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NAME

RMS. LACONIA II

CLASS

LINER

LAUNCHED

APRIL 9th 1921

BUILT

SWAN HUNTER & WIGHAM RICHARDSON / NEWCASTLE / ENGLAND

WEIGHT

19,860 TONS

LENGTH

601 FEET

WIDTH

73 FEET

SPEED

16 KNOTS - TURBINE ENGINES - TWO PROPELLERS


After World War One had come to an end, Cunard began ordering mid sized liners to build up their fleet. The first of these ships was the 12,768-ton Albania followed by three sister ships over 19,000 tons, Laconia, Scythia and Samaria. Laconia set out on her maiden voyage from Southampton - New York May 25th 1922. She was then operated on her intended route between Liverpool, Boston and New York. After Cunard began using Laconia for cruising in 1923, she became the first liner to circumnavigate the world. The British Admiralty requisitioned her to serve as an armed merchant cruiser and troopship during World War Two. In 1942, Laconia was assigned to carry 136 crew, 80 civilians, 268 British soldiers, 1,800 Italian prisoners and 160 Polish guards from the Middle East - Freetown/Sierra Leon. On September 12th, when approximately 360 miles north of the Ascension Islands (west coast of Africa), she was attacked by the German submarine U-156 and hit by one torpedo.

Laconia

The torpedo exploded in Laconia’s cargo compartment killing many of the Italian prisoners. Just as it looked like the crew could contain the damage, U-156 fired a second torpedo into her hull. The submarine commander made a call for assistance at that time as he realized the sinking ship was carrying over 2,000 people. Three more German submarines reached the site two days later to assist in containing the survivors until surface ships could pick them up. After an Allied long range Liberator aircraft from the Ascension Islands spotted the submarines with survivors on their decks and others being towed in lifeboats, they were instructed by their command to sink the submarines. With the Liberator dropping bombs and depth charges, some of which landed amongst the Laconia survivors, the submarines were forced to dive leaving many of the men they had rescued to perish in the sea. There were around 1,500 survivors from the two incidents with approximately 1,000 casualties. After this atrocity, German submarine commanders were instructed not to attempt any more rescues.

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