Daily Event for January 20, 2012

Built by Richardson Duck at Stockton-on-Tees in 1918 for the Anglo-Mexican Petroleum Company, the War Anglian was a standard World War I tanker of 5,378 gross tons. In 1920 she was sold to French owners, renamed Olympe and converted into a dry cargo ship. In 1923 she was sold again and returned to British ownership and was renamed Dayton, then in 1927 she was renamed Coniscliffe.

The last name and ownership change came in 1932 when she was purchased by G. A. Dracoulis of Athens and renamed Ekatontarchos Dracoulis. On January 20, 1940 she was en route from the Rio de la Plata to the U.K. when she was torpedoed and sunk by U-44 off Portugal. Survivors were seen entering the lifeboats and as the ship was obviously going down, no further action was taken to secure her sinking by U-44. Twelve survivors were picked up by the Italian freighter Nino Padre. Another report the following day stated that survivors were landed at Lisbon by a Spanish trawler on the 24th. It is unclear if the survivors had been transferred to the Spanish ship, or if these were the men were from the missing lifeboat. In all six men were lost in the sinking.

There was no attempt to check on the survivors by the U-boat crew and this was clearly pointed out in the press in the days to come. It was called "German Barbarity" and "German callousness" and it may well have been, but this was just the beginning of what would be a very brutal war and submarine commanders, of all belligerent nations, would make the same decisions as was made by the commander of U-44.

U-44 was herself lost just weeks later in mid March when she hit a mine taking her entire crew with her. It is interesting to note that her commander, Kapitänleutnant Ludwig Mathes, sank 8 ships (including the Dracoulis) for a total over 30,000 tons on his first war patrol (Jan. 15 - Jan. 28, 1940) and may have become one of the top U-boat aces of the war if he had lived.
© 2012 Michael W. Pocock