Daily Event for January 7, 2013

January 7, 1940 two British freighters were sunk by mines laid hours earlier by Z-15 Erich Steinbrinck (Korvettenkapitän Rolf Johannesson), Z-14 Friedrich Ihn (Korvettenkapitän Günther Wachsmuth), Z-16 Friedrich Eckoldt (Korvettenkapitän Alfred Schemmel). A number of ships would be lost on these mines including HMS Grenville H-03 which was lost on on Jan. 19.

Cedrington Court (ex-War Viper), a 5,160 ton freighter owned by the Court Line was inbound from Buenos Aires with a cargo of wheat when they hit one of the mines. The starboard lifeboat was lowered and many of the thirty-four crewmen escaped, but Captain Burge and a few others had to jump for their lives. The ship went down in ten minutes, but the entire crew got away. A deck boy had his leg broken when he was thrown into the air by the explosion, and one man nearly drowned before being picked up, but a man on the drifter which came to their aid jumped overboard and hauled him in. The drifter that picked the men up later transferred them to a local lifeboat which landed them.

The other ship lost was the cargo steamer Towneley. She was built by Wood, Skinner & Company and owned by the Burnett Steamship Company, both of Newcastle. The mine exploded abaft of the bridge sending a large cloud of coal dust into the air. She went down slowly which allowed plenty of time for the twenty-four man crew to lower the boats and escape. A few men were injured, but apparently none seriously. They made it to a light house and were later taken in by the lifeboat. The two ships sank only eight miles apart and only a few miles from Margate.

The aforementioned Towneley was built in 1923 and was the last so named ship. There were three ships named Towneley, all three were built by Wood, Skinner & Company and all three were owned by Burnett. The first Towneley was built in 1904, but was sold in 1910 to a German company. Under different names (including Nordfels in the Second World War) she survived both world wars and was scrapped in 1959. The second Towneley was built in 1910 and was sunk on Jan. 31, 1918 by SMS U-46, six of the crew were lost.
© 2013 Michael W. Pocock