Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

SS Kurtuluş

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In service  1883
Homeport  Istanbul
Launched  1883
Builders  Cumbria, England
Out of service  20 January 1942
Capacity  2,735
Length  76 m
SS Kurtuluş httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Name  SS Teşvikiye (1924–1930), SS Bülent (1930–1934), SS Kurtuluş (1934–1942), also see register below
Fate  Sank 20 January 1942 off Marmara Island

SS Kurtuluş was a Turkish cargo ship which became famous for her humanitarian role in carrying food aid during the famine Greece suffered under the Axis occupation in World War II. She sank on 20 February 1942 in the Sea of Marmara during her fifth voyage from İstanbul, Turkey to Piraeus, Greece. In Turkish kurtuluş means "liberation".


The ship

The steamer Kurtuluş was built by Caird & Purdie Shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England in 1883. She was a dry-freight carrier, 76.5 m (250 feet) long with 2,735 gross tons capacity. After having served under different flags and names, she was purchased in 1924 by the prominent Turkish shipowning family, Kalkavan brothers. She served as freighter in Turkish waters as one of the first ships under the flag of the newly established Turkish Republic. She was re-sold in 1934 to another family active in the same field, Tavilzade brothers, who named her "SS Kurtuluş" ("Liberation") in 1934. In 1941, SS Kurtuluş was leased by the Turkish government for humanitarian relief to be provided during the food crisis in Greece.

The mission

Greece experienced the Great Famine (Greek: Μεγάλος Λιμός) during the time the country was occupied by Nazi Germany starting April 1941, as well as a sea blockade by the Royal Navy at the same time. The famine is reported to have caused the death of 70,000 people according to the official, Nazi-controlled, Greek sources of the period and over 300,000 according to the historian Mark Mazower.

The National Greek War Relief Association, an organization formed in October 1940 by the Greek Orthodox Church, started to raise funds in the United States and to organize relief efforts to supply the population with food and medicine. The British were initially reluctant to lift the blockade since it was the only form of pressure they had on the Axis Powers. However, a compromise was reached to allow shipments of grain to come from the neutral Turkey, despite the fact that it was within the blockade zone.

Turkish president İsmet İnönü signed a decision to help the people whose army he had personally fought during the Turkish War of Independence 19 years previous. The people of Turkey thus became the first to lend a helping hand to Greece. Foodstuffs were collected by a nationwide campaign of Kızılay (Turkish Red Crescent) and the operation was mainly funded by the American Greek War Relief Association and the Hellenic Union of Constantinopolitans. Food supplies were sent to the port of Istanbul to be shipped to Greece. SS Kurtuluş was prepared for her voyage with big symbols of the Red Crescent painted on both sides.

After having received permission from London to cross the blockade zone, the ship left Karaköy Pier on 6 October 1941 for the first time. Upon landing in Piraeus, the port city near Athens, the International Red Cross took charge of unloading and of distributing the foodstuffs. In the following months, SS Kurtuluş made three more voyages to Greece delivering a total of 6,735 tons of food aid.

During her fifth voyage, after having left Istanbul on 18 February, the old ship was caught in heavy weather and rough seas in the Sea of Marmara. During the night of 20 February 1942, SS Kurtuluş was blown onto rocks off the coast near Saraylar village, north of Marmara Island. She sank the next morning at 9:15. All 34 crew members reached Marmara Island. The place was later named Cape Kurtuluş in her memory.

Despite the loss of SS Kurtuluş, Turkey maintained her determination to help, and continued sending aid until 1946 with other ships like SS Dumlupınar, SS Tunç, SS Konya, SS Güneysu and SS Aksu. One ship, the SS Dumlupınar brought around 1,000 sick Greek children aged 13–16 to İstanbul to recuperate in a safe place.

The documentary film

Turkish writer-researcher-film director Erhan Cerrahoğlu undertook research work to produce a documentary on SS Kurtuluş and on the relief campaign the ship was part of. The wrecksite was identified in summer 2005, by the diver Prof. Erdoğan Okuş and his team. Unfortunately, the shipwreck was found demolished.

The documentary film Kurtuluş Vapuru Belgeseli (SS Kurtuluş: The Steamship That Carried Peace) features images seen for the first time. The documentary debuted on 1 June 2006, during the 3rd International Istanbul Bunker Conference.


SS Kurtuluş Wikipedia