Wilhelm Gustloff


 Wilhelm Gustloff


The Sinking of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 was an event not many people are familiar with but it was the worst ship sinking disaster in history with the loss of almost 10,000 souls, half of which were children.

The vessel was built at German Blohm + Voss shipyard as a cruise ship and was originally going to be named Adolf Hitler, however Hitler decided to change the name to Wilhelm Gustloff, Gustloff had been assassinated in 1936 and was the leader of the Swiss branch of the National Socialist Party.

The ship came into service in 1938 as the flagship of KdF cruise fleet, but this was short lived as she was later Requisitioned by the German navy in 1939 to serve as a hospital ship,

This lasted until November 1940, when the hospital ship livery was removed along with all hospital equipment; the Wilhelm Gustloff was then repainted in standard naval grey colours she remained docked for four years and was used as a floating barracks for trainees, until 1945 when she was ordered to assist with  the evacuation of German troops and civilians from east prussia.

Wilhelm Gustloff was Loaded with passengers, extensive research concludes an estimated 10,582 evacuees and crew were on board, but the exact figure is not known as many of the passengers boarded the ship without being recorded in the ships passenger list.

The ship left Gotenhafen on 30 January 1945 on route to the German city of Kiel, accompanied by two torpedo boats and the cruise liner Hansa; this was to be the Wilhelm Gustloff’s final voyage, the ship and her escort were soon spotted by a soviet submarine who followed them for two hours before launching 3 torpedoes at the Wilhelm Gustloff which struck the port side of the ship, within 40 minutes the ship was lying on her side and sank soon after with thousands of people still trapped inside, a total of 1,252 survivors were rescued by German forces with an estimated 9,400 losing their lives.



Video Footage of  Wilhelm Gustloff





Ship Specifications


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  • Size: Medium
  • Type :Cruise Ship
  • Length: 684 feet
  • Beam: 77 feet
  • Tonnage: 25,484 standard tonnes
  • Speed: 15 knots
  • Passengers: 1,465
  • Crew: Aprox 417
  • Launched: 5 May 1937
  • Current status:Sunk by Soviet Submarine 30 january 1945, lies broken on the seabed at co-ordinates  55°04′22″N 17°25′17″E

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