Requisitioned Auxiliary – Athelempress





Official Number:                        162317

Laid down:

Builder:                                     Wm Hamilton  & Co (1928) Ltd, Glen Yard, Port Glasgow

Launched:                                15 May 1930

Into Service:                              1939

Out of service:                           30 April 1942

Fate:                                        30 April 1942  torpedoed and sunk 


Items of historic interest involving this ship: –


Background Data:  One of an additional group of ships requisitioned by the Admiralty during WW2 to augment the ships of the RFA


Career Data:

15 May 1930 launched by Wm Hamilton  & Co (1928) Ltd, Glen Yard, Port Glasgow as Yard Nr 413 named ATHELEMPRESS for United Molasses Co Ltd, London            

July 1930 completed

27 August 1930 sailed Los Angles

13 September 1930 sailed Colon

29 September 1931 sailed Los Angeles for Wellington, New Zealand arriving 21 October 1931

23 October 1931 sailed Wellington, New Zealand for Melbourne

1 November 1931 sailed Melbourne, Australia for Abadan

15 February 1932 and 16 February 1932 hit by a cyclone between 31.15S 53.24E and 30.58S 53.33E

20 September 1932 berthed at Hull

1932 laid up in the Carrick Roads, Falmouth

4 September 1936 berthed at Hull from Nipe, Norway with 1 DBS. Captain W J Davidson was Master

25 June 1937 berthed at Birkenhead from the Hawaian Islands with 1 DBS. 

1939 requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as an oiler

8 September 1939 arrived at Liverpool

8 October 1939 sailed Liverpool in convoy OB16. This convoy reformed as convoy OG2 on the 11 October 1939 and sailed to Gibraltar arriving 17 October 1939

18 October 1939 sailed Gibraltar independently to Port Said arriving 26 October 1939

26 October 1939 after transitting the Suez Canal sailed from Suez independently to Abadan arriving 9 November 1939

11 November 1939 sailed Abadan independently to Port Said arriving 27 November 1939

27 November 1939 sailed Port Said independently to Gibraltar arriving 7 December 1939

8 December 1939 sailed Gibraltar in convoy HG10 to the Downs arriving 18 December 1939. RFA ‘s WAR AFRIDI and WAR BHARATA also sailed in this convoy

20 December 1939 sailed Southend in convoy FN57 to the River Tyne arriving 22 December 1939

22 December 1939 sailed the River Tyne independently to Rosyth Dockyard arriving 27 December 1939

30 December 1939 sailed Rosyth Dockyard escorted by HMS’s FEARLESS and FURY to Liverpool arriving 3 January 1940

8 January 1940 sailed Liverpool in ballast in convoy OB68. This convoy reformed on 10 January 1940 into convoy OG14F and then sailed independently to Trinidad arriving 24 January 1940

1940 nominal ownership passed to Athel Line Ltd, London name unchanged

28 January 1940 sailed Trinidad independently to Halifax arriving 8 February 1940

16 February 1940 sailed Halifax in convoy HX20 to Scapa Flow arriving 7 March 1940

14 March 1940 sailed Scapa Flow

5 April 1940 sailed Trinidad independently to Halifax arriving 16 April 1940

18 April 1940 sailed Halifax in convoy HX36 to the Clyde arriving 2 May 1940

4 May 1940 sailed the Clyde escorted by HMS’s HERO and FOXHOUND to Scapa Flow arriving 6 May 1940

28 October 1940 sailed Halifax to the UK in convoy HX 84 with thirty six other merchant ships escorted by the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS JERVIS BAY

5 November 1940 in the North Atlantic convoy HX84 was attacked by the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Scheer when 755 miles south west of Reykjavik, Iceland.  HMS JERVIS BAY and five of the merchant ships were sunk by the pocket battleship but Athelempress escaped and reached port in the UK

11 November 1940 arrived at the Clyde with her cargo of FFO

17 November 1940 sailed the Clyde in convoy WN40 to Scapa Flow arriving 19 November 1940

25 November 1940 in collision with RFA Aldersdale

4 December 1940 sailed Lyness in convoy EN36/1 to Liverpool arriving 8 December 1940

23 December 1940 sailed Liverpool in convoy OB263 until dispersal on 27 December 1940 and then independently to Curacao arriving 8 January 1941. RFA ABBEYDALE also sailed in this convoy.

10 January 1941 sailed Curacao independently to Bermuda arriving 18 January 1941

21 January 1941 sailed Bermuda in the Liverpool bound convoy BHX104 and continued to Iceland arriving 5 February 1941. RFA DARKDALE also sailed in this convoy

27 February 1941 involved in a collision at Iceland – details currently unknown

28 March 1941 at Hvalfjordr, Iceland with HMAS NESTOR alongside being refuelled

30 June 1941 sailed Reykjavik to New York arriving 15 July 1941

22 August 1941 sailed New York to Halifax arriving 24 August 1941

29 August 1941 sailed Halifax in convoy HX147 to Belfast Lough arriving 12 September 1941

13 September 1941 sailed Belfast Lough in convoy BB75 to Milford Haven arriving the next day and joined convoy WP35 to Falmouth arriving 15 September 1941

16 September 1941 sailed Falmouth independently to Devonport arriving the same day

28 September 1941 sailed Devonport in convoy PW42 to Falmouth arriving the next day

1 October 1941 sailed Milford Haven in the Liverpool convoy ON22 until dispersal on 15 October 1941. She then sailed independently to Curacao arriving 24 October 1941. RFA’s OLYNTHUS (1) and SCOTTISH AMERICAN were also in this convoy. RFA SCOTTISH AMERICAN however putback to Liverpool.

25 October 1941 sailed Curacao independently to Halifax arriving 3 November 1941

8 November 1941 sailed Halifax in convoy HX159 to Hvalfjord arriving 20 November 1941

16 December 1941 sailed Reykjavik joining convoy ON46 from Liverpool until dispersal on 21 December 1941 and then independently to Curacao arriving 5 January 1942

9 January 1942 sailed Curacao independently to Bermuda arriving 15 January 1942

15 January 1942 sailed Bermuda independently to Halifax arriving 20 January 1942

26 January 1942 sailed Halifax in convoy HX172 to Belfast arriving 7 February 1942

9 February 1942 sailed Belfast Lough in convoy BB135 to Milford Haven arriving the next day

10 February 1942 sailed Milford Haven in convoy WP110 to Portland arrving 12 February 1942 – the only ship in this unescorted convoy(!)

18 February 1942 sailed Portland in convoy WP113 to Southampton arriving the same day

2 April 1942 sailed Southampton to Milford Haven arriving 4 April 1942

11 April 1942 sailed Milford Haven in convoy OS25

30 April 1942 torpedoed (2 torpedoes) in the Atlantic and sunk by gunfire (30 shells) from the German submarine U-162 (Kapitan zur See Jurgen Wattenberg)180 miles East of Barbados in position 13.21N 56.16W while sailing independently on passage from Southampton and Milford Haven to Trinidad in ballast while dispersed from Convoy OS25 with the loss of three lives. Ninteen survivors landed at Gros Inlet Bay, St Lucia and a further twenty eight survivors were rescued by the Norwegian tanker ATLANTIC and landed at Trinidad. Two of the three who were killed are recorded, with pride, on the Tower Hill Memorial. Loss of the ship reported in the Admiralty War Diary of 4 May 1942


Athelempress CWGC

Image courtesy of Brian Watson


The third, Acting Able Seaman James R Sullivan C/JX191019 (DEMS Gunner) is remembered with pride on the Chatham Naval Memorial.