Ships 2

City of Johannesburg

Ships 3

City of Johannesburg

City of Johannesburg; Another War Victim

By James Donahue

Launched as the Melford Hall in 1920, the British merchant steamer, part of the Ellerman shipping line, was renamed the City of Johannesburg in 1926 and put on a trade route between Liverpool and South Africa, which was then British territory.

On its final voyage the 417-foot ship steamed from Calcutta to the United Kingdom, with a southern stop at Cape Town. It was just off the southern coast of Africa, bound for Cape Town, laden with 7,750 tons of pig iron, cotton, jute and tea, when the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-504, commanded by Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske, on Ocober 23, 1942.

Only two of the 89 crew members on the City of Johannesburg died in the sinking. Captain Walter A. Owen and the 86 others had time to launch lifeboats. They were picked up by the passing vessels, Zypenberg, Fort George and King Edward.

Commander Poske commanded U-504 until January, 1943, when he was succeeded by Wilhelm Luis. Luis was in command when the submarine was sunk by British forces off the coast of Spain on July 30, 1943. The entire crew of 54 men perished.

That particular submarine was responsible for the destruction of 15 ships on the high seas during the years it remained afloat.