The keel for the Tuscan Star was laid down during 1929, being launched at the end of October 1929 and completed by April 1930. News reel from the period show seventy-seven year old Miss Elizabeth Kittley christening the ship. The vessel was built for the Blue Star Line, the company's first diesel powered ship. The Tuscan Star was designed to carry meat in its refridgerated holds.
From new the ship operated between the United Kingdom (homeport London) and South America. In 1932 tariff changes allowed free entry into the United Kingdom for imports from the Dominion. This led to the Tuscan Star moving to the routes to/from Australia and New Zealand. Its first voyage from New Zealand departed from Wellington on December 2nd 1933 bound for the United Kingdom. This was the first Blue Star Line sailing from New Zealand.
Advertising material for the Blue Star Line in 1938 showed the Tuscan Star and seven sister ships in use on the London - Panama Canal - Auckland - Wellington - Lyttelton sailing.
Early on the morning of December 17th 1939, while in the English Channel off Folkestone, the Tuscan Star was attacked three times by a German aircraft equipped with bombs and machine-guns. The bombs missed the zigzagging ship but the machine gunners raked the ship hitting the wireless room, boat deck and aft gun platform. Injuries were sustained but in response the ship's 12-pounder put up a defence.
Convoy HX 57 depart July 11th 1940 from Halifax - arrive July 26th 1940 at Liverpool approx 50 ships, Tuscan Star had joined with ships sailing from Bermuda as BHX 57.
Convoy OB 205 departed Liverpool August 29th 1940, dispersed the next day.
Convoy HX 93 depart December 3rd 1940 from Halifax - arrive December 18th 1940 at Liverpool, 29 ships Tuscan Star joined convoy on December 7th with the section of ships out of Bermuda as BHX 93.
Convoy OB 273 departed Liverpool January 12th 1941, dispersed January 16th 1941.
On the night of April 7/8th 1941 the Prins Willem II was hit amidships by one torpedo fired from U-98 and sank very quickly stern first. The ship had been part of Convoy HX-117 (departed Halifax March 27th 1941 - arrived Liverpool April 15th 1941), mist and stormy weather had caused her to become a straggler. Two lifeboats got away from the sinking ship, both would be picked up, one by the Swedish merchantman Klipparen, the second boat rescued by Tuscan Star.
Convoy OB 341 departed Liverpool on June 30th 1941, dispersed July 6th 1941.
Convoy ON 26 depart October 14th 1941 from Liverpool - arrive October 29th 1941 Halifax area, average speed was less than 8 knots dispersed approx 33 ships, Tuscan Star bound for Curacao & Melbourne with general cargo
Convoy HX 148 depart Halifax on September 4th 1941 - arrive September 17th 1941 at Liverpool, with 48 ships, carried a small number of passengers and reported as a straggler.
During November 1941 the Tuscan Star sailed alone from Liverpool across to Greenland, then westwards towards North America then southwards hugging the coast and bound for the Panama Canal. Having passed through the Panama Canal some of the deck cargo caught fire. The burning crates carried Avro Anson Aircraft destined for the Royal Australian Air Force. The burning cargo was hoisted into the ocean and the ship sailed on towards Australia, arriving in Melbourne on December 7th 1941.
Convoy HX 179 depart March 9th 1942 from Halifax - arrive March 22nd 1942 at Liverpool, approx 21 ships, Tuscan star was carrying passengers in addition to the regular cargo.
Convoy OS 25 depart April 12th 1942 from Liverpool - arrive April 29th 1942 at Freetown, 39 vessels, carrying chemicals for Buenos Aires, the second largest ship in the convoy and one of the fastest 13.5knots. Armed with 4" or 4.7" guns, Bofors, machine guns and kites.
Convoy SL 112 depart June 4th 1942 from Freetown - arrive June 23rd 1942 at Liverpool, 54 vessels. Tuscan Star carrying frozen meat from Buenos Aires
Convoy OS 34 depart July 11th 1942 from Liverpool - arrive July 30th 1942 at Freetown, 35 vessels, largest ship in the convoy, carrying general chemicals to Buenos Aires, along with 21 passengers.
Early in September 1942 the unescorted Tuscan Star began its northbound voyage from Buenos Aires back to the United Kingdom with cargo that included 7,840 tons of frozen meat and 5,000 tons of general cargo. The route followed the east coast of South America northwards, including a stop at Santos before striking out across the Atlantic to rendezvous at Freetown with a convoy destined for the United Kingdom. The ship carried 25 passengers with a crew of 88. Late in the evening of September 6th just north of the Equator and near the Gulf of Guinea the ship was attacked by U-109.
Two torpedoes were fired at about eight hundred yards, they struck home in the No.5 hold and the engine room, causing the ship to settle at the stern and list to starboard. The damage sustained did not allow the ship to remain afloat for very long, 62 crew and passengers, including the master were able to escape in three boats, 51 crew and passengers went down with the ship at position 01.34N, 11.39W, 300 miles southwest of Cape Palmas, Liberia. The U-boat surfaced and seeing there were ladies and children amongst the survivors passed over some supplies to the boats. The U-boat returned later to advise the rescuing of one other crew member who was kept as a prisoner of war. The lifeboats remained overnight in the area of the sinking before setting out the next morning in a northerly direction. On the afternoon of September 7th the Orient liner Otranto picked up the survivors, reaching Freetown the next day and Liverpool on September 25th.
If the Tuscan Star had reached Freetown on schedule it would presumably have sailed with Convoy SL 122 on September 14th to the United Kingdom.
Built: Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Co. Ltd., Jarrow and Hebburn-on-Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne ON: 161395
Page added May 9th 2008