LOSS OF BRITISH
120 MEN MISSING
The following official communique was issued last night
The Admiralty and War Office regret to announce that the SS. Mohamed Ali El Kebir while acting as a transport has been torpedoed and sunk. Seven hundred and forty survivors have been landed out of a total number of 860 who were on board.
OVER SEVEN HOURS
IN THE WATER
DIFFICULT RESCUE WORK
FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT
A WESTERN PORT, AUG. 11
Graphic stories of the rescue of the troops and crew were told when over 700 survivors of the torpedoed Egyptian liner Mohamed Ali el Kebir were landed here. Some of the survivors had been in the water for over seven hours before being picked up and most of them were scantily clad. A considerable number were stretcher cases having been wounded in the explosion that followed the striking of the vessel by the torpedo. The attack was made in the Atlantic at night but it was not until 5 o'clock the next morning that the last of the survivors was picked up. The torpedo struck the liner on the starboard side. The vessel did not sink for nearly two hours but rescue work was made difficult by the heavy swell on the water. Several casualties were caused by the explosion but heroic efforts were made by doctors and men to secure the safety of the wounded. Lifeboats and rafts were lowered and the more seriously injured had their wounds dressed before being lowered to the boats in stretchers. This was a task of great difficulty and danger, but there was no lack of volunteers and practically all the wounded were successfully taken off.
A vessel which was not far off took part in the rescue work, and picked up about 700 survivors. Unfortunately, because of the rough weather some of the lifeboats filled with water and several men were washed off the rafts and drowned. A number died from exposure after being picked from the water. One lifeboat when picked up contained only the dead body of a lascar and was three quarters filled with water.
The canteen manager in the liner Mr.W.0lley said that the canteen was wrecked by the explosion and wounded lay all around. The ship's doctor and the medical officer with the troops were magnificent and knowing that the vessel might sink at any moment did what they could to help the wounded.
Mr.0lley left in the last lifeboat with the wounded. Before he left the captain handed him the ship's papers. Captain Thomson a Scot living in Alexandria remained on board until all the men had got clear. Mr 0lley last saw him on a raft but feared greatly that he had been lost. He feared too that the ship's doctor the medical officer and the chief wireless officer were missing. This is the third time that Mr.0lley has met with disaster at sea.
A seaman among the rescued said this was the third time he had been torpedoed during the last 10 months. Many of the troops lost all their belongings and many were wearing only trousers and singlets when they were landed. The wounded were taken to neighboring hospitals and the others to a sailors rest home.
The Mohamed Ali El Kebir was the vessel on which King Farouk and his bride spent part of their honeymoon.
According to Lloyd's Register the Mohamed Ali El Kebir of 7,527 tons was owned by the Pharaonic Mail Line before being taken over by the Ministry of Shipping. She was built in 1922.
The Times, Monday, Aug 12, 1940
Image Courtesy of
Clydebuilt Ships Database