I started researching the sinking of the S.S. Scillin in 1992 when I first discovered my Father had died on the ship;14/11/42. Sunk by the P212, a British submarine.
None of my family ever knew the circumstances of his death.
I set about creating a casualty list using the C.W.G. Commissions Registers for the Memorial at El Alamein, and later finding a few Naval Casualties to add to what is the most accurate list available.
Over the past 12 years I have given information about P.O.W. Casualties at sea to about 20 Regiments, including the Kings Own.
814 P.O.W. were aboard the ship, a Naval guncrew to man the 120mm and Lt A.A.Guns plus 30 Italian Guards. Not the 200 stated. This was revealed in an Ultra decrypted signal 13/11/42, the day she left Tripoli.
Whilst the ship was being loaded at the Spanish Quay in Tripoli Harbour Captain Gilbert R.A.M.C. was constantly protesting about the numbers being boarded as the ship was only 1,600Tons. When 814 P.O.W. were aboard the remaining 195 were sent along the Quay to board a later ship. At no time were they aboard the Scillin, this information comes from 3 men who were stopped from boarding her. I have also examined Capt (Major) Gilberts personal papers during a visit to New Zealand 4 years ago.
Ultra Intelligence forecast the sailing of the ship and gave its course and timings along that course in great detail, even amending the timings when the ship sailed 3 hours late. All the relevant signals are in my possession. When she sailed she was flying the Italian Flag.
Information about the “embarkation Roll” which includes the 814 plus the 195 who didn’t board, was given to the M.O.D. by the Italians in 1944. For some reason the circumstances of death were only given to the most persistant families.
No reason has ever been given for witholding this information.
In 1998 I arranged to have the ashes of a recently deceased Kings Own Scillin survivor to be taken to Tunisia and scattered over the wreck. Which they duly were. The date; 14/11/98, 56 years to the day that the ship was sent to the bottom.
The Scillin was not the only such loss of Allied P.O.W., 5 other ships were attacked in the preceeding 11 months with the loss of over 2,000. Ultra Intelligence had given advance knowledge of the P.O.W. Movement in all cases.
This information was originally researched by Prof. Alberto Santoni, an Italian Naval Historian almost 20 years ago. It is only due to his work that I know the full story of my Fathers death and of P.O.W. losses in the Mediterranean.
His findings have been published in Italian and German Languages but not in English.
At the National Memorial Arboretum there is now a Memorial Plaque to the P.O.W. lost at sea on;
- Sebastiano Venier(Jason) 9/12/41
- Ariosto 15/2/42
- Tembien 27/2/42
- Nino Bixio 17/8/42
- Loreto 13/10/42
- and the Scillin 14/11/42