SS Point Pleasant Park

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SS Point Pleasant Park Monument, Point Pleasant Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Unveiled in 1967 by surviving crew, the German Commander who torpedoed the vessel Alfred Eick had a wreath placed at the base of the monument during the ceremony[1]
Career
Name: SS Point Pleasant Park
Owner: Furness Withy (Canada) Ltd, Montreal
Operator: Park Steamship Co Ltd (1943)
Witherington & Everett (1944)
Port of registry: United Kingdom Montreal
Builder: Davie Ship Building & Repair Co. Ltd.
In service: 8 November 1943
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk, 23 February 1945
General characteristics
Tonnage: 7,136 tons
Propulsion: steam
Crew: 58 (9 dead and 49 survivors)

SS Point Pleasant Park was a merchant steamship constructed for Canada’s Merchant Navy in 1942 during World War II as part of Canada's Park ship program.[2] She carried a variety of wartime cargos to Atlantic and Indian Ocean ports until she was sunk by the German submarine U-510 off the coast of South Africa on 23 February 1945 while sailing independently on a voyage from Saint John, New Brunswick to Cape Town. This was last vessel to be sunk in South African waters during World War II.

Construction[edit]

Point Pleasant was built by the Canadian Park Steamship Company Limited, a Crown Corporation set up in 1942 to aid the Allied war effort by building and operating cargo ships to replace those lost to enemy action and ensure an ample flow of supplies to Allied forces. The ship was a 10,000 ton version of the Canadian Park Ship program, a design similar to the American Liberty ships. She was built at Davie Ship Building & Repair Co. Ltd. at Lauzon, Quebec and entered service the 8 November 1943. The ship was named after Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia, following the tradition of naming Park Ships after Canadian wilderness and recreation parks.

Career[edit]

Point Pleasant had mostly British officers led by Captain John Everall but otherwise the crew were Canadian. She left Montreal on 5 December 1943, bound for Cape Town, South Africa. She stopped at Halifax for minor engine repairs and while there, the mayor of Halifax, John Lloyd, presented Captain Everall, with a framed picture of the ornate gates to Point Pleasant which was hung in the officer's dining room aboard the ship. The Halifax Herald featured the ship on its front page in honour of the connection between the city's landmark park and the war effort.[3] The ship left Halifax in a convoy on 9 December 1943, stopping at New York and then Port of Spain, Trinidad where she refueled and continued in convoy. Off the coast of Brazil, she was detached from the convoy to sail alone to Cape Town arriving in early February 1944. The ship then called on Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban in South Africa and Beira, Mozambique before returning to Cape Town with a cargo of sugar. Point Pleasant sailed next to Lagos, Nigeria and collected a cargo of palm oil, peanuts and cocoa for Montreal where she arrived on 19 June 1944. Most of her crew re-enlisted for her second voyage, an indication of a happy ship, and she left Montreal on 3 July 1944 repeating a similar voyage in convoy as far as Brazil and then unescorted to Cape Town, East London and Durban before loading a cargo of manganese ore from Takoradi, Ghana which she delivered to Philadelphia. Point Pleasant arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick on 18 December 1944 where Captain Everall took another command and was replaced by Captain Owen Owen. She left Saint John on 8 January 1945 for her final voyage carrying general cargo and travelled in convoy to New York and Trinidad before she was detached from convoy protection off the coast of Brazil on 11 February 11, 1945, bound for Cape Town.[4]

The Attack[edit]

On the 23 February 1945 at approximately 14:00 the ship was sailing independently approximately 500 miles north west of Cape Town, South Africa when U-510 skippered by Cdr Alfred Eick fired on the ship. U-510 hit Point Pleasant Park in the area of the quarters for the engine room crew. This torpedo immediately killed 8 of the crew and trapped 38 others below. The 38 crew were eventually rescued by the officers with only 6 inches of air space left in their compartment.[5]

Twenty minutes after the torpedo struck the Master gave the order to abandon ship. 49 men took to the sea in 2 open boats. The boats moved off and stood by. Ten minutes later the German submarine U-532 surfaced, fired two bursts from her 37mm AA gun into the waterline of the bow to flood the forward holds and then left the area. She then moved off on the surface in a westerly direction. As the submarine moved off, the Master attempted to return to his ship but before they could get alongside the ship sank. As Point Pleasant sank, hull stress caused the steam whistle to sound in a long final salute as the ship went under.[6]

The Rescue[edit]

SS Point Pleasant Park Plaque, Halifax, Nova Scotia
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The torpedo blast had destroyed the ship's radio antenna so no distress call could be sent out. The lifeboats plotted a course for closest land, the coast of South-West Africa (today known as Namibia) over 300 miles away. The two life boats soon lost sight of each other. In one boat 21 sailors were crowded in space made for 11 or 12. Rations were 2 ounces of water per day per man, some pemmican – hard grain mixed with a lot of fat – two spoons full of that each day, two biscuits and a little piece of chocolate. The overcrowded boats endured blistering sun and survived a significant storm but were comforted by the Southern Cross constellation which appeared each night showing they were on course.[7]

The Master, Captain Owen Owens and 19 crew members made landfall at Mercury Island on Namibia's Skeleton Coast on 2 March and were brought by the fishing vessel Boy Russell to Luderitz, South West Africa. The other lifeboat with 29 crew members, many injured, were picked up 10 days after the attack on 4 March by the South African trawler HMSAS Africana (T01) north of Spencer Bay and landed at Walvis Bay, South West Africa. After recovery in hospital, they went by rail to Cape Town and made their way back to Canada via the United States.

Commemoration[edit]

Engraving of SS Point Pleasant Park, Canadian Merchant Navy Monument, Sackville Landing, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Commander Owens received the OBE on 3 Dec 1946. The British Empire Medal was awarded to five crew members: Laurant Girard, Robert Korogi, Edgar Proctor, Frank Rosendaal, John Slade.[8]

Twenty-two years after the sinking of the Point Pleasant Park, the survivors erected a memorial to their lost comrades in Halifax. The memorial was organized by Captain Paul Tooke, a Canadian Coast Guard captain who began his career aboard Point Pleasant rising from seaman to third officer on the ship. He worked with fellow survivor Philip Caddock to raise the moment in co-operation with the park commission.[9] The monument was unveiled on 6 July 1967. Research and publicity over the monument resulted in correspondence with the captain of U510, Alfred Eick, wrote to say that his sub had fired the torpedo. He also sent $30 ($180 in 2013) for a wreath which was placed at the base of the monument in a ceremony on 25 November 1967.[10] Eick said he greatly regretted the loss of life for his action. Until the news of monument had reached him, he had assumed that all the crew had survived, as his torpedo had struck far aft on the ship and he had observed the orderly evacuation of two full lifeboats before he left the scene fearing that an air attack. He hoped the monument would help former enemies become friends and aid the cause of peace.[11]

The nine dead are listed on the Halifax Memorial to the Merchant Marines in Point Pleasant Park: Joseph Bayliss (age 18), Alfred Malmberg (age 19), Leslie Toth (age 20), Louis Wilkinson (age 21), Patrick Guthrie (age 24), Frederick Breen (age 29), George Edwards (age 34), Ronald Hallahan (age 54), Robert Munroe (age 39).

A large scale model of Point Pleasant forms a centerpiece of the "Battle of the Atlantic" exhibit at the Halifax Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

See also[edit]

Military history of Nova Scotia

References[edit]

Texts

  • "The Canadian Naval Chronicle 1939-1945" by Darlington, Robert and McKee, Fraser M. 1998, Vanwell Publishing, Ontario ISBN 1551250179. Chapter 65, page 241.
  • The Unknown Navy: Canada's World War II Merchant Navy by Robert G. Halford. 1995. p. 38.

Endnotes

  1. ^ Ron Young. The Most Dangerous Occupation of WWII. Downhome Magazine
  2. ^ SS Point Pleasant Park at uboat.net
  3. ^ "Point Pleasant Park", Halifax Herald December 15, 1943, p. 1
  4. ^ Capt. Paul W. Tooke, "Southern Cross Provides Perpetual Flame to Gallant Ship Named After Halifax's Point Pleasant Park", Halifax Mail Star, January 16, 1967, p. 28
  5. ^ SS Point Pleasant Park (7,136 GRT), Captain Owen Owen, Master, Canadian Park Steamship Co. freighter was sunk by a torpedo and gunfire from U-510, Kptlt Alfred Eick, Knight's Cross, CO, off Cape Town, South Africa, in position 29.42S, 009.58E. Nine of her crew of fifty-eight men was lost. The survivors were adrift for nine days before a fishing vessel and SAS Africana rescued them. U-510 was enroute to Germany with a load of tungsten from the Far East when she encountered Point Pleasant Park. After a successful patrol in Brazilian waters, U-510 left Lorient on her second patrol assigned as one of the Monsun boats. Eick operated for a few months in the Indian Ocean before heading back in Jan 45 with a load of important goods (tin, quinine, etc.) on board. After being supplied with oil southeast of Madagascar by KKpt Oesten's U-861, who was short of fuel herself, U-510 ran out of fuel in the North Atlantic, but somehow managed to reach base at St. Nazaire. Alfred Eick was in French captivity from May 45 to 26 Jul 47. After his release, he studied business management at the University of Hamburg later worked as a tax adviser. (Dave Shirlaw)
  6. ^ Capt. Paul W. Tooke, "Southern Cross", p. 29
  7. ^ Capt. Paul W. Tooke, "Southern Cross", p. 29
  8. ^ http://www.rcnvr.com/Merchant%20Seaman%20in%20WW2.php
  9. ^ "Memorial Planned at Park", Halifax Mail Star, January 16, 1967, p. 29
  10. ^ Ron Young. The Most Dangerous Occupation of WWII. Downhome Magazine
  11. ^ "Noble Geste unterstreicht die ritterliche Freundschaft zur See", Neue Westfalische - Bielefelder Tageblatt, November 27, 1967

External links[edit]