In early 1940 the Dutch ship builders Rotterdam Dry Dock Company at Rotterdam were building a 10,746 ton tanker to be named Papendrecht for her owners Van Ommeren’s Scheeps. (Yard No 220). The ship was launched on 17 April 1940 and construction continued but on 10 May 1940 German Forces invaded Holland and the country surrendered six days later.

 

In early 1940 the Dutch ship builders Rotterdam Dry Dock Company at Rotterdam were building a 10,746 ton tanker to be named Papendrecht for her owners Van Ommeren’s Scheeps. (Yard No 220). The ship was launched on 17 April 1940 and construction continued but on 10 May 1940 German Forces invaded Holland and the country surrendered six days later.

 

papendrecht

Papendrecht post war

With the capture of Holland the German Navy seized the Papendrecht and renamed her ‘Lothringen’ and equipping her as a replenishment tanker for the German battleship Bismark and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

 

 

 

lotharingen_3

German Naval Tanker Lothringen

 

 

 

She was fitted with two 3.7cm Polish and three 2 cm German H.A. guns. These were manned by the naval members of the crew.

 

Lothringen_12

Lothringen’s Bridge

 

 

Two range-finders were of the 77 cm and the 1.25 meter type. The crew was made up of 45 naval ratings and one naval officer (the ship’s doctor) and 35 members of the German Mercantile Marine. Her Master was Captain Max Friedrichsen (aged 61 years) and the Chief Engineer Herr Bramman.

 

The tanker sailed from Schiedam on 7 March 1941 for Cherbourg arriving during the afternoon of 8 March 1941 for minor repairs. She sailed again on 11 March for Brest and a few days later sailed for St. Nazaire which was reached on 20 March. The next day she departed for La Pallice where she remained until 11 May.

 

While in port she is believed to have taken on board: -

 

  • 32 torpedoes
  • 1,000 tons of diesel for U Boats
  • Furnace Fuel Oil, this she received from the tanker ‘Rheum’ which, together with that received at Rotterdam amounted to 11,000 tons.
  • A number of metal canisters which it is believed contained lubricating oil for U-Boats
  • A large amount of provisions and fresh water – an amount believed to be sufficient to victual a battleship for one week.

 

On 11 May she deployed for the first and only time for the German Navy from La Pallice, France without any problems and it is believed she had a rendezvous already arranged with a U-Boat for the 17 June.

 

The Bismark was attacked and sunk by the Royal Navy in the North Atlantic on the 27 May 1941 with Prinz Eugen eventually making port at Brest with a condenser defect on 1 June 1941

 

HMS Dunedin had been deployed to the South Atlantic Station on 8 April 1941 and after the sinking of the Bismark joined up with HMS Eagle to form Force ‘F’.

 

Eagle-05

HMS Eagle

Dunedin-01

HMS Dunedin

They received secret information from Ultra intercepts from Station ‘X’ at Bletchley Park giving details of the disposition of several German Naval tankers in the Atlantic Ocean.

 

At about 1450hrs 15 June Lothringen was sighted by aircraft from HMS Eagle in approximate position 18°35’N 37°43’W. She was identified as German and she was bombed and attacked with machine-gun fire. She stopped, developed a list to port and displayed two white flags. By 1705 Dunedin closed her (from astern) at 24 knots dropping two depth charges as a precaution against U-boats.

 

 

emp2

German Tanker Lothringen as seen from the aircraft of HMS Eagle

 

A group of men wearing German Naval uniform were observed fallen in on the upper deck.

 

A boarding party under the command of Lieutenant Commander Ronald M H Sowdon Royal Navy and an anti-scuttling party slipped at 1752 from HMS Dunedin and were onboard the Lothringen by 1756. The Boarding Engineer Officer was Lieutenant Commander (E) Albert W Hughes DSC Royal Navy.

 

 

Sowdon_1_web

Lieutenant Commander Ronald M H Sowdon Royal Navy

 

The German Doctor and four wounded men were transferred to the Dunedin. The wounded were found to be suffering from slight bomb or machine gun splinter wounds.

 

The German Chief Officer and Chief Engineer pointed out the location of six scuttling charges and Mr Harold Lowey, Commissioned Gunner (T) and CPO (TGM) John A Manners removed the charges and sent them to the Dunedin.

 

A large number of red rubber oiling hoses (about 6”) and a heavy towing wire and a large deck shackle were discovered onboard.

 

A prize crew under the command of Lieutenant R. Beveridge, Royal Navy took command of the ship. The German Chief Officer, three other officers and 19 German ratings remained onboard to work the ship.

 

The ship, under the prize crew, set sail at 2350hrs for Bermuda.

 

Lothringen once at Bermuda was repaired and renamed Empire Salvage. She was made a Royal Fleet Auxiliary and on the 4 July 1941 Captain George W Callaway RFA (Lieut-Commander Royal Navy (Ret’d)) was appointed as Master. On 5 July Mr J. B. Payne RFA was appointed Chief Engineer Officer.

 

Known movements of RFA Empire Salvage during her RFA service are: -

 

Date Sailed

From

To

Date arrived

Comments

23 Sep 1941

Bermuda

Halifax

26 Sep 1941

Independent

5 Oct 1941

Halifax

The Clyde

17 Oct 1941

Convoy HX153

20 Nov 1941

The Clyde

Scapa Flow

22 Nov 1941

Independent

21 Dec 1941

Scapa Flow

Lyness

22 Dec 1941

Independent

6 Jan 1942

Oban

Methil

9 Jan 1942

Convoy WN 228 / FS 696 detached to the Tyne

13 Jan 1942

River Tyne

 

 

For repairs

22 Jan 1942

River Tyne

 

 

Repairs completed

11 May 1942

Southend

Methil

12 May 1942

Joined Convoy FN704 from the Tyne

13 May 1942

Methil

Oban

15 May 1942

Convoy EN 84

15 May 1942

Liverpool

Halifax

27 May 1942

Convoy ON95 - Ship arrived after straggling

29 May 1942

Halifax

St John’s Newfoundland

31 May 1942

Convoy HJ 3

26 Dec 1942

St John’s Newfoundland

New York City

31 Dec 1942

Convoy ON 153

22 Jan 1943

New York City

Liverpool

5 Feb 1943

Convoy HX 224 detached to Loch Ewe with cargo of FFO

9 Feb 1943

Loch Ewe

Methil

11 Feb 1943

Convoy WN 393 to Scapa Flow

22 Feb 1943

Loch Ewe

Methil

24 Feb 1943

Convoy WN 397 joined from Scapa Flow

25 Feb 1943

Methil

Southend

27 Feb 1943

Convoy FS 1048 detached to the Tyne

4 Apr 1943

River Tyne

 

 

For repairs

22 Apr 1943

River Tyne

 

 

Repairs completed

12 May 1943

Methil

Loch Ewe

14 May 1943

Convoy EN 228

No date recorded

Liverpool

New York City

31 May 1943

Convoy ON 184

13 Jun 1943

Hampton Roads

Port Said

6 Jul 1943

Convoy UGS 10 detached for Algiers

21 Aug 1943

Algiers

Bizerta

23 Aug 1943

Convoy KMS 23

17 Sep 1943

Bizerta

Malta GC

19 Sep 1943

 

19 Oct 1943

Naples

Malta

21 Oct 1943

Convoy NV 4

15 Nov 1943

Bizerta

Augusta

17 Nov 1943

Convoy UGS 22

26 Nov 1943

Augusta

Taranto

27 Nov 1943

Convoy AH 10

14 Jan 1944

Taranto

Augusta

16 Jan 1944

Convoy HA 18

17  Jan 1944

Augusta

Naples

18 Jan 1944

Convoy VN16

2 May 1944

Naples

Augusta

3 May 1944

Convoy NV36

13 May 1944

Algiers

Hampton Roads

29 May 1944

Convoy GUS39

7 Jun 1944

Hampton Roads

New York

8 Jun 1944

Independent

10 Jun 1944

New York

Rosyth

28 Jun 1944

Convoys HX295 and WN600

30 Jun 1944

Rosyth

The Tyne

1 Jul 1944

Convoy FS 1499

12 Sep 1944

The Tyne

Methil

13 Sep 1944

Convoy FN1477

14 Sep 1944

Methil

Scapa Flow

16 Sep 1944

Convoy EN 435

21 Sep 1944

Scapa Flow

Loch Ewe

22 Sep 1944

Convoy EN 437

 

 

Milford Haven

24 Sep 1944

Independent

25 Sep 1944

Milford Haven

Gibraltar

2 Oct 1944

Convoys OS90KM and KMS64G

2 Oct 1944

Gibraltar

Port Said

12 Oct 1944

Convoy KMS64

14 Oct 1944

Suez

Aden

19 Oct 1944

Independent

19 Oct 1944

Aden

Khor Kwai

24 Oct 1944

Independent

24 Oct 1944

Khor Kwai

 

 

Independent

28 Oct 1944

Abadan

 

 

Independent

13 Jan 1945

Trincomalee

Trincomalee

27 Jan 1945

As part of Force 69 Operation Meridian

18 Feb 1945

Trincomalee

 

 

Independent

24 Apr 1945

Akyab

Kyaukpyu

25 Apr 1945

Independent

15 May 1945

Kyaukpyu

Trincomalee

20 May 1945

Independent

26 May 1945

Trincomalee

Bombay

1 Jun 1945

Independent

4 June 1945

Bombay

 

 

For repairs

23 Sep 1945

Trincomalee

Madras

23 Sep 1945

Independent

23 Sep 1945

Madras

Trincomalee

29 Sep 1945

Independent

19 Oct 1945

Trincomalee

Singapore

25 Oct 1945

Independent

16 Nov 1945

Singapore

 

 

 

26 Jan 1946

Hong Kong

Okinawa

31 Jan 1946

 

 

 

Kure

13 Feb 1946

 

24 Feb 1946

Shanghai

Hong Kong

27 Feb 1946

 

3 Mar 1946

Hong Kong

Bombay

21 Mar 1946

 

2 Apr 1946

Bombay

Abadan

10 Apr 1946

To Load

12 Apr 1946

Abadan

Port Said

26 Apr 1946

 

30 Apr 1946

 

Malta GC

 

Passed

4 May 1946

 

Gibraltar

 

Passed

 

 

Portsmouth

14 May 1946

Gosport Oil Fuel Depot for discharge

15 May 1946

Portsmouth

Rotterdam

16 May 1946

Handed back to Dutch owners

 

While in Hong Kong on 28 February 1946 2nd Officer Keith N. Howard RFA was discharged dead. He was buried at Sai Wan War Cemetery.

 

Howard_Keith_Nelson_Second_Officer

 

2nd Officer Keith N Howard RFA’s headstone

 

The following members of the Royal Navy were in receipt of Mentions in Despatches for the seizure of the Lothringen

 

1941    Lieutenant Commander Ronald Montague Haigh Sowdon, Royal Navy

1941    Temporary Electrical Lieutenant Stanley Edmund Jenner, G.M., Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve*

1941    Temporary Lieutenant Brian Toller Whinney, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve*

1941    Sub Lieutenant (A) Charles Rankin Camidge, Royal Navy

1941    Temporary Sub Lieutenant (A) Philip Alfred Denington, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

1941    Leading Telegraphist Percy Tom Jackson, P/J 102244

 

* for disposing of an unexploded Royal Navy bomb which had been dropped by aircraft from HMS Eagle.

 

Lieutenant Commander Ronald Sowdon Royal Navy, Mr Harold Lowey, Commissioned Gunner (T) and Leading Telegraphist Percy Tom Jackson, P/J 102244 were killed on 24 November 1941 when HMS Dunedin was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic. Lieutenant Commander (E) Albert W Hughes Royal Navy died on 27 November 1941 before the survivors of the sinking could be rescued and Sub Lieutenant (A) Charles Rankin Camidge, Royal Navy was killed on 24 August 1943 while operating from HMS Jackdaw

 

Once returned to her owners the Papendrecht continued to sail in the Dutch merchant fleet up and until she was sold to Japanese interests for breaking up in January 1964. She arrived at the breakers yard at Onomichi, Japan on the 15 April of that year

 

 

 

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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