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Home / CRUISING THE PAST / Cruise Ship History: BLUE STAR LINE’S SS ARANDORA STAR – “The most delightful cruising liner in the world” met a tragic end in a shameful British episode in World War 2 – 800 innocent lives lost!

Cruise Ship History: BLUE STAR LINE’S SS ARANDORA STAR – “The most delightful cruising liner in the world” met a tragic end in a shameful British episode in World War 2 – 800 innocent lives lost!

We want to acknowledge Fraser’s wonderful BLUE STAR LINE website. This is one of the best historical sites devoted to a great steamship company. Click here to visit and our since thanks to Fraser, who served as s ship’s officer aboard many of the Blue Star ships, for the wonderful photos…

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U.S. advertisement in Travel Magazine. Appearing in a 1938 issue marketing to the American public. A year later Britain would be at war and the Arandora Star’s tragic fate will have been sealed. Disasters at sea are not limited to the TITANIC. Thousands of lives were lost aboard liners during World War 2. The Arandora Star is one such tragedy.

SS ARANDORA STAR was built by Cammell Laird & Company, Limited for the Blue Star Line in 1927. She displaced 12,847 gross tonnage, was 535 feet long, accommodated 354 first class passengers, and cruised at a service speed of 16 knots.

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Initially named Arandora, she sailed from London to the east coast of South America from 1927 to 1928.

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She was later rebuilt to 15,501 grt as a full-time luxury cruise ship. Similar to the high-end cruise lines of today, the Arandora Star was known world-wide. Her cruises were tailored for the wealthy and privileged.

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Quayside at Casablana…

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Boys ship side at Dakar…

She was also renamed Arandora Star to avoid confusion with Royal Mail ships (which typically bore names beginning and ending in ‘A’).

She was refitted during World War II and was assigned to transport Axis prisoners of war to Canada. This included so-called enemy aliens. Thousands of Italians had sought refuge in Britain from Mussolini’s fascist government. After the outbreak for war, they were arrested by the British and shipped off to Canada for the duration. According to the following recent newspaper story, the episode and disaster aboard the Arandora Star is considered a shameful period in British history.

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Click to read a newspaper clipping on the tragedy from the Scottish Daily Express 29th May 2008 ~ Courtesy Dick Young

On July 2, 1940, having left Liverpool unescorted the day before, under the command of Edgar Wallace Moulton, she was bound for Canadian internment camps with nearly 1,500 German and Italian internees, including 86 POWs, being transported from Britain. At 6 AM off the northwest coast of Ireland, she was struck by a torpedo from the German submarine U-47, commanded by U-Boat ace Günther Prien.

It is assumed that U-47 mistook her grey wartime livery for that of an armed merchant cruiser. U-47 fired its single damaged torpedo at Arandora Star.

All power was lost at once, and thirty five minutes after the torpedo impact, Arandora Star sank. Over eight hundred lives were lost. Many of these were refuges who had sought political asylum in Britian.