Saturday, 23 October 2010

Sinking of the Empress of Asia

The Empress of Asia was requisitioned by the British Admiralty in January 1941, and sailed for Liverpool via the Panama Canal to the River Clyde for refitting as a troopship. For armament she received a 6 inch gun, a 3 inch gun HA, 6 20 mm Oerlikons, 8 Hotchkiss, Bofors guns, 4 PAC rockets and depth charges. In September 1941, the Empress of Asia sailed with the first convoy from North America to England which was escorted by ships of the United States Navy. The final voyage of the Empress of Asia began in November 1941, when she sailed from Liverpool carrying troops and supplies bound for Africa, Bombay and Singapore. She was one of five CPR ships that were taking men and materiel to reinforce Singapore in the face of the Japanese advance. On 5 February 1942, the convoy in which the Empress of Asia was sailing encountered Japanese air attacks near Singapore. Nine Japanese dive bombers focused their attack on the ship and she was extensively damaged and sank near the island of Sultan Shoal in the Western Anchorage of Singapore about 8 kilometres (5 miles) south of the western tip of Singapore Island. Escort vessels HMAS Wollongong, HMS Dana, HMIS Sutlej stood by while the bow of HMAS Yarra was positioned alongside the liner's stern and took off 1804 survivors. There were 16 deaths. Despite rescue efforts organized by Robert Rankin, and in another blow to the island defenders all the military equipment and other supplies were lost. Singapore would fall to the Japanese only ten days later (15 February 1942), which makes it hard to speculate about what difference it could have made if the Empress of Asia had not been sunk. The last convoy of evacuees leaving Singapore included the SS Sing Kheng Seng of the Straits Shipping Company, carrying 45 crewmen from the Empress of Asia along with an unknown number of other. Source - Wikipedia

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