Loss of S.S. Baron Dechmont in 1943

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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Loss of S.S. Baron Dechmont in 1943

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:32 pm


A work-colleague, now retired, knowing I had an interest of matters maritime asked me how difficult it would be to find out what happened to his grandfather, a seagoing Master Mariner from the Island of Tiree, who was lost at sea during WWII. I told him that if he gave me the ship's name, that should be enough for me to provide him the details. He gave me the name of the vessel and this was what I found out :

The steamship S.S. ‘Baron Dechmont’ was a cargo freighter belonging to the Scottish shipping company of Hugh Hogarth & Sons Limited, of Ardrossan.

She was completed in November 1929 as Yard No. 343 of the Ardrossan Dockyard & Shipbuilding Company Limited, a vessel of 3,675 tons, with a 3-cylinder triple expansion steam reciprocating engine by J. & G. Kincaid of Greenock that provided the ship with a normal economic speed of around 11 knots.

Whilst on a passage, unescorted, from Barry & Milford Haven for Pernambuco, Brazil, with a cargo of 4,630 tons of coal and coke, under the command of her Master, 40-year old Captain Donald MacCallum, son of Duncan & Catherine MacCallum, and husband of Christina MacCallum, the British trampship was attacked, torpedoed and sunk by the German Type IXC submarine, U-507, which was under the command of 35-year old Fregattenkapitan Harro Schacht, the first and only Commander of this U-Boat.

The incident took place at 18:00 hours on Sunday, 3rd of January 1943 in position 03’ 11” South, 38’ 41” West, North-West of Cape San Roque, near Fortaleza, just below the Equator.

Of the total complement of ‘Baron Dechmont’, seven crewmembers were killed in the torpedoing. 28 crewmembers and 8 Gunners survived and were later landed at the Brazilian port of Fortaleza. The Master, Captain Donald MacCallum, was taken on board the U-Boat as a prisoner-of-war, not an uncommon practice based on the premise that the loss of such valued seamen would further damage Allied interests.

Tragically, however, instead of ending up in the POW Camp for merchant marine officers at Milag Nord, to sit out the remainder of the war, Captain MacCallum, along with the entire 54 crew of U-507, lost his life only 10 days later, on 13th January 1943, in the South Atlantic, position 01’ 38” South, 39’ 52” West, North-West of Natal, when the U-507 came under a depth-charge attack from an American Catalina aircraft.

The aggressor, U-507, a product of the Deutsche Werft AG Yard in Hamburg, under the command of Fregattenkapitan Schacht, in her operational patrol period from April 1942 until January 1943, sank a total of 19 Allied ships and damaged one other, amounting to the loss of some 83,704 tons of Allied shipping comprising :

7 x American
2 x Honduran
1 x Norwegian
1 x Swedish
6 x Brazilian
3 x British

Captain Donald MacCallum is commemorated on Panel 14 of the Tower Hill Memorial
Angus Mac Kinnon

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