TYNE BUILT SHIPS
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Name: AUTOMEDON
Type: Cargo Ship
Launched: 04/12/1921
Completed: 03/1922
Builder: Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd
Yard: Jarrow
Yard Number: 920
Dimensions: 7628grt, 4782nrt, 459.4 x 58.4 x 32.6ft
Engines: 2 x Steam turbines, DR geared, 6000shp
Engines by: Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd
Propulsion: 1 x Screw, 14.0knots
Construction: Steel
Reg Number: 147203
History:
03/1922 Ocean Steamship Co Ltd (A Holt & Co), Liverpool
11/11/1940 Sank
Comments: 11/11/1940: Sunk by German surface raider ATLANTIS 250 miles NW Sumatra. 8 lives lost.
At 0700 hours on 11 November 1940 she was about 250 miles northwest of Sumatra when she was spotted by the German surface raider Atlantis. At 0820 hours, when the two ships were separated by about 3 miles, Atlantis ran up her German ensign and uncovered her guns. Automedon responded by sending a distress signal but this was jammed by the German raider. The Atlantis opened fire from about one mile and four salvos hit the bridge and midsection. Everyone on the bridge, including the master and all her officers were killed. One crewman attempted to reach and fire the stern gun but the next salvo killed him and put the gun out of action.
Atlantis sent a boarding party over and the devastation which met them shocked even Ulrich Mohr of Atlantis as he said the ship was in the worst condition he had ever seen. The shelling had destroyed virtually every structure above the hull and nothing was left undamaged. Six crew members had been killed and 12 injured. Six of the injured were at once transferred to the Atlantis for medical assistance.
A search of the ship yielded 15 bags of Top Secret mail for the British Far East Command including a large quantity of decoding tables, Fleet orders, gunnery instructions and Naval Intelligence reports. The most significant find was a small green bag marked ‘Highly Confidential’ containing an envelope addressed to Robert Brooke Popham, Commander-in-Chief of the British far East Command. The envelope contained documents prepared by the British War Cabinet’s Planning Division which included their evaluations of the strength and status of British land and naval forces in the Far East. It also detailed Singapore’s defences and had information on the roles to be played by Australian and New Zealand forces in the Far East in the event that Japan entered the war on the side of the Axis.
Captain Rogge of the Atlantis transferred all the survivors, all the frozen meat and food, the ships papers and mailbags over to Atlantis before placing scuttling charges and sending Automedon to the bottom.
Realising the importance of the intelligence material captured he then transferred the documents to a captured vessel and under a German crew the material was delivered to the German embassy in Tokyo on 5 December and then hand carried to Berlin. The Japanese were given a copy and it has been argued that this information played an important part in Japan’s decision to enter the war.


Above photo courtesy of Kevin Blair

Above photo courtesy of Kevin Blair