SS Belgian

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  • Belgian (1919-34)
  • Amelia Lauro (1934-40)
  • Empire Activity (1940-41)
  • F Leyland & Co Ltd (1919-34)
  • Achille Lauro, Naples (1934-40)
  • Ministry of War Transport (1940-41)
  • As owner except:-
  • Galbraith, Pembroke & Co Ltd (1940-41)
Port of registry:
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Liverpool (1919-22)
  • United Kingdom Liverpool (1922-34)
  • Italy Naples (1934-40)
  • United Kingdom London (1940-41)
Builder: Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Newcastle upon Tyne
Yard number: 1139
Launched: 29 August 1919
In service: October 1919
  • UK official number 140659 (1919-34, 1940-41)
  • Italian official number 423 (1934-40)
  • Code letters KCQH (1919-34)
  • ICS Kilo.svg ICS Charlie.svg ICS Quebec.svg ICS Hotel.svg
  • Code letters IBEZ (1934-40)
  • ICS India.svg ICS Bravo.svg ICS Echo.svg ICS Zulu.svg
  • Code letters GQXX (1940-41)
  • ICS Golf.svg ICS Quebec.svg ICS X-ray.svg ICS X-ray.svg
Fate: Sunk by U-96, 27 June 1941
General characteristics
Tonnage: 5,287 GRT
Length: 400 ft 3 in (122.00 m)
Beam: 52 ft 4 in (15.95 m)
Depth: 28 ft 4 in (8.64 m)
Propulsion: 1 x triple expansion steam engine of 517 hp (386 kW)
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h)

The SS Belgian was a 5,287-ton steamship which was built in 1919, sold in 1934 becoming Amelia Lauro, seized in 1940 and renamed Empire Activity and sunk by a German U-boat in 1941.


Belgian was built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend and launched on 29 August 1919, being completed in October 1919.[1] From 1919 to 1934 Belgian was owned by the Leyland Line. In 1934, she was sold to Achille Lauro, and renamed Amelia Lauro.[2]

On 7 March 1940, Amelia Lauro was damaged by German bombing at 52°55′N 02°19′E / 52.917°N 2.317°E / 52.917; 2.317[3] en route from Newcastle upon Tyne to Piombino laden with coal. She was set on fire and the crew anchored her, then abandoned her.[4] The SS Titania rescued 37 of the crew, and the sloops Pintail and Londonderry assisted. Amelia Lauro was escorted to Immingham[3] with her superstructure burnt out.[4] One crew member was killed outright and three were wounded.[5] One of the wounded crewmen later died from his injuries.[6] In an expression of gratitude, Lauro Lines owner Achille Lauro donated £26. 5s to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in appreciation of assistance rendered by the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston lifeboat in bringing 29 crew to shore.[7] Permission was given for temporary repairs to be carried out.[4]

As a consequence of Italy's declaration of war on 10 June 1940, Amelia Lauro was seized as a prize of war. The seizure was ratified by the prize court on 4 May 1941.[8] Amelia Lauro was taken over by the Ministry of War Transport, being renamed Empire Activity. Galbraith, Pembroke & Co were appointed managers. On 27 June 1941, Empire Activity was torpedoed by U-96 off Newfoundland at 49°30′38″N 53°51′30″W / 49.51056°N 53.85833°W / 49.51056; -53.85833Coordinates: 49°30′38″N 53°51′30″W / 49.51056°N 53.85833°W / 49.51056; -53.85833,[9] 1 nautical mile south of the Peckford Reef.[1] She was en route from Botwood to the United Kingdom laden with zinc concentrates.[4]

Official number and code letters[edit]

Official Numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers.

Belgian had the UK Official Number 140659.[10] Amelia Lauro had the Italian Official Number 423[11] Empire Activity had the UK Official number 140659.[12]

Belgian used the Code Letters KCQH.[10] Amelia Lauro used the Code Letters IBEZ.[11] Empire Activity used the Code Letters GQXX.[12]


  1. ^ a b "1140659"Paid subscription required. Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  2. ^ "Belgian". Ellis Island. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  3. ^ a b "NAVAL EVENTS, MARCH 1940, Part 1 of 2, Friday 1st – Thursday 14th". Naval History. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  4. ^ a b c d Mitchell, W H; Sawyer, L A (1995). The Empire Ships. London, New York, Hamburg, Hong Kong: Lloyd's of London Press Ltd. pp. 431–32. ISBN 1-85044-275-4. 
  5. ^ "Four Bombs On Italian Ship". The Times (48560). London. 9 March 1940. col F, p. 6. 
  6. ^ "Steamer's Crew Of 21 Saved". The Times (48561). London. 11 March 1940. col D, p. 5. 
  7. ^ "Italian Gratitude to Lifeboat Crew". The Times (48640). London. 12 June 1940. col D, p. 4. 
  8. ^ "The Prize Court". The Times (48866). London. 6 May 1941. col D, p. 6. 
  9. ^ "EMPIRE - A". Mariners-L. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  10. ^ a b "LLOYD'S REGISTER, NAVIRES A VAPEUR ET A MOTEURS" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 
  11. ^ a b "LLOYD'S REGISTER, NAVIRES A VAPEUR ET A MOTEURS" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 
  12. ^ a b "LLOYD'S REGISTER, STEAMERS AND MOTORSHIPS" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 

External links[edit]