Daily Event for January 17

January 17, 1941 the Blue Star Line ship Almeda Star was sunk by the U-96. Almeda Star was launched as Almeda in 1926 by Cammell Laird & Co. Birkenhead and was used to inaugurate service to South America. All five of the ships of this class were extensively rebuilt changing their appearance's drastically.

In 1929 the name "Star" was added to all five ships to avoid confusion with Royal Mail Line ships with similar names. After the rebuild the Almeda Star was 579' long (up from 512') almost 15,000 tons and could carry 180 passengers.

When the war started the route the Almeda Star stayed the same, UK to South America. She sailed unescorted but had been fitted with several guns. She was anchored at Liverpool on December 12, 1940 during an air raid and received some slight bomb damage. The damage was not enough to keep her in port so on Jan. 15 she left Liverpool for the River Plate.

Under the command of capt. Henry Howard with 194 passengers, 29 gunners and a crew of 136 she once again sailed unescorted through the dangerous waters of the north Atlantic. Her luck held only until the morning of the 17th when the U-96 spotted her running in heavy seas. The captain of the U-96, Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, reported that he made three separate attacks on the Almeda Star all of which were avoided by Howard and his crew. However the U-boat commander would not let such a large target get away and he continued the assault.

The U-96 finally scored a hit and Howard sent a distress call stating that he had been torpedoed and giving his position. That was the last call that was heard from the Almeda Star. The U-96 continued with the attack and hit the ship two more times with torpedoes. The U-boat then surfaced and fired her deck gun at the burning ship. They claimed 15 hits and then fired one more torpedo which sent her to the bottom in three minuets.

After the U-96 had left the scene several ships which were ordered into the area to help the Almeda Star arrived to an empty sea. Twenty five miles from Rockall Island in the cold north Atlantic there was no trace of the Almeda Star or any of the three hundred and sixty people on board. No debris, no bodies, nothing.

The Almeda Star and all four of her sisters fell to the German U-boat fleet. July 1, 1940 the Avelone Star sank after being torpedoed by the U-43 the day before. The next day, July 2, 1940 the Arandora Star fell to the torpedoes of Günther Prien and his U-47 killing about 800 people. (Most were German and Italian internees which were being moved to Newfoundland.)

Avila Star was lost on July 6, 1942 to the U-201 and the final ship of this class, the Andalucia Star was sunk by the U-107 on October 7, 1942. The number of casualties on these vessels were 84 and 4 respectively.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock

Almeda Star