February is not a very lucky month in maritime history in South Africa, this is the month where we remember two traumatic maritime disasters with South African connections.
Chronologically, the first disaster is the loss of the frigate SAS President Kruger.
One of three sister ships (President Steyn, Pretorius and Kruger), was a Type 12 Frigate, acquired by the South African Navy in the 1960’s. Built in the United Kingdom, she was launched on 20 October 1960 from the Yarrow Shipbuilders, Scotstoun. She was the flagship of the South African Navy, and at the time of her sinking she was also holder of the “Cock of the Fleet”.
After an eventful career, she was destined for replacement as newer and more efficient warships were rendering the President Class vessels obsolete. However, the arms embargo imposed by the UN meant that by 1982 she was still active in the fleet.
On 18 February 1982, the vessel was conducting anti-submarine exercises with her sister ship the SAS President Pretorius, the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse and the replenishment ship SAS Tafelberg. She was under the command of Captain de Lange and at the time were using the opportunity to carry out anti-submarine exercises, with each ship given a patrol sector ahead of the Tafelberg. The President Kruger was stationed on the Tafelberg’s port side between 10 and 330 degrees, while the the President Pretorius had a reciprocal box on the starboard side.
|SAS Tafelberg and a President Class Frigate doing RAS.
At approximately 4 am, the whole formation had to change direction by 154 degrees which would result in an almost complete reversal in direction. To maintain station the frigates would change direction first to maintain their positions ahead of the Tafelberg on the new heading. President Kruger had two possible options: turn 200 degrees to port, or 154 degrees to starboard. The starboard turn was a much smaller one but was much more dangerous as it involved turning towards the Pretorius and Tafelberg. The officer of the watch elected to make the starboard turn, initiating 10 a degree turn. that had a larger radius and would take longer to execute than a 15 degree turn, Critically while executing the turn, the operations room lost radar contact with the Tafelberg in the radar clutter. An argument ensued between the officer of the watch and the principal warfare officer over the degree of wheel to apply, it was however too late and the bows of the much bigger Tafelberg impacted the President Kruger on her port side..
The President Kruger sank 78 nautical miles (144 km) south west of Cape Point, with the loss of 16 lives. Because the impact was in the senior ratings mess most of the casualties were Petty Officers which impacted on the Navy due to the loss of so many senior ratings.
|Roll of Honour:
AB. G.T. Benjamin
CPO J.P. Booysen
PO. S.P. Bothma
PO. G.A.F. Brind
PO R.C. Bulterman
PO. G.W. De Villiers
PO. E. Koen
PO. H. Lotter
PO. R.A. Mc Master
PO. R.F. Skeates
CPO. H.W. Smit
PO. W.R. Smith
CPO. W.M.G. Van Tonder
CPO. D. Webb
PO. M.B.R. Whiteley
PO. C.J. Wium
|1982 Naval Casualties at the SADF Wall of Remembrance
At the naval board of inquiry it was found that there was a lack of seamanship by the captain and officers of the ship. The inquest apportioned blame on the captain and PWO. However none of the officers was court-martialled.
I have relied heavily on the Wikipedia page on the Paul Kruger
to create this post. It is also worthwhile to visit the SAS President Kruger
Blog dealing with “The sinking, the inquest, and the experience – a tribute to 16 lives lost”
The two images I cannot source. They come from my collection, but I have no idea where the originals came from. If you are the copyright holder please contact me so that I may acknowledge your historic images.
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