Remembering today: Chief Officer Norman Oakes, Merchant Navy lost at sea on
board S.S. Lurigethan (Belfast)
23rd January 1941 aged 36. Norman
born in Carrickfergis in 1905, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Oakes and
married Norah Oakes. |
S.S. Lurigethan was steam ship built in Holland in 1916 weighing 3,564 tons - she was owned by G. Heyn & Sons Ltd, Belfast and was based out of the city. In late 1940 to January 1941 she had been on route from Port Sudan (7 Nov) – Durban (3 Dec) – Freetown (1 Jan) – Hull carrying 2459 tons of cotton seed and 871 tons of general cargo. At 11.15 hours on 23 Jan, 1941, the unescorted Lurigethan (Master M. Kennedy), a straggler from convoy SLS-61 due to bad weather, was bombed and set on fire by a German Fw200 aircraft of I./KG 40 in 53°46’N/16°00’W, about 280 miles west of Galway Bay, Ireland. 15 crew members and one gunner were lost. The survivors abandoned ship in the lifeboats, but a boarding party later returned aboard in an attempt to save her. They managed to extinguish the fire amidships, but the fire in the cargo of cotton in #4 hold was out of control, the engine room was wrecked and the ship was slowly settling by the bow. The wireless operator rigged a temporary aerial and sent emergency messages that were heard by Milos, another straggler from the same convoy, which picked up 14 men from two lifeboats about four hours after the attack and landed them at Oban on 27 January.
(HMS Arabis K 73) (LtCdr J.P. Stewart, RNR) was detached from convoy HG-50 to assist Lurigethan and eventually found the remaining survivors and the drifting and still burning wreck, picking up the men and staying in the vicinity to wait for a tug to arrive. During the night of 25/26 January, U-105 was attracted by the glow of the fire and while investigating the scene spotted the escort nearby, which was unsuccessfully attacked with a spread of two torpedoes at 02.07 hours. The U-boat then left the area after firing one torpedo that hit and sank the Lurigethan at 03.20 hours.