SS Oropesa

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Career (UK)
Name: SS Oropesa
Namesake: Either of two Oropesa Districts in Peru
Owner: Pacific Steam Navigation Company
Port of registry: United Kingdom Liverpool[1]
Builder: Cammell Laird, Birkenhead[1]
Yard number: 835
Launched: 9 December 1919[2]
Maiden voyage: 4 September 1920[2]
Identification:

UK official number 32485[1]
code letters KGRJ[1] (1920–33)
ICS Kilo.svgICS Golf.svgICS Romeo.svgICS Juliet.svg
call sign GDLP[3] (1934–41)

ICS Golf.svgICS Delta.svgICS Lima.svgICS Papa.svg
Fate: Sunk by torpedo, 16 January 1941[4]
General characteristics
Tonnage: 14,075 GRT[1]
tonnage under deck 11,915[1]
8,608 NRT[1]
Length: 530 ft (160 m)[1]
Beam: 66.3 ft (20.2 m)[1]
Draught: 34 ft 3 12 in (10.45 m)[1]
Depth: 41.2 ft (12.6 m)[1]
Installed power: 1,647 NHP[1]
Propulsion: 6 steam turbines, twin screw[1]
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h)[5]
Capacity: 141 1st class
131 2nd class
360 3rd class[2]
Sensors and
processing systems:
direction finding equipment[1]
Armament: (as DEMS)

SS Oropesa was a British steam turbine ocean liner of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company (PSNC). She was built on Merseyside in 1920 and operated between Liverpool and South America. In 1941 the German submarine U-96 sank her in the Western Approaches, killing 106 people aboard.[4]

Several ships have been called Oropesa, and this one was the second of four in the PSNC fleet. PSNC's first Oropesa was built in 1894 by Harland and Wolff, and served in the First World War as an armed merchant cruiser with the French Navy. The third was a ship transferred from Shaw, Savill & Albion Line to PSNC and renamed Oropesa in 1968. The fourth was launched in 1978 but transferred from PSNC to Shaw, Savill & Albion in 1982.

Building and civilian service[edit]

Cammell Laird built Oropesa at Birkenhead, launching her on 9 December 1919[2] and completing her in September 1920.

She was built as a coal-burner,[2] with 32 corrugated furnaces with a combined grate area of 644 square feet (60 m2) that heated four double ended boilers with a combined heating surface of 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2).[1] They supplied steam at 190 lbf/in2 to six turbines with a combined rating of 1,647 NHP.[1] They drove her twin propeller shafts via single reduction gearing,[1] giving her a cruising speed of 14 knots (26 km/h).

Oropesa '​s maiden voyage began from Liverpool on 4 September 1920, taking her to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina.[2]

In May 1921 PSNC chartered Oropesa to Royal Mail Lines, for whom she worked the HamburgSouthamptonNew York route. She reverted to her owners in November 1922.[2]

In 1924 PSNC had Oropesa converted to oil fuel, which is a more efficient fuel and takes less bunker space. In 1927 the company transferred her to the route between Liverpool and Valparaíso in Chile.[2]

In January 1931[6][7] Oropesa took Edward, Prince of Wales and his brother Prince George to South America. She was then laid up at Dartmouth, Devon from October 1931 until 1937.[2]

War service[edit]

In September 1939 Oropesa was requisitioned as a troop ship.[2] However, she spent the next 16 months carrying general cargo and passengers.

On 27 September carrying general cargo she left Liverpool with Convoy OB 11: an outward-bound convoy which then dispersed in the North Atlantic.[8] On 2 December 1939 Oropesa left Halifax, Nova Scotia with Convoy HXF 11 bound for Liverpool.[9] The next day, about 70 nautical miles (130 km) out of port she and the steam turbine cargo liner Manchester Regiment collided. 50 of the latter's crew were transferred to Oropesa and Manchester Regiment was taken in tow, but the cargo ship foundered and sank with a number of deaths.[4] Oropesa returned the survivors to Halifax.[9] On 12 January 1940 carrying general cargo Oropesa left Halifax again, this time with Convoy HXF 16, reaching Dover on 24 January.[10]

On 3 March 1940 Oropesa left Liverpool with Convoy OB 103.[11] Two days later, on 5 March, OB 103 joined Convoy OG 21F, which was bound for Gibraltar. Further out at sea Oropesa left OG 21F and continued independently to Bermuda.[12] On 7 May carrying general cargo Oropesa left Bermuda with Convoy BHX 41, which joined Convoy HX 41 at sea on 13 May.[13] HX 41 reached Liverpool on 23 May.[14]

On 15 June 1940 carrying general cargo Oropesa left Liverpool with Convoy OB 168. Two days later, on 17 June, OB 168 formed Convoy OG 34F, which was bound for Gibraltar.[15] Further out at sea Oropesa left OG 34F and continued independently to Panama.[16] She returned with another general cargo, sailing independently as far as Bermuda. On 27 August she left Bermuda with Convoy BHX 69, which joined Convoy HX 69 at sea on 1 September.[17] HX 69 reached Liverpool on 12 September.[18]

Oropesa '​s next destination was Suez in Egypt. In June Italy had entered the War and France had surrendered. This made the Mediterranean unsafe for Allied ships, so thereafter nearly all Allied merchant shipping to the Near East and the Indian Ocean went via the South Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope. On 3 October 1940 Oropesa left Liverpool with Convoy WS 3A, which reached Cape Town, South Africa on 27 October.[19] On 29 October she continued from Cape Town with Convoy WS 3, which reached Suez in 16 November.[20]

Final voyage and sinking[edit]

SS Oropesa is located in Oceans around British Isles
SS Oropesa
Approximate position of Oropesa '​s wreck
The destroyer HMS Westcott, which with two Royal Navy tugs rescued 143 survivors

Oropesa left Suez on 30 November with Convoy BS 9A, which dispersed off Aden on 5 December.[21] On 12 December 1940 Oropesa left Mombasa in Kenya, calling at Beira, Mozambique, on 19 December and Cape Town on Christmas Day.[4]

On 16 January 1941 at 0356 hrs Oropesa was southeast of Rockall in the Western Approaches when the German Type VIIC submarine U-96, commanded by Kptlt Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, hit her in the stern with one G7a torpedo. Oropesa did not sink immediately, so U-96 waited and at 0440 hrs fired another torpedo, but that malfunctioned and went in circles. U-96 fired again at 0503 and 0559 hrs, this time hitting Oropesa beneath her bridge and amidships. The liner capsized and sank at 0616 hrs.[4]

The Master, Harry Croft, 98 crew, a DEMS gunner and six passengers were killed. The Royal Navy tugs HMS Superman and HMS Tenacity and W-class anti-submarine destroyer HMS Westcott rescued 109 crew, one DEMS gunner and 33 passengers and landed them at Liverpool.[4]

U-96 had been at the scene for more than two hours but escaped before Westcott could detect her. The next morning the submarine struck in the Western Approaches again, sinking SS Almeda Star and killing all 360 people aboard.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Lloyd's Register, Steamers and Motor Ships. London: Lloyd's Register. 1933. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Erskine, Barry. "Oropesa (II)". Pacific Steam Navigation Company. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Lloyd's Register, Steamers and Motor Ships. London: Lloyd's Register. 1934. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2013). "Oropesa". Ships hit by U-boats. Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Harnack 1938, p. 557.
  6. ^ "Arrival at Windsor by Air". The Straits Times (National Library, Singapore). 30 April 1931. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Princes Home". The Advertiser and Register (National Library of Australia). 1 May 1931. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy OB.11". OB Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Hague, Arnold. "Convoy HXF.11". HXF Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy HXF.16". HXF Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy OB.103". OB Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy OG.21F". OG Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy BHX.41". BHX Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy HX.41". BHX Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy OB.103". OB Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy OG.21F". OG Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy BHX.69". BHX Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  18. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy HX.69". BHX Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy WS.3". Shorter Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy WS.3". Shorter Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Hague, Arnold. "Convoy BS.9A". Shorter Convoy Series. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2013). "Almeda Star". uboat.net. Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 

Sources[edit]

  • Harnack, Edwin P (1938) [1903]. All About Ships & Shipping (7th ed.). London: Faber and Faber. p. 557. 

External links[edit]

  • Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2013). "Oropesa". Crew lists from ships hit by U-boats. Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 

Coordinates: 56°17′N 12°00′W / 56.28°N 12°W / 56.28; -12