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Built: 1926

Tonnage: 6,796 / 6,250 tons

Route: Port Tewfik - Aden - Durban 

Cargo: Passengers, 780 Italian civilian internees and 3000 bags of mail 

Sunk 28 NOV 42 by U-177 on pos. 28° 30'S 33° 00'E

850 Dead

194 Survivors

Early in 1941 the Ministry of War Transport requisitioned Nova Scotia as a troop ship, and on 3 February she embarked 1,200 troops. She joined a convoy from Britain to FreetownSierra Leone, where she arrived on 2 March. Nova Scotia continued south, crossing the Equator on 12 March and reaching Cape Town, South Africa, on 22 March.

In the autumn of 1942 Nova Scotia left Port Tewfik in Egypt and sailed down the Red Sea to Massawa in British-occupied Eritrea, where she put US troops ashore and embarked Italian prisoners of war. She also called at the British Colony of Aden and then proceeded southwards unescorted, carrying over 750 Italian prisoners of war and civilian internees and 3,000 bags of mail bound for Durban, South Africa.

Nova Scotia had passed through the Mozambique Channel and was off the coast of Natal Province, South Africa, when at 7:15 on the morning of 28 November the German submarine U-177 hit her with three torpedoes. Nova Scotia rolled to port caught fire and sank by the bow within 10 minutes. The crew managed to launch only one lifeboat; other survivors depended on life rafts or pieces of wreckage. Those who were left in the water either drowned or were killed by oceanic whitetip sharks.

In order to identify what ship it had just sunk, U-177 recovered two survivors. They were interned Italian merchant sailors who explained that most of those aboard had been Italian internees. Because of the Laconia Order that Admiral Dönitz had issued two months previously, the submarine's commander, Robert Gysae, withdrew U-177 from the area and radioed the Befehlshaber der U-Boote (BdU) for orders. The BdU ordered him to leave survivors in the water and continue on patrol. The BdU requested help from Portugal, which sent the frigate NRP Afonso de Albuquerque from Lourenço Marques in neighbouring Mozambique.

Afonso de Albuquerque reached the area on 29 November. Five survivors fired a distress flare and were rescued by the frigate. The next day Afonso de Albuquerque found herself surrounded by hundreds of floating corpses.The frigate rescued 130 Italian internees, 42 guards, 17 crew members, three military and naval personnel, one DEMS gunner and one passenger. 858 people were lost: 650 Italian internees, 96 crew members, 88 South African guards, 10 DEMS gunners, eight military and naval personnel, five passengers, and Nova Scotia's master.

Two further survivors reached safety. One was rescued on the third day after the attack; the other was an Italian who drifted on a liferaft for a fortnight until he came ashore at Mtunzini in Natal.


Many corpses were washed ashore in Natal.The bodies of 120 Italian prisoners of war and internees were buried in a mass grave in the Hillary suburb of Durban, forming the nucleus of what became the Italian Military Cemetery there. In 1982 a substantial monument was erected on the grave. Nova Scotia's Italian dead are commemorated also in a monument at the Italian church at Adi Quala, Eritrea.




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