Alfred Frank Ariss

Date of birth: 1922  Qtr 4
Place of birth: Southampton
Service No.: Not applicable
Rank: Sailor
Service: Royal Navy
Vessel: Almeda Star
Died: 17th January 1941 aged 18 years
Death location: At sea


Alfred Frank was born to Samuel David and Alice Emma (nèe Lee) of Woolston, Southampton during the last quarter of 1922 and joined the merchant Service on the 19th January 1937 as a ‘Bell-Boy’ in the ‘Duchess of Richmond’.  He commenced his service on the Almeda Star on the 30th November 1940, only weeks before his ship was sunk in the North Atlantic.

The Almeda Star

The Almeda Star

The Almeda Star was a steam passenger ship of 14,936 tons built by Cammell Laird & Co Ltd of Birkenhead for the Blue Star Line.  Completed in 1926 as the Almeda, in 1935 she was lengthened and renamed Almeda Star; home port London.

In the early hours of 17th January she was en route Liverpool – Trinidad – Buenos Aires and her Master was Henry Cecil Howard, Commodore of the Blue Star Line.  She was unescorted and carried 194 passengers and general cargo.  At 0508 that morning, U-96 (KapitanLeutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock) had been chasing an unknown steamer at which he had already fired three torpedoes without a hit, when he spotted Almeda Star about 35 miles northeast of Rockall.  The U-Boat then fired a fourth torpedo whilst on the surface but this was evaded as well and the German had to dive because of gunfire from the Almeda Star; obviously Almeda Star was not going out without a fight!  At 0745 U-96 fired another torpedo, hitting the ship amidships with this stopping her.  Because she did not appear to be sinking the U-Boat fired two more torpedoes, one at 0805, the other at 0907.  Still seemingly not, U-96 surfaced and began to shell the ship.  With the Germans observing four lifeboats and people on deck she opened fire with between 15 and 20 incendiary shells, but these only started small fires which soon went out, so another torpedo was fired at 0955.  This hit the forepart of the ship causing her to sink within three minutes by the bow in position 56.16N – 13.40W.  Seven destroyers were ordered to search the area but found no survivors.  A total of 360 people died: the Master, 136 crew members, 29 Dems Gunners and 194 passengers.  Among the passengers were 21 officers and 121 ratings of the Fleet Air Arm – 749, 750 and 752 Squadrons – who were en route to RNAS Piarco, Tunapuna-Piarco, Trinidad.

Alfred’s name is recorded on Panel 5 of the the Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial in London.

Fate of U-96 and Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock

Kapitan-Leutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock

U-96 was commissioned in August 1940 under the command of Kapitan-Leutnant Lehmann-Willenbrock, who served in her until 15th March 1943 before going on to other commands.  He eventually became a POW in Norway for a year at the end of hostilities in May 1945.  Post war he served as a Captain in the Merchant Service and on retirement lived in Bremen where he died aged 74 on the 18th April 1986.

U-96 was quite a successful submarine, in the short time she was operational she sank 27 ships totalling 181,206 tons and damaged 4 others.  She was finally sunk at Wilhelmshaven during a bombing raid by the US Army Air Corps.  This incident, together with the log of a War Correspondent who went on patrols with the boat, was used for various scenes in the television U-boat series “Das Boot”.

Researcher: Terry Randall
Published.: 29th January 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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