Sinkings in the South Seas (1-2-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 2, 1941)

496 Put on Isle by Nazi-‘Jap’ Raiders After 10 Vessels Go Down

Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 2 (UP) –
Women with faces disfigured by shell splinters and children with shattered legs were among survivors reaching Australia today from seven ships sunk by German raiders.

There were 70 women and 7 children among the 496 survivors.

The Exchange Telegraph Agency reported to London from Hong Kong today that survivors from vessels attacked in the South Pacific said that one of the German raiders was commanded by Capt. Count Felix von Luckner, the noted raider commander of World War I.

They had been confined in German prison ships, some of them for weeks, and on Dec. 21 they all had been dumped on the island of Erirau, just south of the Equator. An Australian ship finally rescued them.

In Berlin, the German High Command identified a German sea-raider in the South Pacific as a “warship” and said it had reported sinking 10 British ships or “ships sailing in the enemy’s service.”

Most of the women and children were from the 16,712-ton British liner Rangitane, which encountered the raider Nov. 26. The survivors said the Rangitane was attacked at night without warning; that seven women were killed in the shelling and were buried at sea.

Two Blown to Pieces

Miss P. Matthews of Devonshire, England, one of those suffering shrapnel wounds in the face, said one shell from the raider struck the forecastle and another blew the Rangitane’s stern gun from its base and filled the ship with cordite fumes. Two members of the crew were blown to pieces, she said.

An hour after the shelling ceased, a boarding party from the raider drew alongside in a tender. The men carried machine guns and pistols, and ordered the liner’s boats lowered, Miss Matthews said.

Then another raider approached. It had Japanese markings, Miss Matthews said. The Rangitane survivors were imprisoned on a supply ship two days, then transferred to a raider.

Others Still Held

Other survivors reported that the crews of two other British and one French ship still were prisoners aboard one raider, making a total of 10 ships sunk by the German raiders.

The 9,161-ton British Turakina, whose survivors are still aboard one of the raiders, was sunk in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, Aug. 20, after it had battled two and a half hours with its one aft gun and had lost 38 of its crew of 58, the survivors said.

The 31 surviving crew members of the 3,900-ton British Komata, some of them wounded, reported that their first and second officers were lost and their skipper wounded when a raider scored eight hits on their ship immediately after the radio operator had sent an SOS on sighting the radar.

The survivors were from the British ships Rangitane, Komata, Triaster, Triadic, Triona and Holmwood, and the Norwegian Vinni. They said survivors of the British Ringwood and the French ship Notou were still on one of the raiders. The survivors borrowed a boat from Emirau Islanders and made their way to Kavieng, in the mandated territory of New Guinea, from where they were taken by Australian ships.

All survivors were told by the Germans before their release that they would be shot if caught again on an armed British ship. They said the German ships had phonographic recording machines to make records of the prisoners’ comments for propaganda purposes.