Today in Transportation History – 1947: HMSAS Africana Decommissioned After Meritorious WW2 Service

[Unfortunately, no pictures of HMSAS Africana exist.]

After several years of military service that included life-saving actions during World War II, HMSAS (His Majesty’s South African Ship) Africana was decommissioned. The ship, which was launched in 1930, spent most of her existence as a South African vessel at a time when the country had semi-independent status as a dominion of the British Empire; South Africa established itself as a fully independent republic in 1961.

Africana was originally used as a research vessel by the South African Department of Sea Fisheries but was soon modified and deployed instead for minesweeping and survey duties. After South Africa entered World War II on the side of the Allies in 1939, Africana was commissioned into the South African Naval Service.

During the course of the war, Africana took part in a number of rescue operations. In October 1942, for example, Africana helped rescue survivors of the U.S. Liberty ship Anne Hutchinson after the cargo vessel was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the city of East London on South Africa’s southeast coast.

Another major life-saving mission occurred towards the end of the war in February 1945 when Africana rescued 49 survivors of the Canadian vessel SS Point Pleasant Park. This merchant steamship had been torpedoed by a German U-boat in the vicinity of Lüderitz Bay, which is along the coast of present-day Namibia (at the time known as South West Africa and under the administration of South Africa on behalf of the British Crown).

After being decommissioned, Africana was returned to the South African Department of Sea Fisheries. She resumed service as a sea fisheries research vessel until being replaced in 1950 by Africana II. Africana was sold to Benjamin Gelcer, who used her as a fishing trawler. Africana eventually became part of the fishing fleet of the longtime South African company Irvin & Johnson. She remained in service until 1965, when she was broken up to be sold as scrap.

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