|British Merchant Ships Sunk by U Boats 1914-18 War by A J Tennant |
(PRO lib 940.45)
"During World War I over 2,500 British merchant ships and auxiliaries on Admirality service were sunk by enemy action - a total in excess of 8 million gross tons of shipping. Of these over 2000 ships were destroyed by U boats."
LANFRANC 6287 Great Britain 1907
17 April 1917 Torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel 42 miles N, 1/2 E from Le Havre in position 50.11N.12E by German submarine UB40 whilst on a voyage from Le Havre to Southampton carrying wounded troops.
Lost whilst on Government service employed as a Hospital Ship.
|The Great War : The Merchant Navy Vol III - by Hurd|
(PRO lib 940.4)
Two days later the ambulance transports LANFRANC (6,287) and DONEGAL (1885 tons) when on passage from Havre to Southampton were torpedoed without warning between 7pm and 8pm. Ambulance transports were vessels fitted to carry invalids and wounded but though painted a distinct grey, they ran as ordinary troop transports and, as distinct from hospital ships, could claim no immunity from attack. They were exposed to the same risks from unrestricted submarine warfare as were the ordinary merchant vessels.
The Lanfranc (Master Mr W E Pointer) was carrying 234 wounded British officers and men and 167 personnel and crew. She was escorted by destroyer BADGER and the P37 when about half way across the channel, a terrible explosion took place on the port side abrest of the bulkhead between the engine room and No 3 hold. The engines were immediately stopped. The ship listed to port, settled rapidly by the stern, and then slowly came again into an upright position.
Three of her boats were smashed by the explosion, and the Marconi installation was rendered useless. Both escorts were within about a mile of her at the time, one on either bow, and while P37 closed the LANFRANC, the BADGER searched for the submarine.
As the Lanfranc was at the time of the explosion steaming 14 knots, it would have been dangerous to lower her boats at once. As soon, however, as she had lost sufficient way, one boat at a time was lowered on each side, eight boats getting away safely.
Unfortunately one boat on the starboard side sank stern firsst, and nearly all the occupants were thrown into the sea, but were picked up later by lifeboats from the BADGER or sailing trawlers. Both escorts had by this time come alongside, and at very great risk, owing to the condition of the LANFRANC and the high seas running, had been embarking the wounded passengers, both British and German.
The behaviour of the latter was in many cases deplorable. Numbers of them rushed the boats or jumped on board the escorts.
In contrast to this behaviour of the Germans, we have another story told by a British Officer on board -
“The behaviour of our own lads I shall never forget. Crippled as many of them were, they tried to stand at attention while the more serious cases were being looked after, and those who could lend a hand scurried below to help in saving friend or enemy. I have never seen so many individual illustrations of genuine chivalry and comradeship. One may I say had a leg severed and his head was heavily bandaged. He was lifting himself up the staircase by the hands, and was just as keen on summoning help for Fritz as on saving himself. He whistled to a mate to come and aid a German who was unable to move owing to internal injuries. Another Tommy limped painfully along with a German Officer on his arm and helped the latter to a boat. It is impossible to give adequate praise to the crew and staff. They were all heroes. They remained at their posts until the last of the wounded had been taken off and some of them took off articles of their clothing and threw them into the lifeboats for the benefit of those who were in need of warm covering. The same spirit manifested itself as we moved away from the scene of the outrage.”
Four British (5 German wounded) and Five members of the crew were drowned.