SS Jalabala (1927)

SS Jalabala was the cargo steamship owned by Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd., the British Indian shipping company, which was completed in 1927. She was torpedoed and sunk in the Laccadive Sea west of Cape Comorin by the German submarine U-532 with the loss of five of her 77 crew members on 11 October 1943 during World War II.[3]

Still of Jalabala from film, India's Struggle for National Shipping
British India
Name: SS Jalabala
Owner: Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd..[1]
Port of registry: Bombay
Route: ColomboBombayKarachi
Builder: Lithgows, Glasgow[1]
Yard number: 801 (Kingston SB Yard)[2]
Launched: January 1927
Christened: 14 July 1927
Completed: 12 August 1927[2]
Identification: Official Number 153807[1]
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk by U-532 on 11 October 1943[3]
General characteristics
Type: Cargo general (Steel Screw Steamer)
Tonnage: 3,610 GRT, 2,211 NRT, 3345 tons under deck[1][2]
Length: 349.9 ft (106.65 m)[1]
Beam: 49.0 ft (14.94 m)[1]
Depth: 24.3 ft (7.41 m)[1]
Installed power: 398 hp[1]
Propulsion: Steam
Speed: 10 knots
Crew: 74
Notes: as per Lloyd's Register of Shipping[1]


She was built by Lithgows Ltd., Glasgow in eight months in 1927. She was made of steel sheathed with copper and had two decks. She was lighted by electricity. She had cellular construction of double bottom which was 207 feet long and capacity of 850 tons. Its forpeak was of 85 tons while afterpeak was of 30 tons. Her register tonnage were 3,610 GRT, 2,211 NRT, 3345 tons under deck. Her triple expansion steam engine with single shaft and one screw had 3 cylinders with 24" and 40" diameter and had stroke of 65" and 45" generating 398 nominal horsepower. These engines were built by J. G. Kincaid & Co. Ltd., Greenock. She was owned by the Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd., Bombay and was registered in port of Bombay. She was 304.9 feet long, 49.0 feet broad and 24.3 feet deep.[1][2][4]

Career and fate

Vithalbhai Patel, then the speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly of British India, performed her ceremonial ship launching in Glasgow on 14 July 1927.[5][6] The footage of launching was later presented in documentary film India's Struggle for National Shipping (1947). The ship was completed on 12 August 1927.[7][8][9][10][11]

Mahatma Gandhi had written his concerns in Young India on its launch,

The ceremony ... does not evoke any feeling of national pride or rejoicing. It only serves as a reminder of our fallen state. What is the addition of one little ship to our microscopic fleet? The sadness of the reminder is heightened by the fact that our mercantile fleet may at any moment be turned into a fleet warring against our own liberty or against that of nations with which India has no quarrel...

Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, 4 August 1927[5][12][6]

The ship was used to transport cargo between Karachi, Bombay and Colombo. The ship left from Colombo to Bombay in convoy of nine ships (MB-50) in four columns on 9 October 1943. It had 2000 tons of copra and 1800 tons of general cargo. The convoy was escorted by a minesweeper HMIS Carnatic and an armed trawler HMIS Baroda. She had the crew of 74 with three gunners and led by Master James George Connor. She was armed with one 3-inch gun and four machine guns. On 11 October, the weather was fine and it was moving at 8 knots. At 16:30 hours, Jalbala was torpedoed by the German submarine U-532 when she was in station #11 of convoy. It was hit on the port side abreast bridge and second hatch. She sent distress signals and the crew soon abandoned the ship in the lifeboats. After being hit, she started to settle by the head after 10 minutes and sank by the bow after 25 minutes. It sunk in the Laccadive Sea west of Cape Comorin (11°40′N 75°19′E). HMIS Carnatic dropped depth charges in a counterattack. As she was the only escort, she soon joined the convoy again without picking up survivors due to fear of repeat attack. The master was last to leave the ship but four crew members were lost. The lifeboats with 66 survivors landed on the nearby coast and were taken to Calicut the next day. The chief officer had died two hours before landing of boats. The master had joined six members on a raft which landed later and they were taken to Manglore on 15 October.[3][13][4][14]


  1. "Lloyd's Register of Shipping". Plimsoll ShipData. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  2. "JALABALA". The Clyde Shipbuilding Database Caledonian Maritime Research Trust. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  3. "Jalabala". Uboat. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  4. "SS Jalabala (+1943)". Wrecksite. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  5. Gita Piramal (1 December 2010). Business Legends. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 250–251. ISBN 978-93-5118-148-4.
  6. Narayan Gopal Jog (1969). Saga of Scindia: Struggle for the Revival of Indian Shipping and Shipbuilding [1919–1969]. Scindia Steam Navigation Company. p. 52.
  7. Shikha Kumar (12 June 2014). "A Struggle in Restoration". The Indian Express. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  8. Mistry, Ketan (14 December 2015). "ભારતીય સમુદ્રી જહાજના ઇતિહાસનો કોહિનૂર..." [Kohinoor of Indian Shipping History]. Chitralekha (in Gujarati). Chitralekha: 36–38.
  9. "Launch of the "Jalabala"". Fairplay Weekly Shipping Journal. Fairplay Publications Limited. 21 July 1927. p. 165.
  10. Shipbuilding & Shipping Record: A Journal of Shipbuilding, Marine Engineering, Dock, Harbours & Shipping. July 1927. p. 116.
  11. The Shipbuilder and Marine Engine-builder. Shipbuilder Press. 1927. p. 446.
  12. Gandhi, Mahatma (4 August 1927). "328. Indian Shipping (Young India)". The Collected Works Of Mahatma Gandhi (Electronic Book) (PDF). 39. New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India (published 1999). pp. 334–335.
  13. "Scindia S.N. Co". TheShipsList. 14 April 1944. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  14. Alan J. Tennent (2001). British and Commonwealth Merchant Ship Losses to Axis Submarines, 1939–1945. Sutton. p. 260. ISBN 978-0-7509-2760-4.
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