Sinfra was a cargo ship built in 1929 as Fernglen by Akers Mekaniske Verksted in Oslo, Norway, for a Norwegian shipping company.
The ship was sold to Swedish owners in 1934 and to a French company in 1939, on the last occasion having her name changed to Sinfra.
Sinfra was confiscated by German authorities in 1942, and used by them in the Mediterranean. On 19 October 1943, Sinfra was bombed and sunk by Allied aircraft north of Souda Bay, Crete. Around 2,000 people were killed in the sinking, the majority being Italian POWs.
When Armistice between Italy and the Allies was announced on September 8, 1943, the Italians on the island were offered the choice of continuing to fight with the Germans or to be sent to perform forced labor. The Germans used ships to transport those who would not continue fighting.
The armistice was signed on The British battleship Nelson in Malta,Eisenhower signed for the Allies and Badoglio for Italy.
On 18 October 1943, 2,389 Italian prisoners were loaded into the cargo hold of Sinfra to be transported to Piraeus on the Greek mainland.There were 204 Germans on board the ship, as well as a cargo of bombs. Less than an hour after departing Souda Bay, accompanied by the escort vessels GK 05 and GK 06,the ship came under Allied air attack. A total of ten USAAF North American B-25 Mitchell and RAF Bristol Beaufighter aircraft engaged the ship, some 19 nautical miles (35 km) north of Souda Bay.
At 22:05, after nightfall, Sinfra was struck by a torpedo near the front hatch, and at 23:00 the ship was hit by a bomb which penetrated the engine room.The hits knocked out the ship’s steering and set Sinfra on fire. At 02:31 on 19 October, the ship blew up and sank.Most of those who died in the sinking were Italian POWs. The number of dead is disputed, with estimates ranging from 1,857 or 2,098 killed, up to 5,000 dead.Amongst the survivors were 597 Italians, 197 Germans and 13 Greeks. Some 3% of the Germans on board died in the sinking, while according to conservative estimates close to 77% of the Italians perished.
The ship had insufficient safety equipment in relation to the number of people on board.In addition to the two escort vessels, eleven other German vessels responded to the SOS signals sent out by Sinfra. The rescue vessels were under orders to prioritize the rescue of Germans.While rescue efforts were going on, a No. 603 Squadron RAF Bristol Beaufighter strafed a German Dornier Do 24 flying boat which was participating in the rescue.
The Do 24 later sank.As Sinfra burned, the German guards on board locked the prisoners in the holds and threw hand grenades at them.When the panicking surviving prisoners broke out of the holds and charged the guards, attempting to board life boats, the guards opened fire with small arms and machine guns, killing many. According to Italian naval archives, some 500 Italians were rescued from the sinking ship, but after the survivors had been brought to Chania, Crete, about half of them were executed “for undisciplined behaviour … and the killing of guards” during the sinking.