List of seventeen ships all torpedoed and sunk off Ardmore in the period February 1917 to September 1918
On seeing the above title many people familiar with Ardmore and its History will assume it concerns just two ships torpedoed and sunk by submarine - the FOLIA in March 1917 and the BANDON a month later. A search through British Vessels Lost as Sea 1914-1918 (1) resulted in a list of seventeen ships all torpedoed and sunk off Ardmore in the period February 1917 to September 1918 with the loss of over 100 lives. In addition the Cork Steam Packet Co. vessel KENMARE (1330 tons gross) was chased by a German submarine on the 27 June 1915 between Ardmore and Capel Island but managed to escape and the THURINGIA (297 tons gross) was blown up off Youghal, presumed torpedoed, on the 11 November 1917.
In most of these cases the attack occurred 10 miles or more out at sea and the survivors were picked up and taken elsewhere. Because of this, and restrictions on newspaper reporting, the incidents passed unnoticed in Ardmore. The FOLIA and BANDON however, were quite close inshore when torpedoed and the subsequent explosions were heard on shore. Also in the case of the FOLIA, the survivors in the ship's lifeboats came ashore at Ardmore. Although these two ships are the ones generally mentioned it can be clearly seen from the list above that they were not isolated incidents.
In April 1916 Roger Casement was arrested having landed from a German Submarine at Banna Strand in Co. Kerry, and this was followed by the arrest of the AUD with its arms shipment. It has been suggested that in Ardmore and elsewhere around the Irish coast assistance was given to submarine crews. Lady Clodagh Anson (2) and the local gentry had little doubt that assistance was being provided.
"We were by the sea at Ardmore when war was declared, and at first it was very difficult to know what was happening, or to gather any news."
Though we had no food restrictions in Ireland during the war, we had plenty of submarines to make up. They were swarming thickly round the South Coast, and made their base in all sorts of wild coves along there, as they could always get any amount of petrol and food from the people, who were anti-English to a man. Sometimes we could see their periscopes from the cliffs, but they never shelled us at Ardmore, as they did not want to annoy their friends, and might have hit them by mistake. Of course everyone knew about this, and we spent our time telling the Authorities in London, but oh no, they knew better, and refused to pay any attention or do anything about it. I don't suppose there would have been one quarter of the ships sunk without this naval base of theirs, for they could not possibly have stayed out for months as they did without supplies, and the English Channel was not so easy to pass through."
The assisting of submarines by locals could not be confirmed and any systematic supplying of German submarines seems unlikely. It was a practice in both wars for submarines to hang around off a headland where a ship had to pass and sooner or later something would turn up (3). In May 1915 the LUSITANIA was just abeam of the Old Head of Kinsale when torpedoed with the loss of almost 1200 lives.
The rest of this article deals with three of these ships -The City of Cork Steam Packet Co. ship BANDON, and the Cunard ships FELTRIA and FOLIA. Information on these ships and their History is based on a number of sources, principally the following: the Admiralty (4), Haws (5), Hocking (6) and Lloyd's (7). For information on the City of Cork Steam Packet Co. and the BANDON, McNeill (8) and Smyth (9) were consulted. Information on the Cunard ships was also obtained from Dodman (10) Isherwood (11) and Liverpool University Library, Cunard Archives (12).
Research on World War I shipping losses is on-going particularly in regard to the submarine(s) involved in these incidents. It is hoped to publish further information at a later date.
Built - in 1910 at Newcastle by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson
Hull - Steel, Length 266 ft, Breadth 37.2ft, Depth 17.4 ft.
Tonnage - 1456 gross, 668 net
Engine - Triple expansion, 3 cylinder 394 NHP 14.5 knots
1910 Built for City of Cork Steam Packet Co. and launched at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
1917 Torpedoed and sunk on 13 April by German submarine 2.5 miles S.W. off Mine Head Co. Waterford with loss of 28 lives.
A full account of the sinking of the Bandon was given by W. J. Barry (13). Two other subsequent accounts of the event by Herbert (14) and Young (15) were based on this. A brief summary at this point will suffice.
On 12 April 1917 the Bandon sailed from Liverpool for Cork under the command of Captain P.F. Kelly. On the evening of Friday the 13th, an unlucky day to be at sea, when the ship was off Mine Head she was struck by a torpedo on the port side and immediately began to sink. The four survivors including Captain Kelly were in the water for over two hours. Following a message from Mine Head Lighthouse they were rescued by motor launch and taken to Dungarvan. The explosion was heard clearly on shore, and when the smoke had cleared away the Bandon has disappeared.
Historical research of wartime events such as this, is seriously hampered by reporting restrictions on newspapers. One searches the local papers of the time in vain for an account of the event. The Cork Examiner of Tuesday 17 April 1917 carried the following brief article.
Mourning In Cork
There was general mourning in the city yesterday for the loss of a number of its citizens. The Municipal flag was floated half-mast over the City Hall, and the flags of the Harbour Commissioners and other public bodies were also hoisted at half-mast. Similar emblems of sorrow were displayed by the ships at the quays.
The "death column" in the newspaper that week included many drowned or lost at sea on April 13th. Although no ship was mentioned the names include many of those mentioned by Barry (13).
There is a very fine model of the Bandon on display at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland in Dun Laoghaire. A photograph of this is shown overleaf.
In 1918 Captain P. F. Kelly was appointed in command of the INNISCARRA - the finest ship of the Cork Steam Packet Go. In May of that year en route from Fishguard to Cork the ship was torpedoed off Mine Head. An account of this sinking is also included in the article by W. J. Barry (13). In this case when the U. Boat surfaced the Germans were quite abusive to the survivors.
Built - in 1891 at Dunbarton by Wm. Denny & Co.
Hull - Steel, Length 420 ft, Breadth 482 ft, Depth 30.6 ft
Tonnage - 5254 gross, 3287 net, 10,400 tons displacement 2 decks, passenger capacity 400 (3rd class) shelter - deck schooner-rigged vessel.
Engine - Quadruple expansion 4 cylinders, 666 NHP 13 knots. Single screw 3x double ended boilers 180 psi steam
1891 Built as AVOCA for British India Steam Navigation Co.
1907 Chartered to Danish East Asiatic Co. for use as the Royal Yacht, named ATLANTA, for the visit of the King & Queen of Denmark to Greenland.
1908 Operated as URANIUM for North West Transport Line
1910 Sold to Canadian Northern Railways
1916 Acquired by Cunard Co. and renamed Feltria. Run as a cargo boat with some 3rd class accommodation in the New York Trade
1917 Torpedoed and sunk off Mine Head with loss of 44 lives
Canadian Northern Railways operated a service, known as the Royal Line, between Avonmouth and Canada. The operating company was Canadian Northern Steamships Ltd (C.N.S.). In 1910 they acquired the Uranium and retained the name. The name was then given to a new company-Uranium Steam Ship Company - formed in the same year under the control of Canadian Northern to operate an emigrant service between Rotterdam and New York.
The Cunard Co. tried to make good its depleted fleet during the first world war by purchasing the Canadian Northern Railways Royal Line in 1916. This consisted of five ships including the Feltria and Folia (5, 10). The Cunard Company was also anxious to increase its Canadian connection - Samuel Cunard was born in Nova Scotia.
The following account of the sinking of the Feltria is taken from Sir Edgar T Britten's autobiography. (16)
On May 5th, 1917, at 7.30 pm., while en route to Avonmouth from New York, the Feltria was torpedoed without warning about eight miles south-east of Mine Head off the Irish coast. A very heavy sea was running at the time. No. 1 lifeboat was capsized during launching, and No. 4 boat had been blown to pieces by the explosion of the torpedo. Boats Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6 were successful in clearing the vessel's side. Most of the crew were in boats 3 and 5, the Captain and Chief Steward were alone in No. 2 boat, which was also badly damaged by the explosion. No. 6 boat contained the Chief Officer, Second Officer, Purser, plus three sailors, and the submarine coming to the surface ordered this boat alongside of her. Questioning the Chief Officer as to the nature of her cargo, the submarine made off but stopped to pick up Mr. Scott, one of the Feltrias Engineers, and returned with him to the lifeboat.
From the U-bloat's deck Mr. Scott was assisted back into the water, whilst Mr. Burt, the Feltria's quartermaster, very gallantly jumped into the sea and helped him to the lifeboat's side where he was pulled aboard in a very exhausted condition, while huge waves were washing over the little boat itself. Of the boat containing the Commander, Captain Price, and the Chief Steward, nothing more was seen, their lives being lost; by midnight three other members of the crew in No. 6 boat had died from exposure and exhaustion, one of the victims being Mr. Scott mentioned above. The remaining five in this boat were picked up and landed at Queenstown, but out of a crew of 69 no less than 44 lost their lives, 17 dying from terrible exposure in the lifeboats.
Built - in 1907 at Sunderland by James Laing & Co.
Hull - Steel, 2 deck, Length 430ft, Breadth 52.7ft, Depth 25ft
Tonnage - 6704 gross, 4211 net, 10980 tons displacement
Shelter - deck schooner - rigged vessel.
Engine - Triple expansion 6 cylinder NHP 869, 14 knots. Twin Screw 4 x single ended boilers (originally 5). 180 PSI Steam Pressure.
1907 Built as PRINCIPE DI PIEMONTE for Lloyd Sabaudo Line of Italy.
1913 Purchased by Uranium S.S. Co. and renamed PRINCIPELLO. Rotterdam - New York run.
1914 Sold to Canadian Northern's Royal Line
1916 Acquired by Cunard Co. and renamed FOLIA used for cargo only Liverpool - New York.
1917 Torpedoed and sunk off Ram Head with loss of 7 lives.
Many shipping lines included the name Lloyd in their title and as a result the term came to mean a shipping corporation. It was felt to be a prestigious element in the name owing to the dominance of Lloyds of London in ship registration and insurance. The Italian line Lloyd Sabaudo was founded in 1906. The Italian Royal family seems to have taken a considerable interest in the new company and the passenger ships were named after members of the Royal House and Italian nobility. The company ordered three ships from Laing's of Sunderland for the North Atlantic New York service. These were named Re d'Italia, Regina d'Italia and Principa di Piemonte. The three sister ships were identical in every way with their two masts and two funnels except the PRINCIPE had a slightly larger tonnage. In 1913, due to increased competition, Lloyd Sabaudo decided two ships were enough on this route and sold the Principe to Canadian Northern Railways. Twenty years later, during the l930s slump Lloyd Sabaudo merged with several other companies to form the "ltalia" Line. (11)
Canadian Northern renamed the ship Principello and she was used by Uranium S.S. Co. on the Rotterdam-New York run until the war broke out. In 1914 the bigger ships of Canadian Northern's Royal Line (C.N.S.) were taken over as transports and the Rotterdam service ceased. The Principello was taken over by C.N.S. and for the next 18 months operated on the Bristol Channel service, Canada - Avonmouth, before being taken over by Cunard in 1916.
The following account of the sinking of the Folia is taken from Sir Edgar T. Britten's autobiography (16) and was subsequently included in John Young's book (15).
On Sunday, March 11th 1917, the Folia, commanded by Captain F. Inch, was sunk off the Irish coast, while on a voyage from New York to Bristol. It was a quarter-past seven in the morning that the Third Officer observed the periscope of a submarine some 500 feet from the ship and nearly abeam. Immediately afterwards he saw the feathery wake of a torpedo approaching, and a second later the Folia was hit amidships, the explosion smashing two of her lifeboats. Seven of the crew, including the Second Engineer, were also killed by the explosion, and the Folia herself began rapidly to settle. Four boats were at once lowered, and the rest of the officers and crew were safely embarked. While the lifeboats were still in the neighbourhood the submarine came to the surface, motored rapidly round the ship and fired four shots into her. She next backed away and fired a second torpedo into the sinking vessel. The U-boat then cleared off, but Captain Inch got his boats together, and instructed the officers in charge to steer on a Nor'west compass bearing. Three of them made fast by painters so as not to get adrift from each other, and in this manner the frail boats stood on their course. About 11 am the Captain, under the fog that had crept up, sighted breakers ahead. Creeping along the line of breakers they at last sighted smooth water at the base of towering cliffs. Pulling for these they saw the outline of a house high above, with people standing in front of it. Shouting in unison the crew succeeded in attracting attention and learned that the place was Ardmore, Youghal, Co. Cork, and from there they proceeded to Dungarvan, where they arrived in time to hear the church bells that evening. In all the cases I have dealt with in this chapter of shipwreck every one of the vessels mentioned was unarmed and no resistance was possible.
The ship is known locally in Ardmore as the Folio. The correct name however is FOLIA. The Cunard Co. used the - IA ending for many of their ships starting with the BRITANNIA and including such familiar names as the LUSITANIA already mentioned and her sister ship the MAURETANIA, which for over 20 years held the 'Blue Riband' for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic at speeds averaging over 25 knots.
Early on Sunday morning in Ardmore, two explosions were heard quite clearly and then there was silence. Although there was no wind it was cold and there was a very thick fog. When the lifeboats came around the Head and broke the fog they were guided in by people waving on the cliffs. By the time they came ashore it was mid-day. There was a large crowd around as last mass had just finished. The RIC assembled the survivors and took a roll call outside the Hotel on Main Street. Lots of people provided food and clothing. Arrangements were made to transport them to Dungarvan, where they were taken that evening in a fleet of cars. An account of the event is provided by the letter overleaf.
The lifeboats were left in the Boatcove for quite a while before being towed away. Also left were the lifejackets and a number of children learned to swim using them. Some months passed before the 'salvage' began to float in. Wooden barrels of oil were picked up by the Receiver of Wreck and later sold. Sides of ham, loose or in boxes about 1 cu. yard in size came into Ardmore and elsewhere along the coast. Large slabs of tallow about 3 sq.ft x 2 inches thick floated ashore in boxes or single slabs where boxes broke up. These were seized by the locals and used for making candles, as paraffin oil for the lamps was very scarce.
As the Folia is such a large vessel, 430 ft in length and is located only 4 miles off Ram Head, it has been dived on many times although it lies in about 120 ft of water. According to Lloyd's (7) the ship was carrying a general cargo, but a large number of brass items have been recovered.
Letter From Ardmore
Letter (part of) from Ardmore (Dr. Foleys House, Glendysert) Monday 12 March 1917
My dearest Kathleen
To begin with the exciting part - A Cunarder (the Folia) was torpedoed four and a half miles S.S.W. of Ardmore Head yesterday morning at 7.20. The crew of between 80 and 90 were landed from their own boats at the Pier here just as the people were coming from last Mass.
It was a ship of 11,000 tons and carried a cargo of wheat, hams, etc and huge shells (15 inch and 6ft 3 ins high). The ships carried no passengers. The crew were so glad of this as the only woman (the stewardess) cried.
Well you may be sure Ardmore was astir. All the people took some of the crew to each house. We had five, three English, one American (the Doctor) and one Dane. Some were without boots, all with wet socks or without any, some without coats and so on.
After looking after their creature comforts (they were of course without food since the night before with the exception of the biscuits with which each boat is provisioned). They were anxious for music so we put on Gramaphone for them. I believe they danced and sang up at the Convent. Sr. M. Aloysius played for them.
The Doctor, Dr. Core (pronounced Corry) Nashville, Tennesee, is just qualified and I suppose was on his first trip. He was up at six o'clock that morning and after carefully doing his toilet he thought he would go on deck and see if any submarines were around. He just caught the handle of the door to turn it when there came an awful crash, glass flying in every direction. When a ship is struck the vibration is dreadful. Of course they got no warning that the torpedo was to be fired, but the donkeyman and another just saw the periscope at that time. The periscopes on new submarines are much smaller (no larger than a bird) than on the old ones. The Doctor saved a bag but lost his overcoat (£20 worth) and other things amounting in all to £50. The Captain of the ship disguised himself as they usually take the Captains prisoners. Seven of the crew went down with the ship, they were in the part of the ship that the torpedo struck.
When they had taken to the boats the Captain of the submarine, who was very courteous, came up to them and told them "they were alright and to row to Ardmore four and a half miles away".
Text: James T. Quain
Scanned by: Kathleen Paton
Author: Siobhán Lincoln