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Datum: WGS84 [ Help ]
Latitude: 49° 46.517' N
User rating (1)
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Out of Cap de la Hague - Barfleur. Approx 1hr by boat. If you don't have a boat to disposition ask a local dive base.
How? By boat
Distance Long boat time (> 30min)
Easy to find? Hard to find
Average depth 44 m / 144.4 ft
Max depth 64 m / 210 ft
Current Strong ( > 2 knots)
Visibility Low ( < 5 m)
Dive site quality Great
Experience CMAS *** / DiveMaster
Bio interest Poor
On Christmas Eve 1944 the SS Leopoldville left Southampton carrying over 2000 American troops from the 66th Infantry Division, known as the Black Panthers, to support the Battle of the Bulge. Just 5 miles from the safety of Cherbourg she was struck by a torpedo fired from U-486 commanded by Oberleutnant Gerhard Meyer. Due to a combination of delays, errors and mishaps over 800 men lost their lives on that cold December evening.
The SS Leopoldville was built in 1928 by the James Cockerill shipyard in New Jersey and first saw service ferrying passengers and cargo between her homeport of Antwerp and the Belgium Congo. In 1940 she was moved to Liverpool to be converted to a troop carrier and spent the first few years of the war ferrying troops between England and the Mediterranean. She was one of the first troop carriers to make the crossing to Normandy for the D-Day landing on the 6th June 1944 and made a further 23 crossings over the preceding months under the command of her Belgian Captain, Charles Limbor.
Then on December 24th 1944 at 17.58, just 5 miles from Cherbourg, disaster struck when a torpedo fired from U-486 struck the Leopoldville in hold No 4, instantly killing 350 men. Her three escort ships, HMS Brilliant, HMS Hotham and the Free French frigate Croix de Lorraine instantly gave chase and Captain Limbor in a state of shock didn’t contact anyone for assistance, to add to the problem some of the Congolese crew proceeded to load the lifeboats with personal items and rowed away. About fifteen minutes after the torpedo struck the captain gave order to abandon ship, but in Belgian so none of the troops understood.
It wasn’t until HMS Brilliant arrived back at 18.30 having not found the u-boat the severity of the situation became apparent and Cherbourg was contacted for assistance, though not much help would arrive as everyone was away on holiday. HMS Brilliant made a heroic attempt to rescue as many men as possible and after taking over 500 men the mooring ropes were cut as the Leopoldville was listing too heavily. At approximately 20:30 two loud explosions ripped through the lower decks and the Leopoldville finally gave up and slipped beneath the waves.
In all a total of 802 men lost their lives that cold December evening, most succumbing to hypothermia and drowning (they were not instructed to remove their greatcoats and helmets before entering the water as the life jackets would not take the weight). The whole incident was quickly hushed up by the authorities and only received a small mention in the middle pages of some newspapers.
The Leopoldville incident was as good as forgotten until 1984.
Certainly the most impresive Wreck from the chanel
By Jochen Gielen , 28-05-2010
Leopoldville built where ? - I 'm sorry to say but you are mistaken about where she was built , the Belgian SS Leopoldville was built by Cockerill yards in Hoboken , but not the Hoboken that is close to New Jersey in the USA , it was built in the Hoboken Shipyards close to Antwerp in Belgium.
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