Limerick Seamen's Memorial
The Limerick Seamen’s Memorial was originally dedicated to all those from around the Shannon Estuary who lost their lives at sea. It carried no names. In 2004 it was decided to add a plaque listing the Limerick and Clare men who lost their lives on three Irish merchant ships during World War Two: SS Kerry Head, SS Clonlara and SS Irish Pine:
SS Kerry Head was sunk during an air attack by an aircraft off County Cork on 22 October 1940, with the loss of her twelve crew. The attack was witnessed from Cape Clear Island though to this day the nationality of her attacker is unknown. However, an eyewitness said long after the war that a German plane dropped a stick of bombs on the vessl at around 2pm and that the Kerry Head exploded in a sheet of flame and that the blast from the explosion also brought down the the aircraft which crashed in the sea. A trawler from Cape Clear did not have sufficient fuel to reach the scene and an Irish launch was only taken out from Berehaven at 8pm because the authorities were not convinced there had been a sinking. Some of those on Cape Clear claimed later that they saw survivors clinging to the wreckage. (Robert Fisk, 'In Time Of War' p 316)
SS Irish Pine was sunk the in the Atlantic by a single torpedo from U-608, She sank in just two minutes with the loss of all 33 hands on 16th November 1942. At 00.14 hours on 16 Nov, 1942, U-608 fired one torpedo from a distance of 800 meters at the unescorted and neutral Irish Pine and observed a hit in the stern after 80 seconds. The U-boat had chased the ship for about eight hours, apparently not noticing the neutrality markings because of bad visibility in stormy weather with rain and snow squalls in which the contact was frequently lost and regained. The very rough seas also caused a first torpedo to miss at 23.39 hours on 15 November. The ship immediately began to settle by the stern after the hit until she sank vertically at 00.17 hours. The crew was seen to abandon ship in a lifeboat with a very bright light by the Germans, but they did not approach it and the survivors were never found. The previous August the crew of Irish Oak saved 15 crew members of a torpedoed British Merchant ship in mid-Atlantic.
SS Clonlara was sunk by torpedo off Portugal on 22nd August, 1942 by U-564.
As Ireland was not at war with Germany, these ships were neutral and were marked as such.
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