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SHIPS ENGLAND - D E F

28)EMPIRE MARCH MoWT (MICHEL)




Sister ship Empire Faith. Photo Wikipedia


 


Built: 1942


Tonnage: 5,065 / 7,040 tons


Cargo: iron, tea, peanuts and jute


Route:  Durban – Trinidad


Built for Ministry of War Transport MoWT


Sunk 02 January 1943 by Raider Michel on position 35º 05”W 15º 04”W


2 Dead


27 survivors taken as POW


Raider Michel  found  the 7,040-ton British freighter bound for Trinidad from Durban, with a crew of 29 and a cargo of iron, tea, peanuts and jute. Much to the embarrassment of Michel’s pilot Hoppe, the raider’s lookouts had spotted the freighter first despite the plane being already airborne. Having clearly been seen by the enemy, Hoppe flew away towards the British bases to the East, before circling back to his ship.


With torpedo boat Esau (LS 4) in the water, Michel opened fire, knocking out the bridge and the radio room and turning the freighter into ‘an inferno from stem to stern, but still moving’. To dispatch the blazing wreck quickly, Von Ruckteschell  fired two torpedoes, one of which missed, and Esau did likewise. 26 survivors of her crew of 29 were picked up, with another man being found the next day when Michel returned to search for anyone who might have been missed.


Six days later, January 8, 1943, von Ruckteschell was instructed that he was not to attempt to break through the Allied blockade of Europe, but was to turn back into the Indian Ocean, and head for Japan.


Neither the crew, nor the many prisoners on board, were happy with this turn of events, the former having been looking forward to going home after almost a year at sea, and the latter not daring to think about what lay ahead of them as prisoners of the Japanese.


After brief stopovers at Japanese-controlled Batavia and Singapore, where the prisoners were, according to instructions, entrusted to the tender mercies of the Japanese Army, Michel finally tied up in Kobe Harbour on March 2.


 

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