Daily Event for January 12

January 12, 1920 the French liner Afrique grounded on the shoal about fifty miles from La Rochelle. Built at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1907 the Afrique was 391' long with a beam of 48'. Registered at 5,404 tons her purpose was to connect France with her colonies in West Africa. Afrique departed Bordeaux for Dakar with 585 people on board, 458 being passengers. While in the Bay of Biscay the Afrique lost engine power and began to drift.

Strong winds and rough seas made repairing the engines difficult to impossible. The ship, unable to maneuver ended up in the shallows around Roche-Bonne Reef and soon she was stuck fast on the reef. Distress signals were sent and answered but to no avail. The ships that responded could do nothing but watch as the Afrique was pounded into pieces by the heavy seas.

Desperate, the crew managed to launch only two boats carrying the only people that would survive, the Afrique was doomed. At 3 am on Jan. 13 the wireless signals ceased and soon thereafter the ship slid off the reef into the depths of the sea taking five hundred and forty six souls. The thirty two survivors were rescued by the SS Ceylon, which was owned by the same ship line as the Afrique.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock