Cape St George



Cape St George was a steam cargo ship that was in service from 1928 until she sank in 1940 following a collision with the wreck of a ship that had been sunk two days earlier by a German submarine.

Note: The flag at the top of this page has been re-constructed based on outlines in old books. It may not be accurate and will be updated if an authentic version comes to light.

Sun Shipping Co.Ltd

The following information is provided by courtesy of Middlemass - External Ref. #69

William Mitchell Cotts was a Scotsman who went to South Africa before the turn of the (20th) Century and established the Natal Collieries. These collieries needed a supply of pitprops and Baltic timber was imported in tramps owned by his Sun Shipping Co. Ltd. He surrered two war losses in WW1 with Julia Park 2900/94, purchased from Park Steamship Co. Ltd (J.Smith Park), Glasgow on 30 May 1916 and Lord Charlemont purchased from the Irish Shipowners Co. Ltd. (T.Dixon & Sons), Belfast on 19 April 1918. He also had at this time four tramps under his South African subsidiary British Africa Shipping & Coaling Co. Ltd. and half a dozen coasters trading under Thesen's Steamshp Co. Ltd under the South AFrican flag. He purchased three large WAR 'A' class as replacements in 1919 renaming them Cape of Good Hope, Cape Colony and Cape Natal but sole the trio in December 1920 to the Union Steamship Co. Ltd. of New Zealand. ......

After the death of Sir William Mitchell Cotts, his son Crichton Mitchell Cotts steered the Sun Shipping Co. Ltd. through the difficult 1920s and owned seven big tramps at the beginning of the Depression in 1930:
  • Cape Cross - ex-German prize ship Hans Wilhelm Hemsoth
  • Cape St Agnes - ex War Briton
  • Cape St. Columba - ex Carlow Castle
  • Cape St Francis - ex Sutlej
  • Sunland
  • Cape St. Andrew
  • Cape St. George
The latter pair (Cape St. Andrew and Cape St George) had been completed at the Duncan yard on the Clyde in March and June 1928.

Funnels on Sun Shipping vessels were white with a black top. Hulls were black with red boot-topping. ("Boot Topping" is the area of a ship's hull between the light and full load waterlines. In other words the area that is immersed or exposed depending on whether the ship is laden or not.)

Mitchell, Cotts & Co head office was at Winchester House, Old Broad Street, London EC2.

The Sun Shippping Co. Ltd. head office was at 3 St. Helen's Place, London EC3.

Cape St George
Cape St. George - date and location not known. [1]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Cargo Ship
Registered owners, managers and operators Owners: Sun Shipping Co.
Managed by: Mitchell Cotts & Co
Builders R Duncan & Co
Yard Port Glasgow
Country UK
Yard number 382
Registry London
Official number 160514
Signal letters N/K
Call sign GNSW
Classification society N/K
Gross tonnage 5,112
Net tonnage 3,175
Deadweight N/K
Length 407 Ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth 53,5 Ft
Depth 26.7 Ft
Draught N/K
Engines Triple Expansion steam engine with cylinders of 26", 44" and 73" bore and stroke 48".
Engine builders D.Rowan & Co. Ltd.
Works Glasgow
Country UK
Boilers 3 single-ended boilers operating at 200psi
Power 545 NHP
Propulsion Single screw
Speed N/K
Cargo capacity N/K
Crew N/K

Additional Construction Information

The Lloyds Register entry for Cape St George for 1940 has the following additional information about her:

  • Two steel decks

Career Highlights

Date Event
9 May 1928Launched
June 1928Completed
6 August 1940Sank after a collision the previous day

Service Pre WW2

Note: George Witten spent many years as Chief Engineer on Cape St George. A web page of his recollections and details of his life are under preparation as part of the Benjidog Recollections website and will be linked to from here when published.

First Commercial Cargo from Hulutao (Huludao)

In January 1932, Cape St George arrived in Shanghai with the first commercial cargo from Hulutao - then a new Chinese port in Fengtien Province and now Huludao in Liaoning Province. The port had been incomplete when the Japanese seized Manchuria under a false pretext in September 1931 (the Mukden incident) but it opened under their rule - the Japanese intending it to be a primary port for coal. Cape St George with her cargo of 8,500 tons of coal was allowed to depart.

Cape St George
This is a cutting which by the wording appears to be from a Shanghai newspaper and from January 1932. It refers to the breakwater at Hulutao being only half-finished and no modern cargo facilities installed. [2]

Major Explosion at Shanghai

Unfortunately Cape St George was in port at Shanghai at the time of a major explosion involving a steam launch and two lighters laden with gunpowder, cordite and other explosives. The explosion completely annihilated the craft involved and caused major damage. The wheelhouse of Cape St George was ruined along with most of her deck fittings and a rain of debris and human remains landed on her deck as graphically described below.

Cape St George Cape St George
This is a cutting from a Hartlepool newspaper based on a letter from George Witten to Captain John Race of Seaton Carew which is rather grisly. [2]

Note: I have been unable to find any information about how long she was out of service. If anyone reading this can provide more details, please contact the site owner - contact details are on the website HOME PAGE.

Cape St George
This is another contemporary newspaper cutting but the source is unknown. [2]

Collision with Ariguani - External Ref. #78 - has information about a collision between Cape St. George and Ariguani. Unfortunately the date of the incident is not recorded:

Collision-Anchored vessels-Red navigation light displayed on anchored vessel - Steamships Cape St. George and Saranac anchored in line in Walton Bay - Steamship Ariguani bound up river on flood tide-Red light of Cape St. George opened about 112 points on starboard bow of Ariguani, about one-quarter of a mile away - Starboard helm action taken by Ariguani - Collision between port quarter of Ariguani and port bow of Cape St. George - Subsequent and more serious collision between port bow of Ariguani and port bow of Saranac -Dispute as to whether red navigation light was being exhibited by Cape St. George - Whether Ariguani misled thereby - Duty of Ariguani under Collision Regulations-Seamanship -Sudden danger-Apportionment of blame - Whether second collision was the result of a subsequent act of negligence on the part of the Ariguani - Collision Regulations, Arts. 19, 22, 23, 27.

Service in WW2

Cape St. George took part in the convoys shown in the table below. The information is provided courtesy of Convoyweb - see External Ref. #4.

Departure Convoy/Independent Arrival
Southend, 10 Feb 1940 FN.91 (Southend - Methil) Methil, 11 Feb 1940
Tyne, 29 Feb 1940 FS.9 (Tyne - Southend) Southend 2 Mar 1940
Southend 3 Mar 1940 OA.103GF (Southend - r/v with OG.21F 5 Mar 1940
OG.21F (formed at sea - Gibraltar) Gibraltar 11 Mar 1940
Freetown 2 Aug 1940 SL.42 (Freetown - Liverpool) Liverpool 21 Aug 1940

Cape St George was sunk whilst taking part in convoy SL.42 as described below.

Loss of Cape St George

Cape St George was in convoy SL42 which left Freetown on 2 August 1940 bound for Liverpool. According to Hague - External Ref. #4, this convoy should have consisted of 53 ships but 13 of them did not sail. It was reported that the collision happened on 5 August 1940 at position 12° 35' N 20° 00' W. There were no casualties as the crew of 65 were also picked up by Grodno, a Polish vessel. Cape St George sank off Cape Verde at position 12° 15' N 19° 31' W on 6 August 1940.

There is some confusion between the accounts I have looked at, but it appears that Cape St George struck the wreck of Rad.

According to - External Ref. #3, the 4,162 GRT Yugoslavian cargo ship Rad (completed in 1910 for Albyn Line as Thistletor) was sunk by gunfire and a torpedo fired by German submarine UA on 3 August 1940 at a position reported as 11° 20' N 21° 00' W. She was en route from Philadelphia to Durban with a cargo of fertilizer which the Germans interpreted as contraband. The 29 crew took to lifeboats and were picked up by Grodno and landed at Freetown, Sierra Leone. - External Ref. #78 - has the following additional information about the loss of this ship that suggests there was a collision with Grodno:

Collision - Convoy- Look-out - Collision between steamships Grodno and Cape St. George in same convoy- Grodno originally fine on starboard bow of Cape St. George- Signal from boat containing crew of torpedoed vessel observed by second officer of Grodno, in charge of vessel- Grodno turned under port helm action (two short blasts being sounded) to pick up boat- Navigation lights switched on- Master not immediately called- Loom of Cape St. George seen ahead- Red of Cape St. George subsequently opened close to on starboard bow of Grodno- Full astern by Grodno- Grodno first observed by Cape St. George crossing her course from starboard to port- Starboard helm action taken by Cape St. George until Grodno safely on her port bow- Green of Grodno subsequently opened on port bow of Cape St. George only a ship's length away- Navigation lights switched on- Helm and engine action taken but ineffective to avoid collision - Contact between stem of Grodno and port bow of Cape St. George- Cape St. George sunk.

Image Credits

  1. By courtesy of Clydebuilt database - External Ref. #68
  2. By courtesy of Phil Witten and Judith Phillips née Witten