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stepping stones of maritime history


On 21 May 1941 the Elusa (Master J.J. Beckeringh) was in convoy HX-126 which had already lost seven ships the day before. Her crew witnessed the explosion of the British Security, which was also carrying gasoline and was sunk with all hands by U-556.

U-93 had tried for hours to come into a position from which an attack was possible, and when at last a torpedo was launched it missed the target, a tanker. In a second attack at 05.22 hours two single torpedoes were launched on a freighter and on a tanker, but missed the targets again. However, the torpedo aimed at the freighter hit the Elusa at 05.29 hours. Immediately after the tanker was hit, the cargo caught fire, mainly in the rear section of the vessel where the crew quarters were located. According to regulations they had stopped the main engines. Some crewmembers at the rear of the ship did not wait for orders to abandon ship. They immediately lowered the lifeboats and left the vessel, which saved their lives. Amidships some Chinese crewmembers also lowered a lifeboat without orders, and rowed away before the other crewmembers could enter it. Remembering the fate of the British Security, doubtless they wished to waste no time distancing themselves from their explosive cargo. The other crew members succeeded in lowering another lifeboat, in which all the remaining crew members found a place. The master coolly remained on board the Elusa, throwing the classified documents overboard and succeeding in leveling the vessel, which was listing to starboard. Thirty minutes after the hit a British destroyer arrived, rescued the crew members in the three lifeboats and took the master aboard. The destroyer stayed near the burning ship during the night. Soon it became clear that the first engineer was missing (caught by surprise by the fire). Moreover two Chinese, the third cook and a donkeyman drowned when they tried to get into the lifeboats. In the next morning the master, the first mate and the second engineer re-boarded the Elusa and they saw how devastating the fire had been, but they also discovered that the boilers of the vessel were still in good shape. But fact was that the vessel was not able to sail under its own power and the distance to the nearest tug was too big, so they left the Elusa who was still afloat (She sank later in 58.30N/38.10W). The 49 survivors were disembarked at Reykjavik on 25 May.


MasterJ.J. Beckeringh
People on board54
Length446.2 feet (136 m)


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