Daily Event for September 2, 2010

On September 2, 1902 the tanker Cymbeline was launched at Armstrong Whitworth in Newcastle. She was built for the Bear Creek Oil & Shipping Company and managed by C. T. Bowring of Liverpool. On Sept. 4, 1915 the Cymbeline was sunk by SMS U-33, six of her crew were lost.

A new Cymbeline was built and launched at William Hamilton & Company in Port Glasgow on Oct. 13, 1927, her owners were the Oil Tank Steamship Company, but she was also managed by C. T. Bowring. The new tanker was 420' long, 54' wide and 6,317 GRT. She was powered by a triple expansion engine and could make 10 knots.

On September 2, 1940 Cymbeline was en route from Gibraltar to Trinidad traveling in ballast when in the early morning she was sighted by the Hilfskreuzer Widder, known by the British as Raider D. The German ship had just finished making some repairs to the engines giving her a little more speed than she had been able to make for some days. Now at 14 knots and blowing thick black smoke, Widder and her captain, Kapitän zur See Helmut von Ruckteschell gave chase.

The smoke was easily seen by the master of Cymbeline, J.A. Chadwick and his crew and they began to signal that they were being chased by an unidentified ship. Of course at 10 knots he could not outrun the raider, but it took all day and into the night to catch her. Chadwick and his men made a good run, but he knew his ship was to become a victim of a German raider.

Just after dark von Ruckteschell was within range, he fired a starshell and then fired on the Cymbeline hitting her in the boiler room causing steam to fill the after part of the ship. Von Ruckteschell did not fire again until he was informed that Cymbeline was still sending radio signals. He opened fire again and finally the radio signals stopped, but the Cymbeline was ablaze and the gunfire from Widder had killed seven of Cymbeline's crewmen

In the dark Chadwick had ordered the ship abandoned, the boats were lowered and they soon made away, unknown to the Germans. After sinking the ship with a torpedo, the crew of Widder, at the direction of von Ruckteschell, searched for several hours for any survivors. The search for survivors was something that von Ruckteschell did only at the urging of some of his officers and men. A month earlier Widder had sunk the Norwegian tanker Beaulieu and von Ruckteschell had ordered his men to use the machine guns to rake the ship's decks to suppress the crew before she sank, no attempt was made to rescue survivors. This was not the first time that von Ruckteschell had given such orders and his actions were not welcome by his crew, after the war he would be tried for war crimes for these actions.

In a strange turn of fate the survivors of the Beaulieu, who von Ruckteschell had left to the will of the sea on Aug. 4, were picked up Aug. 8 by none other than Chadwick and the Cymbeline! Being over 1,300 miles from the coast of Africa perhaps it was lucky for them that the sinking of Beaulieu had in part inspired their rescue, in all twenty-six men were picked up by the Germans, but the master and two others could not be found. Chadwick and two officers were not picked up until Sept. 16, the tanker Yolanda found them and took them to Venezuela.
© 2010 Michael W. Pocock

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

Balmer, Adam G.
1st Radio Officer
Barrett, John W.
Chapman, Sidney J.
Holdham, Francis H.
2nd Radio Officer
MacKenzie, Allan
Able Seaman
Martin, Windsor
2nd Engineer Officer
Mason, Hugh
Able Seaman
Lambert, Charles E.
Chief Steward
(Possibly died as POW at Milag Nord, date of death June 27, 1941)

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