I’m on the train back from a meeting in Leicester, so have a bit of free time to write a post. I thought I might write about something a bit different to my normal posts. My father contacted me a few days ago to highlight that the Sri Lankan navy have just raised the wreck of a ship sunk during World War II. The ship was the S S Sagaing and it sank on the 9th of April 1942 while at anchor in Trincomalee harbour after being bombed by the Japanese.The reason for my interest is that my grandfather, Kenneth Macleod, was the second mate at the time. After abandoning ship, a suitcase floated past their lifeboat. After recovering it they discovered a camera and took the photographs on the right, showing the ship burning in the background.
This wasn’t the first time that my grandfather was on a ship that sank. He was also the third mate on the Kemmendine which was sunk by the German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis on the 13th of July 1940. The passengers and crew were picked up by the Atlantis and then transferred to other ships. My grandfather ended up on a Yugoslavian ship called the Durmitor which grounded near Mogadishu, Somalia.
The prisoners ended up in an Italian prisoner of war camp just south of Mogadishu. They were liberated in February 1941 by South African soldiers. The Royal Navy then asked them to crew some captured merhant ships back to the United Kingdom. I believe that my grandfather was one who did so, although he may have crewed one from Durban, rather than from Somalia (I shall have to check with my Mother). Less than a year later he’d signed on to the S S Sagaing, which a couple of months later was bombed and sank in Trincomalee harbour.
I think I managed to find the wreck on Google Maps. As mentioned in some of the reports, it was moved after being bombed and then sunk again to be used as a pier. If you compare the Google maps image with the image on the bottom left (from this article) you can see the red roofs of the buildings and also what look like some naval ships that are also in the lower corner of the Google maps satellite image. I’ve also included a larger satellite image showing where it is in Trincamolee harbour (or, used to be).