“On 18 February 1982, while under the command of Captain de Lange, the President Kruger sank 78 nautical miles (144 km) south west of Cape Point after colliding with SAS Tafelberg in the early hours of the morning. The ship was involved in an anti-submarine exercise with another frigate, the President Pretorius that involved intricate manoeuvres around the Tafelberg. The bows of the Tafelberg impacted on the SAS President Kruger on her port side at the senior ratings’ mess, resulting in the loss of sixteen lives. A Westland Wasp helicopter, operated by 22 Squadron SAAF from the other frigate, rescued crew members from the water. “

(Extract from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAS_President_Kruger_%28F150%29)

SAS President Kruger which sank in a collision with SA Tafelberg on the 18 Feb 1982 near Simon's Town

30th Anniversary Commemoration

The 18 February 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the SAS President Kruger with the loss of 16 lives after a collision with the SAS Tafelberg at 04:00 in the morning.
The events planned for the commemoration this year are –

Sat 18 Feb: A wreath laying in the East Dockyard outside the Fleet HQ Building at 15:00 followed by a reception at SAS Hugo Birmann at 16:00.

Sun 19 Feb: A Memorial Service at 10:00 in the Dockyard Chapel in West Dockyard followed by refreshments and the opportunity to view some of the SAN Museum’s memorabilia.

Booking is essential and can only be made on the website saspresidentkruger.com.

Bookings will close on 31st Jan 2012 and no late booking can be accepted.

As these are non-official events there is likely to be a small cash charge levied at each event to cover costs – please keep this in mind and see the website after the bookings close to check on the amount etc. This will mean “CASH” collected at the event-  no other payment method!!

We are obliged to supply numbers attending to the SAN for catering and access control purposes so attendance is only for those booked. No booking – No entry – NO Attendance!

To those who have previously booked – Please ensure you contact cameron.kinnear@saspresidentkruger.com to confirm which events you are going to attend – he has sent everyone an e-mail in this regard, but not all have responded.

To those not yet booked – Please book on the website for the events on the Saturday or Sunday, or both, as soon as possible – this is the only way to be able to attend the events.

Remember to keep checking the website for information and any changes!!

http://www.saspresidentkruger.com/

The information above was submitted by Steve Johns who was on the President Kruger at the time of its sinking. He kindly agreed to send in his story of the tragic events.

SAS President Kruger – 18 February 1982

On the morning of 18th February 1982 at approximately 0355B I was sleeping in my bunk in Mess 1.  I woke up thinking that the ship felt strange, then the “action alarm” sounded. I jumped out of my bunk and put on my Nutria uniform which was hanging next to my bunk. The “action alarm” did not sound for long although there was lighting in the alleyways.

I rushed to the Main Signal Office to collect my life jacket and on the way into the MSO I saw a number of ratings running up the alleyway from aft covered in black streaks, which I later realised was FFO (furnace fuel oil) . I put on my life jacket and went to the Ops Room which was where I expected command to be.

In the Ops Room I found only CPO Seyfret, who was picking up books and tidying the Ops Room. I asked him where the Captain was and he told me he was on the Bridge.

Diagram of collision between SAS President Kruger SAS Tafelberg on the 18 Feb 1982 near Simon's Town Going  through the Ops Room and up to the Bridge, I found my junior rating on watch standing next to the starboard signal desk. He told me that the tactical circuit was dead. I then listened on a headset, and as the circuit sounded live, I carried out a radio check with SAS President Pretorius.  We informed President Pretorius of the situation as instructed by the Captain.

As the ship already had a bad list to port  and all hands were being told verbally to muster on the forecastle as the piping system was not functioning, it was suggested that we move onto the starboard bridge wing with a portable radio, which we did after securing our books in the “meat safe” in the bridge. We were still in communication with President Pretorius.

The Engineering Officer had carried out an inspection below and on return reported to the Captain that there was nothing that could be done to save the ship. All hands were instructed to start abandoning ship, which was done calmly without any panic. The President Pretorius was asked to pay out her life rafts on lines so that they would drift towards us.

As my job is with the Captain, I was amongst the last to leave the ship. We had already secured the bridge wing doors and I remembered that CPO G Neil and some of his ratings were probably still in the Wireless Office, so I went back into the Bridge and called down the voice pipe to them to abandon ship. When he came on deck, we checked that all the communications staff were accounted for except for PO M. Whitely, who had been in Mess 12, asleep.

On leaving the ship we had to go from object to object to avoid slipping due to the very heavy list to port. I removed my shoes and the Executive Officer, Cdr RAS Myers advised all those left to go as soon as possible as he did not think the ship would float much longer. I stepped over the side into the water which was nearly level with the Flag Deck (the area “ringed” in white in the photo above.

I had seen two people in the water and knew I had a better chance of being picked up if not alone, so, as I could not see a life raft near me, I swam as fast as possible towards them, to get away from the ship in case I got sucked down.

The two people in the water were not wearing  life jackets. One of them was without a shirt and was full of oil, so I held on to them as I had inflated my life jacket .

Sometime later we were joined by Cdr Myers, who also was also wearing a life jacket, but had no light. We had found some floating debris, a piece of coffee table and a canvas type of cover, and we used this for buoyancy.

We kept on swimming towards where we thought we had seen a life raft, and eventually we were quite near to President Pretorius. I took out my pocket torch, which I had used to try to attract attention with earlier when we were too far away, and waved it in the air. After some time we were seen and a 20” signal projector was shone on us by President Pretorius.

Just before we were alongside President Pretorius, Cdr Myers let go and started to drift away. One of the ratings swam after him and brought him back, and we held on to him. Then a diver from President Pretorius was in the water with us, and asked if we were okay. I said the XO wasn’t and he helped him first into an empty life raft tied alongside the quarterdeck. Next went the two rating and then me, after hanging on to a rope dropped over the side, and being ducked and banged as the ship rolled.

It appears now, after reading some of the other survivors’ accounts, that we were in the water for approximately two hours before being rescued.

Also we were being coated with FFO (furnace fuel oil) from the ruptured fuel tanks as every swell crested over our heads while we floated in the water. It took a few days for my eyes to recover from the thick oil I had rubbed into them…

Afterwards there were some “flashbacks” and nightmares, but they tended to fade with time. I did spend some time later that year in a  Military Hospital with stress and anxiety, but in those day they weren’t really very clued up about PTSD, not even for those that went through some very rough stuff up on the Border. It was more just a case of take these pills and get over it!!

Steve Johns

For more info see

http://www.saspresidentkruger.com/

Viv