Port Horizon
Merchant Ships at War: SS Empire Prairie

The Empire Prairie was a British cargo ship built in Glasgow in 1941 and delivered in late 1941 or January 1942. The ship was lost off Bermuda on what was essentially her first laden voyage, taking all 49 hands with it. The attacker was German UBoat U-654.

At the time of her loss in April 1942 the ship was owned by Kaye, Son and Company Limited of London. Her master was Captain Richard Townsend Payne, aged 37, who was responsible for 48 crew, five of them serving with the Royal Navy to man the guns. A number of the firemen and trimmers from the engine department were British subjects with roots in Pakistan and Bangladesh, what was then India.

On her final voyage the Empire Prairie was bound from Halifax Canada to Alexandria Egypt via Cape Town, South Africa. Her cargo was 9,022 tons of general equipment and military stores for the Allied campaign in North Africa
(author Eric T Wiberg July 2014)

In fact only one of the crew was from India, a man called Bax Mola the majority of the 15 BME seaman that died were from British Somaliland or Aden. It is important to understand that when we say someone was born in Aden, often the card that gives that information was written by an official at the Port and the seaman could actually be Somali or from Yemen. The 15 men were:

  • Abdi Ahmed Saleh, aged 45 – Somaliland
  • Ahmed ALI , 46 – Berbera, Somaliland
  • Bax MOLA 27- India
  • Hassan HAROSSA 41 – Somaliland
  • Hassan MOHAMED 40 – Aden
  • Ismail MOHAMED 43 – Aden
  • Mahmood ADAM 48 – Berbera
  • Mahmood ALI 42 – Aden
  • Pierre MATHIEU 29 – Mauritius
  • Mohamed SOLIEMAN 35 – Somaliland
  • Mohamed OMAR 38 – Aden
  • Odey ABDILLAHI 32 – Hargeisa
  • Shirdah YOSEF 35 – Somaliland
  • Saleh WARSAMA 35 – Aden


Also Hassan YOSOUF aged 47. Born in Berbera his parents were Ali HIRSI & Assman ADAH and his wife Amooan Ali Hadi lived in Crater, Aden.

Also on board was William RIGNEY aged 59 born in Portsmouth he left a wife Jessie Hawthorne RIGNEY in Glasgow.