The SS Slamatwas
a twin-prop ship of 11,636 tons of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd. The
vessel was launched in 1924 by shipyard De Schelde in Flushing carrying
passengers between Rotterdam and the Dutch Dutch East Indies. In order
to compete with faster newer ships Slamat
was modernized in 1931. Her length was increased to
155.5 meters by altering the bow whuich enabled the De Schelde
steam turbines to increase the ship's speed from 15 to 17 knots. The Slamat was chartered by the British
Ministry of Shipping in 1940 and converted into a troop-ship in Sydney,
Australia. She was mainly
deployed in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean carrying British Empire troops to Egypt.
In the afternoon of 26 April, 1941, Slamat
, HMS Glenearn
and Khedive Ismail
of 7,290 ton (under Egyptian flag) escorted by the cruiser HMS Calcutta
and five destroyers were directed from Crete to evacuate the troops from Nauplia in the in the Peloponnese. The Glenearn
an LSI (Landing Ship Infantry), was bombed and a bomb hit the engine room stopping the LSI dead in the water. The destroyer HMS Griffin
was ordered to tow the landing ship back to Crete. The loss of the Glenearn
was a bitter set back; their landing craft would have madeb the evacuation of the troops much easier.
In the evening the ships dropped anchor in the bay at Nauplia. The harbour was still blocked by the wreck of the Ulster Prince
and since the landing craft of the Glenearn
were not available the troops could only be ferried to the ships in the
life-boats of the ships themselves and some small loocal boats. The
cruisers HMS Orion
and HMS Perth
and the destroyer HMS Stuart
which had replaced HMS Glenearn
, took the first 2,500 troops aboard. By 03.00 the Khedive Ismail
had taken aboard no troops at all and Slamat
only a few hundred, when HMS Calcutta
signalled that departure was due. Captain T. Luidinga of the Slama
t knew that hundreds of evacuees remained on shore and against orders he continued to embark troops. HMS Calcutta
and the Egyptian ship only departed at 04:00 and Slamat
at 04:15. In spite of the decision by captain Luidinga to
board more troops there were only 600 troops onboard, only half of her capacity.
After a few hours the allied fleet was attacked in the Sea of Pelagos by nine German Ju 88 bombers and the Slamat
received a direct hit between the bridge and the foremost chimney which
caused a fierce blaze. The crew tried to control the fire but this was
made more difficult by heavy machine gun strafing by
Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter airplanes and Ju 87 (Stuka) bombers. The ship received another near-miss and started to list.
Captain Luidinga ordered abandon-ship. The life boats and
rafts which had been left over did not provide sufficient capacity and
two life-boats capsized as they were overcrowded. To make things worse
the drowning troops were machine gunned in the water by the German
airplanes whilst the other ships maintained heading and speed. HMS Calcutta
took a few survivors aboard and ordered the destroyer HMS Diamond
to stay and rescue as many survors as possible.
At 09:16 three British destroyers from Crete arrived to reinforce the convoy. HMS Wryneck
was ordered to assist HMS Diamond
in her rescue attempts. Both destroyers rescued as many drowning men as possible and returned at 11:00 to the burning Slamat
. Here they discovered another two life-boats and they took the survivors aboard. HMS Wrynec
k fired a torpedo at the Slamat
which sank her within minutes. HMS Diamond
already had about 600 victims onboard and HMS Wryneck
another few dozen when both destroyers at 13:00 headed for Crete. A
quarter of an hour later both ships were attacked by Ju87 dive
bombers coming out of the sun. HMS Diamond
received two hits and sank within eight minutes. HMS Wryneck
received three hits, capsized on her port side and sank within fifteen minutes. The crew of the Wrynec
had been able to lower a single life-boat and both destroyers had
launched their three Carley rafts. The capacity of these was far short of what was needed and hundreds drowned,
especially those wounded.
In the evening of 27 April the destroyer HMS Griffin
was sent out to establish why HMS Diamond
and HMS Wryneck
had failed to return. Griffin
found two rafts at the spot where Slamat
had sunk. Fourteen survivors were picked up and next morning another four, who were taken to Crete. The life-boat of HMS Wryneck
reached a little rocky island thirteen miles south east of Milos on
the 28th of April. Here they found a Greek fishing boat full up with
Greek and British refugees from Piraeus. That evening the
fishing boat and the life-boat sailed for Crete and were spotted during
the night by a landing craft on its way with refugees from Port
Raphtis. All the evacuees were taken aboard the landing craft and
arrived safely at Crete.
Almost one thousand perished in the disaster of the Slamat, HMS Diamond and HMS Wryneck.
Only eight of the 600 men being evacuated by the Slamat survived plus eleven of the 214 crew and 21 Australian and New-Zealander artillery men.
Of the 166 crew of HMS Diamond 20 were saved and of the 106 crew of HMS Wryneck 27 survived.