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Built 1923

Tonnage: 6,558 / 10,631 tons

Cargo: 5,646 tons of military stores and general cargo, including explosives

Route: Glasgow - Takoradi - Capetown - Alexandria

Sunk 08 OCT 42 by U-179  on pos. 33º 40’S  17º 03’E 

1 Dead

90 Survivors

At 16.07 hours on 8 Oct 1942 the unescorted City of Athens (Master James Albert Kinley) was hit on the starboard side in #4 hold by one torpedo from U-179 while steaming on a non-evasive course at 11.25 knots about 60 miles west-northwest of Capetown. When the hold flooded the ship began to settle aft with a list to starboard but straightened up again after a few minutes. The engines were stopped and the master ordered the crew to boat stations, while distress signals were sent and acknowledged. Lookouts then spotted the periscope on the starboard quarter, but it submerged before the gunners could open fire.

As the ship was carrying explosives, the master decided to abandon ship and the 82 crew members, nine gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 20mm and four machine guns) and eight passengers (Admiralty Civil Staff members) aboard left in the six lifeboats within 12 minutes, except for an Indian fireman who was missing. Before leaving the master recalled the radio operator, who sent a further distress signal and they both abandoned ship quickly when the periscope was sighted again on the port side. At 16.31 hours, the City of Athens was struck on the port side in #2 hold by a coup de grâce, causing her to sink rapidly by the bow at an angle of 45° within 10 minutes. The sinking was witnessed by U-504 (Poske) from some distance, which avoided the area because a Hudson aircraft appeared shortly before the second torpedo hit.

After the ship sank, the survivors recovered a cat from wreckage and the stores from three rafts that floated free and then headed towards Capetown, the five boats being towed by the motor boat in a high swell at about two to three knots. At dusk they were sighted by HMS Active (H 14) (LtCdr M.W. Tomkinson, RN) which took them all aboard until 22.00 hours. Shortly afterwards, the destroyer picked up a radar contact and opened fire at the surfaced U-179 after illuminating her with star shells and a searchlight. The U-boat immediately crash dived and was apparently sunk by the following depth charge attack as a large amount of oil came to the surface afterwards. U-504 observed this night action at the horizon. The destroyer remained in the vicinity until daylight without gaining contact again or finding further proof for the destruction of the U-boat and then left to land the survivors at Capetown on 9 October.




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