MV Wilhelm Gustloff

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Gerard, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

  2. 52nd Airborne

    52nd Airborne Green Jacket Brat

    a website with info on the sinking of the wilhelm Gustloff, a ship on which more lives were lost than Titanic but about which so little is known!:eek:

    Another site with interesting pictures of the Wilhelm Gustloff:

    I seem to recall a programme on the History Channel earlier this year about this disaster.
  3. spidge


    I had heard of this but did not realise the huge loss in numbers!
  4. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Yes it was indeed a tragedy and was only part of an even bigger one, of the movement of over 7 million people all over Eastern Europe as the War ended. And not just russians and Germans, Czechs, Poles, even French and British POW's were caught up in the death throes of the Reich in the East.
  5. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    Yes, the loss of Wilhelm Gustloff Makes the Titanic look like a minor boating accident. The chaos was incredible, as the German ship was full of fleeing, panic-stricken refugees. It was hopelessly overloaded in the first place.

    The wreck was recently found.

    The reason the ship was sunk: the Soviet submarine captain was at sea to prevent himself from being busted by the NKVD for being in command while drunk. He figured he could sober up and evade the cops at the same time. He sailed along, spotted the liner, and sank it. He came home to get an Order of Lenin.
  6. Amisuk

    Amisuk Member

    The Wilhelm Gustloff, Goya & Steuben were amongst the worst losses with regards to passengers.

    Wilhelm Gustloff - Was torpedoed 30th January 1945 by Russian submarine S13 under the command of Capt. Alexander Marinesko, the ship sank within 45 minutes, and is believed that between 5,196 & 7,800 people lost their lives.

    Steuben - 11 days after the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the Steuben was attacked by two torpedoes in the same area by Capt. Marinesko's S13, and despite the efforts of nearby naval vessels, some 3,000 people lost their lives.

    Goya - On 16th April 1945, just before midnight, the Goya was torpedoed by the Russian submarine L3 under the command of Capt. Vladimir Konovalov. The ship was hit by two torpedoes, one amidships and the other on the stern, breaking the ship in half and sinking it within 4 minutes with a loss of life in the region of 6,817 people.
    This makes it the second worst maritime tradegy, with the Wilhelm Gustloff being the worst.

    (Passenger liners have always been an interest of mine - although the Goya was really a cargo ship)

    I hope thats of some interest.

  7. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    I was recently told of an Allied ship torpedoed off Southern France or Spain that was loaded with soldiers and civilians escaping after Dunkirk. She went down with the loss of thousands of lives, even though she was surrounded by other ships that tried to help. Can someone please tell me her name because for the life of me i cannot remember.
  8. spidge


    This one Kitty.

    LANCASTRIA (June 17, 1940)

    Lancastria was part of the evacuations of the areas other than Dunkirk that are not so well known. 163,000 others added to the 338,000 taken from Dunkirk.

    The Cunard/White Star passenger liner Lancastria, the former Tyrrhenia (16,243 tons), is bombed and sunk off St. Nazaire, France. While lying at anchor in the Charpentier Roads on the estuary of the River Loire, five enemy planes dive bombed the ship which sank in twenty minutes taking the lives of around 2,000 troops and over 1,000 civilians. The Lancastria had been converted into a troopship and set sail from Liverpool on June 14th to assist in the evacuation of British troops and refugees from France (Operation Aerial) Her captain, Rudolf Sharpe, took on board as many troops and refugees as possible. She was about to sail to England after loading on board soldiers and RAF personnel of the British Expeditionary Force, plus about a thousand of civilian refugees. One bomb exploded in the Number 2 hold where around 800 RAF personnel had been placed. About 1,400 tons of fuel oil spilled from the stricken vessel as the Dorniers dropped incendiaries in an attempt to set the oil on fire. The 2,477 survivors, including her captain, were picked up by HMS Havelock and other ships. The bomb which actually sank the Lancastria went straight down the funnel. The site of the sinking is now an official War Grave protected by The Protection of Military Remains Act of 1986. The loss of the Lancastria was the fourth largest maritime disaster of the war. Captain Rudolf Sharpe later lost his life when the ship he commanded, the Laconia, was sunk. Under the Official Secrets Act, the report on the Lancastria cannot be published until the year 2040. If it is proved that Captain Sharpe ignored the Ministry of Defence instructions not to exceed the maximum loading capacity of 3000 persons, grounds for compensation claims could be enormous. (A rememberance service is held in June each year in the St Catharine Cree Church in Leadenhall Street, London)
    [​IMG] The Cunard/White Star passenger liner Lancastria

    During 'Operation Aerial' 28,145 British and 4,439 French, Polish and Canadian troops were evacuated from Brest. Among the French contingent were many German and Italian nationals, all members of the French Foreign Legion. At Lorient, the trawler La Tenche, was sunk with the loss of 218 lives. At Saint Nazaire, 57,235 troops and civilians were evacuated. From St. Malo, 21,475, from Cherbourg, 30,630 and from La Pallice, 2,303. Thousands of others were picked up from smaller ports, in total, 163,225 persons. (During the Dunkirk evacuation, 'Operation Dynamo' 338,226 troops were saved).
  9. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    As ever, Super Spidge to the rescue. Cheers mate. :D
  10. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Further to Spidge's report.

    The SS Lancastria dead were shrewn down the western coast of Fance,to be found in coastal towns,many as unknowns with the date of death,17 June 1940.

    Many dead are to be found in Pornic CWGC Cemetery on the south side of the Loire which is the scene of a remembrance service each year.

    Among the civilians were the Church Army, the Salvation Army and YMCA.In addition there were 38 other civilians on board,eighteen of whom were employees of the Fairey Aviation Co (Belgium),probably the technical support for the Fairey Battle.

    The loss was considered so great for civilian consumption that the ship's loss was not officially reported until post war on the direction of Churchill.He later added that he had forgot about the bann.In the meantime,The Daily Mirror published the details of the loss on July 26 1940 with a figure of 2843 souls lost.

    While there are now Lancastria memorials on the sea front at St Nazaire,the casualties are remembered hundreds of miles to the north east on the Dunkirk Memorial.
  11. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    I seem to recall a programme on the History Channel earlier this year about this disaster.

    I think The Sea Hunters did the show?


  12. lancesergeant

    lancesergeant Senior Member

    It was on about three weeks ago in the UK. Showed the chaos that was going on in the Baltic at the time. The ship was carrying a mix of military and civilian at the time. As was mentioned in the thread Gustloff was just one of two or three that were sunk. Steuben was another also mentioned earlier. Gustloff got the lion's share of the coverage probably because of the highest loss - even so it got little or no coverage in the West.

    With the horrors of Stalingrad/Leningrad etc and the fighting on the Eastern Front, it was probably small news in comparison to what had gone before it. .
  13. vailron

    vailron Senior Member

  14. adrian roberts

    adrian roberts Senior Member

    What happened that night is beyond all imagining.

    The "General Steuben", mentioned in this article, was also sunk in the same area within a few weeks, with the loss of several thousand lives, and so were several other vessels.

  15. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    She was a beautiful ship. The sinking is a symbol for all the desperation and panic that took place in the Eastern German Provinces in 1945. Lets just say it was an Annus Horribilis.
  16. vailron

    vailron Senior Member

    just goes to show what happens during times of war
  17. laufer

    laufer Senior Member

    I found this sonar picture of the wreck on some polish divers site [May 2006].
    For divers community exploration of Gustloff's wreck is like Mount Everest.

    Attached Files:

  18. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I'd say divers find the wreck fascinating alright. What a cruel blow for the victims, having probably spent days and weeks evading the Russians and then having to withstand attacks on the port, they probably thought they were safe once the ship pulled out of port.
  19. Kyt

    Kyt Very Senior Member

    Isn't this the ship that Gunter Grass wrote his last novel about?
  20. KriegsmarineFreak

    KriegsmarineFreak Senior Member

    I was able to get a program sheet from the Wilhelm Gustloff from one of its cruises in Norway, months before World War II started. I found this excellent website about the Wilhelm Gustloff (has many pictures):

    Wilhelm Gustloff - The Greatest Ship Disaster and Sinking in History

    Also I heard that there was a black and white film made in Germany about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff called , "NACHT FIEL ÜBER GOTENHAFEN." There isn't much information about it online but it is being sold on amazon. You guys heard anything about it?

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