The S.S. Scalaria was a 5,683 GRT Tanker built at Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson (Yard No. 1173), Newcastle, UK, for the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company (Shell Tankers, manager). As with all “Shell Tankers” she was named after a mollusk, in this case the twisting bivalve mollusk “Scalaria.
The ship was launched on 22 July 1921 and completed the following September with a length of 125.3 meters, beam of 16.2 meters, and 9.4 meters in draught. Propulsion was provided by a triple-expansion steam engine provided by Wallsend Slipway Engineering Co., Point Pleasant, Wallsend-on-Tyne, UK, and had a single shaft which gave her a top speed of 11 knots.
On 19 October 1942, the ship was anchored at Ras Gharib under the command of Captain J. Waring, and taking on 7,000 tons of crude oil. Late that evening, or early on the morning of the 20th, the ship was attacked by a German Heinkel 111.
“At 22:15 I made the rounds of the ship, saw the gunners at their posts. At 22:30 I retired to my room, but was awakened by an attacking Heinkel 111 approaching from the land, roughly westward. The aircraft circled at approximately 100 ft, then dropped a torpedo which struck the ship on the starboard side aft of the bridge in no. 3 tank. There was a terrific explosion which caused the ship to shudder violently and carried away the stern moorings, causing the ship to swing round from north to south. All the woodwork in my room collapsed and the iron frame twisted, jamming the two doors. By sheer force I burst one door open and on reaching the deck saw the whole of the after starboard side of the deck was ablaze, with burning oil pouring from the ships side and drifting aft. At this point the Heinkel lined up for another attack, this time releasing a bomb. Some of the men were trapped aft and ran up onto the poop, others on the fo’c’scle slid down ropes over the bow. I was about to shout to these men when a bomb struck the foredeck with a terrific explosion. I was badly burned and injured by this bomb and saw it was no use trying to get the men to come amidships as the whole foredeck was now blazing furiously”.
The Captain’s account continues:
“As we drifted I called out to the men on the poop to jump or throw us a rope but they were too slow. By the stern buoy we could see more men calling out and we picked up six more crewmen. Even with this extra manpower we were unable to row against the wind sea and current. I was thankful to see a launch approach from the shore which picked up all remaining survivors.”
at position 28°20.626′ N/033°07.236′ E, and would later be salvaged from the waterline up.