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SS Ceramic (1913)
SS Ceramic was an 18,400-ton ocean liner of the White Star Line launched in 1913, and later sold to Shaw, Savill and Albion . In 1942 U-515 sunk the Ceramic, leaving only one survivor of the 656 on board.
Ceramic was built at the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast. She sailed the Liverpool to Australia route after her maiden voyage, then served as a British troopship during World War I. After the war, she returned to her regular run. In 1934, White Star merged with Cunard, and Ceramic was then sold to Shaw, Savill and Albion, but kept the same itinerary.
At the outset of World War II, Ceramic again carried troops, but soon returned to civilian service. On the night of 6 December 1942 she was in the Atlantic Ocean west of the Azores, bound for Australia, when she was hit by three torpedoes fired from U-515. Ceramic was crippled but still afloat, and about eight lifeboats were launched, all full. About three hours later, U-515 fired two more torpedoes, which broke the ship's back and sank her immediately.
Sea conditions had become very stormy, and lifeboats began to capsize, leaving the people to struggle in the water. Despite the storm (which was severe enough to be a hazard to the U-boat) the commander Werner Henke had been ordered to return to the location of the sinking to look for the captain, in the hopes of finding out the Ceramic's destination. However, he only stayed long along to pull in one person, a sapper of the Royal Engineers named Eric Munday (who spent the rest of the war as a POW), then departed, leaving the rest of the survivors to their fate. Henke was later captured and accused of machine-gunning survivors in the water, but it is likely that the survivors simply drowned in the rough seas.
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