By Lt. Gen. (ret.) Androulakis Giorgos
On the north sandy coast of Kos Island, approximately 600 meters east of Marmari, a shipwreck is laying a few metres off the beach.
It is a WW 2 shipwreck, destroyed shortly after the occupation of Kos by German invasion troops in October 1943.
The boat is the F-131 (Ferry-131) landing boat type Leiche MG (LMG).
These German landing boats were built in large numbers, in order to transfer troops to invade the British Islands for operation “Sea Lion” which was eventually postponed. Later they were used in many small-scale landing operations and offered useful services.
Their construction was done by assembling prefabricated parts that could easily be transported by trains, ships or even large trucks.
They were about forty meters long and five in width. They carried at least three medium battle tanks or trucks and large numbers of troops or materials.
Because of their narrow dimensions were able to sail in narrow sea passes or in moderate rivers, but at a low speed not exceeded ten knots.
In addition to the operational mission as landing boats, their use as barges for general transport was extensive.
Most of them were equipped with a 75-mm gun. This particular ferry was constructed in Bourgas, Bulgaria. In February 1942, the F-131 passed secretly along with same three others across Bosporus Turkey and joined the 12th German coastguard flotilla in Piraeus Greece.
F-131 took part in many missions mostly in the Greek Islands which were occupied by axis forces.
In October 1943 the F-131 was with the German flotilla that carried forces of the 22 Infantry Division from Crete to thenorth Dodecanese Greek islands.
Their mission was to seize the British and Italian garrisons, which sided with the Allies after the Italian armistice.
After the conquest of the Kos Island, F-131 transported personnel and military cargo from the northern coasts to Kalymnos island, an intermediate step to the main objective, the Leros Island Fortress.
During that period an air and naval conflict between the Axis and the Allied forces was raging, in order to control the sea routes and the strategic points and bases in the Aegean archipelago.
The allied naval forces were predominant at sea but could operate only at nighttime due to German air superiority during the day.
On October 20, 1943, F-131 along with F-123 were anchored close to Marmari on the northern coast of Kos, waiting to load ammunition and fuel the next morning. Ammunition boxes and fuel barrels were on shore waiting to be loaded.
The night was moonlit. The crews were sleeping in tents on the sandy beach.
A busy day awaited the following morning.
It was about 2 o’ clock in the morning when three British torpedo boats, the MTB 307, 309 and 315, appeared in combat formation.
They quickly identified in the moonlight the two boats which were a very attractive target.
They approached silently, and launched two torpedoes.
The first torpedo missed the boats, but accidentally hit the ammunition dump on the beach .
The explosion turned the beach into hell.
Some local residents, young persons at the time, old men today, testified the remembrance of that huge explosion. The second torpedo, hit the F-131 at the front and broke the front catapult door.
The ship quickly was full of water and sat on the sandy seabed gently where it is now.
The next day, the Germans inspected it and decided that they could not recover the ship and after removing everything useful they left F-131 his fate.
Time passed, the war was over. The rusting shipwreck was slowly eroding because of the elements and looting.
The flat deck was once an excellent field for children to play football, until it totally collapsed.
The story was forgotten. Nobody knew what the rusted skeleton buried in the sand was. Today some remains are preserved half-buried and scattered while part of it is buried in the sand.
On the shore, when the sand recedes in winter, some scattered metal pieces of the front door, metal connectors, pulleys, rails and other scrap metal appear.
The beach where the shipwreck is located is nowadays full of sunbeds, umbrellas and beach bars. A protective fence keeps swimmers away of the rusting shipwreck.
This is the story of the WW2 shipwreck of Kos.
Memories from the dark years of WW2 in these blue waters.
1. Peter Schenk: “KAMPF UM DIE AGAIS”, EUROBOOKS, Athens, 2008.
2. Antony Rogers: Churchill’s Folly: Leros and the Aegean, Cassel, 2003.
3. Interviews with local residents of Kos island.