted ‘Wounded!’, which fortunately is similar to the German word and we were taken in to their lines.The soldiers were quite friendly… and took me to the dressing station where my wounds were treated….

Account of Bill Williams of 50th Royal Tank Regiment from

www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/86/a2889886.shtml

(Fast forward 18 months to January of 1945)

I was sent to an assembly area for repatriation, where I found quite a lot of Americans and Commonwealth troops.. After a few days we were loaded on to a train which took us through Germany to the Swiss border…. When we reached the border, a train the other direction with German wounded crossed the border at the same time.

Our guards were taken off and replaced by Swiss nurses who looked after us until we reached Marseilles where a hospital ship was waiting to take us to England. We landed at Liverpool and trained to a hospital at Loch Neigh which was rather a gloomy old place but it was home!” 

 

Below is an account from a British Merchant Marine officer about his wartime voyage through German waters to Sweden.

 

1280px-Postcard_RMS_Arundel_Castle

SS Arundel Castle which sailed from time to time during World War Two from Liverpool with her British merchant crew through the Baltic to Sweden to embark badly wounded British soldiers.

It seems odd that in the middle of total war between the Allies and Nazi Germany, that such formalities as exchanging badly wounded prisoners-of-war were not only negotiated but carried out. British Merchant Marine officer Peter Guy, cited in Convoy: Merchant Sailors At War 1939-1945 by P. Kaplan and J. Currie , describes an exchange which occurred in the late December of 1944.

He was aboard the British merchant ship Arundel Castle and their destination was Goteborg, in neutral Sweden where the exchange would take place.

“We were granted safe passage, and it was a treat to have portholes open and lights showing. On Christmas Eve 1944, we lay off Gibraltar after embarking the Germans at Marseilles, and everyone who was able gathered on the deck to sing a grand selection of carols….Later we passed through a narrow channel in the Skaggerak into the Baltic, and we could see the faces of the German gunners looking down on us from their gun positions. They weren’t impressed when some of our crew gave the V-sign. Arriving at Goteborg, we were surprised to get a welcome from a German brass band playing on the quayside…The saddest part was when close on a hundred of our lads who had lost their sight were led up the gangway. The exchange was all over in about three hours and we sailed home to Liverpool.”

It is important to note that both Norway and Denmark were occupied by the Germans at this time so the German gunners he refers to are stationed in those countries.

+

[Images courtesy of Wikimedia and Wayne Ray & the Windfield Photographic Collection and Archives)