SS Arandora Star

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Arandora (1927–29)

Arandora Star (1929–40)
Owner: Blue Star Line

London — South America

As a cruising liner she made voyages to Norway, Northern capitals, the Mediterranean and the West Indies among others.
Builder: Cammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead
Yard number: 921
Launched: 1 April 1927
Completed: May 1927
Refit: 1929 as cruise liner by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering, Glasgow
1936 Main mast removed and accommodation extended to poop deck
Nickname: "The Wedding Cake" or the "Chocolate Box" due to her paint scheme.
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk 2 July 1940
General characteristics
Class & type: ocean liner and refrigerated cargo ship (1927–29); cruise liner (1929–39); troop ship (1940)

as built:

  • 12,847 GRT
  • 7,815 net

after refit:

  • 14,694 GRT
  • 8,578 net
Length: 512.2 feet (156.1 m)
Beam: 68.3 feet (20.8 m)

as built:

  • 34.0 feet (10.4 m)

after refit:

  • 42.5 feet (13.0 m)
Installed power: 2,078 NHP
Propulsion: four steam turbines, single reduction geared onto two propeller shafts
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h)


  • as built: 164 - 1st Class
  • as a cruise liner: 354 - 1st Class
Notes: sister ships:
Almeda Star, Andalucia Star

SS Arandora Star was a British passenger ship of the Blue Star Line. She was built in 1927 as an ocean liner and refrigerated cargo ship, converted in 1929 into a cruise ship and requisitioned as a troop ship in the Second World War. At the end of June 1940 she was assigned the task of transporting German and Italian internees and prisoners of war to Canada. On 2 July 1940 she was sunk in controversial circumstances by a German U-boat with a large loss of life.


She was built by Cammell Laird and Company in Birkenhead for Blue Star Line and launched as Arandora in 1927. As originally built she measured 12,847 gross register tons (GRT), was 512.2 feet (156.1 m) long, had a beam of 68.3 feet (20.8 m) and accommodated 164 first class passengers. She had a service speed of 16 knots (30 km/h). A major refit in 1929 reduced her cargo space and increased her passenger accommodation to turn her into a cruise ship.

Ship history[edit]

As Arandora she sailed from London to the east coast of South America from 1927 to 1928. In 1929 she was sent to Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited of Glasgow for refitting. In the refit, her gross tonnage was increased to 14,694 and first class accommodation was increased to 354 passengers. A tennis court was also placed abaft the funnels on the boat deck and a swimming pool was installed in the after well deck. Upon completion, she returned to service as a full-time luxury cruise ship. At the time of this refit, she was also renamed Arandora Star. The renaming was done to avoid confusion with Royal Mail Ships which typically bore names beginning and ending in 'A'.[citation needed]

As a cruise ship, the Arandora Star was based mainly in Southampton, and voyaged to many different destinations. These included Norway, the Northern capitals, the Mediterranean, the West Indies, Panama, Cuba, and Florida. Arandora Star also had two unique nicknames because of her colour scheme of a white hull with scarlet ribbon. The nicknames most frequently used were "The Wedding Cake" or the "Chocolate Box".

At the onset of World War II, the Arandora Star was requisitioned and refitted as a transport ship. She evacuated troops from Norway and from France in June 1940 before undertaking what was to be her final voyage taking Axis nationals and prisoners of war to Canada.[1]


On 2 July 1940, having left Liverpool unescorted the day before, under the command of Edgar Wallace Moulton, she was bound for St John's, Newfoundland and Canadian internment camps with nearly 1,200 German and Italian internees, plus other nationalities, including 86 prisoners of war, being transported from Britain. There were also 374 British men, comprising both military guards and the ship's crew. The Italians numbered 712 men of all ages, most of whom had been living in Britain when Benito Mussolini declared war on 10 June.

At 6.58 am off the northwest coast of Ireland, she was struck by a torpedo from the U-47, commanded by U-Boat ace Günther Prien. U-47 fired its single faulty[2] torpedo at Arandora Star. All power was lost at once, and 35 minutes after the torpedo impact, Arandora Star sank. More than eight hundred lives were lost.

"I could see hundreds of men clinging to the ship. They were like ants and then the ship went up at one end and slid rapidly down, taking the men with her... Many men had broken their necks jumping or diving into the water. Others injured themselves by landing on drifting wreckage and floating debris near the sinking ship"

— Sergeant Norman Price[3]

At 0705 hours Malin Head radio received the distress call, which it retransmitted to Land's End and to Portpatrick. Throughout August bodies were washed up on the Irish shore. The first was 71-year-old Ernesto Moruzzi, who was found near Burtonport. Four others were found on the same day, 30 July. During August 1940, 213 bodies were washed up on the Irish coast, of which 35 were from Arandora Star and a further 92 unidentified, most probably from the Arandora Star.[4]


The modified cruise ship carried 14 lifeboats, of which one was immediately destroyed upon torpedo impact. Another could not be lowered off its winches, and two were damaged during their launch and thus useless. At least four of the remaining lifeboats were launched with a very small number of survivors. One other lifeboat was swamped and sank shortly after being launched. One of the internees on Arandora Star was Captain Otto Burfeind, who had been interned after scuttling his ship, the Adolph Woermann. Burfeind stayed aboard Arandora Star organizing her evacuation until she sank and he was lost.

Capt. Moulton in the Daily Express, 1960


After a brief scout by a Short Sunderland flying boat that was following their SOS distress signal, the Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Laurent arrived to pick up the survivors. There were 586 survivors out of 1,216 detainees. The injured were taken to Mearnskirk Hospital. One of the survivors was the athletics coach Franz Stampfl.

The British War Cabinet received a report on the disaster on 3 July 1940,[5] although its impact was over-shadowed to an extent by the Royal Navy attack on Mers-el-Kébir, French Algeria, that sank the French fleet.


Arandora Star's Master, Edgar Wallace Moulton, was posthumously awarded the Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea, and the Canadian commander Harry DeWolf was cited for his heroism in the rescue operation, as was Captain Burfeind.

Wreck and memorials[edit]

SS Arandora Star is located in Oceans around British Isles
SS Arandora Star
Approximate position of Arandora Star's wreck

The wreck's position is 56°30′N 10°38′W / 56.500°N 10.633°W / 56.500; -10.633.[citation needed]

In the weeks following the Arandora Star's sinking many bodies of those who perished were carried by the sea to various points in Ireland and the Hebrides.

In the small graveyard of Termoncarragh, Belmullet, Co. Mayo, Luigi Tapparo, an internee, from Edinburgh, and John Connelly a Lovat Scout, lie buried side by side.

Ceazar Camozzi (1891–1940) from Iseo, Italy was washed ashore on the Inishowen peninsula, Co. Donegal and is buried at the Sacred Heart graveyard, Carndonagh.

46 German civilian detainees, who were being shipped from England to Canada for internment when the ship sunk were buried in the Glencree German war cemetery in County Wicklow

An unidentified sailor, unrecognisable other than for a tattoo bearing the name "Chrissie" was washed ashore near Newhouse, on the Atlantic coast of Kintyre, Argyll and after official investigation, buried at the local churchyard of Killean.

A memorial chapel was built in a cemetery in Bardi, home town of 48 of the dead. Bardi has also named a street Via Arandora Star.

St Peter's Italian Church in Clerkenwell, London, unveiled a memorial plaque in 1960. Each year a mass is held on the first Sunday in November, close to the anniversary of the unveiling of the plaque.

In 2004 the Italian town of Lucca unveiled a monument to 31 local men lost in the sinking, located in the courtyard of the museum of the Paolo Cresci Foundation for the History of Italian Emigration.

Numerous bodies were found on the Scottish island of Colonsay. A memorial was unveiled on Colonsay on 2 July 2005, the 65th anniversary of the tragedy, at the cliff where the body of Giuseppe Delgrosso was found.[6]

A bronze memorial plaque was unveiled on 2 July 2008 at the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, Liverpool. It was relocated to the Pier Head in front of the old Mersey Docks and Harbour Board building after building work was finished.

In 2009, on the 69th anniversary, the Mayor of Middlesbrough unveiled a memorial in the town hall commemorating the town's 13 interned Italians held in cells there prior to deportation and death on the Arandora Star's final voyage.[7]

On 2 July 2010, the 70th anniversary of the sinking, a new memorial was unveiled in St David's Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, Cardiff by the Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales.[8]

On the same day, 2 July 2010, a memorial cloister garden was opened next to St Andrew's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Glasgow.[9]

The wreckage of one of the lifeboats remains visible at Knockvologan beach on the Ross of Mull, largely buried but with its iron suspension hooks still above the sand.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blue Star Line website
  2. ^ Dunmore, Spenser (1999). In Great Waters. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7710-2929-5. "just one torpedo left, which he believed to be faulty, an everyday problem at the time. Prien had already attempted to fire it" 
  3. ^ Ian Hawkins, ed. (2008). Destroyer: An Anthology of First-hand Accounts of the War at Sea 1939–1945. London: Anova Books. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-84486-008-1. 
  4. ^ Kennedy, Michael (2008). Guarding Neutral Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press. ISBN 978-1-84682-097-7. 
  5. ^ Gilbert, Martin (1983). Volume 6: Finest Hour, 1939–41. Winston S. Churchill. London: Heinemann. p. not cited. ISBN 0434291870. 
  6. ^ "S.S. "ARANDORA STAR" 1. The Colonsay Connection". The Colonsay Website. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  7. ^ "After 69 years of families' pain over war-time tragedy, town's mayor says... WE'RE SORRY". Evening Gazette. 2009-07-04. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  8. ^ "Service marks 70th anniversary of ship tragedy". BBC Wales. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  9. ^ "Memorial garden to victims of Arandora sinking opens". The Herald. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 


  • Balestracci, Maria Serena (2008). Arandora Star: from Oblivion to Memory. Parma: Mup Publishers.  The book, with both English and Italian texts, includes rare and previously unpublished material, such as pictures related to the rescue of the Arandora Star taken in 1940 by St. Laurent's crew.
  • Gardner, N. (4 September 2005). "Tragic Waters: The Sinking of the Arandora Star". Hidden Europe. pp. 34–36. 
  • Gillman, Peter; Gilman, Leni (1980). Collar the Lot! How Britain Interned & Expelled its Wartime Refugees. Quartet Books. pp. not cited. ISBN 0704334089.  This book gives the wider context of the sinking, includes first-hand accounts from a number of Italian, German and British survivors, and provided the first full history of the sinking to be published after the Second World War.
  • Miller, William H, Jr. Pictorial Encyclopedia of Ocean Liners, 1860–1994. Dover Maritime Books. 
  • Mitchell, W.H.; Sawyer, S.A. (1967). Cruising Ships. Merchant Ships of the World. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. p. not cited. ISBN 0356015041. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°20′N 10°33′W / 55.333°N 10.550°W / 55.333; -10.550[citation needed]