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.
|Type||Refrigerated Cargo/Passenger Ship|
|Registered owners, managers and operators||Blue Star Line|
|Yard||Hebburn - Tyne and Wear|
|Overall Length||489.2 ft|
|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.|
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
Loss of Eusebia Del Valle
In 1932 Tuscan Star was "standing by" following receipt of a distress call from the Eusebia Del Valle.
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 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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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.|
- From the website owner's postcard and photo collection
- From the Benjidog Tower Hill Memorial Website.
- From The Times Archive