MV Domala

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Name: Magnava (1920-21)
Domala (1921-40)
Empire Attendant (1940-42)
Owner: British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd (1920-40)
Ministry of War Transport (1940-42)
Operator: British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd (1920-40)
Andrew Weir & Co Ltd (Bank Line) (1941-42)
Port of registry: Template:Country data UKGBI Glasgow (1921-22)
United Kingdom Glasgow (1922-42)
Builder: Barclay Curle & Company, Whiteinch, Glasgow
Yard number: 579
Launched: 23 December 1920
Completed: 14 December 1921
Identification: Official Number 146266
Code Letters GDMV
Fate: Sunk by U-582, 15 July 1942
General characteristics
Tonnage: 8,441 GRT (Domala)
7,524 GRT (Empire Attendant)
Length: 450 feet (137.16 m)
Beam: 58 feet 3 inches (17.75 m)
Depth: 32 feet 9 inches (9.98 m)
Propulsion: 2 x SCDA diesel engines (North British Diesel Engine Company) 1,085 horsepower (809 kW)
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 50 crew, plus 9 DEMS gunners (Empire Attendant)

Domala was a 8,441 ton passenger ship which was built in 1920 and launched as Magnava. Following damage sustained in an air attack in 1940, she was rebuilt as a cargo ship and renamed Empire Attendant. In 1942 she was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of all crew.



Domala was the first ship in the British India Steam Navigation Company's fleet powered by diesel engines.[1] She was built by Barclay, Curle and Company, Whiteinch, Glasgow and launched on 23 December 1920 as Magnava and completed as Domala[2] on 14 December 1921.[3]

She was used on the service to and from Calcutta. In 1940, Domala was sent to Antwerp to collect a number of Indian seamen who had been repatriated by Germany. On 2 March 1940, she was attacked[1] by a Heinkel He 111H[4] bomber of KG26 which dropped two sticks of bombs, setting Domala on fire. The order to abandon ship was given but the bomber machine-gunned survivors attempting to escape by lifeboat. A total of 108 of the 291 people on board the ship were killed.[1] The Dutch ship Jong Willem rescued 48 survivors, despite being attacked herself.[5] Avro Anson aircraft of 48 Squadron assisted in the rescue.[6] On fire, Domala was towed to the Solent where she was beached. On 19 March, she was towed to Southampton where the decision was made to convert her to a cargo ship. Domala was requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport and renamed Empire Attendant.[1]

As a result of the attack, questions were asked in Parliament by Manny Shinwell about the lack of use of the guns carried on Domala in her defence. Winston Churchill replied that the aircraft that attacked Domala had been initially misidentified as a friendly one, which was why the guns were not manned. A British destroyer also misidentified the aircraft. It was also asked why the gunners were not always manning the guns.[7]

Empire Attendant

Empire Attendant was entirely reconstructed.[2] She was placed under the management of Andrew Weir & Co (Bank Line).[8] Empire Attendant took part in a number of convoys during the war.

HX 97

Empire Attendant was due to have been a member of Convoy HX 97, but did not sail with the convoy.[9]

HX 120

Convoy HX 120 sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia on 10 April 1941 and arrived at Liverpool on 29 April. Empire Attendant was carrying a cargo of 350 tons of steel and also explosives.[10]

OS 33

Convoy OS 33 sailed from Liverpool on 1 July 1942.[11] On 10 July 1942 Pelican reported that Empire Attendant had broken down for the seventh time and was straggling, being at least 20 miles (32 km) behind the convoy.[12] At 03:30 hrs CET[2] on 15 July, she was torpedoed and sunk by U-582 off the west coast of Africa at 23°48′N 21°51′W / 23.8°N 21.85°W / 23.8; -21.85[1] with the loss of all 59 crew.[2] The crew are commemorated on panel 38 of the Tower Hill Memorial.[13]


Domala was powered by two 8 cylinder diesel engines, type 4SSA. Cylinders were 873mm bore, 1194mm stroke. The engines were built by the North East Diesel Engine Company.[14] Domala was capable of 12 knots (22 km/h).[3]

Official number and code letters

Official Numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers.

Domala and Empire Attendant had the UK Official Number 146266 and used the Code Letters GDMV[15][16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Empire Ships. London, New York, Hamburg, Hong Kong: Lloyd's of London Press. 1990. pp. p384. ISBN 1-85044-275-4. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Empire Attendant". Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 ""1146266"" (subscription required). Miramar Ship Index. R.B. Haworth. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  4. "Kampfgeschwader 26 "Löwen"". Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  5. "Launched 1920: mv DOMALA". Shipping Times. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  6. "New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol. I) CHAPTER 2 — Early Operations from Britain and France". New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  7. "STEAMSHIP "DOMALA" (ENEMY ATTACK).". Hansard. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  8. "Andrew Weir & Co. / Bank Line". The Ships List. Retrieved 18 January 2008. 
  9. "CONVOY HX 120". Warsailors. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  10. "CONVOY HX 120". Warsailors. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  11. "Convoy OS.33". Convoyweb. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  12. "SS Empire Attendant". Convoyweb. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  13. "Crew of the SS Empire Attendant, Commemorated on Tower Hill Memorial Panel 38". Convoyweb. Retrieved 19 January 2008. 
  14. "British Marine Industry and the Diesel Engine". Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  15. "LLOYD'S REGISTER, STEAMERS & MOTORSHIPS". Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 19 January 2008.  (Entry for Domala)
  16. "LLOYD'S REGISTER, STEAMERS & MOTORSHIPS". Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 19 January 2008.  (Entry for Empire Attendant)