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"Did the Germans sink many troopships?" Topic

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Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2009 8:06 a.m. PST

I was reading Jay Nordlinger's column on NRO online today. He mentioned that one of his old teachers was on the S. S. Leopoldville, a Belgian liner that was converted to a troopship. It was sunk in December 1944.
I had never heard of any troop ship sinkings before, although I am familiar with Slapton sands.

Were there other troopships sunk by the Germans?

Sane Max Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 8:08 a.m. PST

iirc The Leopoldville was a notable naval scandal, as the crew made damn sure they got off ok, and never a thought for the guys crammed below decks.

I will check that factoid.


Sane Max Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 8:11 a.m. PST

hmm, maybe a different case.

But the Leopoldville was on its 24th cross-channel run when it got sunk, so thats a fair set of odds. Given that 2000 men died on it, it was 'covered up', or rather played down so hard it was barely noticed.


Sane Max Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 8:12 a.m. PST

ah, there I go, I have slandered the crew, it was obviously not this case, as the sources I can find say casualties were even , and the Captain was among those that went down.

So there was at least one other troop-ship tragedy, as I am sure I am not making that ill-remembered factlet up.

KSeward Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 8:34 a.m. PST

USAT Dorchester was torpedoed off Greenland. I think there were about 700 lost on that ship. There were also British ships that were lost during the evacuation from France in 1940 with heavy loss of life. I'm not sure what they lost at Dunkirk.

Mapleleaf Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 8:42 a.m. PST

A famous example was the British troop ship HMT Rohna sunk off the coast of Algeria on Nov 26, 1943. Of the 1300 lost, 1,015 were US soldiers which still constitutes the single largest loss of US troops at sea. Again there was controversy as allegedly a number of empty landing craft did not try to pick up survivors and the loss was kept secret as the ship was actually sunk by a Hs293 guided missile and the allies did not want to show how good the missile was

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2009 8:47 a.m. PST

Ah, the Dorchester, with the Four Chaplains. I have that stamp.

Top Gun Ace Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 9:10 a.m. PST

I don't believe that they sunk many (or any) of the large, fast troopships on the USA to Britain run.

They cruised at high speed, and zig-zagged regularly to avoid U-Boats and their torpedoes.

show some respect for women Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 9:32 a.m. PST

Dunno about WWII

But in WWI, not one US soldier was lost to U-boats. Really amazing.


Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian27 Feb 2009 10:19 a.m. PST

In April '44, three us LST's on a training exercise were torpedoed by E-boats (two LST's sank) resulting in 749 deaths, more than 500 being soldiers.

JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2009 10:24 a.m. PST

The liner "Lancastria" sunk of St Nazaire in 1940 evacuating troops and wounded (by air attack, I think?)

show some respect for women Inactive Member27 Feb 2009 2:48 p.m. PST

I was wrong.

On the evening of February 5th, 1918, a German U-boat sent the Tuscania to the bottom of the North Channel Sea. On its final voyage, the passengers aboard this vessel, consisted of a large contingent of American Army soldiers.



Personal logo Stosstruppen Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2009 8:33 p.m. PST

A Luftwaffe attack sank an LST at Anzio with the troops in it.

Procopius Inactive Member28 Feb 2009 1:01 a.m. PST


"The Leopoldville was protected by escort ships, including the British Destroyer Brilliant, but no air cover was made available even though the threat of attack by German submarines was high."

HMS Brilliant – Bleeped texting brilliant name! Protected?

Procopius Inactive Member28 Feb 2009 1:04 a.m. PST

" According to many survivors, the Belgian crew abandoned the sinking ship and left the American soldiers to fend for themselves."

And well done to the Belgian crew! Hope they were prosecuted or haunted by their conscience's for the rest of their miserable lives!

Sane Max Inactive Member28 Feb 2009 1:29 a.m. PST

ahhhhh – it WAS the one I was thinking of then. So…. the Captain and several crew drowned / they abandoned the ship pronto and left the Americans to drown.

Which was true?


Mapleleaf Inactive Member28 Feb 2009 5:00 a.m. PST

Ok here is what I have been able to find out. Both stories above that the crew abandoned ship and that the captain and some crew went down with the ship are both true.

Shortly after the ship was torpedoed the captain ordered all "non-essential" crew to leave which they did in full sight of the US soldiers awaiting rescue.

There was a gap of two and a half hours between the time the torpedo hit and the final seeking which should have been plenty of time to get everyone off. The captain and some crew remained on board during the evacuation which seemed to be a very mismanaged affair as help was not called for early enough and being Christmas eve help and attention from outside was hard to get. When the ship sunk it did so so quickly that the captain and three crew members were caught.

Approximately 1400 US army servicemen were rescued but 783 perished . This had been cited as the largest loss of US army at sea until the details of the sinking of the HMT Rhona, that I mentioned previously in which 1,015 Army personnel were killed

For more details see the following



archstanton73 Inactive Member01 Mar 2009 9:59 a.m. PST

One of the reasons so many GI's died near Slapton Sands was that they were not shown how to put on their lifejackets properly and put them on back to front! Thereby drowning themselves…..
On the note of fast merchant ships my Graet Uncle was a Captain on fast merchants during WW2 and he said that they were pretty much immune to U-Boats and would travel in a fast unprotected was only airpower that could really hit them--And did--his ship was near missed by some Dorniers in the North Sea and his ship was badly damaged--
Troopships would mostly have been fast liners which would have then been heavily protected--hence why so few were sunk…

Peter Constantine Inactive Member11 Apr 2009 8:38 a.m. PST

The liner "Lancastria" sunk of St Nazaire in 1940 evacuating troops and wounded (by air attack, I think?)
I believe Lancastria had mostly civilian refugees and RAF personnel on board when it was attacked. News of the sinking was restricted by the UK government by use of a D-Notice. There may have been more than 4,000 lives lost which would make the incident the greatest loss of life in British maritime history. Rudolf Sharpe, captain of Lancastria, was also captain of the liner Laconia when that was sunk by a German U-boat in 1942. Sharpe lost his life along with hundreds of Italian POWs.

Mal Wright Fezian14 Apr 2009 2:30 a.m. PST

U Boats found it very difficult to get into an attack position if ships were moving fast. Even harder if they were taking evasive zigzag action. As a result very few fast ships were torpedoed.
Of those that were sunk or damaged, the majority were just unlucky enough to have sailed close enough to a submarine for it to torpedo them.
The primary use of U Boats was against the supply line, which used slow and heavily laden ships.
Most troop ships were ex liners and therefore much too fast for a U Boat, even on the surface.

Chouan Inactive Member23 Apr 2009 1:33 a.m. PST

The troopship "Empress of Britain" was torpedoed off the Irish coast in 1940. She had been damaged by German aircraft first, however. The troopship "Empress of Canada" was torpedoed off the Canaries by an Italian submarine in 1943. The troopship "Empress of Asia" was damaged severely enough by Japanese aircraft to be abandoned near Singapore in 1942.
There were many Merchant Ships sunk carrying troopsat Dunkirk, or at least involved in the evacuation, but they were not troopships as such, as "troopship" was an official designation.

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