Loss of the EMPIRE STANLEY in 1943

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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Loss of the EMPIRE STANLEY in 1943

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:17 pm

The Loss of M.V. Empire Stanley in the Indian Ocean in August 1943

(I cannot now remember for whom I put together the following article but if memory serves me correctly it was a descendant of one of those lost in this wartime incident)

The ‘Empire Stanley’ was a 6,942 GRT cargo-freighter built for the Ministry of War Transport (MOWT) in 1941 by the Greenock Dockyard Company Limited (known as the ‘Klondyke Yard). Yard No. 447. Length : 432’ 7” x Breadth : 56’ 2” x Depth : 33’ 2”. She was built as a CAM ship (Catapult Armed Merchantman) but the catapult was in fact removed in 1942. M.V. Empire Stanley’s Port of Registry was Greenock, Scotland.

She was a motor-ship, propulsion by means of a Doxford four-cylinder oil engine Type EW132.60LB4 rated at 2,700 HP (688 NHP), under the management of Furness, Withy & Company Limited of Liverpool, with a total complement of 54 persons including one passenger and, with a cargo of 8,890 tons of coal on board, was on an unescorted passage in August 1943 from Lourenco Marques & Durban on the East African coast, to Aden and Beirut in the Middle East when she was attacked by a German U-Boat.

The action took place at 15:50 hours on 17th August 1943, SSE of Cap Sainte Marie, Madagascar. Twenty five of those on board the British freighter lost their lives in this incident when the vessel was torpedoed and sunk by U-197 in position 27’ 08” South 48’ 15” East . The single passenger, along with the 41 year old Master (Captain Arthur John Pilditch MBE), seventeen other crew members, and six DEMS Gunners lost their lives. [Captain Pilditch left a widow, Florence May, at their home in Hope Cove, Devon] His name, along with all the others who lost their lives that day, are included on the Tower Hill Merchant Navy War Memorial in London - on Panel No. 45.

Following the sinking of their vessel, nineteen crew-members and one DEMS Gunner were picked up three days later, on 20th August 1943, by the British motor-vessel M.V. Socotra and taken to Bombay where they were landed ten days later. Meantime, a further eight crew-members and one DEMS Gunner, who had been adrift in a lifeboat since the sinking 13 days previously, were picked up by the British Corvette HMS Thyme (K210) under the command of Lieutenant H. Roach, and landed at Durban on 29th August 1943. Thus 25 perished and 29 survived this war loss in a far-off ocean.

Crew Members Lost When M.V. Empire Stanley Torpedoed

Arthur John Pilditch MBE 41 years of age Master
Husband of Florence May Pilditch of Hope Cove, Devon

Sydney James Wheatley 55 years of age 2nd Engineer
Husband of Florence A. Wheatley of Bristol

John Edward Snelling 21 years of age Junior Engineer
Son of Samuel George & Esther Alice Snelling

John Alexander Haughton 30 years of age Donkeyman

John McLachlan 36 years of age Chief Steward
Son of Donald & Christina McLachlan

Thomas Schofield 21 years of age Assistant Steward
Son of Thomas & Jane Schofield of Salford, Lancashire

Denis Giles 17 years of age Assistant Steward

Kenneth James Dumble 15 years of age Galley Boy
Son of William George Dumble & Elsie May Dumble of Portishead, Somerset

Walter Robert Powell 17 years of age Cabin Boy
Son of Walter & Elizabeth Powell of Handsworth Wood, Birmingham

Ian Campbell Stephen 21 years of age 2nd Radio Officer
Son of J. C. Stephen & Mary E. J. Stephen of Colinton, Edinburgh, Scotland

Richard George Whitfield 20 years of age 3rd Radio Officer
Son of Ernest Cooke Whitfield & Hilda Whitfield of Leeds, Yorkshire

William Henry Ross Bailey 18 years of age Radio Officer
Son of William Ross Bailey & Susie Bailey of South Shore, Blackpool, Lancashire

Frederick Bruce Tindale 18 years of age Cadet

Charles Renwick 20 years of age Able Seaman
Son of James & Elizabeth Renwick of Edinburgh, Scotland

Henry William Carmichael Wood 25 years of age Able Seaman
Son of Henry Alfred & Eva Emily Wood of Eltham, Taranaki, New Zealand

John Fraser 54 years of age Able Seaman

Cyril Thomas 36 years of age Able Seaman

William Orlando England 22 years of age Able Seaman
Son of Mrs. L. England of Barry Docks, Barry, Glamorgan

John Bernard McCarthy 22 years of age Sailor
Son of Jeremiah and Jane McCarthy & husband of Violet McCarthy, of Barry, Glamorgan

Donald Parfitt 19 years of age Dayman

John Henry Arnold 26 years of age Dayman
Son of Arthur Richard Arnold & Florence Elizabeth Arnold of Barry, Glamorgan


The aggressor was the German Type IXD2 submarine, U-197, (Feldpost Number M 49 177) under the command of Kapitanleutnant Robert Bartels.

U-197 was ordered by the Kriegsmarine on 4th November 1940, laid down on 5th July 1941, launched on 21st May 1942 and commissioned on 10th October 1942. Her builder was the prolific shipyard of AG Weser of Bremen (Deutsche Schiff-und Maschinenbau AG) and her Yard Number 1043.

After commissioning and whilst lying at Kiel, crew-member Obermaschinist Alfred Wernicke died following an accident on board U-197 on 4th November 1942.

U-197 did not survive long, embarking on only one war patrol from which she never returned, taking her crew of 67 down to depths of the Indian Ocean in a position WNW of the Seychelles – 03’ 35” South 52’ 49” East. (Other reports record the position of her loss as 320 miles SSW of Cap Sainte Marie)

Details of her only War Patrol Diary and her ultimate demise follow :

Sailed from Kiel for operations in the Indian Ocean, passing through the Central and South Atlantic

Torpedoed and sank the 4,763 GRT Dutch oil tanker S.S. Benakat in a position NNE of Ascension Island. Patrolled an area off Cape Town until mid-June then went East to refuel.

U-197 was replenished by the German supply ship Charlotte Schliemann some 600 miles South of Mauritius, the supply ship having come from Japan. From this location, she proceeded to patrol off the East coast of Africa.

In a position South-East of Inhambane Mozambique, U-197 came under attack from a Catalina aircraft of 262 Squadron, out of St Lucia, Natal, but after putting up a good flak defence she was able to dive to safety, undamaged.

U-197 torpedoed and sank the 9,583 GRT Swedish oil tanker M.V. Pegasus in a position some 450 miles ENE of Durban

U-197 torpedoed and damaged the 7,181 GRT American freighter S.S. William Ellery in a position some 350 miles ESE of Durban. The Allied vessel survived this attack and was towed to Durban for repairs. (This Liberty ship in fact went on to survive a further 25 years when she went for demolition in New Orleans) Meantime, U-197 continued her patrol South of the Mozambique Channel

U-197 was ordered to rendezvous with U-181 on 17th August in order for the two commanders to confer about the return voyage to France.

U-197 came upon, attacked and sank the 6,921 GRT British freighter M.V. Empire Stanley in a position SSE of Cap Sainte Marie, Madagascar. There was some heavy radio communication between U-197, U-196 and U-181 during 17th and 18th August 1943, and these communications were picked up by the Allies. U-197 and U-181 met up with each other on the 19th August South of Cap Sainte Marie and the commander of U-197 (Kapitanleutnant zur See Robert Bartels) informed the commander of U-181 (Korvettekapitan zur See Wolfgang Luth) that he wished to remain in the area.

With U-181 setting off to meet up with U-196, some 300 miles SSW of Madagascar, U-197 who had remained in the area South of Cap Sainte Marie, was discovered by an RAF Catalina aircraft of 259 Squadron under the command of Flight Lieutenant L. O. Barnett, who immediately attacked the U-Boat.

U-197 sent out distress signals saying she was under attack and was having difficulty trying to submerge. Her signals were picked up by U-181 and U-196 who were by now together, but as the signals were confused and gave the U-197 position in widely different locations the others decided to await developments before taking any action themselves.

Meantime, U-197 was being circled by the Catalina who was joined by a second Catalina from 265 Squadron under the command of Flying Officer C. E. Robin.

The two aircraft circled the U-Boat and made strafing runs. F/O Robin eventually straddled U-197 with six depth charges and the U-Boat was destroyed – in a position recorded as 320 miles SSW of Cap Sainte Marie, joining her last victim of only three days before – M.V. Empire Stanley.

U-107 Successes :
20-05-1943 : Sank the Dutch vessel S.S. Benakat of 4,763 GRT
24-07-1943 : Sank the Swedish vessel M.V. Pegasus of 9,583 GRT
30-07-1943 : Torpedoed and damaged the American vessel S.S. William Ellery of 7,181 GRT
17-08-1943 : Sank the British vessel M.V. Empire Stanley of 6,921 GRT

+ Sunk 21,627 tons
+ Damaged 7,181 tons

The crew members of U-197 who perished – in alphabetical order :

Gottfried Alraun : 23 years
Rudolf Aurich : 19 years
Walter Baage : 19 years
Robert Bartels : 32 years
Ewald Beil : 22 years
Heinrich Bicks : 21 years
Herbert Brandt : 20 years
Heinz Brauer : 24 years
Heinrich Burghoff : 20 years
Robert Christ : 24 years
Alfred Czipron : 23 years
Horst Demnick : 20 years
Richard Dietrich : 21 years
Horst Driest : 20 years
Horst Ebner von Eschenbach : 20 years
Artur Eickelkamp : 23 years
Willibald Eilzer : 22 years
Gerhard Eschmann : 19 years
Hans Fabricius : 23 years
Anton Fellhauer : 21 years
Siegfried Fleischfresser : 22 years
Heinrich-Oskar Foitzik : 26 years
Heinz Freund : 21 years
Hans Gottermeyer : 27 years
Wilhelm Grassle : 29 years
Rudolf Griessinger : 24 years
Gunter Haase : 20 years
Hermann Haller : 29 years
Heinz Hannemann : 21 years
Konrad Hansberg 28 years
Rolf Hass : 22 years
Horst Heinke : 20 years
Antonius Jager : 24 years
Franz Jakob : 21 years
Eberhard Junghans (Dr) : 27 years
Fritz Justus : 22 years
Hans Kaschner : 28 years
Walter Klein : 22 years
Albert Klima : 21 years
Otto Klinzmann : 30 years
Adolf Krahnast : 19 years
Alois Kuhnbach : 21 years
Otto Kurtz : 25 years
Fred Lafin : 20 years
Josef Lauble : 21 years
Hans Liedtke : 24 years
Gerhard Lorenz : 19 years
Heinrich Lorez : 21 years
Paul Maraun : 19 years
Walter Marienfeld : 26 years
Karl Naujokat : 30 years
Johann von Oesen : 30 years
Fritz Orth : 21 years
Georg Pampuch : 21 years
Erich Petry : 19 years
Victor Rainer : 43 years
Fritz Reif : 20 years
Karl-Herman Reimler : 22 years
Rudolf Reinbacher : 20 years
Heinrich Reisinger : 19 years
Karl Schmidt : 21 years
Berthold Schwab : 20 years
Heinz Schwalbe : 22 years
Ewald Seifert : 22 years
Karl Sommer : 24 years
Herbert Weber : 25 years
Gerhard Wegner : 21 years

Average age of those who perished in U-197 : 23 years of age
Average age of those who perished in Empire Stanley : 26 years of age

In Memoriam

There are no roses on a sailor’s grave
No lilies on an ocean wave
The only tribute is the seagulls’ sweeps
And the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps
Angus Mac Kinnon

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Re: Loss of the EMPIRE STANLEY in 1943

Post by aebbrell » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:10 pm


My wife's father Jim Martin was a Martime Regiment R.A. Gunner on the ship and survived the tragedy. He was picked up by the Socotra on the 20/08/1943 and was landed at Bombay and then was moved on to Poona. Many years after the war he gave my wife a postcard with a picture of two Army and two Royal Navy Gunners on it which we are sure was taken in Durban on or around 13/08/1943. The writing on the back reads:- To Jim, What-a-day, 20/08/43, Eric. and there is also the word "Durban" in one corner. I am working on a project concerning the event which I am willing to share if interested and also seek further information. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Allan Ebbrell

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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Re: Loss of the EMPIRE STANLEY in 1943

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:47 pm

Hi, Allan :

I am not sure I can add much to what I already provided in October of 2010, but if you have any specific queries do let me know in case I can be of help - and good luck with your project.

Angus Mac Kinnon
Angus Mac Kinnon

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Re: Loss of the EMPIRE STANLEY in 1943

Post by yorkieman » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:38 pm

Photo of the Tower Hill plaque on Benjidog's site under
http://www.benjidog.co.uk/Tower%20Hill/ ... esman.html
George Robinson
Freeman of Eriskay

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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Re: Loss of the EMPIRE STANLEY in 1943

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:02 pm

Thanks for link, George !
Angus Mac Kinnon

Posts: 3880
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:41 am
Location: Cottingham, Hull

Re: Loss of the EMPIRE STANLEY in 1943

Post by yorkieman » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:38 pm

Brian has a full set on there now, useful if you get enquiries from anyone who has lost family at sea during the war.
George Robinson
Freeman of Eriskay

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