Built as a cargo-passenger vessel in 1928 under yard no 939 by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead, for the Canadian National Steamship Ltd.
She was one of five sisterships built in England for the company.
Launched under the name LADY HAWKINS.
Tonnage 7.988 gross, 4.920 net, dim. 437 x 59.1 x 28.2ft (draught). Length between pp 420ft.
Passenger accommodation for 103 first and 132 third class. (Mr. Hardgate gives 125 first, 32 second and 102 steerage)
Two Parsons steamturbines 7.500 shp., twin screws, speed 14 knots.
Homeport Halifax, Nova Scotia.
After completing used in the liner service between Canada and the West Indies and Georgetown, Guyana.
She was torpedoed in the night of 19 Jan. 1942 by the German U-66 under command of Capt. Zapp, she was on a voyage from Halifax via Boston to Bermuda under command of Capt. Griffin.
The following comes from the book Operation Drumbeat by Michael Gannon.
The next night Zapp and U-66 were 180 miles east of Hatteras athwart the route of a Canadian ship bound from Montreal to ports in the West Indies and South America. One of the five “Lady” ships of the Canadian National Steamship Line, the 7.988 GRT, 419 foot-long twin screw, oil burning liner LADY HAWKINS was zigzagging south at 14 knots through a smooth sea on a moonless night on 19th January with 212 passengers, mostly civilians, including women and children, and a crew of 109, when at about 01.35 (ET) she was intercepted by two bright white lights to port. It was U-66 running alongside! The searchlight enabled Zapp to identify the ship for exactly what it was, a Fracht-u. Fahrgastschiff-cargo passenger liner. Zapp then steamed at his highest speed ahead of the ship’s course, swung hard-a-port, and flooded both stern tubes. At exactly 01.43 he launched two eels from twelve hundred meters out. Though the LADY HAWKINS took emergency evasive maneuvers, both torpedoes found their marks after an eighty-second run, the first exploding in hold no 2 forward of the bridge, and the second in hold no 3 near the engine room bulkhead. The ship heeled over from the force of the two concussions and virtually everyone who was on deck at that time was swept overside into the sea. The mainmast toppled with a frightening noise, and all the ship’s lights extinguished. As the stricken hull made water, the passengers and crew groped their way in the darkness down the slanting companionways and decks to the six lifeboats, three of which were seen to get away, the remainder hanging in their davits because of the ship’s list. From the U-boat Zapp watched the victim begin to go down with small fires arrayed along the decks “like fine flowers”. After twenty minutes the LADY HAWKINS was gone.
For a brief while the three lifeboats remained in sight of each other; then they separated in the darkness, and two boats with their desperate passengers were not seen again.
On the third boat fifty-three passengers and twenty-three crewmen were so closely crowded in a craft designed for a maximum of sixty-three they were forced to stand upright, which none minded since their lot was better than that of other men and women who clung to wreckage or swam vainly toward the boat, which had to steer away from the lest it be swamped. The anxiety of the survivors was not lessened when the U-boat cruised within five hundred yards of their boat and illuminated them with a yellow light that was, as one of them described it, “characteristically without glare.” One of the passengers, held tight in her mother’s arms, was a two-and-a-half year-old girl named Janet Johnson, from Trinidad. Also on board were seventeen Americans, twelve from Saint Joseph, Missouri, all construction workers headed for defense bases in the West Indies; several British Royal Navy, Marine, and foreign service officers; missionary families; and residents returning to their homes in the British West Indies, Chief officer Percy A.Kelly, of Halifax, to whose seaman’s skills, calm courage, and tact the survivors would attribute their lives, rigged the boat’s sail and dictated the daily regimen, including arrangements whereby some would stand while others would sit to sleep. As the days passed in a seaward lane where, as Kelly knew, there was little traffic, he distributed to each person a daily ration of one biscuit, two ounces of water, and a swallow of condensed milk served in the cap of his flashlight. The Gulf Stream kept temperatures moderate in the daytime, but the nights were chilly.
Little Janet, wrapped in a greatcoat, remained amazingly cheerful and lively despite being doused by the continuous salt spray. During one night she ran a fever, and the Chief Officer allotted the tot a spoonful of brandy, which caused her to laugh continuously, with the result, as Kelly said later, that “we were all immensely bucked up.”
Their travail in the open boat would last five days. Unquote.
During the voyage 4 men and one woman died, and several times smoke from passing vessels was sighted but to far away.
She were rescued on the 24 Jan. by the SS COAMO of the New York Porto Rico Line, which transported them to San Juan at Puerto Rica, only 50 passengers and 21 crew were saved, no trace of the other two lifeboats was ever found.
With the LADY HAWKINS also 2.908 tons of general cargo was lost. She sank approximately in a position 35N and 72.30 W.
Montserrat 1980 $1.20 sg 463 and 1990 $1 on $1.20 sg 821
St Lucia 1938 5s sg 137.
Lloyds War Losses, The Second World War. Register of Merchant Ships Completed in 1928.
Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam. 1824-1962 by C Hocking.
The full index of our ship stamp archive
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