BRITISH MERCHANT VESSEL
BRITISH MERCHANT VESSEL
Builder: Harland & Wolff Ltd Govan in 1941
Port of Origin: United Kingdom
Propulsion: diesel engine - 502 nhp - 11.5 knots cruising
Type: Fuel/Oil Tanker
Tonnage: 8139 tons
Length: 463.2 feet
Width: 61.2 feet
Armament: Limited defenses with (1) four-inch gun, (6) machine guns
Owner History: British Ministry of War Transport (Managers British Tanker Co)
Torpedoed by a German U- boat, the U-66 on January 23, 1942 off Cape Hatteras at 7:45 pm. The Empire Gem was struck by two torpedoes as she approached the Diamond Shoals light buoy heading north, she overtook the U.S.freighter Venore shortly before being hit on her starboard side by the U-66s'' torpedoes. The ship burst into flames almost immediately and then sank while ablaze. Only two sailors from the all-British crew survived the sinking, Captain Francis Broad and the wireless operator, 49 others perished while transporting almost 11,000 tons of gasoline and over 900 tons of equipment to the war effort in Europe.
The S.S.Venore was sunk by the U-66 only minutes following the attack on the Empire Gem. She was hit by two torpedoes killing 19 of the 22 crew members.
Data compiled by BluewaterBandit
On January 23, 1942, Korvettenkapitän Richard Zapp ended his Paukenschlag patrol in dramatic fashion. Taking his submarine U-66 on patrol a few miles southeast of the Diamond Shoals Light Buoy, Zapp managed to place himself in the path of two northbound merchant vessels. One of these was the 8,017 gross ton Venore, and the other was the 8,139 gross ton Empire Gem. As Venore approached the Diamond Shoals Light Buoy, Empire Gem, could be seen astern gaining on Venore. When both vessels were within a mile or two of each other, Zapp seized the opportunity to catch two ships traveling close together and attacked Empire Gem. As Empire Gem began to burn and carry most of its crew to the bottom, Zapp motored straight past it and destroyed Venore before heading back across the Atlantic to a friendly port.
The MV Empire Gem was less than a year old when it was sunk. The tanker was traveling from Port Arthur, TX carrying 10,600 tons of gasoline. It´s ultimate destination was the United Kingdom by way of Halifax, Nova Scotia. A veteran of the Atlantic convoys, the tanker was armed with a stern-mounted 4 in. gun, several machines guns and a 12 pound anti-aircraft gun. The Empire Gem had been travelin g up the coast in a zig-zag course and overtook the bulk-ore carrier Venore just as the ships were entering the Diamond Shoals area.
Little did the crew of the Gem know, but the U-66 had been stalking the Venore. One of the legs of its zig-zag course brought the Gem between the u-boat and its intended target. After sinking the Empire Gem, the U-66 turned its attention back to the Venore who by thi s time was racing towards shore. It sunk the Venore with its last torpedo. Meanwhile, the Empire Gem was a raging inferno, keeping its forward speed while burning at the stern. The engines were finally stopped, but by the next morning the stern had fallen away and sunk. The surviving crew managed to anchor the blazing bow section, but it flipped over and sank the next day. Only two of the 57 crew members survived