27th April 1941 – 983 die
in SS Slamat disaster

SS_Slamat_during_World_War_IIThere were three related shipwrecks on 27th April 1941, during Operation Demon, the evacuation of British and Allied troops from Greece, resulting in an estimated loss of 983 people. Initially the Dutch troopship Slamat was attacked by Junkers Ju-87 dive-bombers, off the east coast of the Peloponnese. Slamat was owned by Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd (Royal Dutch Lloyd), and had been converted to a troopship. In April 1941 she joined Operation Demon, as part of Convoy AG14. En route to Nauplia (Navplion) to embark troops, Slamat was attacked by German aircraft: several bombs caused heavy damage, but she continued. Arriving at Nauplia, landing craft and local caïques has to be used to tender troops out to the waiting troopships and warships. At 03.00 hours on 27th April the convoy commander on HMS Calcutta ordered all ships to sail, to get away before likely dawn attacks. Slamat ignored the command and continued boarding troops, and didn’t sail until 04.15 hours.

Heading down the Argholic Gulf, Slamat steamed at her maximum 16 knots to catch up with the rest of the convoy and the protection of the warships. However, around 7.00am the German aircraft attacked. Initially Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters, then Ju-87, Ju-88 and Dornier Do-17 bombers arrived in concentrated waves. In spite of fierce defence from the warships, at 7.10am a 550b bomb hit Slamat between the bridge and the forward funnel, and a major fire broke out. A second bomb hit soon after, and she quickly developed a list to starboard. The Captain gave the order to abandon ship – several of her lifeboats and life-rafts had been destroyed, and the Stukas continued to press home their attack as the remaining bots were launched. At least another four bombs hit the stricken vessel.

HMS Diamond-500 kopie 2HMS Diamond moved in and started rescuing survivors, initially along with HMS Wryneck, HMS Calcutta assisting, but they then returned to the convoy, which headed for Souda Bay. HMS Wryneck was then despatched back to assist HMS Diamond, arriving around 11.00am. They found a few more survivors: by now Slamat was afire from stem to stern, and Diamond was ordered to sink her with a torpedo. By now HMS Diamond had about 600 survivors aboard from the Dutch vessel. She was then caught by a surprise attack from more German aircraft, and a number of bombs hit her: she sank within eight minutes.

HMS WryneckThe aircraft then turned their attention to HMS Wryneck, and she sank a few minutes later. With the loss of all three ships, around 983 people died. Only 19 survived from Slamat: from the three ships only 66 survived. HMS Diamond was a D-Class destroyer completed on 3rd November 1933, and was equipped with four 45-calibre 4.7-in guns in single mounts plus several anti-aircraft guns and two torpedo tubes. She served on the China Station before the war, and by 1940 was operating in the Mediterranean. HMS Wryneck was a W-Class destroyed completed on 11th November 1918. Reduced to a reserve vessel and laid up in the 1930s, in 1938 she was recommissioned and converted to a fast escort, complete with four 4-in anti-aircraft guns.