The British Loyalty

British Loyalty

I am indebted to Mike Butler for the following information sent to me regarding the “British Loyalty”. This ship was sunk after the War southeast of Hittadu and became a favourite dive site for many Gannites and remains so to this day for recreational divers from around the world

The British Loyalty was a Motor Tanker of the “British Advocate” class of vessels. She was built by Palmers and Company Limited of Newcastle on Tyne and was launched on 26th September 1927 from their Jarrow yard. She completed her sea trials off the Tyne on 12th January 1928 and was owned by the British Tanker Company Limited who were based in Llandarcy, South Wales. The tanker sailed for the Abadan oil refinery in Iran on the 13th January 1928 under Captain H R B Kent who had served the company since December 1922. He took over the new vessel from his previous command, the steamship British Colonel.

The Motor Tanker “British Loyalty”, 1927 to 1946.
© BP plc. “Reproduced from the BP Archive”

Some eleven years later at the start of World War 2 in September 1939, she was enlisted as a “Ministry of War” transport vessel.
Just prior to the outbreak of war the British Tanker Fleet was made up of around 500 vessels, a total gross weight of 3,230,000 tons. Only the USA came close to Britain with about 430 vessels, totalling some 2,800,000 tons.

The British Loyalty had quite a chequered career during WW2. She was just one of a whole group of Motor and Steam Tankers all registered under the British flag and used to transport fuel to ships and ports throughout the world to support the war effort. All these tankers were registered as “British xxxxxxx”. The following list* gives some idea of the number of tankers attacked by enemy submarines during the period 1939 to 1945. There are at least another 55 “British xxxxxxx” registered vessels listed at this time.

  • (from Jurgen Rohwer)

MT = Motor Tanker
DT = Steam Tanker
D = Steam Freighter

Ships NameType*Gross Tonnage
British ArdourDT7124
British ChivalryDT7118
British ColonyDT6917
British ConsulDT6940
British CouncillorD7048
British DominionDT6093
British EndeavourDT4580
British FameMT8406
British FortitudeMT8482
British FreedomMT6895
British GeneralDT6989
British GenuisMT8553
British GloryMT6993
British GrenadierMT6857
British GunnerDT6894
British InfluenceMT8431
British JudgeDT6735
British LoyaltyMT6993
Ships NameType*Gross Tonnage
British MarinerDT6996
British MeritMT8093
British MonarchD5661
British PremierDT5872
British PromiseMT8443
British PrudenceMT8620
British PurposeMT5845
British RelianceMT7000
British RenownMT6997
British ResourceMT7209
British SecurityMT8470
British SplendourMT7138
British VentureDT4696
British VigilanceMT8093
British ViscountMT6895
British WorkmanDT6994
British YeomanDT8532
British ZealMT8532

It was not long after her enlistment into the war effort that the British Loyalty was involved in an incident with the enemy.

This attack occurred at 1020 hours on the 3rd February 1940, just twelve miles east of Arbroath in the North Sea off Scotland. It came from a German Heinkel Bomber aircraft whose crew dropped six bombs, five very close to the ship. The aircraft attacked British Loyalty no less than five times, each time strafing the ship with machine-gun bullets. During one of the attacks the main steam pipe to the port boiler was penetrated because the boiler house storm plates were open at the time. The last bomb dropped by the Heinkel fell very close to the stern of the boat and this temporarily disabled the steering engine due to a tie rod being badly bent by the explosion. The attack on the ship had not gone unnoticed and three British Fighter planes soon arrived and drove off the bomber. In spite of the prolonged attack the crew of the British Loyalty suffered no causalities and damage to the boat was limited to just a small number of bullet holes in the superstructure. Although she had been severely shaken by the falling bombs there was no apparent structural damage to the vessel. The British Loyalty’s Master, R.Wastell, submitted his report of the attack to the ship’s owners on the 4th February 1940.

The next report of the British Loyalty being attacked is to be found in “Axis Submarine Successes of WW2, 1939 to 1945”, by Jurgen Rohwer.

This indicates that the Tanker British Loyalty, 6,993 gross tonnes and HMS Ramillies, a Royal Sovereign Class Battleship of 29,150 gross tonnes, were both at the port of Diego Suarez, Madagascar on the 29th May 1942. This port is at the northern tip of Madagascar at Antsiranano, on the Indian Ocean. It was only at the beginning of May 1942 that the Allied Forces had finally landed on Madagascar, a Vichy controlled French Protectorate at that time and occupied the northern end of the island, taking control from the Vichy. The facilities at Diego Suarez were then used for servicing Allied vessels. Also in harbour on 29th May 1942, were HMS Karanja, HMS Genista, HMS Thyme, HMS Duncan and HMS Active, as well as the Hospital ship Atlantis, the Merchant Ship Llandaff Castle and a fully loaded ammunition ship, waiting to be off-loaded.

British Loyalty had arrived at the port on the 19th May from Trincomali via the Seychelles and had spent most of her time bunkering a number of HM ships. She finally completed her task on the 30th May and came to single anchor at 0600 hours in a position approximately 037 degrees, 5 cables from the Antsivana Lighthouse.

The 1st division of the Japanese 8th Submarine Flotilla had been withdrawn from its base at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands and arrived at Penang towards the end of April 1942. Rear Admiral Noboru Ishizaki commanded the Flotilla. It was on the 29th April 1942, Emperor Hirohito’s birthday, that the Flotilla received instructions to leave Penang for the long journey into the Indian Ocean. The division was made up of the Fleet Submarines I-10, I-16, I-18, I-20 and I-30. Submarines I-16, I-18 and I-20 each carried a Type “A” midget submarine whilst I-10 and I-30 each carried a Yokosuka E14Y Reconnaissance Seaplane.
Their mission was to attack as many Allied ships as they could and to use their midget submarines to attack enemy warships in harbours wherever they could be found. Their reconnaissance planes were detailed to scout Durban, Port Elizabeth, Aden, Djibouti, the island of Madagascar and other enemy ports.

Late in the afternoon on the 29th May an unidentified aircraft had been seen in the vicinity of the Diego Suarez harbour and had dropped a flare in the harbour entrance. It was soon realised that this aircraft had probably come from an enemy warship or a Vichy (enemy) controlled airfield in the south of Madagascar, so the alarm was raised. HMS Ramillies raised her anchor and steamed around in circles before returning and anchoring at a different birth in the port. However, British Loyalty’s crew thought the reconnaissance plane had probably come from HMS Frobisher, as she was known to be in the vicinity of Diego Suarez at that time.

The aircraft that was seen above the harbour was in fact from Ishizaki’s Flagship submarine, I-10 and was only recognised as a Curtiss-type single float aircraft. Prior to discovering the true agent of the attack, Allied planes flew a retaliatory raid against the airfield at Tananarive and claimed three Vichy aircraft were destroyed.

Also on the 29th May 1942, around ten miles from the harbour entrance, the Captains of the Japanese submarines I-16, I-18 and I-20 were ordered to launch their Type “A” midget submarines. I-18’s midget took no part in the attack because the launching machinery failed to work properly. The I-18 Mother submarine with its midget still on board was therefore forced to return to the armed flotilla support ships Hokoku Maru, 10,438 tons and the Airoko Maru, 10,437 tons, for maintenance. The other two midgets were successfully launched and started their mission. I-16s midget submarine was crewed by Ensign Katsusuke Iwase as Captain and Petty Officer Takazo Takata as the navigator, both single men. I-20’s midget submarine was crewed by Lt. Saburo Akieda as Captain and Petty Officer Takemoto as the navigator. They were both married men and each had a family.

It was now nightfall on the 30th May with the sky clear, bright and a full moon. Some reports suggest that the midget submarine from I-16 was unsuccessful in getting into the harbour. This statement is not supported by eyewitness reports from crewmembers on both the British Loyalty and HMS Ramillies. Both reported seeing the conning towers of two small submarines in the harbour around the time of the attack. The midget submarine from I-20 was definitely in the harbour and at 2025 hours started a torpedo attack. It almost immediately scored a hit on HMS Ramillies, which blasted a 30ft by 30ft hole in her port bulge. It caused severe flooding to a number of decks as well as power and communication failures within the vessel. In spite of HMS Ramillies’ severe damage there were no fatalities on board and injuries were limited to one broken arm and some bumps, bruising and concussion. The torpedo had passed very close to the stern of the British Loyalty on its path to the Ramillies.

Having witnessed the attack on the Ramillies, the Master of the British Loyalty ordered her crew to get all the boats out and heave up the anchor. He then rang the Engine Room Telegraph signalling “standby”. It was now nearly an hour since the first attack and the Loyalty was just beginning to move aft, away from her original forward anchor point.

Signalman Harry Barnet was watching from the deck of HMS Ramillies and was horrified to see the track of a second torpedo, which appeared to be heading directly towards his ship. As he looked out he could see British Loyalty, just underway, going astern and directly into the torpedo’s path. It was now 2120 hours and the tanker was hit in the after part of the engine room and caught the full blast of the weapon that had been intended for the Battleship. The crew on the midget from I-20 had fired their second torpedo.

The stern of British Loyalty began to sink rapidly and her Master, R. Wastell, gave the order to “Abandon Ship”. If this second torpedo had hit the already badly damaged Ramillies, this elderly battleship would have certainly sunk.

Nearly all the Ramillies’ crew were engaged in stemming the flow of water through the damaged hull and pumping out the flooded decks. They also had the delicate task of removing bombs, shells and bullets from the flooded ammunition stores.

On board British Loyalty the ship’s Officers gathered the crew members into the readied boats and ferried them to waiting ships. Even this operation was not without incident. So many of the Loyalty’s Indian crew had got into the starboard after boat that the supporting davits bent outboard under the weight of the boats full compliment of men. The davits held and the boat was lowered and launched successfully without any further problems.

One of the most heroic acts to occur that night on board the rapidly sinking British Loyalty was made by Second Officer Main. He had been standing on the Gun platform when the torpedo hit the ship. He was blown to the next deck by the force of the explosion, the gun was demolished and Officer Main jumped into one of the boats. He returned to the ship to see if anyone else needed help and found the Chief Engineer unconscious outside the lower engine room door. He then proceeded to carry him to the waiting boat. As Captain Wastell remarked later, “I really do not know how he did this, as the chief weighed 14 stone.”

Most of the Indian crew and Officers of Loyalty escaped in the boats but no one emerged from the wrecked engine room and five men were missing, believed killed. Four other crewmembers were injured and with the Chief Engineer were taken to the Hospital ship Alantis. One of the injured crew died the following day and the Chief Engineer was transferred to another Hospital ship, the Dorsetshire, for continuing treatment.

In the meantime the British Loyalty had sunk to the bottom of the harbour in around 67 feet of water with only part of her funnel visible above the surface. Her stern was now firmly embedded in the harbour mud.

After the attack, the two-man crew of the midget submarine from I-20 attempted to leave the harbour, but in their haste and due to defective steering, grounded the midget on a reef. They abandoned their craft, swam ashore and started to walk across the barren countryside of Northern Madagascar in an attempt to reach the agreed rendezvous point with their mother submarine I-20 near the thickly wooded hills of Cape Amber. They also knew I-20 would wait for two days at the pick up point before finally departing.

On the 2nd June, after reports from locals that two Japanese had been seen in the Amponkarana Bay area, they were eventually found by a British patrol of 15 soldiers. The midget’s crew would not surrender, as honour dictated, and fought with pistols and a sword. They killed one British soldier and wounded four others before they themselves were killed. The crew’s documents were recovered and these included details of their mission in the harbour. The wreckage of their midget submarine was located some time later by a British air reconnaissance aircraft.

The crew of the miniature submarine from I-16 also failed to return from their mission and a search party on the beach outside the harbour found the body of another Japanese in Naval uniform the day after the attack. Their miniature submarine and the second crewmember were never found and the Japanese Navy posted both miniature submarines as missing on 3rd
June 1942.

A few days after the attack, arrangements were put in hand to repatriate the British Loyalty’s Officers to the UK, whilst the Indian crewmembers were returned to Bombay. The Master and the Chief Officer stayed on in Diego Suarez until the 26th July when the Naval Authorities told them that their presence was no longer required.

Further investigations by the Naval Authorities as to the state of the British Loyalty suggested that she was in fact salvable. Naval divers worked on her during June 1942 and were successful in retrieving 2,000 tons of her cargo and 1,800 tons of uncontaminated oil. In December 1942 they raised the ship and work continued to make her a serviceable vessel once more. On the 7th October 1943 she left Diego Suarez for the Maldives and the Addoo Atoll lagoon where she was to be used as a fuel storage hulk.

What is not clear from all the information available is how the British Loyalty reached the Maldives. Whether she arrived there under her own power, or was towed there, is not clear. As she was to be used as a storage hulk, it is quite feasible that she did not have her main diesel engine replaced and was towed to Addoo Atoll by another ship.

If this was the case, then why was she held at Diego Suarez from the time she was raised (December 1942) to the time she left the port for Addoo (7th October 1943), some 10 months later? This would seem to be more than enough time to ready the boat and fit a new diesel engine.

No engineering is shown on the British Loyalty in Lloyds List after 1944. Her second torpedo attack occurred on the 9th March 1944, which therefore suggests that it was not until 1944, after the attack, that she was officially declared a hulk. If this is so, then she probably did arrive at Addoo Atoll under her own power.
MB. 26th November 2001.

HMS Ramillies left Diego Suarez on the 9th June 1942 bound for Durban for structural repairs. She was escorted on the journey by the light Cruiser HMS Emerald, three destroyers and a tug. There was much apprehension about the journey due to the extensive damage she had taken and worry about the gaping hole in her side. She arrived at Durban on the 9th June 1942 having been escorted for the latter part of her journey by HMS Jasmine and HMS Fritillary. She left for Cape Town and the UK on the 6th August 1942 arriving back at Plymouth on the 8th September for further repairs at the Devonport Dockyard. She was out of service for nearly a year

The next reference to the British Loyalty in “Axis Submarine Successes of WW2, 1939 to 1945” by Jurgen Rohwer, is in an entry for the 9th March 1944.

The Captain of the German Submarine U-183 had located the British Loyalty at anchor in the Addoo Atoll lagoon in the Maldives, near to the island of Viligili, just off the Gan Channel. As with the first attack on the British Loyalty, an unidentified aircraft had been seen in the vicinity of the Addoo Atoll the previous day. Also anchored in the Addoo lagoon at that time was the Zuiderkruis, a supply ship. This ship was attached to the British Eastern Fleet in Ceylon as a Depot ship over the period September 1943 to April 1945.

During WW2, all four main sea channels into the Addoo Atoll lagoon had been protected with anti-submarine nets and explosives strategically placed in the sea channels for added security. The detonation of the explosives was controlled from an observation post on the small island of Bushy.

The captain of submarine U-183, Fritz Schneewind, saw a way to launch a torpedo through a gap in the submarine net across the Gan Channel. This he did around 0800 hours on the 9th March and it is stated that the British Loyalty was hit, *caught fire and sank burning to the bottom of the lagoon*.

* The statement in Jurgen Rohwer’s book that the British Loyalty “caught fire and sank burning to the bottom of the lagoon” is questionable. I think it was made, probably because the Captain of the submarine embellished his original report so as to record a kill and not just “damage only”.

Evidence from a member of the British Loyalty’s crew at that time would seem to indicate that although the ship was badly damaged with some of its oil tanks ruptured and the engine room damaged beyond repair, that the vessel remained afloat where it had been anchored. It was suggested that repairs to the damage were put in hand immediately to ensure it did not sink.

Further conclusive evidence has now been found which indicates that the British Loyalty was badly damaged but did not sink. This evidence is in the report of the attack sent by the Master of British Loyalty, R M Anderson, to the British Tanker Company on the 11th March 1944, just two days after the attack.
MB. 26th November 2001

In the British Loyalty’s Master’s report of 11th March to the Marine Superintendent of the British Tanker Company Limited, it is clearly stated that the time of the torpedo attack was around 1430 hours. It also states that the vessel took the impact of the weapon on the starboard side in the vicinity of the Number 8 tank whereupon the vessel immediately took on a heavy list to starboard. The Master then gave orders to flood Number 3 port tank from numbers 1, 4 and 5 Main Tanks. This was carried out and at 1445 hours the vessel returned to an upright position.

At 1800 hours the Naval Officer in Charge at Gan ordered the ships crew to gather their personal belongings and to proceed on shore. No one had been injured in the attack.

An examination of the ship revealed that she had been very badly damaged with major breeching of tanks 7, 8 and 9, with the holes extending from the deck to well below the water line. Much of the ship’s pipe work had been damaged when the spare ship’s propeller, being carried on deck, had been violently moved by the explosion. This meant some pumps on board could only work very slowly. The engine room was slowly flooding with oil but this was being controlled by pumping it back to the bunkers through the general service pipeline on deck.

At the time of the attack, British Loyalty had on-board a large amount of fuel. There were 6,417 tons of fuel oil, 105 tons of MT spirit and 43,250 gallons of 100-octane fuel. There was also 990 tons of fuel oil in another tank that was now badly contaminated by seawater. In cooperation with the shore establishment some of the fuel on board was pumped ashore for storage but as there were no facilities for the 100-octane fuel, this had to remain onboard the ship. The ship was also carrying some coal and this was discharged to shore using the very limited resources available from the British Forces personnel at Gan.

The British Loyalty crew continued to report to the ship each day pending further instructions and were assisted by the Zuiderkruis crew in effecting repairs. There was a great deal of pollution from the oil spilt by the tanker due to its ruptured tanks and the British Forces had the task of cleaning up the spillage in the lagoon.

Due to the considerable damage to the British Loyalty it was decided by the Admiralty that the vessel should stay in the Addoo Atoll for the remainder of the war and continue to serve as an Oil Storage Vessel. As a telegram sent to the owners on 27th March 1944 from N D Holbrook of the Admiralty states, “Not considered profitable to attempt to tow ship to another port for repair”. Repairs were therefore put in hand locally and she remained moored just off Viligili until 1946 as a Ministry of War Transport Oil Fuel Storage Vessel

The British Loyalty’s fate at the end of the war is well known. On 15th January 1946 she was towed to a point away from the main shipping channels, just southeast of Hithadhoo Island in the Addoo Atoll lagoon and scuttled. An unconfirmed report suggests that at least one member of her original crew stayed with the boat until this time. Further unconfirmed reports suggest that before she was scuttled the Royal Navy used the hulk for target practice. There are also reports that many fish and dolphins in the lagoon were killed by oil pollution after the scuttling and that oil continued to leak from the wreck at a diminishing rate and come ashore in the lagoon over the next 10 years. She now lays at longitude 73 degrees 07 minutes east of Greenwich and latitude 0 degrees 38 minutes south of the equator. Her position is recorded on Admiralty Chart 2067.

The ship, which was some 134.3 metres long with a beam of 17.4 metres, now lies on her starboard side and is pointing north. She lies at the bottom of the lagoon in around 33 metres of water. The ship is now heavily encrusted with both hard and soft corals. Many fish have made their home in the wreck and large turtles swim around its deck. Over the many years that this ship has lain on the bottom of the Addoo lagoon many attempts have been made by divers to remove parts of the ships phosphor bronze propeller to sell as scrap.

This wreck is a must for all visiting scuba divers to the Addoo Atoll. The propeller is at 23 metres and covered in big bushy black coral trees. In front of the engine room are two large holes, one on the deck the other in the keel. These holes could have been made when the Royal Navy used the vessel for target practise or purposely made at the time of scuttling to assist the sinking process. These holes are so big that divers can easily swim through them into the ship’s interior. The hole made when the German submarine U-183 torpedoed the ship on 9th March 1944 was on the starboard side of the vessel. This had been repaired and the starboard side of the ship is no longer visible as it lies directly on the seabed. The wreck is about a 30-minute Dhoni ride from “Equator Village” on Gan. Scuba diving trips in the Addoo Atoll are arranged by “Eurodivers”, whose shop and office is located on Gan in the old reception entrance that was once part of the RAF Hospital. No other part of the hospital now stands.

There is just one further entry in Jurgen Rohwer’s book about an incident near Addoo Atoll. On the 16th April 1944 the Japanese submarine I-8, captained by Tatsunosuke Ariizumi, reported one sailing vessel sunk by gunfire off Addoo Atoll. This was thought to be a local Maldivian boat.

Information on M.V. British Loyalty

Type Motor Tanker of the “British Advocate” class.
Call Sign (1928) LBCD.
Registered in London, England.
Designed crew size 40.
Length overall 440.7 feet (134.3 metres).
Maximum Beam 57.1 feet (17.4 metres).
Height of hull 33.9 feet (10.33 metres).
Maximum Draught 22.9 feet (6.98 metres)
Size 6,993 tons gross,
4,200 tons nett approx.,
10,300 tons Dead Weight.
Maximum Speed 10 – 11 knots, (20,000 to 22,000 yards per hour).
Powered by One 6-cylinder diesel engine by Sulzer of Winterhur.
Engineering None recorded in Lloyds List after 1944. (Assumed Hulked).
Single screw Phosphor Bronze.
Launched 26th September 1927.
Completed 12th January 1928.
Built by Palmers & Co. Ltd. of Newcastle on Tyne at their Jarrow yard.
Owned by British Tanker Co. Ltd.
Ministry of War Transport from September 1939.
Torpedoed by Midget submarine from Japanese submarine I-20
on 30th May 1942 at 2125 hrs 5 cables from Antsivana
Light House, Diego Suarez, Madagascar and damaged.
(Salved and repaired).
Torpedoed in Addoo Atoll Harbour by German submarine U-183
on 9th March 1944 at 0800 hrs and damaged.
Converted to Ministry of War Transport Oil Fuel Storage Vessel.
Scuttled in Addoo Atoll lagoon in the Indian Ocean on 15th January 1946.

Information on the British Loyalty’s crew.

3rd February 1940 1st attack Master R. Westell.

30th May 1942 2nd attack Master R. Westell.
Chief Officer R.L. Frienship.
Second Officer Main.
Third Officer Williams.
Chief Engineer ———–
“Alantis” Hospital Ship on 30th May 1942
Second Engineer Mr Bell, engine room, killed
Third Engineer Mr Black, engine room, killed
Fourth Engineer Mr Morton, engine room, killed
Fifth Engineer Mr Goodall, engine room, killed
Greaser ———–, engine room, killed
Those injured —— Deck Tindal, but died 31/4/1942.
—— One Lascar.
—— Engine Room Serang.
* Gunner Robert Strange.
* Gunner A. Fellows.
* Gunner James McGeogh.
* One of the three Gunners was also injured. It is not known which one.
Wireless Operator A. Smith.

Assuming that British Loyalty had a full compliment of crew, i.e. 40, then there were an additional 23 Indian crewmembers that survived the attack.

9th March 1944 3rd attack Master R.M. Anderson.

Information on HMS Ramillies

Type Royal Sovereign Class Battleship.
Displacement 28,000 tons to 31,000 tons when commissioned.
33,650 tons to 35,390 tons when decommissioned.
Compliment 997 to 1,200 Officers and Ratings.
Length 624 feet (190.19 metres).
Beam 89 feet (27.12 metres).
Draught 29 feet (8.83 metres).
Speed 23 knots.
Powered Steam Turbines, 18 Babcock and Wilcox Boilers, 40,000hp.
Launched 1916, but damaged during the launching, delaying completion.
Commissioned September 1917. The first Battleship to be fitted with anti-torpedo bulges.
Built by Beardmore Shipbuilders, on the Clyde.
Main Armament Eight x 15-inch guns in four twin turrets. Two batteries in casements, each comprising six x 6 inch guns, four twin 4 inch high angle mountings on the boat deck, two octuple and two quadruple 2 pounder pom-poms each side of the funnel. Several oerlikons in sponsons were fitted either side of the flag deck.

Information on a type IXC(40) German Submarine U-183

Built by AG Weser (Bremen).
Launched 9th January 1942.
Displacement 1,247 tons submerged / 1,144 tons surfaced.
Length 252 feet (76.8 metres).
Beam 22.75 feet (6.93 metres).
Depth 15.5 feet (4.72 metres).
Machinery 2 shaft, 9cylinder, diesel/electric motors BHP4400 and SHP 1000.
Speed 18.25 Knots surfaced and 7.25 knots submerged.
Bunkers Oil fuel 214 tons giving 11,400 miles range at 12 knots.
Batteries 63 miles range at 4 knots.
Complement 49 men
Armament One 4.1 inch gun, one 37mm AA and two 20mm AA guns.
Tubes 21-inch calibre, 4 forward and 2 aft. Magazine for 22
torpedoes and 42 mines.
General Most of this type had Schnorkels fitted and some had the 4.1-inch guns removed and single barrel 20mm AA guns replaced by twin mountings.

Type IX submarines were described as “Ocean Going type”. They were larger than the Type VII with most of the additional size being taken up by more powerful diesel engines, considerably increased bunkerage and double the number of torpedoes.

Information on the Commander of the German Submarine U183, Fritz Schneewind

He was born on 10th April 1917 in Padang, Sumatra.
He was a boat crewmember in 1936.
He was made a Kapitanleutnant on 1st March 1943.
He died on 23rd April 1945 in the Java Sea.

He had two submarine commands

The U-511 from 18 December 1942 to 20 November 1943,
and U-183 from 20 November 1943 to 23 April 1945. **

** His Submarine, U-183 was sunk at 1300 hours on 23 April 1945
in the Java Sea, at position 04.50S, 112.52E by a torpedo from the
US submarine USS BESUGO. There were 54 dead including the
Captain and only 1 survivor. Fritz Schneewind’s life therefore
ended in the same region it had begun.

U-183 was one of the “Monsun” boats that patrolled in the Far East.
U-183 was a type IXC(40) submarine in the German Navy and was
built by AG Weser in Bremen. She was launched on 9 January 1942.
U-183 had other successes in the Far East before and after her attack
on the British Loyalty at Addoo Atoll.
U-511, Fritz Schneewind’s other command, was also a type IXC
submarine but she was handed over to the Japanese Navy.

Information on Japanese Submarines

The Japanese submarine I-10 was a Type A1 vessel and had the ability to carry a Yokosuka E14Y Seaplane. I-10’s design was developed from the Type J3, and had the hanger opening forward of the coning tower. This allowed access to the forward mounted catapult, which was positioned so as to take advantage of the forward motion of the submarine when launching the aircraft. All three of the Type A1 vessels that were built were equipped with communications equipment allowing them to operate as command ships for groups of submarines. In May/June 1942, I-10 was commanded by Rear Admiral Noboru Ishizaki and was his Flagship.

Details of the Type A1 Japanese Submarine I-10

Completed 1941 – 1942.
Displacement 2,919 tons / 4,149 tons.
Length 372.8 feet (113.6 metre)
Beam 17.5 feet (5.33 metre)
Depth 31.3 feet (9.54 metre)
Machinery 2 diesels: 12,400 hp.
Electric motors: 2,400 hp.
Speed 23.5 knots / 8 knots.
Range 16,000 nm @ 16 knots.
Armament 6 x 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes forward.
plus one x 5.5 inch (140mm/50 cal.) (18 torpedoes).
plus one seaplane.
Maximum depth 330 feet (100 metre)
Crew 114 officers and men.

On 4th July 1944 at 1828 hours, I-10 was lost east of Saipan to the destroyer USS David W Taylor and the destroyer escort USS Riddle. None of the Type A1 submarines survived the war.

The Japanese submarines I-16, I-18, and I-20 were all Type C1 vessels. Their design was developed from the Type KD6. Five C1 boats were manufactured but none survived the war. This type did not carry aircraft but were equipped for carrying a Type A midget submarine aft. They all had eight torpedo tubes forward and these were served via two separate torpedo rooms. The mission undertaken by the submarines I-16, I-18 and I-20 on the 29th May 1942 under the direction of Rear Admiral Ishizaki in I-10 at Diego Suarez is detailed in the preceding text.

I-16 was commanded in May/June 1942 by Kaoru Yamada.
I-18 was commanded in May/June 1942 by Kiyonori Otani.
I-20 was commanded in May/June 1942 by Takeshi Yamada.

Details of the Type C1 Japanese Submarines I-16, I-18 and I-20

I-16 built by Kawasaki
Completed 30-03-40
I-18 built by Sasebo
Completed 31-01-41
I-20 built by Mitsubishi
Completed 26-09-40
Displacement 2,554 tons / 3,561 tons.
Length 358.5 feet (117.5 metre)
Beam 17.5 feet (5.33 metre)
Depth 30.0 feet (9.14 metre)
Machinery 2 diesels: 12,400 hp.
Electric motors: 2,000 hp.
Speed 23.5 knots / 8 knots.
Range 14,000 nm @ 16 knots.
Armament 8 x 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes forward.
plus one x 5.5 inch (14cm/50 cal.) (20 torpedoes).
plus one Type A midget submarine.
Maximum depth 330 feet (100 metre).
Crew 101 officers and men.

I-16 was sunk northeast of the Solomons by the destroyer escort USS England at 1325 hours on the 19th May 1944.
I-18 was lost south of the Solomons on the morning of the 11th February 1943 after an attack from the destroyer USS Fletcher and an aircraft from the cruiser USS Helena.
I-20 was an operational loss in the New Hebrides on 10th October 1943.

The Japanese submarine I-30 was a type B1 vessel. She belonged to the most numerous class of Japanese submarines. Twenty Type B1s were built but only one survived the war. This submarine was similar to the type A1 as it could carry a Yokosuka E14Y seaplane that was launched on a forward catapult.

Details of the Type B1 Japanese Submarine I-30

Built by Kure
Completed 28-02-1942.
Displacement 2,584 tons / 3,654 tons.
Length 356.5 feet (108.6 metre)
Beam 16.8 feet (5.12 metre)
Depth 30.5 feet (9.29 metre)
Machinery 2 diesels: 12,400 hp.
Electric motors: 2,000 hp.
Speed 23.5 knots / 8 knots.
Range 14,000 nm @ 16 knots.
Armament 6 x 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes forward
plus one x 5.5 inch (14cm/50 cal.) (17 torpedoes).
plus one seaplane.
Maximum depth 330 feet (100 metre).
Crew 94 officers and men.

I-30’s Commander in May/October 1942 was Commodore Shinobu Endo. After Madagascar he was given the task of taking his vessel to Europe, Lorient in France, a German occupied port, to pick up strategically important military goods. This he did, but on the return journey the submarine sunk after hitting a British mine on the morning of 13th October 1942 off Keppel harbour, Singapore, whilst on route for Yokosuka. Singapore was now a German occupied port. 87 members of her crew of 100 survived but the others were lost with the submarine. Some of the strategically important goods were salvaged but most was lost. These included radar, rocket and glider bombs as well as antitank guns, all destined for the Japanese armed forces.

The Japanese submarine I-8 was a type J3 vessel. Only two vessels were built and these were the largest submarines completed by Japan before the war. They were intended as Squadron Flagships and each could carry a Yokosuka E14Y seaplane for reconnaissance missions.

Details of the Type J3 Japanese Submarine I-8

Completed 1937 – 1938.
Displacement 2,525 tons / 3,583 tons.
Length 358.5 feet (109.2 metre)
Beam 17.3 feet (5.27 metre)
Depth 29.8 feet (9.08 metre)
Machinery 2 diesels: 11,200 hp.
Electric motors: 2,800 hp.
Speed 23 knots / 8 knots.
Range 14,000 nm @ 16 knots.
Armament 6 x 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes forward
plus one x 5.5 inch (14cm/50 cal.) (21 torpedoes).
plus one seaplane.
Maximum depth 330 feet (100 metre).
Crew 100 officers and men.

I-8 was lost south of Okinawa during the night of 31st March 1945 to the destroyers USS Morrison and USS Stockton.

Information on Japanese Midget Submarine Type “A” as completed in 1941

Built by Kure Dockyard
Length 78.5 feet (23.9 metre)
Beam 6.0 feet (1.82 metre)
Depth 10.2 feet (3.1 metre)
Displacement 46 Tons submerged.
Ballast 5,899 lbs, (534 lead bars each weighing 11 lbs).
Designed Depth 100 feet (30.48 metre)
Payload Torpedoes, 2 x 18 inch (457mm) Muzzle-loaded into tubes.
Propulsion Motor – Electric. 600 HP at 1800 rpm.
Screws Two – Contra rotating on a single shaft.
Leading prop 4.45 feet (1.35 m) diameter, R/H rotation.
Trailing prop 4.10 feet (1.25 m) diameter, L/H rotation.
Batteries 192 trays of 2 x 2 volt cells each.
Forward Battery Room 136 trays.
After Battery Room 56 trays.
Speed 23 Knots, surfaced.
19 Knots, submerged.
Endurance 100 Nautical Miles @ 2knots.
80 Nautical Miles @ 6knots.
18 Nautical Miles @ 19knots.
Compliment 2 crew.

Information on the Yokosuka E14Y Seaplane

This aircraft was a two-seat submarine-borne twin float reconnaissance monoplane and had a welded steel-tube fuselage with fabric, wood and light alloy covering. The fabric covered wings had light metal spars and wooden ribs. The pilot and observer were seated in tandem in enclosed cockpits. The Allied Code Name for this aircraft was “Glen”. This type of aircraft was allocated to submarines I-8, I-10 and I-30. A total of 125 production aircraft were built between 1941 and 1943.

Aircraft E14Y Details

Wing Span 36.08 feet (11.0 metre)
Overall Length 28.01 feet (8.54 metre)
Height 12.46 feet (3.80 metre)
Wing Area 204.5 feet2 (19.0 m²)
Armament One flexible rear firing 3.0 inch (7.7mm) Type 92 machine gun and 60 kg of bombs.
Power Plant One Hitachi Tempu 12, nine-cylinder air cooled radial engine rated at 340 hp for take off, and 300 hp at sea level, driving a two bladed wooden propeller.
Weights Empty; 1,119 kg.
Loaded 1,450 kg.
Maximum 1,600 kg.
Wing loading 76.3 kg/m².
Power loading 4.3 kg/hp.
Performance Maximum Speed 133 knots at sea level.
Cruising Speed 90 knots at 3,280 feet (1,000 m)
Climb to 9,842 feet (3,000 metres) in 10 minutes and 11 seconds.
Service ceiling 17,781 feet (5,420 metres)
Range 476 nautical miles.


1. Axis Submarine Successes of WW2, 1939 to 1945, by Jurgen Rohwer.

2. Stone & Stone second world war books. Bill Stone. http:/

3. Australian War Memorial. Encyclopedia.

4. Zuiderkruis-class supplyship. http:/

5. Virtual Maldives – Diving – British loyalty – Addu Atoll. http:/

6. LDJ Trust – Historic Ships. Memorial Ships Muster. http:/

7. John H Marsh Maritime Collection. http:/

8. Maldives, Gan (English). Diving experiences of Ruud & Odette http:/

9. HMS Ramillies, Royal Sovereign Class Battleship.
10. Index of U-boats.

11. The Men-Commanders.

12. German Warships of the Second World War. H T Lenton. Macdonald and Janes – London.

13. Madagascar Information.

14. Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

15. Lloyds Register. 1928-29, 1943-44, 1944-45.

16. British Tankers 1945 – 1955. I G Stewart. Quayside Shipping Series.

17. Merchant Ships of the World. Tankers.

18. The British Tankers. Norman L Middlemiss. Shield Publications Ltd. Revised edition May, 1995, in association with BP Shipping. ISBN 1 871128 03 X

19. Japanese Seaplanes. 1997. Joao Paulo Juliao Matsuura.

20. Insight Pocket Guide on Maldives.

21. The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II. 1995 by Carl Boyd & Akihiko Yoshida. Airlife Publishing. First published in 1996. ISBN 1 85310 764 6.

22. Underwater Warriors. Paul Kemp. Brockhampton Press. 1999. ISBN 1 86019 9917.

23. The Coffin Boats. Peggy Warner & Sadio Seno, by Leo Cooper in association with Secker & Warburg Ltd. 1986. ISBN 0 436 56330 4

24. Maldives. James Lyon. Lonely Planet Publications. 4th Ed. www.lonelyplanet .com ISBN 0 86442 700 X.

25. BP Archive, BP p.l.c. University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL.

Note from the Article Compiler

I have tried to be as factual as possible in the information presented on the British Loyalty. As you can see in the references list, a great number of books and documents have been consulted as source material for the article. Wherever possible I have tried to obtain correlation of the facts from at least two sources but this has not always been possible. In these cases I have had to ascertain whether the information presented comes from, what I believe to be, a reliable source. As an example, I would rate Lloyds Register of Shipping as very reliable but that in advertising a diving package or Hotel in the Maldives as somewhat less reliable.

There is a classic case of incorrect information being perpetuated in many of the current Maldivian holiday and Hotel brochures. The British Loyalty was NOT attacked by a Japanese Submarine when at Addoo Atoll on 9th March 1944, but by the German Submarine U-183.

I believe the confusion has arisen due to the fact that the British Loyalty was attacked and sunk at Diego Suarez on 30th May 1942 by a Japanese midget submarine. It was sunk in the harbour and this incident has been confused with the attack at Addoo Atoll.

If readers of this article wish to use any of the facts that are presented in it, then may I suggest that before they do, that they check out that information using the references given. My interpretation of the information presented may well be different to the readers.

I would like to record especially my thanks to Bethan Thomas, Archivist at the BP Archive at the University of Warwick for information on the British Tanker Company, its role within BP and on the British Loyalty. The photograph of the British Loyalty is also reproduced with the kind permission of BP plc and is reproduced from the BP Archive. This picture must not be copied by any means unless permission is given to do so from BP plc.

Finally, my very grateful thanks to Jack “Buster” Ansell, an ex member of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service without who’s invaluable help I would still be struggling for information. Thanks for the loan of a number of your extensive collection of Naval books and especially for pointing me in the right direction to obtain further details. Thank you also for your time and effort in carrying out detailed research on my behalf at various libraries and Research Centres around the world.

We have located a number of pictures of German and Japanese vessels as well as personnel referred to in this compilation. Unfortunately “Copyright” restrictions mean we cannot reproduce them in this article.

The picture of the British Loyalty on page 1 of the text has been reproduced with the kind permission of BP plc from the BP Archive.

Research on the British Loyalty is still continuing and this article will be updated in the future.

Mike Butler, 22th March 2002

Article Categories:
GAN Archive