SS Empire Javelin

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History
United Kingdom
Class and type: C1-S-AY1, Landing Ship Infantry
Name:
  • Cape Lobos (laid down)
  • Empire Javelin (completed)
Owner: MoWT
Operator: Blue Star Line
Port of registry: United Kingdom London
Builder: Consolidated Steel Corporation, Wilmington, CA
Launched: 25 October 1943
Completed: January 1944
Identification:
Fate: Sunk on 28 December 1944
General characteristics
Tonnage:
Length: 396.5 ft (120.9 m)
Beam: 60.1 ft (18.3 m)
Depth: 35.0 ft (10.7 m)
Propulsion: 2 × steam turbines, single screw
Sensors and
processing systems:
Armament:

SS Empire Javelin was an Infantry Landing Ship or "LSI (Large)" in service with the UK in the latter part of the Second World War. Launched on 25 October 1943, she was a United States Maritime Commission C1-S-AY1 subtype, one of thirteen similar ships built by Consolidated Steel Corporation.

SS Empire Javelin served as a troop ship in Operation Overlord, including "D-Day" on 6 June 1944.[1] She was lost on December 28, 1944 while en convoy to France with 1,483 troops aboard somewhere around the midpoint between Southampton, England, and Le Havre, France.[2] It is unknown whether she was sunk by U-322, active in the area on the same day,[3] or struck a mine.[4]

History[edit]

Construction and operation[edit]

SS Empire Javelin was built by Consolidated Steel Corporation, Wilmington, California as the Cape Lobos, and transferred under the terms of lend lease on completion in January 1944.[5][6] She was bareboat chartered by the War Shipping Administration to the Ministry of War Transport and managed by Blue Star Line.[6][7]

D-Day[edit]

The ship sailed from Portland Harbour anchorage on 5 June 1944, destined for Dog Green Omaha Beach, Normandy, after embarking troops of the 1st Battalion 116th Infantry regiment of US 29th Division by landing craft from Weymouth, Dorset.[8] Most notably, the ship carried members of Company A, 116th Infantry, who were from Bedford, Virginia. Bedford is the home of the United States' National D-Day Memorial. 551st Landing Craft Assault (LCA) Flotilla crewed by Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) of Combined Operations was based aboard Empire Javelin on D-Day. Six of the eighteen LCAs of 551st LCA Flotilla were lost on D-Day, with the remainder being severely damaged.[9]

Loss[edit]

L'Escarmouche, a Free French frigate escorting SS Empire Javelin that rescued her survivors

SS Empire Javelin embarked 1,483 US servicemen at Southampton for Le Havre, France on 28 December 1944. She was in convoy with USS LST-325 and escorted by the Free French frigate L'Escarmouche. In the English Channel on the afternoon of the 28th there was an explosion without warning at 50°5′N 1°0′W / 50.083°N 1.000°W / 50.083; -1.000Coordinates: 50°5′N 1°0′W / 50.083°N 1.000°W / 50.083; -1.000; at least 20 lives were lost and 20 more injured.[10] The L'Escarmouche was called alongside once the extent of the damage had been assessed, and for approximately an hour the men on board the Empire Javelin jumped from the ship. HMS Hargood (K582) arrived to assist, standing off nearby on submarine watch. Two minutes after the last man jumped off, there was a large explosion and the ship began settling by the stern. About 10 minutes later she was completely submerged.[10] Some pictures of the sinking can be seen here:[2]

Initially it was thought that the ship had been torpedoed by German submarine U-772,[11] but it was later revealed that U-772 was sunk earlier that month.[12] Another U-boat, U-322, was active in the area on the same day, and was sunk on the next day south of Weymouth.[3] There is no definitive proof of what sank the Empire Javelin; it has also been proposed it struck a mine.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Omaha Beach: American Troops". D-Day: The assault. D-Day: Etat Des Lieux. 
  2. ^ Schoichet's account of the sinking of Empire Javelin: [1]"Noon of December 28 found us approaching the half way mark in the channel...Suddenly, without warning, the whole world erupted."
  3. ^ a b Pocock, Michael W. "Daily Event for December 28, 2007". Maritime Quest. 
  4. ^ a b Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2014). "Empire Javelin". Ships not hit by U-boats. Guðmundur Helgason. 
  5. ^ Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 113. 
  6. ^ a b Lloyd's Register, Steamers & Motorships (PDF). 1945. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Empire – H –I – J". The 'Empire' Ships. Mariners. 
  8. ^ Winser, John de S (1994). The D-day Ships. Kendal: World Ship Society. p. 37. ISBN 0-905617-75-4. 
  9. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/68/a1929468.shtml
  10. ^ a b The Daily Mirror, 11 July 1945
  11. ^ Mitchell, WH; Sawyer, LA (1990). The Empire Ships (2nd ed.). London: Lloyd's of London Press. p. 427. ISBN 1-85044-275-4. 
  12. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2014). "U-772". List of all U-boats. Guðmundur Helgason. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]