The Lumen was built in 1925 as a petroleum tanker for H E Moss & Co Ltd, Liverpool by John Brown, Clydebank under their yard number 506.
During its first years of operation the Lumen achieved an availability as high as 85% (311 days per year), for its time spent at sea.
1939 - 1943
During 1942 the Ministry of War Transport renamed the ship the Empire Light. This was in accordance with the British Ministry of Shipping adopting a standard naming system for nearly all merchant ships used to Government account were prefixed with 'Empire'. Thus the Lumen (French for 'light') became the 'Empire Light'.
Convoy FN 830 departing Southend on October 4th 1942 for Methil arriving October 6th 1942 with ten ships including the Empire Light which then formed part of the EN 146 from Methil departing October 6th 1942 arriving Loch Ewe on October 9th 1942 with twenty one ships including the Empire Light, which was noted as arriving with engine defects.
Convoy ON 140 departing Liverpool on October 17th 1942 and arriving New York on November 7th 1942 with forty eight ships including the Empire Light.
Convoy NK 511 from New York departing November 22nd 1942 for Key West arriving November 29th 1942 with twenty one ships including the Empire Light.
Convoy KN 213 from Key West departing December 17th 1942 and arriving New York on December 22nd 1942 with eleven ships including the Empire Light with a load of AvGas. Here the Empire Light transferred to convoy SC 115 departing New York on December 27th 1942 and arriving Liverpool on January 15th 1943 with thirty four ships.
The Empire Light sailed in ballast as part of convoy ON-168 from Manchester to New York on February 21st 1943. At about 18.20 hours on March 7th 1943 the U-638 attacked the straggler Empire Light some four hundred miles southwest of Cape Farewell. The ship was damaged and abandoned by its crew. Forty five men (39 crew members and six gunners) were lost whilst four crew members, including the Master and one gunner were picked up by the British destroyer HMS Beverley (H 64) and landed at St.Johns, Newfoundland.
Although abandoned the Empire Light did not sink immediately. It was found late in the evening of March 12th 1943 by U-468 which then sank the tanker at position: 53.57N, 46.14W. U-468 and most of its crew were also not long for this world. On August 11th 1943 near Bathurst (position 12.20N, 20.07W) a British Liberator aircraft from Squadron 200/D attacked the U-468 with depth charges, in response the U-Boat fired upon the aircraft which was in charge of Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg RNZAF. The Liberator was brought down by the U-Boat's gunfire, but in pressing home their attack, the depth charges found their mark and U-468 was also lost, with only seven survivors. Ironically the testimony of the U-Boat survivors, including their commander Klemens Schamong, led to the crew of the Liberator being awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross.
Built: John Brown & Co Ltd, Clydebank
Page added September 9th 2007