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German ship, most likely HOHENFELS, under tow in the Persian Gulf

Date: August - October 1941
Overall: 64 x 89 mm
Medium: Silver gelatin print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: ANMS0303[046]
Related Place:Bandar-e Khomeyni,

User Terms

    Photograph of a German ship under tow in the Persian Gulf in 1941. Most likely to be HOHENFELS, a German ship captured by the allied naval forces at the Iranian port of Bandar Shahpur. HMS KANIMBLA (later HMAS) and its predominantly Australian company were key to the capture and salvage of this vessel.
    SignificanceThe photograph depicts the aftermath of the successful 1941 attack on German and Italian vessels berthed at the port of Bandar Shahpur by a small allied flotilla. The salvage of the German ship HOHENFELS by HMS (later HMAS) KANIMBLA and its involvement in the attack was celebrated by the Navy and media at the time .
    HistoryOriginally built as a merchant passenger ship for McIlwraith McEachern Limited, KANIMBLA was requisitioned on 5 September 1939 for conversion to an armed merchant cruiser in Britain's Royal Navy. On 6 October 1939 the ship was commissioned HMS KANIMBLA under Commander Frank Getting, RAN, with an almost exclusively Australian crew on board. KANIMBLA patrolled the coasts of China and Japan, intercepting and searching ships for contraband, boarding vessels from European countries under German occupation, and performing general patrol and escort duties.

    In 1941 HMS KANIMBLA was deployed to the Persian Gulf and on the evening of 24 August, KANIMBLA, with 300 Indian troops onboard, led a flotilla of allied vessels in a surprise attack on the Iranian port of Bandar Shahpur capturing eight German and Italian merchant vessels with valuable cargo, two Iranian gunboats and a floating dock. KANIMBLA targeted the German MS HOHENFELS, sending a boarding party to the vessel. Crews from the captured vessels attempted to scuttle their ships through fire, explosive charges and flooding, and HOHENFELS nearly succeeded. To stop the ship from sinking crew from KANIMBLA used tugs to drive the vessel onto a sandbank near the edge of the harbour.

    Sydney Morning Herald, 20 September 1941 reported the event:
    Daring in Iran
    LONDON, Sept. 19 (A.A.P.). Australian naval ratings, assisted by Indians, carried out a daring exploit when seven of eight Axis ships were saved from scuttling at Bandar Shahpur (Iran) after the British landing, reports the Tehran correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph."

    The Navy prepared an expeditionary force consisting of dhows, tugs, and launches. The Australians and Indians had been practising old-time tactics of boarding, including the use of grappling-irons.

    The little fleet set out before dawn, and when it stole in, the look-out in the nearest Axis ship, the Hohenfels (7,862 tons) did not suspect anything until it was too late. The Australians and Indians scrambled aboard the ships, and groping in the dark holds, turned off the sea cocks, plugged the holes, cut the wires to gelignite charges, and dowsed deliberately-lit fires. All this was done so quickly that there were no British casualties.

    Six of the seven ships saved are at present being repaired in India. The seventh is being salvaged. The eighth was burnt out."

    KANIMBLA remained in the area until 11 October, supervising the port and carrying out salvage work on the captured vessels, particularly the HOHENFELS which required significant diving work to patch the ship, pump out the water and refloat it. Petty Officer Humphries, an officer in the merchant navy on board KANIMBLA, was involved in this task and was willing to dive into the flooded engine room in hazardous conditions 12 times to make repairs. He was awarded the George Medal for his courage in 1942.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: German ship, most likely HOHENFELS, under tow in the Persian Gulf

    Primary title: Centre, stern and starboard view of cargo ship under tow. Ship has grey hull, stained, single funnel midships. Funnel is dark colour with pale central band and German cross just decipherable. At stern white ensign is displayed and below it the German Nazi swastika.

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