One of the worst but little known maritime disasters is the sinking of the Armenia, a Russian hospital ship whose casualties number over 5,000. Armenia was originally a passenger ship, but like many of her type during the second world war, she was seconded as a transport ship to carry wounded soldiers as well as military cargo.
Her newly appointed position began in 1941. When the Germans cut off the Crimean Peninsula in late October, the only way the Russians could access the city of Sevastopol — which was heavily under seige — was by sea. Armenia was to help transport a combination of civilians, wounded Russian solders and medical personnel out of the city to safety.
On November 7, while attending to her daunting task, Armenia was hit and sunk by a German Heinkel He 111 medium bomber. Although hospital ships painted with large red crosses were supposed to be exempt from being fired on under the Hague Convention, this rule was not always adhered to by the Germans or the Soviets. As it happened, Armenia was known to be equipped with some light anti-aircraft armament and she had previously transported soldiers and equipment, leaving her status as a hospital ship questionable.
On that day, Armenia was to take thousands of wounded soldiers, medical staff, civilian officials and their families to Tuapse, over 250 miles from Sevastopol, but it was not to be. The German bomber fired two torpedoes with the second one making a deadly direct hit. Armenia immediately broke in two and sank in mere minutes. Just eight people survived. To date, the remains of Armenia have never been found.
© Copyright Vince Capone 2013