MV Sebastiano Veniero
|The Netherlands, Italy|
|Port of registry:|
|Builder:||Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico (CRDA)|
|Launched:||7 March 1940|
449 ft 6 in (137.01 m) p/p471 ft (143.5 m) o/a
|Beam:||60 ft 11 in (18.6 m)|
|Depth:||26 ft (8 m)|
|Installed power:||1,320 NHP, 5,500 bhp|
|Propulsion:||FIAT diesel engine|
MV Sebastiano Veniero, formerly MV Jason, was a 6,310 GRT cargo and passenger motor ship that was built in Monfalcone, Italy in 1940. In 1941 she was damaged by a Royal Navy submarine in the Mediterranean Sea, killing at least 300 UK and Dominion prisoners of war, and possibly many more. She did not sink but was beached on the coast of the Peloponnese, where she was torpedoed again a week later and became a total loss.
Building and seizure
Lloyd Triestino could not afford to pay for the ship, so CRDA sold her to Nederlandsche Stoomvaart Maatschappij Oceaan (NSMO), the Dutch subsidiary of the UK shipping company Blue Funnel Line. NSMO followed Blue Funnel's policy of naming its ships after figures from Greek antiquity and mythology. Sebastiano Veniero was renamed Jason after the mythological character of the same name.
Jason began her sea trials on 9 May 1940, before Italy entered the Second World War. But the next day Germany invaded the Netherlands, and Italian authorities seized her and assigned her to the Italian shipping company Società Italiana di Armamento (Sidarma). She was renamed Sebastiano Veniero after a 16th-century Venetian admiral and Doge, Sebastiano Venier (1496–1578). Her NSMO crew travelled to Marseille, whence the Blue Funnel ship Perseus repatriated them to the UK.
On 9 December 1941 the ship was carrying about 2,000 UK and Dominion PoWs from North Africa to occupied Europe when the Royal Navy Grampus-class submarine HMS Porpoise torpedoed her off the south coast of the Peloponnese about 5 nautical miles (9 km) south of Pylos. Many of the PoWs were in her cargo holds, two of which were quickly flooded by the torpedo explosion. One source gives different figures for the total number of prisoners killed: either 300 or 450–500.
The holds were opened to release trapped PoWs and the damaged ship was beached close to Methoni Castle on Cape Methoni. Many PoWs jumped into the sea and took their chance to swim to the rocky shore. A South African lance corporal, Bernard Friedlander of the 3rd Battalion, Transvaal Scottish Regiment, swam ashore with a rope, which took him 90 minutes. The rope was then used to haul a cable ashore, which was made fast on land. Nearly 1,600 survivors then used the cable to reach safety.
A German officer saw Friedlander's heroism on 9 December and recommended the lance corporal for a UK bravery award. In July 1945 Friedlander was awarded the George Medal. In 1947 King George VI toured South Africa, and at a ceremony in Johannesburg on 31 March personally decorated Friedlander with the medal.
Accounts of the sinking of the Sebastiano Veniero were recorded by several POWs on board. A book on the topic was published in 1983 entitled No Honour No Glory by Spence Edge and Jim Henderson.
- Lettens, Jan (2 June 2013). "Jason MV (1940~1940) Sebastiano Veniero MV [+1941]". WreckSite. wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- "Alfred Holt & Co the Blue Funnel Line (page 15)". Merchant Navy Association. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- Lettens, Jan; de Neumann, Bernard (2 June 2013). "MV Sebastiano Veniero [+1941]". WreckSite. wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- "No. 37185". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 20 July 1945. p. 3765.