The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Sinking of the SS Britannia 1941

German Raiders of World War II,
by August Karl Muggenthaler


In some ways this is a curious book, first published in 1978, and I have typed up some relevant extracts:

Extracts from book, German Raiders of World War II

It gives the German perspective of the sinking of SS Britannia by the Thor but the author had access to:

- contributions by William MacVicar, Third Officer, SS Britannia and Sub.-Lieut. McIntosh
- the book, Lifeboat Number Seven by Frank West (from which he quotes from the account given by Lieut. A.H. Rowlandson R.N.)

The book is at pains to answer the criticism that the Thor picked up one survivor only. (They did pick up survivors of the A.M.C. (Armed Merchant Cruiser) Voltaire sunk later on 4 April)

A few names only were mentioned in the section in the book about the Britannia:

Names mentioned in book German Raiders of World War II

Passengers & Crew, Lifeboats and Survivors

The book is a useful source for those, like me, who have tried to come up with satisfactory statistics, an the names of the passengers & crew who either died or survived:

Passengers & Crew

The author has plumped for:

327 passengers
about 200 crew
approx 527 Total

It was thought that:

some 317 took to the lifeboats
14 were known to have taken to rafts
approx. 331 Total of which:

- approx. 153 were Europeans and approx. 178 were Indians

- only 195 survivors had been accounted for by April 15.(but they did not know of 33 survivors in Lifeboat No. 7) <

Ed. If the figure of approx 527 is taken and approx 331 were in the lifeboats and on rafts, approx. 196 were lost at this point.


The book states that by one count, there were nine lifeboats launched but the book gives the fate of 6 only.

Port Side of Britannia

No. 4 was splintered (Ed. but still lowered for the ship's officers)
No. 6 got away but was overcrowded (Ed. this may have had the survivors picked up by the Raranga)

Starboard Side

No. 1 was overcrowded
No. 3 was overcrowded, survivors picked up by the Cabo de Hornos
No. 5 was overcrowded, survivors picked up by Bachi
No. 7 was overcrowded but sailed to Brazil

Ed. There is no mention of the harrowing time experienced by the occupanrs of Lifeboat No.10.



The Thor picked up just one person:

Edwin M. Falconar, Deck Machinist (who became a Prisoner of War)

Cabo de Hornos

Cabo de Hornos picked up 77 mainly from Lifeboat No 3 & 10 and 3 rafts

Ed. There is some confusion here as the book appears to quote 79 elsewhere:

3 from a raft - Lt. Rowlandson's raft
4 from 2 rafts
7 from a lifeboat (believed to be Lifeboat No. 10)
65 from a lifeboat (Lifeboat No. 3)
79 Total


The Bachi picked up 51 from Lifeboat No 5. (In his account Thomas Caldwell who was in the lifeboat says that there were 65 in the lifeboat and 63 survived)


The Raranga picked up 67 and took survivors to Montevideo (lifeboat number unknown)

Lifeboat Number 7

38 survived the ordeal out of 82 and reached Brazil:

13 out of 18 Europeans survived
25 out of 64 Indians survived

Survivors Summary

1 Thor
77 Cabo de Hornos (or 79)
51 Bachi (or 63) 
67 Raranga
38 Lifeboat Number 7
234 Total

My father was shocked when he heard the number of people lost:

approx 527 Passengers & Crew
survivors 234
approx 300 lost (approx 100 in the lifeboats and on rafts)

A stark conclusion

Colin Bower
5 November 2020

Links to:

from book Lifeboat Number Seven, account by Frank West

from book Lifeboat Number Seven, account by Lieut. A.H. Rowlandson

Britannia Index

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