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West Ekonk (Id. No. 3313)


The Navy retained the name carried by this vessel at the time of her acquisition.

(Id. No. 3313: displacement 12,225; length 423'9"; beam 54'0"; depth of hold 29'9"; draft 24'2" (mean); speed 11.5 knots; complement 107; armament 1 5-inch, 1 3-inch)

West Ekonk, a steel-hulled, single-screw cargo ship built under a United States Shipping Board contract at Seattle, Wash., by the Skinner & Eddy Corp., was launched on 22 June 1918; was taken over by the Navy on 13 July 1918 for use by the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) ; given the identification number (Id. No.) 3313; and commissioned at Seattle on the same day, Lt. Richard Willowden, USNRF, in command.

West Ekonk sailed for Port Costa on 24 July 1918 with a cargo of flour en route, via the Panama Canal, to the east coast. The cargo ship reached New York on 27 August and soon joined an east-bound convoy for France. Departing New York on 5 September, she arrived at Brest on 19 September, discharged her cargo, and headed home on the 30th.

The ship subsequently conducted two cargo-carrying voyages for NOTS to Genoa, Italy, with goods consigned to the Italian government. While en route to the Mediterranean on the first of these two voyages, West Ekonk was at sea when the armistice, ending hostilities in the Great War [World War I], was signed on 11 November 1918. Returning to New York from the second voyage on 3 April 1919, West Ekonk was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy Register on 9 April 1919.

Returned to the Shipping Board the same day, the freighter was subsequently sold to the Lykes Brothers and Ripley Steamship Co., Inc., and homeported at Houston, Texas. Acquired by the British government and renamed Empire Wildebeeste, the freighter (Hugh Cameron Stewart, Master) had been dispersed from Convoy ON-53 and was thus proceeding singly when torpedoed and sunk by U-106 (Oberleutnant zur See Hermann Rasch, commanding) at 39°30'N/59°54'W on 24 January 1942. The destroyer Lang (DD-399), dispatched from Bermuda, subsequently rescued 34 survivors -- the master, 25 crewmen and eight gunners -- from the sunken freighter. Seven sailors and two gunners perished with the ship. 

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

2 February 2024

Published: Fri Feb 02 13:28:25 EST 2024