Saturday, August 3, 2013

The sinking of HMS Rawalpindi



Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Rawalpindi [Photo: Uboat]

Many natives of Rawalpindi city of Pakistan wouldn't know that there was once a passenger ship called HMS Rawalpindi. The same way many natives of Sahiwal wouldn't know that a ship called Sahiwal Express once sailed in Australia. And I wonder if many know why Sahiwal is known as Sahiwal and why Australia named a ship after this city of Central Punjab in Pakistan.

Those who do not know why Sahiwal is known as Sahiwal may read my earlier post 'Cow and the City.'

But for now lets us talk of HMS Rawalpindi and how did it sink. 

HMS Rawalpindi was a passenger ship launched on 26 March 1926, built by Harland & Wolff Ltd. (Greenock, Scotland). However during the WW-II, when the British Navy was in desperate need to expand its navy to counter the superior German Navy, the passenger ship Rawalpindi of the P. & O. Steam Navigation Co Ltd, London was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser on 26 August 1939. Conversion was completed on 19 September 1939 by the addition of eight elderly 6 in (150 mm) guns and two 3 in (76 mm) guns.

HMS Rawalpindi, now an armed merchant cruiser, was tasked to patrol  the Northern Patrol covering the area around Iceland in October 1939. On 19 October in the Denmark Strait, Rawalpindi intercepted the German tanker Gonnzenheim. The tanker was scuttled by her crew before a boarding party could get on board.



Then came the fateful day in the life of HMS Rawalpindi when it was patrolling north of the Faroe Islands on 23 November 1939. She was intercepted by two powerful German warships the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Being a merchant / passenger ship by design,  she was simply out gunned  But her captain  Edward Coverley Kennedy decided to to fight rather than surrendering to the Germans.  He was heard to say "We’ll fight them both, they’ll sink us, and that will be that. Good-bye".

And that was the last of HMS Rawalpindi that was heard back.  238 men died, including Captain Kennedy as the ship sank. Thirty-seven men were rescued by the German ships, and a further 11 were picked up by HMS Chitral (another converted passenger ship).

This bring to forth another ship HMS Chitral, about which I will write sometime later.

For detailed eye witness account of the sinking of HMS Rawalpindi, please read:
My Night to Remember- The Sinking of the HMS Rawalpindi
We manned the guns of the HMS Rawalpindi
Reference: Wikipedia | Uboat |

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