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Built: 1910


Tonnage: 3.150 ton. (Loaded)


Length: 122.37 m


Beam: 11.88 m


Draught: 4.15 m.


Armour: Main deck 1.5 pol.


Engines: Steam; 3 Boilers Yarrow, coupled to 3 Parsons steam turbines, delivering 18.000 hp, coupled to 3 axis with three blades propellers.


Speed: máx. 26.5 knots.


Range: 2.400 Nautical miles @ 24 nós, 3.092 @ 18 knots or 6.600 km @ 10 knots. (Fuel oil engines).


Armament: 10 Vickers Armstrong guns of 4.7 pol/50 cal. (120 mm) in single mountings; 6 47 mm guns in single mountings and 2 18 inch. double torpedo tubes.


Sensors and Fire Direction: Fire direction consisted of one voice tube linked to the control stations, decks, plotting room and batteries in the second deck.


Call sign : PXBB(GBDO)


Complement: 372.


Upon the end of hostilities in the Atlantic, the ultimate task was reserved to Brazilian Navy: To control the allied planes which made the long way home back to US with troops through the route Dakar-Natal, and eventually support with help in assistance to those in difficulties. The ships were kept stationed at specific points, called “stations” far off the coast, tracking by radio thousands of airplanes bound for USA. In this mission, one US Army B-17, crashed in September 1945, and 14 crewmembers were rescued by Brazilian Navy Destroyer  Greenhalgh, under Captain  Ari Rongel.


In that context, in a bright Saturday morning on June 30th 1945, Cruiser Bahia, after 30 days of preparations, suspended from Recife bound for Station 13 distant 500 miles. In the first lights of July 2nd, on Monday, exchanged signals with Escort Destroyer Bauru which sailed back to Recife. In the following day, under excellent weather the crew celebrated the traditional King Neptune ceremony when crossing Equatorial line. The expectations to return to Rio de Janeiro 10 days after the completion of that task excited all crewmembers.


At the end of the second day in the area, on July 4th, the anti aircraft artillery group prepared for an short range surface exercise with the seven Oerlikon 20 mm. Machine guns. At 09:00AM, engines were secured for the launching of the floating target and minutes later, at 09:10, despite no order to commence fire; brief shots were heard from one machine gun. At the shot 5 or 6, under the report of the First Lieutenant Torres Dias, in the occasion, in his duty at the Engine Room, a great explosion was heard that shook the old Cruiser.


The machine gun volleyed the depth charges rack at the fantail. The scenes which followed were tragic. The report said: Dense clouds of smoke billowed the doomed vessel, mangled bodies, total destruction and the mourning of the wounded, who tried in desperation to cling to life, the stern blown up with the explosion engulfed by flames.


Within 3 minutes the ship began to sink stern first and plummeted between the waves. Four lifeboats had been shattered when the explosion occurred, and two others were hanging loose by the davits unable to be lowered by the tilt of the ship. Only 17 life rafts had been left secured by the wave of destruction which swept the ship, and soon were put to sea. Acts of heroism and solidarity were registered like the persistent attempts of the First Sergeant nurse Morais de Lima, or Sergeant Lima, by taking Captain Garcia D’Ávila from the nursery to the lifeboat in mid of that horrendous situation. Both were dragged by swirl when the ship sank by stern almost vertically.


The surprise and swiftness in which everything occurred, added by technical shortcomings regarding the communications at that time prevented that any SOS could be radioed. Cramped in the remaining 17 lifeboats, 271 men most of them badly wounded with charred bodies many agonizing, they would face an extenuating and mortal ordeal. For those few which managed to survive, the martyrdom took 4 long unending days.


In the first night, the lifeboats, which kept close together, began to scatter and only six remained joined in the group headed by Lieutenant Torres Dias. Deprived from their provisions of water and food, the cold of the night and the steaming heat of the daylight, desperation, shark attacks, hallucinations and slow agonizing death were the constant company for those brave sailors until the salvation came with the British merchant Balfe.


A Task Group from Brazilian Navy was soon mobilized for the rescue, fished out only eight survivors whose life rafts had been dispersed.Cruiser Bahia had a complement of 372, in the first moment and during the sinking, 101 crewmembers died including 4 Americans in charge of communication system with the airplanes crossing the Atlantic: 230 out of 271 men who clambered the lifeboats, died in the sea added by 5 rescued by Merchant Balfe. The officers were the category which suffered the heaviest losses, for their accommodations were located below the stern where the explosion took place.


336 out of 372 being 17 officers, 15 second  officers, 42 sergeants, 224 corporals and sailors, 29 auxiliaries, 5 marines and 4 American sailors totaling 336 casualties. A few fortunate men managed to survive, 1 officer, 1 Ensign, 1 seaman ,4 sergeants and 29 corporals and sailors numbering 36 survivors.


The four American radio operators who died were:

Peter Emmet Salles, William Joseph Eustace, Andrew Jackson Pendleton and Frank Benjamin Sparks .



Cruiser Bahia seen when departing Base Fox Recife for one long patrol and escort duties. Source: Revista Marítima Brasileira (RMB) nº 1/3 v.117 JAN/MAR 1997


These pictures show the dramatic moment when survivors were rescued by the Brazilian Navy



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