Monday, February 17, 1941 - The attack and sinking of cargo ship Gairsoppa


FGM Brigadier
Castelar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.
Attached to convoy SL-64 under master Gerald Hyland, the SS Gairsoppa (a british steam merchant ship) was returning from India to Britain in 1941 with a cargo of silver ingots destined for the Royal Mint, pig iron and tea. She joined the 8 knot convoy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, but while in a heavy storm and running low on coal off the coast of neutral Ireland, Gairsoppa split off from the convoy and set course for Galway harbour at a reduced speed of 5 knots.


A german Fw 200 aircraft circled her at 08:00 on 16 february, and at 22:30, U-101 under the command of Ernst Mengersen, spotted her. Torpedoed on the starboard side in No. 2 hold, she sank within 20 minutes, claiming the lives of 85 people. The wreck lies 4,700 metres (15,400 ft) below the surface.

It was thought that three lifeboats launched, but only one in the charge of the second officer, R. H. Ayres, with four Europeans and two Lascars on board, made it away; the rest of the crew was lost. By the 13th day only the second officer, the radio officer, and one seaman gunner remained alive. Ayres and his boat reached the Cornish coast two weeks later at Caerthillian Cove in the parish of Landewednack. The boat capsized before the Lizard lifeboat could reach them, and only the second officer was pulled from the sea alive. Two of the men aboard, Robert Frederick Hampshire (Radio Officer), and an unnamed Indian seaman, died trying to get ashore. They are buried at St Wynwallow's, Church Cove, Landewednack. Ayres was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his attempts to rescue his fellow sailors; he lived until 1992

On sept. 26, 2011, Odyssey Marine confirmed the identity and location of the Gairsoppa after less than two months of searching. On july 23, 2013 it was reported that a total of 61 tons of silver bullion had been recovered from the wreckage, with an estimated value of £137 million ($210 million US).

Forty-eight tons of silver bullion has been recovered from the SS Gairsoppa and returned to the British Government but salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc will keep 80% after expenses


FGM Company Sergeant Major
Melb, Oz
For those not versed on 'Colonial' (I assume?) speak:

noun: Lascar; plural noun: Lascars; noun: lascar; plural noun: lascars
  1. a sailor from India or SE Asia.
    "the manning of British ships by lascar crews"