British Pow Losses On Italian Ship

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Ralph B, Oct 31, 2005.

  1. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Thermopylae was working for the British and sunk by Junkers 88.

    M/S Thermopylae voyages - Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945

    I also doubt that over 5,500 British POW died in this way?

    All the best


    Missed this Post Andreas;

    I am afraid that the Nos. stated are a gross exageration.
    My figures give 2,000 plus that are Remembered by the C.W.G.C. on the Memorial at El Alamein. There are some from both the "Jason" and Nino Bixio buried in Greece with just a few from Ariosto in Tunisia. Of course Naval P.O.W. are Remembered in the U.K.
    There were many non-Commonwealth Prisoners that I suspect were lost . Quite a few French on the Nino Bixio and probably other ships. Loreto is one that I cannot find the number of Casualties indicated in Intelligence Signals by using C.W.G.C. Records.
    Then there was the Sinfra which was carrying Italians who at the time were Prisoners of the Germans and the Chakdina was another where Italian P.O.W. were lost.

  2. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books


    Many thanks for confirming my doubts. SS Chakdina was sunk out of Tobruk by either a German submarine or an Italian torpedo bomber on 5 December 41 with German and Italian Axis POW on board. One of them was General Ravenstein, the late GOC 21st Panzer. He managed to reach the shore and survived the war.

    Sinking of SS Chakdina | NZETC


    All the best

  3. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Hi Andreas,
    there does seem to be some confusion as to who sank the ship.

    The information on the Casualties comes from copies of Files sent to New Zealand.Surp[rised they haven't published them. There were a few Australians aboard the ship as Medical orderlies. They survived.

    Ravenstein did indeed survive the sinking,but his escorting officer didn't.
  4. Tilford

    Tilford Junior Member

    Hello Andreas

    I am picking up on your comments relating to the Chakdina and I am conscious that this might be taking folk away from the theme of this thread.

    Brian is correct, there has been some confused reporting as to who or how the Chakdina sank.

    I have, with Brian's help and with the help of others, been researching the sinking of the Chakdina for a number of years now and in the process have gathered up a number of eyewitness reports from those who were there, which includes several Chakdina crewmen, crew from the HMS Farndale one of the convoy escorts, and from others who were on the Kirkland, another merchant vessel in the same convoy and finally the HMS Thorgrim, another of the convoy escorts which was carrying a number of NZ soldiers.

    All state that the Chakdina was sunk by an aerial torpedo launched from SM-79 torpedo bomber. A search on the internet has revealed details of members of one Italian squadron who claim to have sunk the Chakdina but that detail has not been confirmed.

    It also seems doubtful that we will ever know how many people were aboard the Chakdina when it sank. Through Brian we have been able to view copies of the National Archives files on the Chakdina which had lists of the wounded who were boarded on the ship, and who were saved but not the names of all those who boarded the ship. Those boarding the Chakdina included a number of prisoners of war, the wounded, a significant number of fit soldiers who walked on board just prior to sailing - all of whom were looking to be transported back to Alexandria and the Chakdina crew itself.

    My current list of those who drowned when the Chakdina sank has reached 315 and that does not include any of the POW's or those soldiers who walked aboard and who were not rescued. We estimate that the death toll is probably greater than 400.

    I am keen to hear from anyone who has information relating to the Chakdina and in particular from families of those who know that they had family members aboard. There are many families here in New Zealand who still do not know what happened to their family members who were reported to have died 5 December 1941. I expect it will be the same in Australia and in the United Kingdom.

  5. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Glad you found us Robert.

  6. suthons

    suthons Junior Member

    Hi all,

    This is a bit of a long shot but worth a go! Last year I met and interviewed a veteran from the 1st Bn, Welch Regt who fought in Crete and then North Africa. He was captured in North Africa and taken on an Italian ship with many other POWs from Tripoli heading to Sicily.

    He is unsure of the date but thinks it was in January or February 1942. He and many of the other POWs were put in the forward hold. The ship he was on left Tripoli at 2.30 – 3.00pm and he says that they had only been sailing for a few hours when they were torpedoed at about 6.00pm (by the Royal Navy) and the ship sunk. The torpedo struck the forward hold where the POWs were packed and killed many. He managed to escape and spent four hours in the water until picked up by an Italian destroyer. He told me that this destroyer picked up 18 POWs and went back to Tripoli. As far as he is aware, his group of POW survivors was the only one that went back to Tripoli – all the other men picked up were taken on to Sicily. He was in Tripoli for a week and was then loaded on to another ship and, thankfully, had a safe passage to Sicily.

    He knows that a lot of his mates went down with this Italian ship and would like to know what ship she was. He has asked me to see if I can find out for him. He has been told before that the ship was 4,170 ton ‘Ariosto’ which was torpedoed by the British submarine P38, commanded by Lt. R.J. Hemingway DSC RN, and sunk on 15 February 1942. I have had a Google search and found that 138 Allied POWs were lost on the ‘Ariosto’. Incidentally, the P38 was sunk herself the Italian destroyer Circe on 23rd February 1942. It would appear to me that the ship he was on WAS the ‘Ariosto’ but I was wondering if there are any Italian Navy/POW/Mediterranean experts out there who might have a better idea of the losses of British POWs on Italian ships in 1942?

    I know it’s a long shot but it’s worth a go. I have asked a naval historian I know and he is unable to help. I will also be asking the Naval Historical Branch but don’t hold out much hope.

    Any info or recommendations for further reading/research would be gratefully received. It would be nice to have a definitive answer for this 86-year old man as it is something he has always wondered about for the last 63 years.

    I have posted this in ‘The War in North Africa and the Mediterranean’ and ‘War at Sea’ as I am unsure which forum it should be in. Hope that’s okay.

    Many thanks

    Hi, my father was on the Ariosto - he was a South African prisoner or war and was in the hold. When the torpedo hit, the POWs were unable to get out as they were too far down to reach the hatch. My father was a shortest, lightest man, and his fellow prisoners threw him up through the hatch and he was able to find a rope and others were able to escape. After surviving all this and the sea they were rounded up on the beach and I think he was sent to Sicily, but then ended up in Stalag 8a in German occupied Poland.

    Carmel Suthons
  7. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Welcome to the forum.

    Don Edy was also on Ariosto and has an account of her sinking in his book 'Goon in the Block'.

    Goon In The Block by Don Edy

    All the best

  8. Mimosa

    Mimosa New Member

    Hi, I was wondering if anybody had the list of men that were onboard the SS. Chakdina that was sunk. My uncle William Leslie Reid might of been onboard but I am not sure. He was either wounded at Sidi Rezegh and died there or he was onboard the ship. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Ray.
  9. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron


    Here is a link to the Chakdina file at the British National Archives. These are generally Missing in Action files, there should be a casualty listing in there somewhere. They cannot be accessed on line.

    Hope this helps in some way eventually.

  10. Roxy

    Roxy Senior Member

    My wife's great uncle was on board Scillin when it was sunk. Disappointing, whilst understandable, that 'we' knew that the ship was full of POWs prior to its sinking.


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