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RMS Royal Edward (Sunk 13/8/15)

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Mal Murray View Drop Down
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    Posted: 03 Nov 2010 at 20:15
 

HMT Royal Edward was a passenger ship belonging to the Canadian Northern Steamship Company that was sunk during the First World War with a large loss of life while transporting Commonwealth troops. She had previously been known as RMS Cairo when she was launched in 1907 for a British mail service to Egypt.

Royal Edward, c. 1910–14
Royal Edward, c. 1910–14
Career
Name: 1907: RMS Cairo
1910: RMS Royal Edward
Owner: 1907: Egyptian Mail Steamship Company
1910: Royal Line
Operator: 1914: Admiralty
Port of registry: 1907: United Kingdom London
1910: Canada Toronto
Route: 1907: MarseillesAlexandria
1910: AvonmouthMontrealQuebec
Builder: Fairfields
Govan, Scotland
Yard number: 450
Launched: July 1907
Completed: January 1908
Fate: sunk by UB-14, 13 August 1915
General characteristics
Type: ocean liner
Tonnage: 11,117 GRT
Length: 160.3 m (525 ft 11 in) (oa)
Beam: 18.4 m (60 ft 4 in)
Propulsion: 3 × propeller shafts
3 × steam turbines
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h)
Capacity:

Passengers:

  • 344 first class
  • 210 second class
  • 560 third class
Troops: 1,367
Crew: 220
Notes: two funnels, three masts

Design and construction

Cairo and sister ship Heliopolis were built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, ScotlandCairo was launched in July 1907 and entered service after her completion in January 1908. As built, Cairo was 160.3 metres (525 ft 11 in) in length (overall) and 18.4 metres (60 ft 4 in) abeam. The ship was powered by three steam turbines that drove three propeller shafts, and moved the ship at up to 19 knots (35 km/h). Cairo could accommodate up to 1,114 passengers in three classes of service: 344 in first class, 210 in second class, and 560 in third.

Prewar career

Cairo entered service for the Egyptian Mail Steamship Company, a British-owned company that provided a fast mail service between Marsailles and Alexandria. The mail service was not successful and Cairo and sister Heliopolis were laid up in 1909 when the service was ended after a year.

Both ships were sold to the newly established Canadian Northern Steamship Company, a subsidiary of the Canadian Northern Railway, in 1910. The Toronto-based steamship company operated the ships under its Royal Line brand. The pair of ships were renamed upon purchase—Cairo became Royal Edward and Heliopolis became Royal George— and refitted for travel on the North Atlantic. In Royal Line service, Royal Edward sailed from Avonmouth to Montreal in the summer months and to Halifax in the winter months. At the outbreak of World War I, Royal Edward and Royal George were both requisitioned for use as troopships.

World War I

On 28 July 1915, Royal Edward embarked 1,367 officers and men at Avonmouth. The majority were reinforcements for the British 29th Infantry Division, but also included were members of the Royal Army Medical Corps. All of the men were destined for GallipoliRoyal Edward was reported off the Lizard on the evening of the 28th, and had arrived at Alexandria on 10 August, a day after sister ship Royal George which had departed from Devonport. Royal Edward departed Alexandria for the harbour of Moudros on the island of Lemnos, a staging point for the ships in the Dardanelles.

On the morning of 13 August, Royal Edward passed the British hospital ship Soudan, which was headed in the opposite direction. Oberleutnant zur See Heino von Heimburg on the German submarine UB-14 was off the island of Kandeloussa and saw both ships. Von Heimburg, seeing the properly identified hospital ship, allowed Soudan to pass unmolested, but soon focused his attention on the unescorted Royal Edward some 6 nautical miles (11 km) off Kandeloussa. Von Heimburg launched one of UB-14's two torpedoes from a about a mile (2 km) away and hit Royal Edward in the stern.The ship sank by the stern within six minutes.

Royal Edward's crew was able to get off an SOS before losing power. Soudan, after making a 180° turn, arrived on the scene at 10:00 and was able to rescue 440 men over the next six hours. Two French destroyers and some trawlers that responded were able to rescue another 221. According to authors James Wise and Scott Baron, Royal Edward's death toll was 935 and was as high as it was, they contend, because Royal Edward had just completed a boat drill and the majority of the men were belowdecks re-stowing their equipment. Some other sources report different numbers of casualties, ranging from 132 on the low end, to 1,386, or 1,865 on the upper end.

Notes

  1. ^ In this case HMT stands for His Majesty's Troopship.

References

HMT Royal Edward, Old Postcard
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m ""1125656" (Cairo/Royal Edward)" (subscription required). Miramar Ship Index. R.B. Haworth. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bonsor, Vol. 4, p. 1433.
  3. ^ a b c d e Wise and Baron, p. 75.
  4. ^ Wise and Baron, pp. 75–76.
  5. ^ Wise and Baron, p. 76.
  6. ^ a b c d Wise and Baron, p. 77.
  7. ^ Gardiner, p. 180.
  8. ^ Tennent, pp. 36–37.
  9. ^ Hendrickson, p. 270
  10. ^ Gilbert, p. 185.

Bibliography



Edited by Mal Murray - 29 Nov 2013 at 09:21
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 11:40

On the 13th August 1915, the troop transport “Royal Edward” was steaming towards Mudros, carrying men and supplies for the Gallipoli campaign, when she was torpedoed by a German Submarine, the U-14 and became the first troopship to be sunk in the First World War. The sinking also had a big effect on Raunds, as she was carrying three men from the town, two of whom lost their lives. 

Originally named the “Cairo”, the 11,117 ton vessel was built in 1890, at Govan, Scotland for the Egyptian Mail Steamship Co. In 1910 she was purchased, along with her sister ship, the “Heliopolis”, by Canadian Northern Steamships Ltd and they were renamed “Royal Edward” and “Royal George” respectively. The Company employed her on the Avonmouth – Quebec – Montreal route in the summer and Halifax in the winter. On the 8th April 1912 she encountered and reported an ice field in the vicinity of the area in which the RMS “Titanic” sank four days later.

With the start of the War in 1914, both ships were pressed into service as Troop Transports, initially the “Royal Edward” brought Canadian troops over to Britain. She was then anchored in Southend and used for some months to hold enemy aliens, after which she was again put into use as a troopship.

Meanwhile in early 1915 four lads from Raunds enlisted in the RAMC, Frank Spicer, Percy Watson, Sam Brayfield and Harry Hall, all were members of the St Johns Ambulance and had received their training under Dr MacKenzie of Raunds. They then went to the Wellingborough centre of the RAMC and then on to Ipswich and also Cambridge Military Hospital, before finally returning to Ipswich where they joined the East Anglian Casualty Clearing Station, and from here they were to be sent to the Dardanelles. Fate now played its part for Frank Spicer, who sprained his knee and was kept back at home for it to recover. At the time he was very unhappy at not going with his friends and according to an article, in the Kettering Leader of 17th September 1915, he considered it very bad luck. 

According to Sam Brayfield’s service record they embarked on HMT “Royal Edward” at Devonport on the 30th July 1915, other sources say that it left Avonmouth on the 28th July, although it is possible that it left Avonmouth and stopped in Devonport. Commanded by Commander P. M. Watton, RNR, she was mainly carrying reinforcements for the 29th Division and numbers of RAMC personnel. It was a rough trip down to Gibraltar, but once in the Mediterranean conditions improved, with the troops getting involved in playing games. They arrived in Alexandria on the 11th of August and sailed for Gallipoli the next day. The “Royal George” was sailing a day ahead of the “Royal Edward” with men of the 4th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment on board also bound for Gallipoli. 

On the 13th of August the U14 left Bodrum and headed out to the known shipping route that troopships sailing between Alexandria and the Dardanelles used. It had a crew of 14 Commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Heino von Heimburg and was around 90 feet long and a little under 10 feet wide. The submarine had been transported over land from Bremen in Germany. Their first sighting was the “Soudan”, a British Hospital ship which they did not attack. She then spotted the “Royal Edward” which was steaming unescorted towards Mudros and closed to within a mile and at 0915 fired one torpedo, which struck the “Royal Edward” in the stern. She sank, bow up, within six minutes leaving the surface of the sea covered in wreckage and men. Just prior to the attack a lifeboat drill had been carried out and it was whilst the men were  below decks restowing their kit that the attack was made, a fact that probably contributed to the high loss of life. 

The survivors were picked up by the “Soudan”, two French destroyers and some trawlers. The U14 did not stay on to harass the rescue effort, but headed back to Bodrum with some technical problems. 

In a letter to his mother, Mrs Hall, posted in Port Said and printed in the Kettering leader of 17th September 1915, Pte Hall described the sinking and his rescue. “I had a terrible experience, she sank in four minutes. I stayed on the ship till the water came up to the second deck and then I jumped into the sea. When she finally sank we were all drawn under by the suction and I thought  I was never coming up again. But at last I did and saw a sight that I shall never forget. All sign of the ship was gone, but the sea was covered with wreckage and men yelling like mad. As soon as I came up I grabbed hold of a door that came floating by. I lay on this for about half an hour, when I was picked up by one of the ships collapseable boats that had got off somehow. We were in this boat about 3 ½ hours, when we were picked up by a Hospital Ship. Poor old Sam and Percy (Pte’s Brayfield and Watson) are missing. I didn’t see a sign of either of them after the ship was torpedoed.” He was especially close to Pte Brayfield, as they had been friends for a long time and he said that he felt “like he had lost a brother”. 

He went on to say that the Hospital Ship, which was possibly the “Soudan”, landed them at Alexandria on the 15th August, where they were put in tents and waited around. From there the Medics were sent to Port Said where they were put to work in a convalescent hospital, the men had been told that they had done their bit and would not be sent on to the Dardanelles.

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In a later issue of the paper on the 9th of September there is a photograph of a group of RAMC men, including Pte Hall, saying that they were part of the staff of a convalescent hospital and that all were survivors of the ‘Royal Edward’ and “had quite recovered from the unnerving experiences through which they had passed”. 

The sinking of the “Royal Edward” highlighted the fact that troopships and merchantmen were operating unprotected and were vulnerable to attack. Of the 1,586 troops and crew on board there were less than 500 survivors. The Times, in an article reporting the sinking, says that the Admiralty has around one-fifth of the total British mercantile tonnage under charter and that considering the number of ships that this involves, ‘all who grasp the magnitude of our transport operations may well marvel that we have hitherto been spared such a disaster.’ The sinking of the “Royal Edward” highlighted this vulnerability and measures were taken to afford more protection to the Mercantile fleet.

Harry Hall survived the war and in 1918 was an acting Corporal still in the RAMC. Pte Spicer also survived the war.

Pte Brayfield and Pte Watson are remembered on the Helles Memorial in Turkey, along with the other men who went down with the “Royal Edward”. The Memorial stands 30 metres tall and is located on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsular and can be seen by ships passing through the Dardanelles. 

Pte Brayfield’s mother died in 1916 and on her grave in St Peters Churchyard Raunds, there is a short Memorial to her son. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John Mules Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 May 2012 at 22:10
Some additional information on the Royal Edward found here:

http://www.walsingham-memories.co.uk/war/19141918/littlewalsingham/redward.html

HMS Royal Edward


The Times report


The British Transport Royal Edward was sunk by an enemy submarine in the Aegean Sea
on Saturday 13th August 1915.

According to the information at present available, the transport had on board 32
officers and 1350 troops, in addition to the ship's crew of 220 officers and men.
The troops consisted mainly of reinforcements for the 29th Division Royal Army Medical Corps.

Full information has not yet been received, but it is known that about 600 men have been
saved which leaves 1000 to be accounted for.

The 'Royal Edward' was a large ship of the Royal Line, her port of registry being Bristol.
Before the war she was engaged in the Canadian Service, sailing between Avonmouth and Montreal.

Built in 1908 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Glasgow,her gross tonnage
was 11,117, 5669 net and she was 526 feet long, and had a speed of 19 knots.


Those drowned were listed as -

2nd Hampshires 207 & 5 officers

1st Essex regiment 107

Royal Army Medical Corps 143 & 4 officers

RASC 119 & 2 officers,

1st Border Regiment 59

2nd South Wales Borderers 53

1st Kings Own Scottish Borderers 48

1st Lancashire. Fusiliers 27 & 1 officer (Temp. Major Cuthbert Bromley, V.C.),

Royal Engineers 1

1/Essex lost 174 O.R's, but 172 of them were volunteers who'd transfer from the Norfolk's
(3rd Special Reserve) based at Felixstowe, 100 on 23 June and 200 on 24 July.


A passage from the History of Norfolk Regiment tells the rest of the story:

Colonel Tonge refers to the loss of 300 men, the best draft that ever left Felixstowe.
These men volunteered to join the Essex Regiment and appear to have constituted the drafts of June 23/July 24 1915.

They were part of the reinforcements carried by the transport "Royal Edward" which was torpedoed and sunk in the Aegean Sea on August 14th 1915.
She sank two and a half minutes after the torpedo struck her.Of the 1,400 men she carried only 600 were saved,and the drowned included all but 18
of the 300 Norfolk men. The men who had had a route march just before leaving Alexandria, were waiting on deck for foot inspection at about 9.20 am.
Their lifebelts were down below, and when the ship was unexpectedly struck most of them ran below to fetch the belts. Owing to the ship's
sudden heeling over and sinking, these never got up again. Those who escaped were picked up by a hospital ship which responded to the s.o.s. signal.
To partly replace this sad loss, another draft of 150 men to the Essex Regiment was dispatched on September 29, 1915.



Addenda 1994 From: "Men of Gallipoli"(David & Charles,1988) by kind permission of the publishers.

One of the features of the Cape Helles monument is the rows of names of men drowned in the torpedoing of the Royal Edward,which sank in the
Eastern Mediterranean on 13th August with a loss of over 850 lives. A.T.Fraser in the Border Regiment, was in a deckchair on the afterdeck
starboard side when suddenly dozens of men ran past him from port to starboard. The explosion came before he had time to ask what was the matter.

"The ship had no escort and we had not been ordered to have our life-belts with us. The hundreds on deck ran below to get their life-belts
and hundreds below would have met them on their way up. I shared a cabin accessible from the deck I was on and I raced there to get my life-belt
and ran to my life-boat station which was on the star- board side. As the men arrived they fell in two ranks. Already the ship was listing and
this prevented our boats from being lowered,so we were ordered to jump for it. I saw no panic,but of course one could imagine what was happening
on the inside stairs. I swam away from the ship and turned to see the funnels leaning towards me. When they reached the sea, all the soot was
belched out, there was a loud whoosh and the ship sank. No explosion, no surge. So I was alone. The little waves were such that in the trough
you saw nothing, on the crest you saw a few yards.The water was warm.I wondered if there were sharks ".

Fraser found some wood to rest on and he was joined by a seaman, an older man who had twice previously been torpedoed. This brought the young Scot confidence.
An up turned Royal Edward lifeboat was to provide 17 of the survivors with a little more security though in what Fraser calls half-hourly recurring turbulence,
the boat turned over, offering them conventional but completely waterlogged accommodation every alternate half hour but at least providing them with something to do.
There was no singing and little conversation. The first ship that passed hailed the scattered men and promised to signal for help.

It could not stop as it had high explosives for Lemnos. Some of the men became depressed and showed unwillingness to clamber back in the life boat when it overturned,
but on each occasion all were persuaded. Finally the hospital ship SOUDAIN arrived to pick them up in her life-boats,and at 2 o'clock Fraser was safely aboard her
after just under five hours in the sea. He remembers that " a large number of men lost their false teeth as we were constantly sick in the sea -
and these men were sent back to England. We the younger ones, were clothed and kitted and on another ship three days later for Gallipoli. "



further links -

http://www.geocities.com/heartland/acres/5564/norfolkgallipoli.html
(a Norfolk site well worth a visit) -

http://www.cemsearch.co.uk/royal/royal.html

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/5564/royaledward.html

John
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John Mules Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 May 2012 at 22:14
A photo of some of the survivors is now available in the photograph gallery (http://forum.gallipoli-association.org/forum_posts.asp?TID=1478&PID=2345)

Edited by Mal Murray - 22 May 2013 at 17:33
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krithia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Nov 2013 at 14:59
Is there a known casualty list for the Royal Edward?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Nov 2013 at 09:18
Steve,

There is a casualty list in the Times issue of 6 September 1915, I have a copy of it at home and will send it to you as soon as possible.

Regards

Mal
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BG2012 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Nov 2013 at 15:12
I have 207 names on the 2nd Hampshire Roll of Honour for the 13th but no officers.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krithia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Dec 2013 at 22:59
Hi Mal, Thanks, one of our members is trying to find a list and I was thinking the CWGC or Helles listing for those lost whilst at sea. Can you post the list here when you find it.
Thanks, Stephen
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2013 at 10:23
As promised the following is a list of officers who died on the RMS Royal Edward.



I also have a casualty list for the enlisted personnel who died as a result of the sinking, if any member would like a copy of it the can contact me and I will send it by email.
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