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SHIPS SUNK ENGLAND 237 - D E F

37)EMPRESS OF CANADA (IT SUB LEONARDO DA VINCI)




Photo. www.photoship.co.uk


 


Built 1922


Tonnage 22,517 /  9,580 tons


Cargo: 800 tons of sugar


Route: Durban – Takoradi - UK


Sunk 13/03/43 by Italian submarine  Da Vinci on position 01º 13’S 09º 57’W


392 Dead 


1500 Survivors


On the 1st March 1943 she sailed from Durban with 1,800 passengers, amongst their number 200 Poles released by Russia after Germany invaded her, over 200 Royal Navy Personnel and some 400 Italian Prisoners of war. Because of the circumstances the Italians were locked up only during the evening, in the forward hold. The speed of the Empress allowed her to sail out of convoy and she duly sailed South for the Antarctic, swung round the Island of Tristan Da Cunha before turning on a Northbound heading.


On the 12th March she was ordered to stop and pick up another 300 Italian Prisoners of War at Takoradi, Ghana. Having sailed immediately after loading she again proceeded Northbound but at 2345 hours 13th March some one thousand miles off the coast of Africa she was torpedoed, ironically by the Italian submarine Leonardo Da Vinci.


Some thirteen hours later whilst the ship was still being abandoned the submarine struck again and within twenty-five minutes the Empress sank taking 392 people with her. Those lost were 44 crew, 8 gunners and half of the Italian Prisoners of war, after being spotted by a Catalina aircraft the survivors were picked up by HMS Boreas, Destroyer Crocus and HMS Petunia, a Sloop. Also the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Corinthian arrived on scene on 16th March and took all those rescued by Crocus and Petunia leaving the two ships free to search for more survivors. They were landed at Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa.


 

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