On this day in 1942, chaos struck the Cape of Good Hope’s waters. October 8, 1942 was a day of horror for a number of maritime vessels, with many being sunk by torpedos.
Several crew members died that day, but some were lucky enough to safely reach the shores Cape Town.
In 1942, the Greek steam merchant vessel Koumoundouros was struck on the starboard side in the boiler room by a torpedo from the German boat U-68, 32km southwest of Cape Point. Another torpedo hit the stern of the boat, causing her to sink within minutes.
An estimated five crew members were killed and the surviving 26 were later picked up by Naval Vessels and brought to safety in Cape Town the next day.
British merchant vessel Sarthe was torpedoed approximately 56km south-southwest of the Cape of Good Hope, once again by U-68.
The ship had witnessed the sinking of Swiftsure about 12km ahead and tried to flee by altering the course towards the coast at full speed, but was too slow to escape and unable to evade the torpedo track spotted by a lookout.
The explosion stopped the vessel and destroyed the port side of the bridge and the port forward lifeboat. It wrecked the accommodation in that area, damaged the davits of the starboard forward lifeboat and split the foredeck.
The crew of 57 immediately abandoned ship without sending a distress signal as the aerials were brought down. About half an hour later, a coup de grâce struck the ship on the starboard side just forward of the bridge, broke her in two and blew debris and wreckage into the air that fell into the water around the lifeboats. The bow sank at once, followed a few minutes later by the after part that sank perpendicular.
The survivors were picked up by the South African whaler HMSAS Vereeniging (T 62) and landed at Simon’s Town later that day.
This Greek merchant vessel freighter was hit on the starboard side forward, amidships, by one G7e torpedo from U-172, and sunk about 64km off Slangkop Point on the Cape Peninsula. About 28 crew were killed
No lifeboats could be launched because the ship sank within two minutes, and five survivors rescued themselves by clinging to a raft. A reported 28 members of the crew were killed and 5 survived and were eventually picked up and landed at Cape Town on October 12.
City of Athens
After the ship sank, the survivors headed towards Cape Town and were sighted by HMS Active (H 14) which took them all aboard. The HMS Active spotted the U-179 that had launched the initial attack, and opened fire on the U-boat. 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.
The survivors arrived at Cape Town on October 9.
Picture/s: Facebook / SAHRA Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage