SS Petrella

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  • Pasteur (1923–1928)
  • Aveyron (1928–1941)
  • Plisson et Cie de Bayonne (1923–1924)
  • Compagnie des Chargeurs Français (1924–1928)
  • Compagnie Générale d'Armement Maritime (1928–1939)
  • Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (1939–1941)
Builder: Ateliers et Chantiers de la Gironde, Graville, Le Havre
Launched: 3 February 1923
In service: 10 August 1923
Identification: Official number: 5606113
Fate: Transferred to Italy, 10 July 1941
Name: Capo Pino
Owner: Government of Italy
Operator: Cia Genovese di Navigazione à Vapore SA, Genoa
Acquired: 10 July 1941
Fate: Captured by Germany, 8 September 1943
Name: Petrella
Owner: Mittelmeer-Reederei GmbH
Acquired: 8 September 1943
Fate: Sunk, 8 February 1944
General characteristics [1]
Type: Cargo liner
Length: 110.6 m (362 ft 10 in) o/a
Beam: 14.98 m (49 ft 2 in)
Propulsion: 1 × 2,500 hp (1,864 kW) 3-cylinder inverted triple expansion steam engine, 1 shaft
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)

SS Petrella was a German merchant ship, which was torpedoed and sunk on 8 February 1944, north of Souda Bay, Crete, killing some 2,670 of the Italian POWs aboard.[2]

Service history[edit]

The ship was built under the name Pasteur as a cargo liner, one a class of nine ships ordered by the French government to replenish its merchant fleet after the losses of World War I. The ship was launched on 3 February 1923 from the Ateliers et Chantiers de la Gironde shipyard at Graville, Le Havre.[3] On 11 July she was sold to the Plisson et Cie company of Bayonne, entering service on 10 August 1923.[1] The following year she was sold to the Cie des Chargeurs Français, and in 1925 was chartered to the Compagnie Navale de l'Océanie shipping line, a subsidiary of the Ballande & Fils group, for service to New Caledonia.[1] In June 1928 the ship was bought by the Compagnie Générale d'Armement Maritime (CGAM) and renamed Aveyron. She was operated by the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT) company, and was finally transferred to the ownership of CGT in 1939.[1]

On 10 July 1941, following the French armistice the ship was transferred to the ownership of the Italian Government, and renamed Capo Pino was operated by the Cia Genovese di Navigazione à Vapore, based at Genoa.[1]

The ship was captured by the Germans at Patras, Greece, on 8 September 1943, following the announcement of the Italian capitulation.[3] She was renamed Petrella and operated under the ownership of the Mittelmeer-Reederei GmbH [de] of Hamburg,[1] a state-owned company that managed captured ships in the Mediterranean on behalf of the German Wehrmacht, with civilian crews under military jurisdiction.[4]


Crete had been captured by the Germans in May/June 1941, and was occupied by a mixed German-Italian force as "Fortress Crete". The Italian 51st Infantry Division Siena consisted of some 21,700 men, which occupied the easternmost prefecture of Lasithi. Following the armistice of September 1943 the Italians in Crete were disarmed by the Germans without major problems. As elsewhere, they were given the choice to continue the war alongside Germany, or to be sent to the Reich as military internees to perform forced labour. A minority chose to continue the fight and formed the Legione Italiana Volontari Creta.

As ordered by Adolf Hitler, the Italian internees were transported back to Germany.[citation needed] On 8 February 1944, some 3,173 prisoners were crammed into the hull of the Petrella. The ship was detected by the British submarine HMS Sportsman and torpedoed, despite having been clearly marked as a POW transporter. Some 2,670 prisoners died when the ship sank; a factor in the high death toll was that the guards did not open the holds where the POWs were and fired on those trying to get out.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Pasteur". 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Petrella Passenger/Cargo Ship (1923–1944)". 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Cargo ship Aveyron". French Lines Association. 2013. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  4. ^ "Deutsche Mittelmeer-Reederei". Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart. 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  5. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur (2013). "HMS Sportsman (P229)". Retrieved 1 July 2013.

Coordinates: 35°32′N 24°18′E / 35.533°N 24.300°E / 35.533; 24.300