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My uncle was a crew member of the ss Rio Dorado which was sunk on 16th March 1941 by the Gneisenau.

I am writing an account of the loss and am trying to find out as much information about the events leading up to the sinking.

I am also trying to make contact with any relatives of the crew, (who were all lost).

I know the Gneisenau was accompamied by the Scharnhorst in what was known as 'Operation Berlin', where 16 ships were sunk over the weekend of 15th - 16th March.

Allan West
 

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Allan,

The name SS Rio Dorado rang a bell with me, I was looking through a site called The Wartime Memories Project a few days ago and remember it being mentioned ,( the entry was in the Guest Book )- I went back there tonight and I have copied a post below, made by someone who had a relative on the SS Rio Dorado when it was sunk.

I hope this helps you. It contains an E Mail Address.

Name: W. B. Rose
Email: [email protected]
war: Yes
Comments: My father served in the Merchant Navy in 1941. He was serving with the British registered ship the "SS Rio Dorado" in the North Atlantic when a German ship sunk it and all aboard were killed. The fateful date was March 16, 1941. My father's name was Lester Barnes and he was from St. John's Newfoundland. If anyone out there has heard of this ship, my father or knows anything at all, would you kindly email me? I am searching for any and all information including any sites where I could look up the information myself. Thanks to all of you out there and I hope to hear from you soon! A million thanks, William Bernard Rose


There is also a picture of the ship HERE


My very kind regards

Chris.
 

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Attempting to respond to Allan West's message that I happened to find on the internet. Below is his message followed by my own reply.

From Allan West.
ss Rio Dorado sunk by Gneisenau 16th March 1941
My uncle was a crew member of the ss Rio Dorado which was sunk on 16th March 1941 by the Gneisenau.
I am writing an account of the loss and am trying to find out as much information about the events leading up to the sinking.
I am also trying to make contact with any relatives of the crew, (who were all lost).
I know the Gneisenau was accompamied by the Scharnhorst in what was known as 'Operation Berlin', where 16 ships were sunk over the weekend of 15th - 16th March.
Allan West
Hi Alan,

From Gordon T.
I happened to be searching the internet and found your reference. (26th October 2009, 21:27).
My father was also on the Rio Dorado, when it was sunk by the Gneisenau or Schornharst. He was Second Officer at the time. Strange thing was that he had joined the Navy and was due to join the HMS Hood soon after this voyage. As you might know, the Hood was later blown out of the water by the Bismark. So his destiny was well and truly sealed.

I don't remember my Dad, being too young at the time, at the age of 4. My elder brother was 5 going on 6 and my younger brother was 2 years old. Our mother received a telegram saying that our dad had been lost at sea. We were living on the outskirts of Liverpool at the time, having just been evacuated from Birkenhead.
We were very fortunate at the time, because we were eligible to go to the Royal Merchant Navy School, a boarding school set up for the sons and daughters of officers in the Merchant Navy, who had been lost at sea. We attended that school until we were 16.
We three brothers live in Western Canada now, and naturally, we are retired.
We would be interested in knowing what further details you may have found out. Sorry I don't have any more to add. Our grandparents broke contact with us soon after that, so any further info they may have had, was not passed on to us.
Regards,
Gordon
 

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Attempting to respond to Allan West's message that I happened to find on the internet. Below is his message followed by my own reply.

From Allan West.
ss Rio Dorado sunk by Gneisenau 16th March 1941
My uncle was a crew member of the ss Rio Dorado which was sunk on 16th March 1941 by the Gneisenau.
I am writing an account of the loss and am trying to find out as much information about the events leading up to the sinking.
I am also trying to make contact with any relatives of the crew, (who were all lost).
I know the Gneisenau was accompamied by the Scharnhorst in what was known as 'Operation Berlin', where 16 ships were sunk over the weekend of 15th - 16th March.
Allan West
Hi Alan,

From Gordon T.
I happened to be searching the internet and found your reference. (26th October 2009, 21:27).
My father was also on the Rio Dorado, when it was sunk by the Gneisenau or Schornharst. He was Second Officer at the time. Strange thing was that he had joined the Navy and was due to join the HMS Hood soon after this voyage. As you might know, the Hood was later blown out of the water by the Bismark. So his destiny was well and truly sealed.

I don't remember my Dad, being too young at the time, at the age of 4. My elder brother was 5 going on 6 and my younger brother was 2 years old. Our mother received a telegram saying that our dad had been lost at sea. We were living on the outskirts of Liverpool at the time, having just been evacuated from Birkenhead.
We were very fortunate at the time, because we were eligible to go to the Royal Merchant Navy School, a boarding school set up for the sons and daughters of officers in the Merchant Navy, who had been lost at sea. We attended that school until we were 16.
We three brothers live in Western Canada now, and naturally, we are retired.
We would be interested in knowing what further details you may have found out. Sorry I don't have any more to add. Our grandparents broke contact with us soon after that, so any further info they may have had, was not passed on to us.
Regards,
Gordon
My Grandfather was also on this ship and he was a Merchant Seamen and based on his log book I found that he registered in May 15, 1940 and stayed onboard for 3-months until July 1940. His name was Patrick William Heffernan.
 

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My Grandfather was also on this ship and he was a Merchant Seamen and based on his log book I found that he registered in May 15, 1940 and stayed onboard for 3-months until July 1940. His name was Patrick William Heffernan
 

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Extracted from my book SHIPPING COMPANY LOSSES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.

BRITISH STRENGTH. Sailed in Convoy OB.294 which left Liverpool on 5 March, 1941 and dispersed in position 51º29´N 20º30´W on the 9th. Sunk by the Scharnhorst on the 15th, in approximate position 42º00´N 43º00´W. Two died and the others taken prisoner.

Other ships sunk and captured.

Sunk by the Scharnhorst

Silverfir. See under SILVER LINE.
Demeterton. See under R. CHAPMAN & SONS.
Athelfoam. See under ATHEL LINE.
Sardinian Prince. See under FURNESS, WITHY.
Mangkai (Du.) Thirty-six died and 9 taken prisoner.

Captured by the Gneisenau

Polykarp (Nor.) (Captain L. B. Guttormsen). Under a prize crew, arrived in the Gironde on 24 March. Apart from the master and a gunner, all her original crew remained on board. After being held on the Scharnhorst for 4 days, the former were taken to Brest on a German tanker. None died.
Bianca (Nor.). (Captain Arne Grønningseter). All, including the Captain’s wife and small son, taken prisoner.
San Casimiro Under prize crews, the Bianca and San Casimiro sailed for France. Both, however, were intercepted by the battle cruiser HMS Renown on 20 March and all 46 prisoners and prize crews taken on board the warship before the ships sank due to scuttling by the Germans. See under San Casimiro, SHELL GROUP.

Sunk by the Gneisenau – Flagship of Admiral Günther Lütjens

Simnia. See under SHELL GROUP.
Granli (Nor.) (Captain Leif Thorbjørnsen). All 16 taken prisoner.
Empire Industry (Captain D.A. Addison). All 38 taken prisoner.
Myson. See under REARSON SMITH LINE.
Royal Crown. All 39 taken prisoner.
Chilian Reefer. See under ALFRED HOLT & CO.
Rio Dorado (Captain A.J. Clare). All 39 died.

Having worked in tandem, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau returned to Brest on 22 March.
 

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My Relative Was Lost On This Ship

Hello Alan,

My Aunties father was killed on this ship when it sunk on that fateful day in 1941. He was called John Robert Barrass and was 25 years old when he was killed.

If you want to know more information about him then please let me know as I have a lot of information that may help you,

Faithfully,

Gary
 

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I believe the company Thompson Steamshipping Co. Ltd. of London were particularly hard hit during the war. They had four vessels, RIO AZUL (1921), RIO BLANCO (1922), RIO CLARO (1922), and RIO DORADO (1924) all lost.

My uncle was an engineer on the Esperance Bay which picked up survivors from the Rio Azul, they had been adrift for days in a lifeboat and were in a pitiful state, I believe the bosun died shortly after being taken on board.
 

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Hi My great grandfather was the chief engineer officer Frederick Oakley Browning and died on board aged 59
I am afraid i don't know much only that he had retired and was called back because of the war.

Karen
 

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Thoughts on why all her was crew lost.

My Great Uncle Albert Stephenson was lost on the Rio Dorado that fateful morning 16th March 1941, he'd said when he left home from Boulmer, Northumberland, it was going to be his last trip, sadly it literally was.
Further to all the information on this thread so far, the date and position she was sunk I'd like to add the time 04.28, she was the first ship sunk in the convoy and the only one tragically with no survivors. I have a couple of theory's why this may have been so, the Gneisenau was making an example to the rest of the convoy to surrender or be sunk, the skipper of the Rio Dorado had continued to transmit her position and hence the position of the German battleships or Rio Dorado had opened fire on the Gniesenau.
I'd recommend typing into "Google" two sources of excellent information, "Schanhorst The history Op Berlin" for a detailed written account and "Schanhorst Part One" on You Tube which contains actual footage of Op Berlin and interviews with crewmen who tell how they would give the Captains of the Merchant ships a chance to surrender before being sunk. From the rest of the ships in that convoy that all or the majority of the crews survived, sadly not on the Rio Dorado.
 

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Hello,
My great uncle, Thomas Brian Simpson was also on the crew.
My dad has told me, that his dad told him, when he was a boy, that the Dorada only had a fake gun on board, so i think maybe your theory that they carried on transmitting, may be correct .
Regards,
Lee Simpson.
 

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My uncle was a crew member of the ss Rio Dorado which was sunk on 16th March 1941 by the Gneisenau.

I am writing an account of the loss and am trying to find out as much information about the events leading up to the sinking.

I am also trying to make contact with any relatives of the crew, (who were all lost).

I know the Gneisenau was accompamied by the Scharnhorst in what was known as 'Operation Berlin', where 16 ships were sunk over the weekend of 15th - 16th March.

Allan West
I am Philip N Brown my uncle was Philip Bradford sadly lost on SS Rio Dorado in 1941. I think often of him a lot but don’t know what he looked like.Whish I had spoken of him more to my mother .Hope to hear more from you.My email is. [email protected]
 
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