Tuscan Star

Flag

Introduction

Tuscan Star was a refrigerated cargo ship that also carried a limited number of passengers. She was completed in 1930 and sunk by torpedo in 1942 giving her a service life of just 12 years.

Tuscan Star
Tuscan Star in transit - date and location not known. [1]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Refrigerated Cargo/Passenger Ship
Registered owners, managers and operators Blue Star Line
Builders Palmers
Yard Hebburn - Tyne and Wear
Country UK
Yard number 990
Registry N/K
Official number 161395
Signal letters N/K
Call sign GKND
Classification society N/K
Gross tonnage 11,449
Net tonnage 7,075
Deadweight N/K
Length 471 ft
Overall Length 489.2 ft
Breadth 68.3 ft
Depth 35.1 ft
Draught N/K
Engines 4-stroke cycle single acting 16 cylinder oil engine (4S.C.SA) with cylinder bore 26 3/4" and stroke 47 1/4".
Engine builders Sulzer Bros.
Works Winterthur
Country Switzerland
Power 1,994 NHP
Propulsion Twin Screw
Speed 15 knots
Cargo capacity 595,00 cubic feet of refrigerated space in 65 compartments
Crew 35, 4 DEMS gunners and Master at time of sinking
Passengers 22 at time of sinking

Additional Construction Information

The Lloyds Register entry for Tuscan Star for 1944-45 has the following additional information about her:

  • Oil engine
  • 3 decks (steel) and 4th deck (steel) except in machinery space
  • Cruiser stern
  • She was fitted with echo-sounding and radio direction-finding equipment
  • Duct keel forward of machinery space

The refrigeration was provided by J & E Hall Ltd. It was based on Carbon Anhydride (CO2) with brine and air coolant, and had insulation made from granulated and slab cork. She had three refrigeration units and 12 compression units.

Tuscan Star
Tuscan Star in dock - date and location not known. [1]

Career Highlights

Date Event
31 October 1929 Launched for Blue Star Line (1920) Ltd.
April 1930 Completed and owners restyled Blue Star Line Ltd.
1933 Transferred to Union Cold Storage Co. Ltd. (Blue Star Line Ltd. Managers)
1933 Transferred to Frederick Leyland Ltd. (same managers)
17 December 1939 Bombed off Folkestone
6 September 1942 Torpedoed and sunk

Service Pre WW2

Transport of Meat from South America

Tuscan Star was one of several ships built to transport frozen meat and the first Blue Star Line motorship.

Tuscan Star
This is a cutting from The Times of 29 October 1930 and reports that Tuscan Star had arrived in London with a cargo of meat from South America. [3]
Tuscan Star
This is a cutting from The Times of 11 May 1931. Tuscan Star is advertised for voyages to South America. [3]
Tuscan Star
This is a postcard showing Tuscan Star - location and date not known. [3]

Loss of Eusebia Del Valle

In 1932 Tuscan Star was "standing by" following receipt of a distress call from the Eusebia Del Valle.

Tuscan Star
This is a cutting from The Times of 3 March 1932. [3]

Blue Star Service to Santos

Blue Star Line started a service to Santos in Brazil in 1932. Tuscan Star was the first of their ships to make this call.

Tuscan Star
This is a cutting from The Times of 10 November 1932. [3]

Tuscan Star is also known to have made made Blue Star’s first journey from New Zealand to the UK in 1933 leaving Wellington 2 December 1933.

Service in WW2

Tuscan Star took part in a number of convoys and independent voyages during the war years according to information shown in the table below which is provided courtesy of Convoyweb - see External Ref. #4.

Departure Convoy/Independent Arrival
Bermuda, Jul 10, 1940 BHX.57 (Bermuda - Jd HX 57)
HX.57 (Halifax - Liverpool) Liverpool, Jul 26, 1940
Liverpool, Aug 29, 1940 OB.205 (Liverpool - Dispersed)
Bermuda, Dec 1, 1940 BHX.93 (Bermuda - Jd HX 93)
Independent Liverpool, Dec 18, 1940
Liverpool, Jan 12, 1941 OB.273 (Liverpool - Dispersed)
Liverpool, Jun 30, 1941 OB.341 (Liverpool - Dispersed)
Halifax, Sep 4, 1941 HX.148 (Halifax - Liverpool)
Independent Liverpool, Sep 17, 1941
Liverpool, Oct 14, 1941 ON.26 (Liverpool - Dispersed)
Halifax, Mar 9, 1942 HX.179 (Halifax - Liverpool) Liverpool, Mar 22, 1942
Liverpool, Apr 12, 1942 OS.25 (Liverpool - Freetown) Freetown, Apr 29, 1942
Freetown, Jun 4, 1942 SL.112 (Freetown - Liverpool) Liverpool, Jun 23, 1942
Liverpool, Jul 11, 1942 OS.34 (Liverpool - Freetown) Freetown, Jul 30, 1942

Attacks by German Aircraft

Just a couple of months into WW2, Viking Star was targeted by a German plane on 17 December 1939. The attack took place off Folkestone in Kent.

The Master took evasive action which prevented any direct hits from bombs, but there was a “near miss” and the ship was raked with machine-gun fire which resulted in two serious injuries. The DEMS gunners retailiated with shells from the 12 pounder that had been fitted. Overall damage was done to the Bridge wireless room, the gun platform and the boat deck. This attack took place before the convoy system was in full operation.

Tuscan Star Tuscan Star
This is a cutting from The Times of 19 December 1939 and reports the bombing of Tuscan Star. [3]
Tuscan Star
This is a cutting from The Times of 5 January 1940 and reports a further bombing of Tuscan Star. She was at this time in Panama so it appears that the damage from the first bombing must have been relatively slight. [3]

Rescue of Prins Willem II

The website uboat.net - External. Ref. #3, provides this account of how Tuscan Star assisted survivors of Prins Willem II:

At 02.16 hours on 9 Apr, 1941, the Prins Willem II (Master C.A. van der Eijk) was hit amidships by one torpedo from U-98 and sank by the stern within three minutes. The ship was straggling from the convoy HX-117 since the night of 7/8 April due to thick mist and heavy weather. Three crew members were lost. The survivors abandoned ship in both lifeboats and were questioned by the Germans, but this proved to be difficult due to the strong winds. They apparently misunderstood the name of the vessel and reported their victim as Dutch merchant Willemsplein (5500 grt). The Master and 12 men in the first boat were picked up the same day by the Swedish steam merchant Klipparen, which unsuccessfully searched for the other boat and landed them at Thorshavn on 11 April. The survivors in the second boat were rescued by Tuscan Star.

Loss of Tuscan Star

Tuscan Star was lost on 6 September 1942 after being hit by torpedoes.

The website uboat.net - External. Ref. #3, provides this account:

At 23.23 hours on 6 Sep, 1942, the unescorted Tuscan Star (Master Edgar Newton Rhodes) was hit on the starboard side at the engine room and the #5 hold by two torpedoes from U-109 and sank after 16 minutes about 300 miles southwest of Cape Palmas. 40 crew members, eight gunners and three passengers were lost. The master, 35 crew members, four gunners and 22 passengers abandoned ship in three lifeboats and were questioned by the Germans and they told them that the master went down with the ship and were provided with food for the women and children in one of the boats. Calls for help were heard aboard the U-boat so they searched the area and picked up the second wireless operator Gordon Herneth Gill, who was taken prisoner, landed at Lorient on 6 October and was taken to the POW camp Milag Nord. The survivors were picked up by the British passenger ship Otranto and landed at Freetown on 10 September.

There is an eye-witness report of the sinking of Viking Star by a Mr Wells on the Benjidog Recollections website HERE.

Roll of Honour

The table below lists those who died as a result of the sinking of Tuscan Star. The information about members of the Royal Navy who lost their lives is from External. Ref. #37 and the remainder has kindly been provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Surname Forenames D.O.D. Rank Cemetery/Memorial Grave Ref. Additional Information
Burling William Edward 06/09/1942 Third Engineer Officer Tower Hill Memorial Panel 112. Age 31
Crist Thomas Edward 06/09/1942 Greaser Tower Hill Memorial Panel 112. Age 36. Son of George and Maud Crist; Husband of Ann Crist, of Liverpool.
Cundy Reginald Thomas 06/09/1942 Senior Fourth Engineer Officer Tower Hill Memorial Panel 112. Age 25. Son of Archibald and Annie Priscilla Cundy, of Shoeburyness, Essex.
Dyment Harold 06/09/1942 Acting AB Plymouth Naval Memorial Age 19. Assigned to HMS President III - service No. D/JX 335826, but on passage. Son of Harold and May Dyment, of Buckley, Flintshire.
Harrington Cornelius Edward 06/09/1942 Acting AB Plymouth Naval Memorial Age 21. Assigned to HMS President III - service No. D/JX 291539, but on passage. Son of Edward and Joan Harrington, of Cardiff.
Kehoe Patrick 06/09/1942 Greaser Tower Hill Memorial Panel 112. Age 27. Son of Patrick and Emily Kehoe; Husband of Ellen Kehoe, of Liverpool.
Macarthur Roderick McLean 06/09/1942 Acting AB Chatham Naval Memorial Age 27. Assigned to HMS President III - service No. C/JX 259870 but on passage. Son of Malcolm and Mary A. MacArthur, of Garve, Ross and Cromarty.
Mckenna James 06/09/1942 Greaser Tower Hill Memorial Panel 112. Age 65. Son of Mr. and Mrs. James Mckenna.
Porteous John Templeton 17/12/1939 Second Radio Officer Hampstead Cemetery Sec. C.10. Grave 122. Age 25
Simmons Robert Arthur 17/12/1939 Acting AB Chatham Naval Memorial Age 30. Assigned to HMS President - service No. C/JX 249620. Son of Walter Croote Simmons and Lilian Simmons; husband of Gladys Alice Simmons, of Romford, Essex.
Tower Hill Memorial
This is a photo of the panel on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial at Tower Hill commemorating Tuscan Star. [2]
Poppies

Image Credits

  1. From the website owner's postcard and photo collection
  2. From the Benjidog Tower Hill Memorial Website.
  3. From The Times Archive