SS Empire Chaucer

Empire Chaucer was a 5,970 GRT cargo ship which was built in 1942 by William Pickersgill & Sons Ltd, Sunderland. She was built for the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). Completed in May 1942, she had a short career, being torpedoed and sunk by U-504 on 17 October 1942.

Name: Empire Chaucer
Owner: Ministry of War Transport
Operator: W J Tatem Ltd
Port of registry: Sunderland
Builder: W Pickersgill & Sons Ltd
Launched: 18 March 1942
Completed: May 1942
Out of service: 17 October 1942
  • Code Letters BDVX
  • United Kingdom Official Number 169018
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk by U-504
General characteristics
Length: 401 ft 0 in (122.22 m)
Beam: 54 ft 0 in (16.46 m)
Depth: 33 ft 2 in (10.11 m)
Installed power: triple expansion steam engine
Propulsion: Screw propellor
Crew: 49
Location of the sinking of Empire Chaucer.


The ship was built by William Pickersgill & Sons Ltd, Sunderland. She was launched on 18 March 1942 and completed in May 1942.[1]

The ship was 401 feet 0 inches (122.22 m) long, with a beam of 54 feet 0 inches (16.46 m) and a depth of 33 feet 2 inches (10.11 m). She had a GRT of 5,970 and a NRT of 3,501.[2]

The ship was propelled by a triple expansion steam engine, which had cylinders of 23 12 inches (60 cm), 38 inches (97 cm) and 66 inches (170 cm) diameter by 45 inches (110 cm) stroke.[2]


Empire Chaucer was built for the MoWT. She was placed under the management of W J Tatem Ltd,[2] Cardiff.[3] Her port of registry was Sunderland. The Code Letters BDVX and United Kingdom Official Number 169018 were allocated.[2]

In October 1942, Empire Chaucer departed Calcutta, India bound for the United Kingdom via Durban and Cape Town, South Africa and then via Trinidad. She was carrying a cargo of 2,000 tons of pig iron and 6,500 tons of general cargo, including mail and tea.[3]

Empire Chaucer departed Durban on 13 October bound for Cape Town. At 06:15 on 17 October, Empire Chaucer was torpedoed and sunk 450 nautical miles (830 km) south of Cape Town (38°12′S 20°04′E) by U-504 with the loss of three crew. The remaining 46 crew and a passenger took to the lifeboats. Twelve survivors, including the Captain, were rescued by Empire Squire and landed at Trinidad. Fifteen survivors spent 23 days in a lifeboat before being rescued by Nebraska. They were landed at Cape Town. The remaining 20 survivors landed at Bredasdorp on 31 October.[3] Those lost on Empire Chaucer are commemorated at the Tower Hill Memorial, London.[4]


  1. Mitchell, W H, and Sawyer, L A (1995). The Empire Ships. London, New York, Hamburg, Hong Kong: Lloyd's of London Press Ltd. ISBN 1-85044-275-4.
  2. "LLOYD'S REGISTER, STEAMERS & MOTORSHIPS" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  3. "Empire Chaucer". U-boat. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  4. "Ship Index A-F". Brian Watson. Retrieved 20 May 2011.

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