17th July 1918 – Cunard’s Carpathia torpedoed, sunk

Carpathia_SinkingCunard’s Carpathia, best known for hr rôle in saving survivors from the Titanic disaster, was torpedoed on 17th July 1918 by the German submarine U55, off the Irish coast. Five crew were lost in the initial attack. She was part of a convoy heading from Liverpool to Boston, with 57 passengers and 166 crew. She was hit by two torpedoes, and quickly began to sink by the head. Captain Prothero gave the order to abandon ship, and survivors left on the lifeboats. U55 fired a third torpedo into Carpathia, causing a massive explosion. The submarine then surfaced and approached the lifeboats, but was driven away by gunfire from HMS Snowdrop. The sloop then stopped and picked up the survivors. Early in 2000 the wreck was found, some 125 miles off Fastnet, lying more or less upright on the seabed. It is currently owned by Premier Exhibitions, formerly RMS Titanic Inc., but that company has filed for bankruptcy so it is unclear what the future holds for any artefacts recovered.

Carpathia at HalifaxBuilt by Swan Hunter at Newcastle, Carpathia was laid down on 10th September 1901, and was ready for her trials by 22nd April 1903. She was 558 feet long, 13,603grt. She was fitted with four masts, well-equipped with derricks to handle large quantities of cargo, especially frozen meat. Carpathia could also carry 200 passengers in Second Class and 1,600 in Steerage. She was designed to attract the thousands of East European and Hungarian emigrants heading for the USA on the Fiume to New York route. Her maiden voyage was on 5th May 1903, from Liverpool to Boston. She was rebuilt in 1905 to provide better accommodation, and was often used as a cruise ship.

carpathiaCarpathia was most famous for her part in the Titanic disaster, when she was first to arrive on the scene, and rescued over 700 survivors. Requisitioned during the Great War, Carpathia was used to transport American and Canadian troops to the battlefields of Europe. She generally sailed from New York to Halifax, then across the Atlantic to either Liverpool or Glasgow.

14th July 1941 – Georgic bombed out at Suez

georgic, on fireOn 7th July 1941 Georgic arrived at Port Tewfik. Troops and matériel were offloaded and by 13th July evacuees and returning troops were boarding. In the early hours of 14th July air raid sirens sounded. Initially the Ger­man bombers concentrated on shore instal­lations then the ships in Suez Roads, especially Georgic. One bomb exploded along­side after bouncing off the hull, the shock wave damaged hull plating and caused flooding in No. 4 hold. The next bomb hit the sports deck, plunged through a lift shaft and exploded five decks down in No. 5 hold.

georgic with fire hosesFire broke out on all five decks, fed by fuel oil escaping from a rup­tured tank in the double bottom. Within 20 minutes the fire reached ammu­nition in Holds No. 7 and 8, which exploded. Georgic was now listing to port with extensive flooding. About a dozen of the gun crew were killed or injured. The steering was jammed, and Georgic crashed into HMS Glenearn, anchored nearby. With great diffi­culty Captain Greig managed to ground on North Reef, clearing the channel. Georgic lay abandoned and was left to burn. The ship was gutted, her mid­ships destroyed by the fuel fire, and her stern wrecked by the explosion.

Georgic sunk, sternOn 17th July Captain Greig and a group of engineers returned to see what was left. Superstructure was distorted: the engines were undamaged, but under water. Commander J.G. Wheeler, Mediterranean Fleet Salvage Officer, arrived from Haifa on 17th July. He had to wait for a pro­fessional diver to assess the under­water damage. On 14th September it was decided that Georgic could be raised and saved, and on 15th September the salvage ship Confederate arrived at Suez, along with a professional salvage team and divers. Pumps were acquired and patches were made for the doors and portholes that were underwater. Cmdr Wheeler gave the order on 10th October to start pumping water out. Initially they worked on the engine room and stern holds so that the weight of the water in the forward end kept the wreck securely on the reef. By 27th October Georgic was afloat, and Confederate towed the wreck to an anchorage. Make-shift repairs were com­pleted, and temporary pumps installed to keep the water levels down.

On 29th December Georgic left for Port Sudan, under tow from Clan Campbell, with Ellerman’s City of Sydney steering from astern, as no tugs were available. The rudder was still jammed hard over, making her veer wildly while under tow. On 3rd January 1942 the tow rope from Georgic to City of Sydney snapped as gales swept the area. On 7th January a tug arrived from Port Sudan, and a new tow line was passed to City of Sydney. The small convoy eventually arrived at Port Sudan on 10th January. Georgic spent the next seven weeks at Port Sudan, for repairs to reduce the list, and the rudder was freed from the jammed position.

It was decided to take Georgic to Karachi. On 5th March Harrison Line’s Recorder was requi­sitioned for the tow, with the tug Sampson steering from astern, for the 2,775 mile journey. On 6th March severe weather forced Sampson to break off the tow, and soon after the tug sank. On 8th March British India’s Haresfield took over the aft steering position and later the tug Pauline Moller assisted. On 1st April Georgic arrived at Karachi, for further repairs. The interiors were cleaned of all remain­ing debris, the dis­torted stem straightened and the engines cleaned and coaxed back to life. Georgic left Karachi under her own steam on 11th Decem­ber, for Bombay, arriving two days later. Further repairs were completed, and the hull was cleaned. After a brief stop at Cape Town from 5th to 8th February to refuel and reprovision, Georgic arrived at Liver­pool on 1st March.

Georgic wreck arrives at H&WAt Liverpool, surveyors from the Admiralty and the Ministry of War Transport surveyed Georgic to determine her fate. On 16th March it was decided to rebuild her as a permanent troop­ship, and for Cunard-White Star to manage her. She arrived at Harland & Wolff in Belfast on 19th March. On 5th July the No. 3 berth at Musgrave Yard was freed: Georgic was transferred and the work of restoring her began. Internally she was completely rebuilt. Externally the dummy forward funnel was removed, the foremast reduced and the mainmast cut off, with just a small signal mast added. Georgic left Belfast on 16th December 1944 for Liver­pool, to resume her trooping duties.

30th June 1900 – major fire at Hoboken Piers

PiersWithKaiserFriedrich-redAround 4·00pm on Saturday, 30th June 1900 fire broke out at Hoboken, in New York. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and Main were at Pier 2, Bremen and Saale were at Pier 3. They were surrounded by coal barges, lighters and canal boats, laden with bales of cotton and drums of oil and petroleum products, including turpentine. An explosion amongst cargo on Pier 3 set stacked bales of cotton on fire: the flames spread rapidly. The fire spread fast on the dry, wooden piers; forty dockers died before they could run to safety. The flames jumped across adjacent piers before spreading ashore, destroying many build­ings. Local fire crews responded but had little effect.

Hoboken fire-redNone of the vessels had steam up, and were in danger of being  destroyed. Harbour tugs moved in to help Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse but were unable to move her. Admiral Dewey, one of the most power­­ful tugs in harbour, then arrived and started towing her clear. Another tug collected a second hawser and together they towed Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse to the middle of the Hudson. Later Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was towed across the river. Damage was slight, mainly singed paint and wood­work.

SaalePaintPeeling-redTwo city fireboats, Van Wyck and New Yorker, arrived and played their firehoses on the burning liners, in a hopeless attempt to quell the fires and save some of those aboard. Saale was towed clear, blazing furiously. She was abandoned and left to drift, ending up near the Statue of Liberty and later sank: 109 crew died. Bremen and Main drifted clear and later both went aground at the Wee­hawken Flats: 12 died on one and 44 on the other. In total several hundred people died – exact figures were never accurately established.

bremen after fire-redDamage to the three liners was severe. Around 27 barges and other river craft were destroyed and the three NDL piers and the Scandinavian-American (Thingvalla) Pier were gutted: sev­eral ware­­houses were burnt out. Insur­ance esti­mates totalled $4,627,000. One hundred victims were buried in a mass grave at the Flower Hill Cemetery in North Bergen, New Jersey. Bremen underwent temporary repairs before returning to Ger­many for a complete overhaul and was extended by 25 feet. Main was refloated and towed to Newport News, where she was repaired and returned to service with NDL. Saale was sold to Luckenbach Shipping and rebuilt as a freighter, J.L. Luck­en­bach, with a single funnel and new engines.

29th June 1944 – Toyama Maru sinks, up to 5,400 lost

toyama maru dockedToyama Maru was a Japanese troop transport in World War II. On 18th June 1944 she left Moji, Japan in Convoy KATA-412, heading for Okinawa. There were troops of the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade aboard, plus a large cargo of petrol, stored in the lower holds in cans.

sturgeonAt 7.30am on 29th June 1944 she was spotted off Taira Jima, Japan, by the US submarine USS Sturgeon, under Lt Cmdr Murphy. Four torpedoes were launched; three hit, one of which exploded the petrol. In the subsequent intense fire and explosions the hull broke in two, and she sank in a minute. Survivors were rescued by the escorts. Some reports say there were over 6,000 troops aboard, with 5,400 lost. Other reports say around 4,000 aboard with 3,674 lost. The latter is more credible, given the size of the ship. Original documents were destroyed by the Japanese at the end of the war, so the true figures will never be known. However, it is accepted as one of the ten worst maritime disasters in history.

toyama maru in suez canalToyama Maru was laid down on 4th August 1913 at the Mitsubishi Dockyard, for NYK Line. Completed on 3rd June 1915, she was 445 feet long, 7,089grt. In 1935 she was sold to Nanyo Kaiun, and some 18 months later sold to Ono Shoji Gomel. On 29th January 1941 she was requisitioned by the Japanese Imperial Army and assigned Army number 782. After being involved in several Pacific actions including the Philippines and Singapore, she was used to transport prisoners of war in the most appalling conditions. She was then transferred to transport Japanese troops to various theatres of war, until her final convoy.

20th June 1934 – Dresden
(ex-White Star’s Zeppelin) sunk

dresden listingIn June 1934 the Nazi Kraft durch Freude (KdF) organisation started operating tourist cruises, chartering German vessels. Dresden (ex-Zeppelin) sailed on her first KdF cruise on 11th June 1934, to Hard­an­ger­­fjord. Because of heavy fog, the captain settled for a trip in Ryfylkefjords instead. Off Stavanger, Dresden picked up two local pilots. She was southbound when, on 20th June 1934, she struck a rock off Kopervik on the Norwegian island of Karmøy. She was able to back away from the rock, but was taking in water, and developed a list to port. However, she was sinking fast and he was forced to beach near Bliks­­havn on Karmøy.

dresden sunkHe ordered abandon ship, but as the first lifeboat was lowered into the water it capsized, throwing the occupants into the water and three women drowned. There was a fourth fatality during the evacu­­ation, but the remainder of the crew of 323 and 975 pass­en­gers were saved. Around 500 were rescued by Captain Pallesen, who had brought Kronprinsesse Martha alongside. Other vessels soon arrived. The following day Dresden rolled onto her port side and sank, leaving only her starboard side visible. Salvage was impossible, and shipwreckers Brødrene Anda from Stavanger and a company from Grimstad bought the rights to salvage the scrap metal.