SS Arandora Star

Coordinates: 55°20′N 10°33′W / 55.333°N 10.550°W / 55.333; -10.550
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Arandora Star 1940.jpg
Arandora Star as a troop ship in 1940
NameArandora (1927–29) Arandora Star (1929–40)
OwnerBlue Star Line
Port of registryLondon
RouteLondon − South America As a cruise liner, she made voyages to Norway, northern capitals, the Mediterranean and the West Indies among other destinations
BuilderCammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead
Yard number921
Launched4 January 1927
CompletedMay 1927
In service1927
Out of service1940
Refit1929 as cruise liner by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering, Glasgow 1936 Main mast removed and accommodation extended to poop deck
Nickname(s)"The Wedding Cake" or the "Chocolate Box", due to her paint scheme.
FateSunk, 2 July 1940
General characteristics
TypeOcean liner and refrigerated cargo ship (1927–29); cruise liner (1929–39); troop ship (1940)
  • as built:
  • 12,847 GRT
  • 7,815 NRT
  • after refit:
  • 14,694 GRT
  • 8,578 NRT
Length512.2 feet (156.1 m)
Beam68.3 feet (20.8 m)
  • as built:
  • 34.0 feet (10.4 m)
  • after refit:
  • 42.5 feet (13.0 m)
Decks7 decks
Installed power2,078 NHP
Propulsionfour steam turbines, single reduction geared onto two propeller shafts
Speed16 knots (30 km/h)
  • Passengers:
  • as built: 164 − 1st Class
  • as a cruise liner: 354 − 1st Class
NotesSister ships: Almeda Star, Andalucia Star, Avalona Star, Avila Star,

SS Arandora Star, originally SS Arandora, 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 troopship in the Second World War. At the end of June 1940 she was assigned the task of transporting interned Anglo-Italian and Anglo-German civilians as well as a small number of legitimate prisoners of war to Canada. On 2 July 1940 she was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland with a large loss of life, 805 people.


In 1925 Blue Star ordered a set of new liners for its new LondonRio de JaneiroBuenos Aires route. Cammell Laird of Birkenhead built three sister ships: Almeda, Andalucia and Arandora. John Brown & Company of Clydebank built two: Avelona and Avila. Together the quintet came to be called the "luxury five".[1]

Cammell Laird launched Arandora on 4 January 1927 and completed her in May.[2] 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.

Peacetime service[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 aft of 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.

As a cruise ship Arandora Star was based mainly in Southampton, and voyaged to many different destinations, calling in some instances at home ports such as Immingham.[3] Cruises included Norway, the Northern capitals, the Mediterranean,[4] the West Indies, Panama, Cuba, and Florida. The ship's colour scheme of a white hull with scarlet ribbon gave rise to her nicknames of "The Wedding Cake" or "The Chocolate Box".[5]

Second World War service[edit]

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Arandora Star was en route from Cherbourg to New York. She returned to Britain via Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she joined the very first HX series convoy, Convoy HX 1.[6]

At the end of September, the Admiralty assessed the ship at Dartmouth, Devon and decided she was unsuitable for conversion to an armed merchant cruiser.[5] In December, she was ordered to Avonmouth where she was fitted with the Admiralty Net Defence anti-torpedo system, consisting of underwater wire mesh suspended from booms either side of the ship.[7] She was fitted out at Avonmouth and then spent three months based at Portsmouth testing nets of various gauges in the English Channel. On tests the system was successful at catching torpedoes and reduced Arandora Star's speed by only 1 knot (1.85 km/h). In March 1940, the ship was sent to Devonport where the equipment was removed. She was then sent to Liverpool for orders.[8]

On 30 May, the ship left Liverpool for Norway to help evacuate Allied troops. She sailed unescorted to Harstad, where she embarked 1,600 personnel; most of them members of the Royal Air Force in addition to some French and Polish troops.[9] She left Harstad on 7 June[6] and took her evacuees to Glasgow.

On 14 June, the ship left Glasgow en route for Brest, in Brittany, to rescue troops and refugees, a part of Operation Aerial. Continuous Luftwaffe attacks on the port and town prevented her from entering, and only 12 refugees managed to get out by boat to the ship. Arandora Star escaped with the aid of a destroyer, which provided anti-aircraft cover and came under heavy air attack. The liner took her handful of evacuees to Falmouth, where she bunkered. She then went to Quiberon Bay, on the Bay of Biscay, where she evacuated about 300 people from Saint-Nazaire on 17 June. Sources disagree whether she took these to Falmouth[9] or Plymouth.[6] Arandora Star's trip to Saint-Nazaire was fairly uneventful; on the same day, Luftwaffe aircraft sank RMS Lancastria at the port killing several thousand people.

Arandora Star's next trip to France was to the southwest, near the border with Spain. There she found Bayonne under Luftwaffe attack, but assisted by a destroyer, she picked up about 500 people who were in an overloaded small craft adrift off the beach. These she took to Falmouth, before returning to the same area. She entered Saint-Jean-de-Luz, where some Polish troops were trapped. She embarked roughly 1,700 troops and refugees, including the Polish staff, and left just in time as Luftwaffe aircraft approached to bomb the town. She took her evacuees to Liverpool.[10]


What became Arandora Star's final voyage, was the transport of Italian and German internees, who had been detained under Defence Regulation 18B, as well as German prisoners of war to Canada.[2] In Liverpool on 27–30 June, she embarked with 734 interned Italian men, 479 interned German men, 86 German prisoners of war, and 200 military guards, in addition to her crew of 174 officers and men.[11] Her Master was Captain Edgar Wallace Moulton. The ship was bound for St John's, Newfoundland, and her internees for Canadian internment camps.

Sources disagree as to whether the ship left Liverpool on 30 June, or at 4am on 2 July 1940. She sailed unescorted, and early on the morning of 2 July she was about 75 miles west of Bloody Foreland, Ireland, when she was torpedoed. U-47, commanded by Günther Prien, struck Arandora Star with a single torpedo. Prien believed the torpedo to be faulty,[12] but it detonated against Arandora Star's starboard side, flooding her aft engine room. All engine room personnel, including two engineer officers, were killed. Her turbines, main generators and emergency generators were all immediately put out of action and therefore knocked out all lights and communications aboard.[11]

Chief officer Frederick Brown gave the ship's position to the radio officer, who transmitted a distress signal.[13] At 7:05 hours Malin Head radio acknowledged the message and retransmitted to Land's End and to Portpatrick.


Otto Burfeind

The cruise ship carried 14 lifeboats and 90 liferafts. The torpedo destroyed one starboard lifeboat and disabled the davits and falls of another.[11] Two lifeboats were damaged during their launch and thus useless.[citation needed] The crew successfully launched the remaining 10 lifeboats and more than half the liferafts. Some lifeboats were overloaded by prisoners descending the falls and side ladders, but many of the Italians were afraid to leave the ship.[13] At least four of the remaining lifeboats were launched with a very small number of survivors.[citation needed] One other lifeboat was swamped and sank shortly after being launched.[citation needed]

One of the internees 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.

The ship listed further to starboard. At 7:15, Captain Moulton and his senior officers walked over the side into the rising water, leaving behind many Italians who were still afraid to leave the ship. At 7:20, the ship rolled over, raised her bow in the air and sank.[13] 805 people were killed, including Captain Moulton, 12 of his officers, 42 of his crew and 37 of the military guards.[14]

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[15]


HMCS St. Laurent rescued 868 survivors from Arandora Star
Grave of a Arandora Star victim who was washed up in County Donegal

At 9:30, an RAF Coastal Command Short Sunderland flying boat flew over and dropped watertight bags containing first aid kits, food, cigarettes, and a message that help was coming. The aircraft circled until 13:00,[13] when the Canadian C-class destroyer HMCS St. Laurent arrived and rescued 868 survivors,[14] of whom 586 were detainees. The injured were taken to Mearnskirk Hospital in Newton Mearns, Glasgow. One of the survivors was the athletics coach Franz Stampfl.

On 3 July, the UK War Cabinet received a report on the disaster.[16] Its impact was overshadowed by the Royal Navy attack on Mers-el-Kébir, French Algeria, that sank elements of the French battle fleet. Throughout July and August, bodies were washed up on the Irish shore. On 30 July, the first body was found; 71-year-old Ernesto Moruzzi, who was found at Cloughglass, Burtonport. Four others were found on the same day. During August 1940, 213 bodies washed up on the Irish coast, of which 35 were from Arandora Star and a further 92 unidentified, potentially from the ship.[17]


Captain Moulton was posthumously awarded Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea. Captain Burfeind was posthumously cited for his heroism in the evacuation, and the Canadian commander Harry DeWolf was cited for his heroism in the rescue.

Wreck and remains[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 died were carried by the sea to various points in Ireland and the Hebrides. In the small graveyard of Termoncarragh, Belmullet, County Mayo, Luigi Tapparo, an internee from Edinburgh, and John Connelly, a Lovat Scout, lie buried side by side. Belmullet gardaí received a call from Annagh Head that another body had been found. From a service book on the body, Garda Sergeant Burns identified 27-year-old Frank Carter from Kilburn, London, a trooper in the Royal Dragoons. The body of Cesare Camozzi (1891–1940) from Iseo, Italy was washed ashore on the Inishowen peninsula, County Donegal and is buried at Sacred Heart graveyard, Carndonagh. 46 German civilian detainees, who were being shipped from England to Canada for internment when the ship sank, are buried in the German war cemetery in Glencree, County Wicklow. One of them was Karl Olbrysch a former KPD member of the Reichstag. The body of EG Lane from Kingsteignton, Newton Abbot, Devon, England, a private in the Devonshire Regiment, was washed onto the beach near Ballycastle, County Mayo and is buried in the local cemetery. His grave was re-dedicated in 2009 by the Mayo Peace Park Committee.

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, Kintyre, Argyll.[18]

The wreck 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. Photographs of the lifeboat remains in 1969, as well as an eyewitness account by a Ms. Bella MacLennanin can be found in the citation.[19] A 2006 picture shows the build up of sand over time.[20]


A memorial chapel was built in a cemetery in Bardi, home town of 48 of the dead, and an annual commemorative mass is held in the town.[21][22] A street in Bardi was renamed Via Arandora Star.[23]

Memorial to the dead of the Arandora Star at St Peter's Italian Church, London, unveiled in 1960

St Peter's Italian Church in Clerkenwell, London, unveiled a wall memorial in 1960, and added a second memorial to London victims in 2012.[24]

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.[citation needed]. There is also a Via Arandora Star in Parma.

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.[25]

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, the 69th anniversary of the sinking, 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.[26]

On 2 July 2010, the 70th anniversary of the sinking, a new memorial was unveiled in St David's Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, Cardiff by the Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales.[27]

Italian Cloister Garden Memorial by St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow

On the same day, 2 July 2010, a memorial cloister garden was opened next to St Andrew's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Glasgow. Archbishop Mario Conti said at the time he hoped the monument would be a "fitting symbol" of the friendship between Scotland and Italy.[28]

In 2019, a 3.5 metres (11 ft) ship model of the Arandora Star went on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum after 400 hours of restoration work. It had originally been made for Blue Star for advertising use and was acquired by the former Liverpool Museum (now the World Museum) in 1940 shortly after the sinking, where it drew large crowds. However, on 3 May 1941 during the Liverpool Blitz, the adjacent Liverpool Central Library was bombed; the resulting fire spread to the museum and the model was water-damaged by fire hoses and was put into storage.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blue Star's S.S. "Almeda Star" 1". One of The Luxury Five. Blue Star on the Web. 29 September 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Blue Star's S.S. "Arandora Star"". One of The Luxury Five. Blue Star on the Web. 23 June 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  3. ^ Mummery & Butler 1999, pp. 88–98.
  4. ^ The Cinema Museum in London holds film of a Mediterranean cruise made by her in October 1930, ref. HM0256: "Cinema Museum Home Movie Database.xlsx". Google Docs. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b Dorling 1973, p. 40.
  6. ^ a b c Hague, Arnold. "Empire Strength". Ship Movements. Don Kindell, ConvoyWeb. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  7. ^ Dorling 1973, pp. 40–41.
  8. ^ Dorling 1973, p. 41.
  9. ^ a b Dorling 1973, p. 42.
  10. ^ Dorling 1973, pp. 42–43.
  11. ^ a b c Dorling 1973, p. 43.
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ a b c d Dorling 1973, p. 44.
  14. ^ a b Dorling 1973, p. 45.
  15. ^ Hawkins, Ian, 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.
  16. ^ Gilbert, Martin (1983). The Biography of Winston S. Churchill. Vol. 6: Finest Hour, 1939–41. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-43429187-0.
  17. ^ Kennedy, Michael (2008). Guarding Neutral Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press. ISBN 978-1-84682-097-7.
  18. ^ "Kilvickeon (Cragaig) cemetery, Kilninian and Kilmore, Isle of Ulva". CWGC. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Arandora Star - KNOCKAN". 4 February 2020. Archived from the original on 4 February 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  20. ^ "The sand-sunk boat | pondering the past". 4 February 2020. Archived from the original on 4 February 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  21. ^ Cardinali, Alessandro (2 July 2016). "Bardi. Commemorazione vittime Arandora Star" (in Italian).
  22. ^ Groppi, Cesare (5 July 2016). "Bardi ricorda affondamento Arandora Star – 2 luglio 1940". (in Italian).
  23. ^ "Via Arandora Star". (map). Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  24. ^ Pistol, Rachel (2017). Internment during the Second World War: A Comparative Study of Great Britain and the USA. London: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 102. ISBN 9781350001428.
  25. ^ "S.S. "ARANDORA STAR" 1. The Colonsay Connection". The Colonsay Website. Archived from the original on 7 July 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  26. ^ "After 69 years of families' pain over war-time tragedy, town's mayor says... WE'RE SORRY". Evening Gazette. 4 July 2009. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  27. ^ "Service marks 70th anniversary of ship tragedy". BBC Wales. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  28. ^ Taylor, Alan (2 July 2010). "Memorial garden to victims of Arandora sinking opens". The Herald. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012.
  29. ^ Robertson, Jen (2019). "Conservators make Blitz survivor rise again". National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 4 June 2021.

Sources and further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • Dorling, Henry Taprell (1973). Blue Star Line at War, 1939–45. London: W. Foulsham & Co. pp. 9, 40–45. ISBN 0-572-00849-X.
  • Gardner, N. (4 September 2005). "Tragic Waters: The Sinking of the Arandora Star". Hidden Europe. pp. 34–36.
  • Gillman, Peter; Gillman, Leni (1980). Collar the Lot! How Britain Interned & Expelled its Wartime Refugees. Quartet Books. 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. ISBN 0356015041.
  • Mummery, Brian; Butler, Ian (1999). Immingham and the Great Central Legacy (Images of England). Stroud: Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-1714-2.

External links[edit]

55°20′N 10°33′W / 55.333°N 10.550°W / 55.333; -10.550