The SS Khedive Ismail was a steamship sunk with great loss of life in 1944.
The Khedive Ismail was launched as the Aconcagua by Scotts of Greenock in 1922. The 7,513 ton steamship passed into Egyptian ownership and was renamed after Khedive Ismail, the ruler of Egypt from 1863 until 1879.
In 1940 the Khedive Ismail was requisitioned as a British troopship and on the 6th February 1944 left Kilindini Harbour, Mombasa, Kenya bound for Colombo, Ceylon. The Convoy KR-8 consisted of five troop transports:- Khedive Ismail, City of Paris, Varsova, Ekma and Ellenga. They were escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins and the destroyers HMS Petard and HMS Paladin.
In the early afternoon of Saturday 12th February 1944, a Japanese B1 type submarine I-27, commanded by Lt-Cdr Toshiaki Fukumura, attacked the convoy in the ‘One and a Half Degree Channel’, south-west of the Maldives near coordinates 01°25'N 72°22'E. .
The Khedive Ismail was carrying 1,511 personnel including 178 crew, 996 officers and men of the East African Artillery's 301st Field Regiment, 271 Royal Navy personnel, and a detachment of 19 Wrens. Also on board were 53 nursing sisters accompanied by one matron, and 9 members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.
The submarine sank the Khedive Ismail with two torpedoes. The Japanese Commander Fukumura had a history of machine-gunning survivors of ships she had sunk, including the Liberty ship SS Sambridge and the Fort Mumford.
There were many survivors in the sea and the Japanese submarine hid beneath them and the flotsam. HMS Paladin lowered boats over the side to begin rescuing survivors but HMS Petard released depth charges in an attempt to sink the submarine.
On Petard’s third run, her depth charges forced I-27 to the surface. Paladin rammed the submarine, causing herself considerable damage. A torpedo from Petard finally destroyed the I-27.
No fewer than 1,297 people, including 77 women, lost their lives in the two minutes it took for the Khedive Ismail to sink. Only 208 men and 6 women survived. The sinking was the third worst Allied shipping disaster of World War II and the single worst loss of female service personnel in the history of the Commonwealth of Nations. Many of those who perished did so from the depth charges released from HMS Petard.