Amerika

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Introduction[edit]

Passenger/Cargo vessel Amerika belonged to the Danish East Asiatic Line, and had a service life of 14 years from her launch until she was torpedoed and sunk by enemy action during WW2 at position 57° 30' N, 42.° 50' W.

Her sister vessels were Canada and Europa.


Basic Information[edit]

  • Type: Passenger/Cargo vessel
  • Registered owners,managers and operators: East Asiatic Line (A/S Det Østasiatiske Kompagni)
  • Builders: Burmeister & Wain
  • Yard: Copenhagen
  • Country: Denmark
  • Yard number: 559
  • Registry:
  • Official number: 167544
  • Signal letters: N/K
  • Call sign: N/K
  • Classification society: N/K
  • Gross tonnage: 10,110 grt
  • Net tonnage:
  • Deadweight:
  • Length: 465.4 Ft
  • Breadth: 62.2 Ft
  • Depth: N/K
  • Draught: 28.5 Ft
  • Engines: Single six-cylinder oil engine
  • Engine builders: Burmeister & Wain
  • Works: Copenhagen
  • Country: Denmark
  • Power: 6,400 bhp
  • Propulsion: Single screw
  • Speed: Service speed 15 knots
  • Crew:


Career Highlights[edit]

  • 22 Aug 1929: Launched
  • Jan 1930: Completed
  • May 1940: - Transferred to the UK Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) operated by United Baltic Corporation, London
  • 22 Apr 1943: Torpedoed and sunk

Service - Pre-WW2[edit]

An advertising brochure of 1939 shows the ships Europa, Erria, Amerika and Canada were covering the following routes:


  • Outbound: Copenhagen, Southampton, St. Thomas, Kingston, Cristobal, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver.
  • Return: Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Panama Canal, Kingston, St. Thomas, London, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Gothenburg, Copenhagen.


Participation in WW2 Convoys[edit]

The data in the following table has been extracted from External resource #3.

A key to the routes for these convoys can be found on this page: World War 2 Convoy Names

Amerika took part in 20 convoys.

List of Convoys

Convoy No. Route Convoy No. Route
HX.24 Mar 1940: Halifax - Liverpool OB.163 Jun 1940: Liverpool - Dispersed(OG.33F 9.6.40)
OG.33F Jun 1940: Formed at sea - Gibraltar SL/MKS.50 Oct 1940: Freetown - Liverpool
US.9/2 Mar 1941: Bombay - Suez MW.7A May 1941: Alexandria - Malta
MG.1A Jul 1941: Malta - Gibraltar HG.34FA Aug 1941: Gibraltar - Liverpool
ON.36 Nov 1941: Liverpool - Dispersed 49.24N 46.15W HX.184 Apr 1942: Halifax - Liverpool
ON.119 Aug 1942: Liverpool - NYC GZ.3 Sep 1942: Guantanamo - Cristobal
NG.302 Sep 1942: NYC - Guantanamo NG.302 Sep 1942: Nyc - Guantanamo
ZG.17 Dec 1942: Cristobal - Guantanamo GN.32 Jan 1943: Guantanamo - NYC
HX.223 Jan 1943: NYC - Liverpool ON.168 Feb 1943: Liverpool - Dispersed Off Cape Cod
ON.170 Mar 1943: Liverpool - NYC HX.234 Apr 1943: NYC - Liverpool



On an enlarged version of the original photograph shown below, taken by Stan Mayes during Convoy HX-184, you can just see the two funnels of Amerika beyond the aft deck of British Power


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The loss of Amerika[edit]

Circumstances of Sinking[edit]

Amerika's final voyage was in convoy HX.234 during which, according to External resource #1, she was torpedoed and sunk by submarine U-306 commanded by Claus von Trotha. The convoy was bound for Liverpool and Amerika was said to have been carrying 8,844 tons of general cargo, including metal, flour, meat and 200 bags of mail. This occurred off the coast of Greenland (South of Cape Farewell) on 22 April 1943 at position 57° 30' N, 42.° 50' W.


According to External resource #2, Amerika was sunk at 01:54 by a two-torpedo spread. U-306 was part of the 'Meise' patrol group of 28 U-boats. The Master, 29 crew, 8 gunners and 16 RCAF personnel were rescued by the corvette HMS Asphodel (K.56) (Lt. H.P. Carse, DSC) and landed at Greenock, Scotland.

Of the 140 on board, there were 86 dead (42 crew members, seven gunners and 37 passengers - Canadian pilots in transit to England).

Amerika's Master, Christian Nielsen, was awarded the Lloyd´s War Medal for bravery at sea.


Commodore Denison's Report on Convoy HX234 provides the Commodore's view of the relevant events during the convoy including a brief mention of the loss of Amerika


Account by the Canadian Survivors[edit]

The following report comes from the Canadian "Wings Abroad" newspaper and was provided by Al. J. Wouters the son of one of the survivors. It is interesting that neither the torpedoed vessel, not the ship that recued the survivors, is mentioned by name. Presumably so as not to provide information to the enemy.

Navy saves 16 flyers from torpedoed ship

Huge wave and snowstorm fail to stop Corvette recue Mission - Tired, with all their possessions gone except the clothes they were wearing, but nevertheless still cheerful, 16 RCAF flyers, have arrived in Britain after being rescued from a freighter torpedoed twice during a blinding snowstorm in mid-Atlantic. They made the last half of their journey to England on a Royal Navy Corvette which was escorting their convoy.

The first torpedo hit in the early evening one day when they were about half-way across. This is how P/O Ward Brawn, of Hartland, N.B., a bomb aimer, who recently won his wings, described it: "The weather was pretty dirty. The wind was blowing and there was a snowstorm which was so thick you couldn't see any of the other ships. I was in my cabin when I saw a bright flash accompanied by a crackling noise and a dull thud. The ship started to list immediately, so I got a coat on and started for the boat-deck. The list became pretty severe, and the wind was blowing so hard that I had to hang on to the rail for dear life. A few seconds later a second flash came. We had been hit by two torpedoes. By the time I got to the boat-deck, all the boats that could be lowered had gone, so I climbed on one of the rafts, at first we couldn't get the raft free of the ship. But she was settling swiftly, and it wasn't long before the boat-deck was awash. She sank very slowly, and there was no suction.

The ship's captain was the last to leave, As his ship disappeared under the water, he jumped for our raft. He missed and went into the water, but we got him aboard.

I guess we were aboard the raft about a couple of hours. We didn't move away from the scene as there was quite a bit of drift wood around, and it was difficult to move at all. The sea was very rough, and we got pretty sick.

After two hours one of the British Corvettes escorting the convoy came around and picked us up. Those boys certainly did a marvelous job, and under the most difficult and treacherous circumstances. They had to pull up along side with the waves throwing us all over the place. They would pull in close and two or three of us would manage to jump aboard. Then we would be separated again, but they would come in immediately again and two or three more would jump. Finally they got us all aboard, and then went around looking for other survivors. After they had collected up as many as they could they brought us to a British Port.

F/O Norman G. Loudoun, of Victoria B.C., a former Victoria Times newpaperman, said the skipper of the Corvette estimated the enormous waves as being about 60 feet high.

Loudon managed to get into a boat lying on deck. It was washed off as the ship sank. He too paid tribute to the Navy saying "I still don't know how the Corvette even managed to take us aboard but they did and they treated us wonderfully.

P/O W.E. McLean of Toronto said the sea was so rough that it practically swamped the boats from the word go. He was blinded by salt water at the time, and could not see the Corvette when it approached. " I wouldn't believe the other boys until I smelt the smoke from her funnel" he said "and believe me, I never knew anything could smell so good."

Other RCAF survivors were: F/O R.J. Walker, Duncan, Oklahoma; and P/Os Rennie, Lansing, Ont.; W.D. Hopkinson, Hamilton; J.S. Dewar, Hepworth, Ont; Phillipe Bernier, Levis, Que; C.F. Mohs, Edmonton; John Wouters, Edam, Sask; Abraham Dyck, Borden, Sask; J.W. Rogers, Kimberly, B.C and J.H. Newland, Seattle, Wash.

Our sincere thanks to the Base Hospital for this article and a tip of the hat to Capt. Wouters from the Courier Staff.


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Image 3 was taken of a group of the RCAF survivors on the deck of HMS Asphodel on her arrival in England. John Wouters is 2nd from right in the back row - his Pilot Officer insignia is clearly visible. He was 19 years old at the time. William G. Rennie is 3rd from the right in the front row. The names of the other survivors in the picture are not known
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Image 4 was taken at the same time and location but shows 12 of the survivors. John Wouters in in the back row on the far right.


John Wouter's parents had scraped together the money to send him off to war with some new clothes but he lost everything when Amerika was torpedoed. Not daring to write to his parents to tell them the news he wrote to his brother.

Dear Carney, Aleda + Judy,

Just a line to let you know I’m still alive although it’s a wonder. I had the first salt water swim in my life and hope it’s the last. We were torpedoed on the way over and after spending a little while on a raft were rescued by another ship. However am safe and sound now with my first experience of the war behind me. Lost everything I had except what I was wearing, so I would appreciate anything you could send. I don’t know exactly what you are allowed to send, but you could easily find out somewhere. However what I need most is cigarettes and razor blades (Gillettes). If there is anything else will let you know later.

I can’t decide whether I should write and tell Ma or not, so I think I’ll just leave it slide and leave it up to you. You can use your own discretion.

How is the business going – I suppose its kind of slack now with Spring here, or is it Spring over there yet. It’s such a long time ago that I had a letter from anyone that I just don’t know what’s happening anymore. Is Bill still out on the west coast?

I hope we’ll be getting a little extra leave now, that will give me a little more time to hunt up some of the other fellows.

Well that’s about all the news I know of right now. Will write again as soon as I get settled somewhere. The next time you see Aud or Muriel ask them for Muriel’s sisters ??? I believe it is, address and send it to me.

I guess I must have a few grey hairs on my head now, if I haven’t I should have. But they’ll soon turn back to their original color after I blow a few U-boats to hell.

So long for now, and love to the three of you.

Your brother,

John.

P/O J.E. Wouters (Can) J23145

Royal Canadian Air Force

Overseas


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Image 5 is a copy of the first page of John Wouter's letter.



Footnotes[edit]

  1. U-306 was in turn sunk on 31 Oct 1943 in the North Atlantic north-east of the Azores, in position 46.19N, 20.44W, by depth charges from the British destroyer HMS Whitehall and the British corvette HMS Geranium with all hands lost (51 dead).
  1. Al Wouters says his Dad didn't sink any German subs during the war but had lots and lots of practice hunting them around North Africa. He was a navigator on Vickers Wellington bombers. He survived the war, re-enlisted in 1955, and sadly passed away in 1992.


External Resources[edit]

  1. U-boat.net [1]
  2. Ubootwaffe.net: [2]
  3. Arnold Hague Convoy Database: [3]


Images[edit]

  1. Postcard owned by SN member Benjidog
  2. Original photograph by SN member Stan Mayes
  3. Original photograph by permission of Al J Wouters
  4. Original photograph by permission of Al J Wouters
  5. Copy of letter by permission of Al J Wouters

Contributors[edit]

  1. Main article and structure by Benjidog
  2. Additional material by Stan Mayes
  3. Information and permission to use photographs and letter from John Wouters thanks to Al Wouters