MV Atheltemplar: Wikis


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Career Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Name: MV Atheltemplar
Operator: United Molasses Co Ltd, London (1930-1940)
Athel Lines Ltd (1940-43)
Port of registry: Liverpool
Builder: Lithgows, Port Glasgow, Scotland
Yard number: 843
Launched: 15 April 1930
Completed: 1930
Out of service: 14 September 1942

UK Official Number 161160
Code Letters LGBH

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Code Letters GJYQ (1934-42)
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Fate: sunk on 14 September 1942
General characteristics
Class and type: Molasses tanker
Tonnage: 8,939 GRT
Length: 475 ft (144.78 m)
Beam: 63 ft 5 in (19.33 m)
Depth: 35 ft (10.67 m)
Propulsion: Twin screws powered by 2 x 12-cylinder SCSA diesel engines (J G Kincaid & Sons, Greenock) 709 horsepower (529 kW)
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h)
Capacity: 9,400 tons of Admiralty fuel oil
Crew: 44 (early Second World War)
61 (Arctic convoys)

Armament (early Second World War):

  • 1 x 4.7" gun
  • 1 x 12-pounder AA gun
  • 4 x Lewis .303" MGs
  • 1 x barrage kite

The MV Atheltemplar was a motor tanker built by Lithgows, Port Glasgow. Launched on 15 April 1930, she was initially operated by the United Molasses Co Ltd of London but homeported in Liverpool, and was officially transferred to Athel Lines on 1 January 1940.


Early wartime career

Atheltemplar’s first recorded voyage during the Second World War was to Abadan on the Persian Shatt al-Arab. She departed home waters with Convoy OB 10 and returned to Gibraltar with her cargo before sailing east again to Port Said.

Atheltemplar returned to Great Britain with Convoy HG 9 which departed Port Said on 19 November 1939, but on the afternoon of 14 December 1939, she struck a mine laid by German destroyers off the Tyne Estuary. The destroyers HMS Kelly and HMS Mohawk were dispatched as escorts for the rescue tugs Great Emperor, Joffre and Langton. During the operation, Kelly also struck a mine and sustained damage to her hull. While Mowhawk put a party aboard Atheltemplar, and Joffre and Langton took the tanker under tow, Kelly herself was taken in tow by Great Emperor and returned to the Tyne.

After repairs, Atheltemplar returned to operations on 9 April 1940 and sailed to Bermuda before returning to home waters with Convoy HX 42. During late May and early June 1940 she was involved in Operation Dynamo, during which she bunkered RN destroyers and was attacked by the Luftwaffe several times in and around Dover Harbour. More transatlantic crossings followed, including a homeward-bound voyage in the ill-fated Convoy HX 84 which was attacked by the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer; fortunately, Atheltemplar and her sister-ship Athelempress managed to escape unscathed.

Atheltemplar then undertook a series of coastal voyages in home waters before undergoing refit in Smith's Yard, North Shields, during the winter of 1940-41. Sailing for Methil Roads on 25 February 1941, she joined the 26-ship Convoy EN 79 which departed Methil on 1 March 1941, bound for the Atlantic convoy marshalling area at Loch Ewe on the west coast of Scotland. Sailing northbound in ballast, Atheltemplar - nominated the convoy's Vice-Commodore ship - was positioned at the head of the starboard column of vessels when, with darkness falling, Convoy EN 79 was attacked off the Aberdeenshire coast by Heinkel He 111 bombers from the Luftwaffe's KG26, a combat group based in Denmark. Atheltemplar bore the brunt of the attack and was struck on the navigation bridge superstructure by two 250 kg bombs; at least five members of the crew were killed instantly (12 crew died during the incident), and a fire swept the vessel forcing the survivors to abandon ship. (Convoy WN 91, sailing towards Convoy EN 79 and about 35 miles north, was attacked at about the same time by another He 111 and the SS Forthbank was seriously damaged.) One of the He 111s was hit by defensive fire from SS Tewkesbury, and subsequently ditched off the Banffshire coast; the crew were captured and became Prisoners of War. Atheltemplar’s survivors were taken aboard HMS Leda. HMS Speedwell fought the blaze and then took Atheltemplar in tow. Taken initially to the Imperial Dock at Leith, Atheltemplar later returned to Smith's Dock for extensive repairs; she resumed trading in June 1941.

Convoy PQ-18

During the Second World War she was used on convoys to carry fuel to the northern Soviet port of Archangel. She was part of Convoy PQ 18 which departed Loch Ewe on 2 September 1942.[1] This was the next attempt to supply the Soviet Union since the disastrous losses sustained by the previous Convoy PQ 17. The Atheltemplar, carrying 9,400 tons of Admiralty fuel oil plus 63 tons of dry stores, was to travel with the convoy to Archangel via Hvalfjörður, Iceland, commanded by her Master, Carl Ray.

The convoy was spotted by German aircraft on 10 September; then on 12 September, Royal Navy Sea Hurricane fighters - flying from the escort carrier HMS Avenger - drove off a Luftwaffe Bv138 flying boat which was attempting to shadow the convoy. Luftwaffe patrol aircraft returned the following day to vector U-boats towards the convoy. At about 08:30 BST (GMT +2) on 13 September, two ships were attacked by U-boats, one sinking within minutes. Later, at about 11:00 , several Luftwaffe Ju-88 bombers of KG30 (based at Petsamo) attacked PQ 18. A series of U-boat alerts followed, and then at about 15:00 a large formation of He 111s and Ju 88s of KG26 attacked with bombs and at least 30 torpedos; eight of the convoy's ships were sunk. Further air attacks occurred at 21:00hrs, during which one of Atheltemplar’s gunners succeeded in downing a Ju 88. At 03:10 hours on 14 September, U-457 managed to penetrate the protective ring of escorts and attacked the convoy southwest of Bear Island. Despite reporting the sinking of one tanker and one other ship, and having damaged a Javelin-class destroyer, the U boat's only success was to have torpedoed the Atheltemplar.

The crew immediately abandoned the burning tanker. The master, 42 crew members and 18 gunners were picked up by the British rescue ship Copeland and the destroyer HMS Offa. They were then transferred to the minesweepers HMS Harrier and HMS Sharpshooter, and later the cruiser HMS Scylla. Atheltemplar settled low at the stern but, although disabled, appeared to be capable of remaining afloat. HMS Harrier briefly took Atheltemplar in tow but, as a prolonged tow of the ship would have been foolhardy given the constant enemy threat, it was decided that the Atheltemplar should be scuttled. This task was delegated to HMS Tartar, which attempted (but failed) to sink Atheltemplar with gunfire and depth charges, before returning to the convoy. Then, at 14.30 hours, U-408 came across the capsized wreck of the Atheltemplar, by now drifting north of Bear Island,[2] and sank her with her 88 mm gun in position 76°00′N 18°00′E / 76°N 18°E / 76; 18. The survivors of the Atheltemplar were landed at Scapa Flow, 16 crew members later dying from their injuries. The master of the rescue ship Copeland, W.J. Hartley, was awarded the Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea, for his actions in rescuing the crew of the Atheltemplar.

By the time of her sinking, Atheltemplar had completed at least 19 wartime Atlantic crossings, had sailed some 102,500 miles, and delivered 140,200 tons of essential fuel oil and molasses. Seventeen men died aboard her during the War.

Official Number and Code Letters

Official Numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers. Atheltemplar had the UK Official Number 161160 and use the Code Letters LGBH until 1933.[3] and GKYQ from 1934.[4]




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