Daily Event for January 24, 2010

In 1919 the War Genista was laid down at William Hamilton & Company of Port Glasgow, Scotland, she was completed as Mandasor for the Brocklebank Line of Liverpool. The ship was launched on Dec. 24, 1919 and sailed for the line until Jan. 24, 1941 when she met her end.

Her last voyage began at Calcutta on Jan. 13, 1941 when she left for the United Kingdom, she carried a cargo of pig iron and tea, she also carried eighty-eight crewmen many of which were Indians. Captain Alfred Hill decided to head for the African coast in order to avoid a known German raider operating in the Indian Ocean, a longer route, but safer. On Jan 23 a crewman on Mandasor noticed a ship heading east about ten miles distant to port, he informed Capt. Hill who ordered the ship hard to starboard, turning away from an unknown vessel was standard practice, the unidentified ship did the same thing, turned away from Mandasor. This action convinced Hill that the ship was another friendly following the same orders he had, what he did not know is that the unidentified ship was Schiff 16.

Fregattenkapitän Bernhard Rogge however was not following Admiralty orders and Schiff 16 was not a friendly merchant ship, it was a Hilfskreuzer better known as Atlantis. His plan was to wait until dark to attack the ship, being close to the Seychelles he feared any signal sent by the Mandasor would be picked up by the British and could jeopardize his ship. However after night fell he lost his target and had to wait until daylight to locate it.

At dawn on Jan. 24, 1941 Rogge launched one of his seaplanes to search for the ship, at about 8 a.m. the pilot found it. His first job was to tear down the radio antenna, which he did, then he dropped several bombs setting the ship ablaze. In the engine room two Indian crewmen Ali Ahmed and Jalal Ahmed, both later awarded the B.E.M., continued to keep the ship's engines running at top speed to evade the raider and Hill kept running. Since the aerial was down no signal of distress could be sent, two more of the crew, Abdulla and Ghalam Hossein, went aloft and rigged a new aerial which allowed the distress call to be sent, they were also later awarded the B.E.M. While the British later regarded the action of rigging the new aerial as heroic, at the time the Germans did not.

The aircraft came around for another pass in an attempt to silence the radio and fired a number of shots at the ship to no avail, but soon Atlantis was within range and began to shell the ship with her 6.1" guns hitting her several times and causing fires all over the ship. The bridge had been hit as well other shells landed amidships and Hill knew he could no longer run. He stopped his ship and ordered her abandoned, some survivors stated that Atlantis continued to fire even while the crew were taking to the boats, the shelling caused the deaths of six crewmen.

Atlantis picked up the survivors but lost her seaplane. The aircraft landed, but had been damaged by machine gun fire during the attack, this caused one of the floats to collapse and the plane capsized and sank, the crew however survived. Hill and his crew were landed at Bordeaux and remained POW's until the end of the war. Hill was awarded the O.B.E. for his actions in trying to outrun the Atlantis, and Quartermaster William Steele was awarded the B.E.M. for refusing to be removed from the water, which was infested with sharks, until another man who was badly wounded was picked up. Mandasor slipped beneath the waves, another victim in a long war.
© 2010 Michael W. Pocock

Mandasor, date and location unknown.
Photo courtesy of the Allen Collection

Roll of Honour
In memory of those who lost their lives in SS Mandasor
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Hakim, Abdul
Leigh, Julio B.
2nd Officer
Mawdsley, Leslie
Chief Steward
Mian, Hasdar
Read, Sidney

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MaritimeQuest received the following message on Mar. 12, 2011
I read with interest the above daily update, which I would like to express my thanks for you posting.
I believe my late father, Edward S. Livingston, was one of the officers that served on this ship, I am currently trying to verify this and awaiting a copy of 'Voyage 62', which I will hope might tidy up some loose ends.

As a point of interest, my father escaped internment from a train while being transported to Marlag from occupied France. He subsequently worked his way through unoccupied France and on to Spain where he was interred again before being repatriated and returning to the merchant service.

I have attached a newspaper article (sadly incomplete) and post card (seen below) from a fellow seaman congratulating him on his success which I thought might be of some interest to you. Anecdotally, he claimed to be have been the one responsible for damaging the seaplane by gun fire. He also received a bullet wound in the lower leg as result of the attack. If you might have a crew list for this event, I would be very grateful if you might be able to share this. I hope this information might be of some interest to you.

Ed Livingston

Mar. 24, 2011

Since my previous e-mail, I have received a copy of 'Voyage 62' and can now confirm that my father was the Third Officer on the Mandassor. It would appear he was on watch at the time of the initial seaplane attack. He raised the alarm, opened fire on the aircraft from the bridge and received a bullet wound in the ankle. The book goes on to reaffirm the details I submitted previously regarding the subsequent escape from internment.

Ed Livingston

Edward S. Livingston seen in the early 1940's.

Another photo of Edward S. Livingston.

A letter received by Livingston.

Newspaper article from the Glasgow Herald.

2005 Daily Event