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Built  1935

Length 110.5 m

Beam 14.4 m

Draft 7.6 m

Tonnage 3,664 GRT / 3,415 DWT

Cargo: Fuel, ammunition food and general supplies to German U-Boats and raiders in the Atlantic.

Armament Anti aircraft guns only.

Python  1935

The Python was a refrigerated ship for the transport of bananas, which was converted by the German Kriegsmarine into a submarine supplier during World War II, but was lost on its first use in the South Atlantic.

At that time, she had the crew of the previously sunk entoothed auxiliary cruiser Atlantis on board. The 414 men of both ships were brought to France by German and Italian submarines.

Banana Transporter

Already in 1912 the Hamburg shipping company F. Laeisz founded the African Fruit Company as a subsidiary. Their first banana steamers, Pioneer and Pungo, did not get going for society due to the war events, but the Pungo caused a stir as an auxiliary cruiser, Möve, with two successful missions. From 1930, the banana voyage became the main activity of the shipping company Laeisz, which until then had gained notoriety mainly as a sailing ship shipping company, but was involved in a large number of shipping company foundations in Hamburg.

Also the first German pure refrigerated ships (starting with Panther and Puma) procured from 1930 for the banana voyage from Cameroon, but also from Jamaica and Colombia to Europe, received names according to the shipping tradition, which began with P. The first modern refrigerated ships with motor drive, Pioneer and Pelican, built the Bremen Volcano. 

The first construction contract of the shipping company for a refrigerated ship to the Deutsche Werft in Hamburg was the Python, which was launched there with the building number 170 on 23 November 1935. It was 110.5 m long and 14.4 m wide and had 7.6 m draught. It was measured at 3,664 GRT and had a load capacity of 3,626 tdw. A 5-cylinder MAN ship diesel with 3,050 hp enabled a service speed of 15 knots. The crew consisted of 36 men. The ship with the call sign DJQK could carry up to 12 passengers.

The Python had a sister ship with the Palime, which was completed the following year, which was built on the branch of the heron. The Python entered service on January 27, 1936 and was used on the Cameroon route. At the beginning of the war in 1939, she was on her way from Tiko (Cameroon) to Hamburg. She had left Las Palmas on August 29, 1939, and, driving in camouflage as A-Fi in Jamaica, arrived in Hamburg via the city of Moly and Sweden on 13 September

War Mission

On October 25, 1939, the Python was taken over by the Kriegsmarine and initially used as a target ship for Air Force exercises. From May 1941 it was converted into a submarine supplier (Z-ship) and entered service as such in November. On 6 November, she left western France, accompanied by U 124 and U 129,to supply submarines in the Central and South Atlantic. On 20 November, she handed over diesel fuel to her two companions in the Cape Verde Islands. Summoned from U 126, the Python took over four days later from U 126 or from the submarine-launched lifeboats 305 shipwrecked by the auxiliary cruiser Atlantis, which had sunk itself on 22 November in front of the approaching British heavy cruiser Devonshire. 


For the period from 30 November to 4 December, 780 sm south of St. Helena was again intended to supply several submarines (U-68U A, U-124 and U-129) which were to operate off Cape Town. U 68 and UA took over supplies, torpedoes and oil on 30 November/1 December. The German ships were surprised by the British heavy cruiser Dorsetshire when the two submarines were oiled. The two submarines immediately dived, and UA fired five torpedoes at the Dorsetshirebut missed their target. After the cruiser had shot a salvo in front of the bow of the Python, the crew went into the boats and sunk their ship with explosive charges on 27° 53" 00" S, 03° 55" 00" WThe Dorsetshire left the area without taking in shipwrecks due to the obvious submarine danger.

Rescue of the Crew

The crew of the Python  and the survivors of the Atlantis, together 414 men, were taken after the Dorsetshire of U 68 and U A partly, partly in boats and on rafts to the north. On December 3, U 129 was added and took over the entire Python crew of 109 men. On December 5, U 124 also arrived and also took over a number of shipwrecked people. Between December 14 and 18, the Italian submarines Luigi Torelli, Enrico Tazzoli, Giuseppe Finzi and Pietro Calvi took over part of the Atlantis crew near the Cape Verde Islands and brought them to Saint-Nazaire. The shipwrecked were distributed in such a way that the diving ability of all boats was guaranteed.

Between December 23 and 29, 1941, all survivors of the Python and Atlantis were ashore in Saint-Nazaire.

By Wikipedia

Somewhere in the Atlantic. Python seen replenishing one U-boat some 840 miles southwest of Cape Verde Is, on 18 Nov 41

Above a rare view of Python beginning to settle to port following detonation of scuttling chargesCrewmembers are seen at the deck of U-68 or UA.



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