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Παρασκευή, 11 Μαΐου 2018

Sebastiano Venier - Nino Bixio

Inadvertent victims





The ship 'Sebastiano Venier' ('Jason') aground at Point Methoni, Greece, December 1941.
The ship 'Sebastiano Venier' ('Jason') aground at Point Methoni, Greece, December 1941.
Dutch motor vessel 'Jason', about 1939-1940. Photos from the National Library of NZ.
Dutch motor vessel 'Jason', about 1939-1940. Photos from the National Library of NZ.
Ian McKay, of Dunedin, recalls the 1941 torpedoing of the Jason, with 2000 Commonwealth prisoners of war on board.
The 70th anniversary of the torpedoing of the Jason, an Italian-operated merchant ship carrying some 2000 Commonwealth prisoners of war, was on December 9.
The Jason was a merchant ship of some 6000 tonnes, built as the Sebastiano Venier for a Dutch shipping company.
It was in an Italian port when war broke out.
November 1941 saw many elements of the 2nd NZEF engaged in Operation Crusader under the command of General Wavell, of the newly formed 8th Army. One of the objectives was the relief of Tobruk and to engage and destroy Rommel's Afrika Korps 15th Panzer Division's armour.
The New Zealanders were given the task of attacking and engaging the Germans at Sidi Rezegh, Belhamed and Point 175.
Early success later turned into yet another disaster as British armour failed to support the lightly equipped New Zealanders.
By the end of November, some 2042 New Zealand soldiers found themselves as prisoners of war (POWs).
The POWs were taken to Baria, where about 1000 were released on January 2, 1942.
The 24th Battalion had a lot of North Otago men; Otago and Southland men suffered 523 casualties, of whom 277 were taken as POWs.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, about 2000 Commonwealth soldiers, including some 500 New Zealanders, boarded the Jason in Benghazi harbour to be transported across the Mediterranean to Italian POW camps. The men were loaded into the four cargo holds and the hatches were battened down before the Jason left port with an escorting torpedo boat that had on board officers captured the previous month, including Brigadier James Hargest, who had been captured on November 28.
The Jason sailed across the Mediterranean towards Greece and into the path of the Royal Navy's submarine HMS Porpoise, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Pizey. HMS Porpoise made contact with the Jason, on December 9, 5km off Methoni Point, off the western coast of the Greek Peloponnese, the site of a 2000-year-old castle.
At 2.35pm, HMS Porpoise fired the first of four torpedoes, of which the third struck the Jason between the first and second holds below the waterline. The resulting explosion caused the first of some 500 deaths, including 45 New Zealanders, before the Jasonwas beached as dusk was falling.
Prior to the torpedo hitting the Jason, lookouts on board had spotted the periscope of HMS Porpoise, reportedly two minutes before the third torpedo struck. This caused panic among the mainly Italian crew, with the captain and most of his crew taking to the lifeboats, leaving the ship to be managed by a German engineer with the aid of POWs and a handy Luger pistol.
The Italian captain was later court-martialled and is believed to have been shot. The escort vessel dropped 22 depth charges but offered no help to the Jason and continued on to Pylos harbour less than an hour away.
The Jason was taking on water, listing and, because the Italian crew had stopped the engines, had no forward power. Under the command of the German engineer the engines were restarted but the ship was now sinking at the bow, pulling the propeller partly out of the water; with an ever-increasing swell, the Jason was finally beached on the rocky shore parallel to the sea walls of Methoni Castle.
The ship was about 50m from the rocky shore and the consequent evacuation resulted in more deaths, as men were smashed against the rocks. Those who made it ashore were held in a warehouse in Methoni overnight.
In the following days the surviving POWs from the Jason were marched to the ancient castle at Pylos where they were held for two weeks.
For many of the New Zealanders, this was their second time in Greece as they had been part of the ill-fated Greek campaign.
From Pylos, the men were taken by road then by train to Acia, near the Port of Patras, an open area of 1.6ha with tents for cover in a cold Greek winter. The camp became known as Dysentery Acre. A further two weeks were spent in these conditions before they were sent by train to a warehouse in Patras. They finally arrived in Italy on March 4, 1942.
Some of the New Zealand POWs from the Jason ended up in PG 78/1, a POW camp holding 220 men, of whom 147 returned to Allied lines after Italy capitulated on September 8, 1943. Eighty-one were among the first batch of 145 former POWs to return to New Zealand in January 1944.
More New Zealanders were taken prisoner in the battles of early 1942. From Benghazi harbour on August 16, 1942, the prison ships Nino Bixio and Sesieete set sail for Brindisi in Italy. The Nino Bixio carried 2921 Commonwealth POWs. On August 17, at 3.35pm Italian time, the Nino Bixio was struck by a torpedo fired from the Royal Navy submarine HMS Turbulent under the command of Lieutenant Commander John "Tubby" Linton VC. In the forward hold, 200 were killed and many seriously injured. A further 97 New Zealand servicemen died as a result.

Ολλανδικό μηχανοκίνητο σκάφος «Jason», περίπου το 1939-1940. Φωτογραφίες από την Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Νέας Ζηλανδίας.
Ολλανδικό μηχανοκίνητο σκάφος «Jason», περίπου το 1939-1940. Φωτογραφίες από την Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Νέας Ζηλανδίας.
Το πλοίο «Sebastiano Venier» («Jason») καταλήγει στο Σημείο Μεθώνη, Ελλάδα, Δεκέμβριος 1941.
Το πλοίο «Sebastiano Venier» («Jason») καταλήγει στο Σημείο Μεθώνη, Ελλάδα, Δεκέμβριος 1941.
Ολλανδικό μηχανοκίνητο σκάφος «Jason», περίπου το 1939-1940. Φωτογραφίες από την Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Νέας Ζηλανδίας.
Ολλανδικό μηχανοκίνητο σκάφος «Jason», περίπου το 1939-1940. Φωτογραφίες από την Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Νέας Ζηλανδίας.
Το πλοίο «Sebastiano Venier» («Jason») καταλήγει στο Σημείο Μεθώνη, Ελλάδα, Δεκέμβριος 1941.
Το πλοίο «Sebastiano Venier» («Jason») καταλήγει στο Σημείο Μεθώνη, Ελλάδα, Δεκέμβριος 1941.
Προηγούμενος
Επόμενο
Το πλοίο «Sebastiano Venier» («Jason») καταλήγει στο Σημείο Μεθώνη, Ελλάδα, Δεκέμβριος 1941.
Ολλανδικό μηχανοκίνητο σκάφος «Jason», περίπου το 1939-1940. Φωτογραφίες από την Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Νέας Ζηλανδίας.
Προηγούμενος
Επόμενο
Ο Ian McKay, του Dunedin, υπενθυμίζει τη τοποθέτηση του Τζέισον το 1941, με τους κρατουμένους πολέμου της Κοινοπολιτείας του 2000.

Η 70η επέτειος της τορπιλισμού του Ιάσονα, ενός ιταλικού εμπορικού πλοίου που μεταφέρει περίπου 2000 αιχμαλώτους πολέμου της Κοινοπολιτείας, ήταν στις 9 Δεκεμβρίου.

Ο Jason ήταν ένα εμπορικό πλοίο περίπου 6000 τόνων, που χτίστηκε ως Sebastiano Venier για μια ολλανδική ναυτιλιακή εταιρεία.

Ήταν σε ιταλικό λιμάνι όταν ξέσπασε ο πόλεμος.

Τον Νοέμβριο του 1941 είδαν πολλά στοιχεία του 2ου NZEF που ασχολούνταν με την επιχείρηση Crusader υπό τη διοίκηση του στρατηγού Wavell, του νεοσυσταθέντος 8ου Στρατού. Ένας από τους στόχους ήταν η ανακούφιση του Tobruk και η εμπλοκή και καταστροφή της θωράκισης της 15ης Panzer Division του Rommel.

Οι Νέας Ζηλανδίας είχαν το καθήκον να επιτεθούν και να καταλάβουν τους Γερμανούς στους Sidi Rezegh, Belhamed και Point 175.

Η πρώιμη επιτυχία μετατράπηκε αργότερα σε άλλη καταστροφή, καθώς η βρετανική πανοπλία απέτυχε να στηρίξει τους ελαφρώς εξοπλισμένους Νέας Ζηλανδούς.

Μέχρι το τέλος Νοεμβρίου, περίπου 2042 στρατιώτες της Νέας Ζηλανδίας βρέθηκαν ως αιχμάλωτοι πολέμου (POWs).

Οι άρχοντες μεταφέρθηκαν στη Μπάρι, όπου περίπου 1000 απελευθερώθηκαν στις 2 Ιανουαρίου 1942.

Το 24ο τάγμα είχε πολλούς άνδρες του Βόρειου Οττάγκο. Otago και Southland άνδρες υπέστησαν 523 θύματα, εκ των οποίων 277 λήφθηκαν ως POWs.

Το πρωί της 8ης Δεκεμβρίου 1941, περίπου 2000 στρατιώτες της Κοινοπολιτείας, συμπεριλαμβανομένων περίπου 500 Νέας Ζηλανδίας, επιβιβάστηκαν στον Ιάσονα στο λιμάνι της Βεγγάζης για να μεταφερθούν από τη Μεσόγειο σε ιταλικά στρατόπεδα βίας. Οι άνδρες φορτώθηκαν στις τέσσερις φορτάβιες βάσεις και οι καταπακτές μπήκαν πριν ο Ιάσορ εγκαταλείψει το λιμάνι με συνοδεία πλοήγησης τορπιλών που είχε πυροβολήσει αξιωματικούς τον προηγούμενο μήνα, συμπεριλαμβανομένου του Ταξίαρχου James Hargest, ο οποίος είχε καταληφθεί στις 28 Νοεμβρίου.

Ο Ιάσονας περάστηκε στη Μεσόγειο προς την Ελλάδα και στο μονοπάτι του υποβρυχίου HMS Porpoise του βασιλικού ναυτικού, υπό τη διοίκηση του υποπλοίαρχου Pizey. HMS Porpoise έρχεται σε επαφή με τον Ιάσονα, στις 9 Δεκεμβρίου, 5 χλμ. Από το Μεθώνη Σημείο, έξω από τη δυτική ακτή της ελληνικής Πελοποννήσου, όπου βρίσκεται ένα κάστρο 2000 ετών.

Στις 2:35 μ.μ., η HMS Porpoise πυροβόλησε την πρώτη από τις τέσσερις τορπίλες, εκ των οποίων η τρίτη χτύπησε τον Jason μεταξύ του πρώτου και του δεύτερου κρατά κάτω από την ίσαλο γραμμή. Η προκύπτουσα έκρηξη προκάλεσε τον πρώτο από περίπου 500 θανάτους, συμπεριλαμβανομένων των 45 Νέας Ζηλανδίας, πριν ο Ιάσονας φτιαχτεί καθώς πέφτει το σούρουπο.

Πριν από την τορπίλη που έπληξε τον Ιάσονα, οι παρατηρητές στο σκάφος είχαν εντοπίσει το περπισκότο του HMS Porpoise, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες δύο λεπτά πριν χτυπήσει η τρίτη τοποθέτηση. Αυτό προκάλεσε πανικό ανάμεσα στο κυρίως ιταλικό πλήρωμα, με τον καπετάνιο και το μεγαλύτερο μέρος του πληρώματός του να επιβιβάζει στις σωσίβιες λέμβους, αφήνοντας το πλοίο να διαχειρίζεται ένας Γερμανός μηχανικός με τη βοήθεια των στρατιωτικών και ένα εύχρηστο πιστόλι Luger.

Ο ιταλός καπετάνιος αργότερα αγωνίστηκε στο δικαστήριο και θεωρείται ότι πυροβολήθηκε. Το πλοίο συνοδείας έριξε 22 χάρτινα βάρη, αλλά δεν πρόσφερε βοήθεια στον Ιάσονα και συνέχισε να το λιμάνι της Πύλου λιγότερο από μία ώρα μακριά.

Ο Τζέισον έβγαζε νερό, καταγράφοντας και, επειδή το ιταλικό πλήρωμα είχε σταματήσει τις μηχανές, δεν είχε καμία δύναμη προς τα εμπρός. Κάτω από την εντολή του Γερμανικού μηχανικού οι κινητήρες ξαναρχίστηκαν, αλλά το πλοίο βύθισε τώρα το τόξο, τραβώντας την έλικα εν μέρει έξω από το νερό. με μια συνεχώς αυξανόμενη ορμή, ο Τζάσον τελικά βρισκόταν στη βραχώδη ακτή παράλληλα με τα θαλάσσια τείχη του Κάστρου της Μεθώνης.

Το πλοίο ήταν περίπου 50 μέτρα από τη βραχώδη ακτή και η επακόλουθη εκκένωση είχε ως αποτέλεσμα περισσότερους θανάτους, καθώς οι άνδρες είχαν καταστραφεί από τους βράχους. Εκείνοι που το έκαναν στην ξηρά κρατήθηκαν σε μια αποθήκη στο Μεθώνη μια μέρα στην άλλη.

Τις επόμενες μέρες οι επιζώντες στρατιώτες από τον Ιάσονα προχώρησαν στο αρχαίο κάστρο της Πύλου όπου κρατήθηκαν για δύο εβδομάδες.

Για πολλούς από τους Νεοζηλανδούς, αυτή ήταν η δεύτερη φορά στην Ελλάδα, καθώς αποτελούσαν μέρος της κακομεταχείρισης της ελληνικής εκστρατείας.

Από την Πύλο οι άντρες οδηγήθηκαν οδικώς με τρένο στην Ακία, κοντά στο λιμάνι της Πάτρας, μια ανοιχτή έκταση 1,6 εκταρίων με σκηνές για κάλυψη σε κρύο ελληνικό χειμώνα. Το στρατόπεδο έγινε γνωστό ως Dysentery Acre. Περαιτέρω δύο εβδομάδες δαπανήθηκαν σε αυτά τα c

Attack on the Nino Bixio

Today in history, 17 Aug.1942, 118 NZ prisoners of war died, when the Italian cargo ship MV Nino Bixio was torpedoed by a British submarine in the Mediterranean.
Their deaths, combined with 44 New Zealanders lost earlier aboardJantzen in Dec.1941, amounted to nearly a third of NZ's POW fatalities during WWII...
Nino Bixio had left Benghazi in Libya for Brindisi, Italy, escorted by two destroyers and two torpedo boats. Crammed aboard were almost 3000 POWs captured in North Africa, including more than 160 Kiwis.
Two days out of Libya, the convoy was attacked by British submarine HMS Turbulent (N98). [This was one of the most successful Royal Navy submarines during its short career 1942-43. It sank a cruiser, a destroyer, a U-boat, 28 supply ships - some 100,000 tons in all - and destroyed three trains by gunfire. It was depth-charged on over 250 occasions by hunting forces.]
Nino Bixio was hit by two torpedoes from Turbulent: one exploded in the tightly-packed forward hold, killing 237 men and wounding another 60. In the ensuing panic and confusion, many men jumped overboard. Some drowned immediately; others reached makeshift rafts and drifted around the Mediterranean for weeks without food or water.
But, despite extensive damage, Nino Bixio did not sink. Survivors were pulled aboard, and the ship was towed by an escorting destroyer to Navarino in southern Greece, where 34 of the dead were buried (203 others are remembered on the memorial at El Alamein).
Nino Bixio was towed to the port of Pylos in Italian-occupied Greece, where it was beached. Later it was towed to Venice and sunk as a 'block ship' to protect the port.
In 1952 Nino Bixio was raised, re-fitted and returned to civilian service. In its peacetime career, it visited a number of NZ ports including Wellington where, on 25 Jan.1955, a wreath-laying ceremony was held aboard the foredeck. It continued in merchant service until 1970, and was scrapped at La Spezia in 1971.
Ironically its attacker did not fare so well. HMS Turbulent was lost with all hands off the coast of Sardinia in March 1943, after probably striking a mine...

Attack on the Nino Bixio

17 August 1942




Nino Bixio at Napier, circa 1947-1964 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/4-026135-F)
118 New Zealand prisoners of war died when the Italian transport ship Nino Bixio was torpedoed by a British submarine in the Mediterranean.
Their deaths, combined with the 44 men lost on the Jantzen in December 1941, amounted to nearly a third of New Zealand's POW fatalities during the Second World War.
The Nino Bixio was hit while transporting Allied POWs from Libya to Italy. With another unmarked prison ship, the Sestriere, it had left Benghazi for Brindisi on 16 August, escorted by two destroyers and two torpedo boats. Crammed aboard the Nino Bixiowere almost 3000 POWs captured in North Africa, including more than 160 New Zealanders.
The day after it left Benghazi the convoy was attacked by the British submarine HMS Turbulent. The Nino Bixio was hit by two torpedoes: one exploded in the tightly packed forward hold, killing an estimated 200 men and wounding another 60. In the ensuing panic and confusion many men jumped overboard. Some drowned immediately; others reached makeshift rafts and drifted around the Mediterranean for weeks without food or water. Those on board who had survived the carnage were hauled up on deck by rope. The injured were treated by medical officers.
Despite extensive damage, the Nino Bixio did not sink. The ship was towed by an escorting destroyer to Navarino in southern Greece, where the dead were buried. The surviving POWs were transferred ashore, and those fit enough were shipped, after a short stay in Corinth, to Bari in Italy.
The Nino Bixio survived the war and visited several New Zealand ports during its post-war career as a freighter. Its attacker did not fare so well: HMS Turbulent was lost with all hands off the coast of Sardinia in March 1943.
Επίθεση στο Nino Bixio
17 Αυγούστου 1942

Nino Bixio στο Napier, γύρω στο 1947-1964 (βιβλιοθήκη Alexander Turnbull, 1 / 4-026135-F)
118 Νεοζηλανδικοί αιχμάλωτοι πολέμου πέθαναν όταν το ιταλικό μεταφορικό πλοίο Nino Bixio στρέφεται από βρετανικό υποβρύχιο στη Μεσόγειο.

Οι θάνατοι τους, σε συνδυασμό με τους 44 άντρες που έχασαν το Jantzen τον Δεκέμβριο του 1941, ανήλθαν σε περίπου το ένα τρίτο των θανατηφόρων ποινών της Νέας Ζηλανδίας κατά τη διάρκεια του Δευτέρου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου.

Το Nino Bixio χτυπήθηκε κατά τη μεταφορά των συμμαχικών στρατιωτικών δυνάμεων από τη Λιβύη στην Ιταλία. Με ένα άλλο μη σημαδεμένο πλοίο φυλακής, το Sestriere, είχε αφήσει τη Βεγγάζη για το Μπρίντεζι στις 16 Αυγούστου, συνοδευόμενο από δύο καταστροφείς και δύο βάρκες τορπιλών. Η Crammed στο πλοίο Nino Bixio συγκέντρωσε σχεδόν 3000 στρατιώτες στη Βόρεια Αφρική, συμπεριλαμβανομένων περισσότερων από 160 νεοζηλανδών.

Την ημέρα που έφυγε από τη Βεγγάζη η συνοδεία επιτέθηκε από το βρετανικό υποβρύχιο HMS Turbulent. Το Nino Bixio χτυπήθηκε από δύο τορπίλες: η μία εξερράγη στο σφιχτά γεμισμένο εμπρόσθιο κάθισμα, σκοτώνοντας περίπου 200 άντρες και τραυματίζοντας άλλα 60. Στον επακόλουθο πανικό και σύγχυση πολλοί άνδρες πηδούν στο πλοίο. Κάποιοι πνίγηκαν αμέσως. άλλοι έφτασαν σε αυτοσχέδιες σχεδίες και έτρεχαν στη Μεσόγειο για εβδομάδες χωρίς φαγητό ή νερό. Εκείνοι που επιβίωσαν στο σφαγείο τραβήχτηκαν στο κατάστρωμα με σχοινί. Οι τραυματίες αντιμετωπίστηκαν από ιατρούς.

Παρά τις εκτεταμένες ζημιές, το Nino Bixio δεν βυθίστηκε. Το πλοίο ρυμουλκήθηκε από συνοδεία καταστροφέα στο Ναυαρίνου της νότιας Ελλάδας, όπου θάφτηκαν οι νεκροί. Οι επιζώντες αιχμάλωτοι άρχοντες μεταφέρθηκαν στην ξηρά, και εκείνοι που έφτασαν ικανοποιητικά μεταφέρθηκαν, μετά από σύντομη παραμονή στην Κόρινθο, στο Μπάρι της Ιταλίας.

Το Nino Bixio επέζησε από τον πόλεμο και επισκέφθηκε αρκετά λιμάνια της Νέας Ζηλανδίας κατά τη διάρκεια της μεταπολεμικής καριέρας του ως φορτηγού. Ο επιτιθέμενος δεν τα κατάφερε τόσο καλά: ο HMS Turbulent χάθηκε με όλα τα χέρια στα ανοικτά των ακτών της Σαρδηνίας τον Μάρτιο του 1943.

Part 1 - "Missing in Action - Believed POW"

 Chapter 4 - Transportation of POW

A. By Sea

In the heat and confusion of fierce fighting, it is very easy to forget about the rules and protocols of the Geneva Convention. And even after some semblance of peace returns with the stretcher bearers and the burial parties, the POW and particularly their wounded, still have to face the rigours of evacuation and transport out of the battlefields to their places of incarceration.
The struggle for supremacy of the Mediterranian was a desperate one, each side trying to cut off supplies reaching the other, with each side closely monitoring the shipping movements of the other. The basic stategy was to destroy the means of transportation. What was being transported was of minor consequence.
The B.I.S.N. steamer "Chakdina" was built in 1914 at the outbreak of WW1. On January 13, 1940 it was requisitioned by Admiralty as an armed boarding vessel.
In company with another similar vessel, the cased petrol carrier S.S. "Kirkland",it was returning from a supply trip to Tobruk back to the 62nd General Hospital in Alexandria with some 300 British wounded and 100 prisoners including the German general, von Ravenstein, on December 5, 1941, when at 21.35 hours at 32.11N and 24.30E it was torpedoed by the German submarine U.81 commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Guggenberger (1).
There are however eye witness reports that the ship was actually sunk by torpedo-bombers. Peter Bates, a New Zealand journalist then serving with the Supply Company of the New Zealand Division was on the "Kirkland". in his book "Supply Column" (M37) writes: "At 9.30 pm there was a sudden shout on board  the "Kirkland", a swirl of movement as the crew rushed for the freighters ack-ack protection - 12 m/g's plus a Breda - and the ship began to spit fire into the sky. Then there was another heavy explosion and another shout: "The bloody "Chakdina's" gone".
The "Chakdina" - 100 yards away across the moonlit water - was sinking after having been hit by a torpedo. In three and a half minutes the water had closed over her. Then there was another explosion and the sea boiled as the boilers burst. Of the 381 on board, few below escaped and others were drowned when the fast sinking ship dragged them down. 17 Australian POW were drowned including 12 members of the 2/13th Inf Bn.

Peter Bates is of the opinion that the torpedo was released by German aircraft. Some 200 survivors were rescued by the British destoyer H.M.N. "Farndale" and another 60 by a Norwegian whaler "Thorgrim".
Rowland Ryder in his book "Portrait of a German General" (M27 p106) states that Von Ravenstein said when rescued that the "Chakdina" had been attacked by an Italian Savoia torpedo-bomber.
A few days later, on 9 December, 1941, the "Sebastiano Veniero"(formerly the Dutch "Jason") with 2,000 POW among her cargo, was torpedoed by the British submarine "Porpoise" and was subsequently beached off Novarino.
Over 500 British POW were killed when the torpedo struck the forward hold in which they were crammed, including 45 New Zealanders. A graphic description of this tragic event is told by Spence Edge and Jim Henderson in their book "No Honour -No Glory" (M21) which also covers the story of the "Nino Bixio".
In each case, MK signals (signals extracted from decrypted enemy coded "Z" signals by Naval Intelligence through Bletchley Park) had been sent out by the Mediterranean authorities that POW were being carried. Neither submarine commander, German or British seemed aware of this fact, or if so, were not deterred from their primary wartime task, which was to sink enemy ships. The ships were certainly not marked as Hospital Ships.
Nine months later, after the first fierce fighting at El Alamein, the prison camps around the Libyan port of Benghazi held almost 15,000 British POW suffering from scurvy, dysentery, desert sores and untreated wounds lying in the open in almost unbelievable squalor.
In mid-August 1942, some 6,000 POW began embarking in two ships in Benghazi harbour for the journey to captivity in Italy. The two ships were the "Sestriere" and the brand new "Nino Bixio".
The embarkation procedure was such that those POW from A-L were allotted to the "Sestriere" and those from M -Z to the "Nino Bixio". By August 16, loading was complete and the two ships left Benghazi Harbour. They were escorted by two destroyers, the "Da Rocca" and the "Saetta" and two motor torpedo boats. Neither ship was marked as prison ships, or carried Red Cross identification or lettering. Again the Mediterraean authorities were advised that the ships carried POW.
On that same day, the Royal Navy submarine "Turbulent" (formerly named the "Trieste") commanded by Lt. Commander "Tubby" Linton, VC, was on patrol off Novarino. About 3 o'clock that afternoon, it sighted the convoy and despite its strong protective cover, "Tubby" Linton attacked, with a salvo of three torpedoes narrowly missing the "Sestriere" but hitting the "Nino Bixio" in Number 1 hold forward, in the engine room amidship and glancing off the rudder, but doing enough damage to render it useless. No. 1 hold was crammed with Allied POW, in the main Australian, New Zealand and South African and the torpedo burst through the skin of the ship and exploded inside. Less than half of the 300 men in this hold survived. The 2/28th Infantry Battalion of the AIF lost 29 men alone from the 39 Australians killed. 118 New Zealanders died.
Barton Maughan (A3 p764) has slightly different figures: "Of the 504 originally in No.I hold, only 70 remained".
The survivors were kept on the ship for four days to carry up as many dead as practical and to identify them if possible. During this period a few Italian army biscuits were their only food, but, as a survivor put it, "everyone was too dazed by the shock to worry about food". Of the 201 Australians on board at Benghazi, 37 were killed or drowned. After a short stay at Corinth, the uninjured were shipped to Bari in Italy, where they entered Campo 75, then being used as a main transit camp for British prisoners from North Africa.
The "Saetta" took the stricken "Nino Bixio" in tow and beached her in the harbour at Navarino. Wounded survivors were taken off, but the last were those physically uninjured Australian and New Zealanders kept behind for some days to "tidy up".
In the 12 month period of December 1941 - December 1942, six ships carrying a total of nearly 7,000 POW en route to Italy from North Africa were sunk, as shown in the following table:

Date....Ship....Tonnes....Left.... For....Sunk by....POW....Killed....Aus....NZ05.12.41 Chakdina, 6000, Tobruk, Alexandria, U81 - 400, 16, -, -.
09.12.41 Jason, 6350, Benghazi, Italy, Porpoise - 2000, 450, 2, 45.
27.02.42 Tembien, 5584, Tripoli, Naples, Upholder - 469, 397, -, -.
16.08.42 N'Bixio, 8600, Benghazi, Brindisi, Turbulent - 3000, 275, 39, 118.
04.10.42 Loreto, 1055, Tripoli, Naples, S/M P.46 - 350.
14.11.42 Scillin, 1579, Tripoli, Trapani, S/M P.21 - 28, 10, 2, 2.
When the "Tembien" was sunk, of the 469 POW aboard only 72 were saved.
The Recorder's memories of the torpedoing of the "Nino Bixio" have been surpressed and have faded over time but he thinks that Barton Maughan figure of 504 men in Number 1 hold would be more accurate.
"All I can remember after embarkation into the forward hold was finding, on the steel mezzanine deck that ran around the hold, a space between a South African sergeant and a Kiwi private. It was incredibly hot and stuffy and the rhythmic beat of the engines and the slow roll of the ship made dozing almost a permanent state of mind and the time of night or day of little consequence.
"I remember a sudden tremendous thud and the "whoompf" of the torpedo bursting into the hold. The ship slowed immediately and I learned later that another torpedo had struck the engine room amidships. Looking down on the bottom of the hold was like watching a surreal merry-go-round. It was still daylight and the clear white and jade-green water was swirling around in a clockwise direction with bodies, clothing, petrol drums that had served as urinals and all sorts of gear revolving at a mad pace.
"The water was also rising rapidly and the smell of cordite hung thickly in the foetid air. Men were pressing towards the ladder leading upwards to the deck and the human tide carried me with it. Somehow it carried me also to the deck and the sight of the open sky and the fresh smell of the sea was unbelievably welcome.
"On deck it was a scene of complete confusion. Those on the deck immediately above the hold, mainly guards, had been blown to bits. There were remains of humans hanging in the rigging and body parts littered the bloody deck. An anti-aircraft gun there was a mangled twisted piece of steel, crushed under steel deck beams which had been hurled upwards by the force of the explosion and then crashed back onto the ship. POW were pouring up from other holds and many, mainly Indians, were jumping off the decks into the sea. The red-bearded Captain of the ship, with a revolver in his hand, was shouting orders and trying to restore some semblance of sanity and discipline among his crew.
"The "Nino Bixio" was settling lower into the water but did not appear to be sinking and ropes appeared from somewhere and those that had reached the open deck were hauling badly injured mates and bodies out of the watery hell of Number 1 hold.
"One of the escorting Italian destroyers that had been circling  the "Nino Bixio" dropping depth charges through the carpet of bobbing heads of those that had leapt overboard, broke off to attach a cable to her as daylight began to fade and begun the slow haul toward the land that could be seen to starboard.
"It was a long night, but by daylight the "Nino Bixio" had been beached off Novarino Harbour in Greece and rescue teams of both Germans and Italians came aboard to supervise the evacuation of the ship. Unwounded New Zealanders and Australians were left to the last and were put to work cleaning up the ship, reeking with the smell of death. Finally, they too, were ferried ashore.
"I was dropped off with some other Australians from a lorry that pulled up at some sort of a warehouse. It had three tiers of "shelves" and I think was probably some short of drying shed for fruit. This was plentiful as it was autumn and we had been able to get some figs and tomatoes thrown at us by friendly Greeks who risked retribution by trying to get anywhere near us. I found a berth with three French Foreign Legionaires caught at Bir Hakim. We got on well. Late that night, I was called out to have all my body hair shaved off. I was given some sort of naval clothing and loaded into a lorry for Patras. I never saw my French mates again. Eventually I was loaded into another Italian ship - not a hospital one. As it happened once again I had been allotted to the forward hold and once again I was awakened from a drowse by a sudden thunderous noise. But this time it was the release of the ship's anchor chain from its storage compartment. We had arrived in Bari Harbour - "bella Italia" at last!
"We were marched through the streets to a railway station amid a hostile reception by the citizens of Bari, loaded into railway wagons and taken on a long a slow journey north.
"I have no remembrance of time, but eventually we were taken off in darkness and marched to what I later found out to be Campo di concentramento No 57 Gruppignano.
"By then I really didn't care where I was. I was lousy, weak with dysentery and had contracted jaundice. Fortunately, I was able to respond to a voice yelling out in the dark "Anybody there from Melbourne?" That voice belonged to Cpl Gordon Dare of the 2/24th Inf Bn. He had been captured in Derna in April, 1941, and was already a hardened "krigie".
"He took me under his wing despite my allocation to a different hut in a different compound. He nursed me back to health through that terrible winter and I was later to be best man at his wedding back in Melbourne."
The passenger list of ANZACs aboard the "Nino Bixio" appear in the following 4 .pdfs, sorted alphabetically as follows:
References:
1. Personal Communication Brian Sims, Grange Farm, Alford Rd., Maplethorp Lincs., LN12INE. England.
M21 "No Honour - No Glory", Spence Edge & Jim Henderson, 1983. ISBN 0002172089
M37 "Supply Column", Peter Bates, War History Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs, NZ, 1955.
M27 "Portrait of a German General", Rowland Ryder (p106).

 
Acknowledgements and thanks to Brian Sims.


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