The 9223 GRT steamship Caledonia was built in the Partick district of Glasgow in the Meadowside Dock at the D. & W. Henderson & Company shipyard and was launched on the River Clyde on October 22, 1904 . The ship was 152.4 meters long, 17.7 meters wide and had a side height of 10.18 meters. The steamer's triple expansion steam engines developed 1060 nominal horsepower and allowed a speed of 16.5 knots (30.5 km / h). The ship could carry 1450 passengers. The Caledonia was the sister ship of the California , which entered service two years after her. On March 25, 1905, the Caledonia ran out on its maiden voyage on the Glasgow – Moville – New York route .
In August 1914 the Caledonia ocean liner was requested by the British government as a troop transport. Their capacity was designed for 3074 people and 212 horses. On Monday, December 4, 1916, the Caledonia was located 125 nautical miles east of Malta on a journey from Thessaloniki to Marseille by the German submarine U 65 under the command of Lieutenant Hermann von Fischel at the position 35 ° 40 ′ N , 17 ° 5 ′ O torpedoed without warning. The ship sank; a man was killed. Captain James Blaikie tried to ram the submarine. He couldn't sink it, but managed to brush it off. The ship was captured by the crew of the German submarine as Pinch and Blaikie.
The incident was directly influenced by the previous events of March 28, 1916, when the British ferry Brussels of the Great Eastern Railway was forced to stop at the Meuse lightship by the submarine U 33 . A sinking was imminent. Thereupon the civilian captain of the Brussels , Charles A. Fryatt, tried successfully to ram U 33 in order to save his ship. The only way to save the submarine was to descend immediately. Fryatt was honored for this by the British Admiralty . In June 1916 the ship was attacked by a German destroyer. Fryatt was sentenced to death by a German court on July 27, 1916 as "Franktireur des Meeres" and shot dead on the following day.
Through James W. Gerard , the American ambassador to Germany, the British government informed Germany that a captured German officer would be executed if Blaikie were executed by the Germans like Fryatt. This was the only way to save Blaikie from death.