Operation WR

This was a British naval undertaking associated with ‘VO’ to intercept and capture or sink the German blockade-running refrigerated transport Wahehe in the Atlantic (21 February 1940).

This 4,709-ton ship had departed Hamburg before Germany, France and the UK went to war on 3 September 1939, and took refuge at Vigo in north-western Spain. On 10 February 1940, Wahehe departed Vigo in an attempt to reach Germany, but 11 days later was intercepted by the light cruiser Manchester and destroyers Kandahar and Kimberley in an area to the south-east of Iceland. The German ship’s crew was informed that if they scuttled their they would not be rescued. A prize crew from Kimberley boarded the vessel and she was escorted into Kirkwall in the Orkney islands group. Wahehe was then towed to the Clyde river, arriving on 8 March.

The ship was passed to the Ministry of War Transport, renamed Empire Citizen, and placed under the management of P. Henderson & Co. Ltd. Empire Citizen sailed in a number of convoys up to February 1941, when she was lost after the dispersal of the OB.270 convoy outward bound from Liverpool to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and thence Rangoon, Burma. On 3 February the ship was torpedoed by Korvettenkapitän Günter Hessler’s U-107, settled slowly on an even keel and was abandoned by her crew and passengers. Another torpedo was fired at 02.33, and after this the ship sank quickly by the stern. Some 12 passengers and 66 crewmen were lost, and five crewmen were rescued by the corvette Clarkia and later landed at Londonderry.