Ships Experience Karma Too

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By Mike Walsh

After the defeat of the Workers Reich the Allies notoriously thieved everything they could lay their hands on. The Allies motto; ‘if it moves steal it; if it can’t be moved, blow it up’.

Ships can be moved: In November 2015 Renegade Tribune carried The Curse of the Monte Rosa news story. Before England’s war this Reich liner provided state-subsidised Mediterranean peacetime cruises for German workers. On May 8, 1945, following the capitulation of Germany’s overwhelmed armed forces, the SS Monte Rosa was claimed by Britain as prize of war. The story of this liner’s fate doesn’t have a happy ending.

Renamed Empire Windrush the pilfered German liner was soon put to use transporting cheap labour from Jamaica and East Indies to undercut costs of British workers, many of whom demobbed servicemen. In 1954, whilst evacuating British troops and their families from the Korean peninsula, Empire Windrush, after suffering a voyage from hell, sank in the Mediterranean.

SS Berlin III
SS Berlin III

Once is a coincidence, twice is karma. Soviet plunder of the defeated Reich included the seizing of the German-built transatlantic liner SS Berlin III. This super liner, after providing German workers with affordable Mediterranean cruises, was converted into a hospital ship in July 1939. During the last distressing months of the war the SS Berlin III heroically evacuated thousands of troops and civilians who were fleeing the rapacious Red Army.

Following Germany’s defeat the SS Berlin III was seized by the Soviets as prize of war. The allies call it ‘reparations’. Call it what you will but from that moment on the great German liner was as cursed as was England’s prize of war Monte Rosa (Empire Windrush).

Admiral Nakhimov
Admiral Nakhimov

After repairs in Liverpool, presumably free of charge, SS Berlin III was renamed Admiral Nakhimov by the Soviets. The stolen German cruise liner then entered service for the Black Sea Steamship Company. This Soviet enterprise operated between Odessa, Sochi and the Georgian port of Batumi.

The liner’s cruise career was briefly interrupted during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The Admiral Nakhimov was used to transport 1,000 troops to the Caribbean island; these passengers were said to be harvest workers, armed with hammers and sickles no doubt.

Returned to its booze cruise career for those who served the regime well, the stolen liner, the largest in the Soviet fleet, was destined to soon meet its fate. On August 31, 1986 Admiral Nakhimov left Novorossiysk for Sochi; it was the liner’s last voyage before the breaker’s yard. On-board were 888 (go figure) passengers and 346 crew members.

The liner’s voyage was marred by the inexplicable poor seamanship of its hapless Captain Vadim Markhov. Even more bemusing was the collision course taken by the approaching bulk carrier, Pyotr Vasev similarly traversing the crowed Tsemes Bay. It is not so much a long story but a sad tale of confused signals being relayed between the unfortunate Admiral Nakhimov’s second mate Alexander Chudnovsky, the sole officer on the liner’s bridge.

Soviet Bulk Carrier Pyotr Vasev
Soviet Bulk Carrier Pyotr Vasev

The cruise liner’s Captain Vadim Markhov, who had a criminal record, had retired to his cabin but it isn’t certain which cabin. His leaving the bridge was a bizarre thing to do. Even a deck-boy knows that ship captains do not leave the bridge when navigating busy port approaches. It is unforgivable to do so when an approaching Russian bulk carrier is on a collision course and itself behaving strangely.

Inevitably, there was a collision following which the badly holed prize of war sank; it did so in just seven minutes just before midnight. In total, 423 of the 1,234 passengers and crew lost their lives. It was the greatest sea tragedy in Soviet history and on a Russian par with the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The Soviet authorities disallowed news of the tragedy for two days. Today, the pride of the Reich’s Strength through Joy super liner lies in 150 feet of water in Tsemes Bay.

Both Captain Markhov and Captain Tkachenko, who skippered the bulk carrier, were to face trial. The court’s 1987 finding was that the two were equally culpable and both were sentenced to 15-years in prison. Just five years into their sentences the hapless captains were pardoned and released. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Interestingly, Captain Viktor Tkachenko, who skippered the bulk carrier that rammed the passenger liner, immediately changed his name to Talor, his Jewish wife’s name. Captain Viktor Talor nee-Tkachenko and his wife then took up permanent residence in Israel. The story still doesn’t have a happy ending or does it?

In September 2003 Jewish Captain Viktor Tkachenko skippered a yacht that foundered off Newfoundland’s coast. The crew and passengers bodies were recovered. These included the corpse of the ill-fated bulk carrier’s skipper. The worst captain in Soviet maritime history was afterwards buried in Tel Aviv, Israel. Perhaps he should have been better known as Captain Karma.

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Published in: on November 23, 2016 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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