The 4,528-ton Swedish passenger and cargo ship Skane was built in 1921 by A/B Lindholmens of Gothenburg and was owned and operated by Rederiaktiebolaget Transl-Atlantic. One unusual characteristic of her sinking is that the crew of 34 included two Swedish women – the only instance in the more than 100 vessels sunk in the area where women were on board as crew – some ships had passengers. The Skåne had changed names in 1941 and at shortly before the sinking the ship was known as the “Boren”, causing some confusion (for example the ESF War Diary records on 30 January 1942 that “Skane (Swedish) saw periscope 20 yards to port 0700 Jan. 30 at 40-45N; 69-46W the same place the Boren saw one at 1840 Jan. 30.” – they were at the same place because they were the same ship under different names (uboatarchive.net). Cristiano D’Adamo of Regiamarine.net writes that “Some authors erroneously state that the Boren did not fall victim to the Finzi, but this is confirmed and it took place in position 20° 50’N, 62° 05’W. All 36 crewmembers were rescued.” (Regiamarina.net)
On the night of 6th March the Italian submarine Giuseppe Finzi under Ugo Giudice attacked the Skane 160 miles north-northeast of Anegada with two torpedoes and a number of shells, sinking her. The seas were choppy but weather was described as clear and visibility good. The Skane had been maintaining 163 degrees heading south-southease at 9 knots and was unarmed and blacked out. An initial shell was fired, prompting the First Officer to order abandon ship without consulting the Captain. Thereafter about fifteen shots every half hour were fired at the ship. The radio officer managed to send an SSS but it was not acknowledged. The shelling was so intense that the crew believed and testified that the ship was attacked by two submarines simultaneously – this is unlikely as the Finzi did not rendezvous with the Morisini to refuel until four days later, on the 10th of March.
The position of the attack is given as 22.50N and 60.10W, or just East of the area covered in this research. However, details of Italian submarines’ movements are much more challenging to ascertain, so these attacks serve as critical waypoints to judge which submarines and merchant ships were where – and when. The crew managed to launch and man two lifeboats. They described the (first) submarine as “large, with one gun forward and one aft, cruiser stern, cutaway bow, Pietro Micca type.” Not surprisingly (since there wasn’t one), “the second submarine could not be clearly seen”. Furthermore, the ship is reported to have remained afloat for five hours after being abandoned. Though the crew were concerned that the Italians had boarded the hulk, she was not carrying confidential codes so they could not have fallen into enemy hands.
Reports vary as to when the survivors were rescued – the original survivors statements say that the 1st lifeboat was found by the Ipswich at 1200 on the 9th of March and the second only two hours later at 1400 on the same day. However the Eastern Sea Frontier enemy cation diary does not feature the rescue until two weeks later, on the 23rd of March: “Report received from Intelligence that the S. S. SKANE (Swedish with crew of 33-34 men) was torpedoed March 7 at 1120 EWT at 21-00 N, 62-10 W. Survivors were landed at San Juan by the S. S. IPSWICH (U. S. cargo).” It is possible that the authorities in Puerto Rico, perhaps trying to suppress the story, did not inform headquarters for some days, though this is inconsistent with naval discipline and forwarding intelligence in a timely fashion – of course the intra-naval reports were not published. After the survivors were landed the Naval authorities in dispatches requested advice regarding release of details of the Melpomene and Skane sinkings, as “one morning paper already published survivor story direct without release” “ (NARA2 records).