Built by Earle's Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. Ltd, Hull,
England in 1915 the CITY OF CAIRO
had two decks two masts and a burden of 8,034 tons, and was
450 feet long. She was sailing under the management and
colours of the Hall Line under requisition.
The ss CITY OF CAIRO had sailed
independently on 1st Oct 1942 on a voyage from
Bombay, Durban and Cape Town to the UK via Pernambuco (now
called Recife) in Brazil, with a cargo of pig iron, timber
and wool. Just before sailing, a consignment of silver
bullion was also placed on board. The complement of
299 included 101
fare-paying passengers, of which 28
were women and 19 were children.
Also onboard were 10
(Defence Equipped Merchant Ships) gunners from the Army and
Royal Navy. Among the total compliment were two spare Lascar
crews recruited in India for service on UK ships.
She sailed from Cape Town at 06:00 on Sunday 1st
November 1942. The Master, Captain William Rogerson a
46-year-old Liverpudlian was ordered to steer a mean
northerly course parallel with the African coast for 800
miles, zig-zagging during the day and keeping about 45 miles
out. At latitude 23.30 South, he was to turn due West,
straight out into the South Atlantic. Not until he was in
mid Atlantic would he turn northwest for Recife.
On Friday 6th November 1942 at 20:26 the
ship, in position 23°30S 05°30W, was struck by a torpedo
abreast of the after-mast. The torpedo was fired by U-68,
Karl-Friedrich Merten. Passengers and crew alike made for
their boat stations, momentarily losing their bearings as
the lights dipped, flickered and went out. The ship, still
underway, had stabilised but she was slowly settling by the
stern. Captain Rogerson issued the following order: "Prepare
to abandon ship! Lower the boats!"
They were 500miles
from the nearest land, St.Helena.