Destination Gallipoli (Part 3)

phot0849Exactly 100 years ago today on Friday 13th August 1915 the periscope turned. Heino Von Heimburg, the captain of a small German submarine, UB 14, had spotted the Royal Edward steaming along on its way to Gallipoli, a ship packed with troops, merchant seamen and all the paraphernalia of war. It was around 8.20 on a beautiful Aegean summer’s morning that the submariner took aim and fired one torpedo from less than a mile away hitting the Royal Edward stern portside. She began to sink very quickly: the deck was awash in three minutes and the Royal Edward had completely gone with her bow pointing skyward in only six minutes. The Dictionary of Disasters at Sea by Lloyd’s Register of Shipping states that: ‘of the 1,586 on board, less than 500 were rescued’. Those saved were picked up by the Achilles, two French destroyers, some Greek fishermen, probably from Kos or nearby Nisyros, and the hospital ship Soudan. News or any early reports of the sinking were very sketchy. There had been confusion about the date and the location of the tragedy, but all became clear in time. In 2003 I hired a boat to visit the last know location of the Royal Edward and to pay my respects to all of those that had perished that morning, including my Great Uncle Willie. I scattered bougainvillea petals on the surface of the water and I began to read. ‘There are no roses on sailors graves, nor wreathes upon the storm tossed waves. No last post from the Royals band so far away from their native land. No heartbroken words carved on stone just shipmates bodies there alone. The only tributes are the seagulls sweeps and the tear-drop when a loved one weeps. Well, here are the flowers from those that care, and words on stone, the who: the where. May you rest in peace forever’. I then lowered a little inscribed granite plaque into the ocean as a permanent memorial.562791_10151119917143698_895376160_n

The morning of 13th August 2015. Kettering war memorial. Exactly 100 years following the sinking of The Royal Year

The author on the morning of 13th August 2015. Kettering war memorial. Exactly 100 years following the sinking of The Royal Edward

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