SS Michael E

SS Michael E was a 7,628 GRT cargo ship that was built in 1941. She was the first British Catapult Aircraft Merchant ship: a merchant ship fitted with a rocket catapult to launch a single Hawker Hurricane fighter to defend a convoy against long-range German bombers. She was sunk on her maiden voyage by a German submarine.

United Kingdom
Name: Michael E
Owner: Bury Hill Shipping Co Ltd[1]

Counties Ship Management Co Ltd, London[2]

Port of registry: London[2]
Builder: William Hamilton & Co, Port Glasgow[3]
Completed: May 1941[2][3]
Fate: Sunk by torpedo 2 June 1941[3]
General characteristics
Type: cargo ship
  • 421.1 ft (128.4 m) p/p
  • 434.5 ft (132.4 m) o/a[2]
Beam: 60.4 ft (18.4 m)[2]
Draught: 23 ft 2 14 in (7.07 m)[2]
Depth: 35.8 ft (10.9 m)[2]
Installed power: 443 NHP[2]
Propulsion: triple-expansion steam engine; screw[2]
Crew: 46 Merchant Navy men & officers, 12 RAF personnel, four DEMS gunners[3]
Aircraft carried: 1 Hawker Sea Hurricane
Aviation facilities: aircraft catapult
Notes: sister ships: Kingston Hill, Lulworth Hill, Marietta E, Primrose Hill


Michael E was built by William Hamilton & Co Ltd, Port Glasgow. Launched in 1941, she was completed in May of that year. She was the United Kingdom's first CAM ship, armed with an aircraft catapult on her bow to launch a Hawker Sea Hurricane.[3]

The ship was 421.1 feet (128.4 m) long between perpendiculars (434.5 feet (132.4 m) overall), with a beam of 60.4 feet (18.4 m). She had a depth of 35.8 feet (10.9 m) and a draught of 23 feet 2 14 inches (7.07 m). She was 7,628 GRT and 5,508 NRT.[2]

She had six corrugated furnaces feeding two 225 lbf/in2 single-ended boilers with a combined heating surface of 5,940 square feet (552 m2).[2] The boilers fed a 443 NHP triple-expansion steam engine that had cylinders of 24 inches (61 cm), 39 inches (99 cm) and 68 inches (170 cm) diameter by 48 inches (120 cm) stroke.[2] The engine was built by David Rowan & Co Ltd, Glasgow.[2]


Michael E was owned by the Bury Hill Shipping Co Ltd.[2] a company owned by the Nicholas Eustathiou shipping concerns . She was placed under the management of Counties Ship Management Ltd of London, an offshoot of the Rethymnis & Kulukundis shipbroking company.[4] She was named after Michael Eustathiou, a member of the Nicholas Eustathiou family that had a major shareholding in her.[4] Her Code Letters were BCKB, her UK Official Number was 163168 and she was registered in London.[2]

Michael E was a sister ship of Kingston Hill, Lulworth Hill, Marietta E and Primrose Hill, which also were managed by CSM and owned by companies associated with R&K.

Approximate position of Michael E's wreck


On 28 May 1941 Michael E sailed in ballast on her maiden voyage from Belfast, Northern Ireland bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia with convoy OB 327.[3] The convoy was dispersed on 1 June and at 20:43 hours on 2 June Michael E was in the North Atlantic several hundred miles southwest of Cape Clear when U-108 fired two torpedoes at her.[3] One missed but the other struck her in the stern killing a crew member and two DEMS gunners, and at 22:21 hours she sank by the stern.[3] On 3 June the Dutch cargo ship Alcinous rescued Michael E's Master, 44 crew, two gunners and 12 RAF personnel.[3]

Replacement ship

In September 1941 William Hamilton & Co completed a second CAM ship of the same class for CSM. She was launched as Primrose Hill and effectively replaced Michael E. Primrose Hill survived until October 1942 when a German-operated submarine sank her by torpedo and shellfire.


  1. Slader 1988, p. 143.
  2. Lloyd's Register, Steamships and Motor Ships (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1940. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  3. Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2010). "Michael E." Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  4. Fenton, Roy (2006). "Counties Ship Management 1934–2007". LOF-News. p. 1. Retrieved 30 June 2010.

Sources & further reading

  • Sedgwick, Stanley; Kinnaird, Mark; O'Donoghue, K.J. (1993) [1992]. London & Overseas Freighters, 1948–92: A Short History. Kendal: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-68-1.
  • Sedgwick, Stanley; Sprake, R.F. (1977). London & Overseas Freighters Limited 1949–1977. Kendal: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-01-0.
  • Slader, John (1988). The Red Duster at War. London: William Kimber & Co Ltd. pp. 143–144. ISBN 0-7183-0679-1.

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