HMSAS Parktown was originally built for The Southern Whaling and Sealing Company of London by Smiths Dock Company of Middlesbrough. She was laid down and launched in 1929 under the name Southern Sky. In 1936, she was bought by the Union Whaling Company and registered in Durban as Sidney Smith for service in the whaling industry until 1940. When war broke out she was requisitioned for service in the South African Navy as a minesweeper on 8 August 1940 under the name HMSAS Parktown.
On 10 June 1942, HMSAS Parktown arrived in Tobruk Harbour for magnetic minesweeping duties and for ten days she continued operations off the harbour while the 8th Army were being driven back by advancing German and Italian forces. On 20 June 1942 the Tobruk garrison was attacked from the south and south east and By 18H00, the Allies had been overrun and Allied ships were ordered to embark personnel for evacuation. At 06:45 on 21 June, the lookouts of HMSAS Parktown sighted what they believed was an Italian “MAS” torpedo boat, but according to German reports, the ship was engaged by a flotilla of German E-boats based at Derna. The Parktown attempted to fight off the attacks but she was out-numbered and out-gunned by the axis vessels. Within 15 minutes Parktown was stationary with a hole in the boiler. Half of her crew, including her captain (Lieutenant (SAN) Leslie James Jagger) as well as evacuated soldiers were dead and the ship could no longer move and was on fire.
The ship was abandoned and the survivors took to the sea. Some were saved by an Allied MTB as well as a tug that had been under tow by Parktown. The wreck was then sunk by depth charges.
The memorial to HMSAS Parktown in Pieter Roos Park, was unveiled on 21 June 1992, 50 years after the sinking of the ship that bears the same name as the suburb Parktown. It was unveiled by Admiral L.J. Woodburne, Chief of the Navy. Sadly, vandalism and neglect has taken its toll, and the anchor that once adorned the plinth is long gone, and the memorial seems to have lost its context.
Roll of Honour.
The men are Commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Devon.
DRW © 2020 – 2021. Created 15/02/2020. Image: “The Royal Naval War Memorial and Hoe Park, Plymouth Hoe” by Robert Cutts is licensed under CC BY 2.0