Hesperian (ship)

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The identical sister ship Grampian, 1914
The identical sister ship Grampian , 1914
Ship data
flag United KingdomUnited Kingdom (trade flag) United Kingdom
Ship type Passenger ship
home port Glasgow
Shipping company Allan Line
Shipyard Alexander Stephen and Sons (Glasgow)
Build number 425
Launch December 20, 1907
Commissioning April 25, 1908
Whereabouts Sunk 6th September 1915
Ship dimensions and crew
147.8 m ( Lüa )
width 18.3 m
Draft Max. 9.1 m
measurement 10,920 GRT
6,124 NRT
Machine system
machine 2 × three-cylinder triple expansion steam engines
802 nominal horsepower
15 kn (28 km / h)
propeller 2
Transport capacities
Permitted number of passengers I. class: 210
II. Class: 250
III. Class: 1000

The RMS Hesperian was a 1908 commissioned passenger ship of the Canadian-British shipping company Allan Line , which was used in the transatlantic liner service between Great Britain and Canada . On September 4, 1915, the Hesperian was torpedoed off the Irish south coast by the German submarine U 20 without warning and two days later sank 130 nautical miles west of Queenstown . 32 passengers and crew were killed. It was the same submarine that had sunk the British luxury steamer RMS Lusitania four months earlier in roughly the same region , which had caused political tensions between the German Empire and the United States .

The ship

The 10,920 GRT, steel- built passenger and cargo steamer RMS Hesperian belonged to the Allan Line, a Canadian-British shipping company founded in 1854, which was one of the leading shipping companies in the transatlantic liner service between Europe and North America . She was built by the Scottish shipyard Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd. built on the River Clyde in Glasgow and served the Liverpool - Quebec - Montreal route between 1908 and 1915 . She was a sister ship of the Grampian (10,187 GRT) and the Corsican (11,419 GRT). These three steamers were the largest ships in the Allan Line fleet to date.

The steam turbine ship , 147.8 meters long and 18.3 meters wide, was powered by two propellers and could accommodate 210 passengers in first, 250 in second and 1000 in third class. The Hesperian left Glasgow on April 25, 1908 for her maiden voyage with destination Quebec and Montreal. In January 1910, she was chartered by Canadian Pacific Railway , which also owned the Empress of Ireland , for a trip from Liverpool to St. John on the Canadian east coast.

The Hesperian had eight decks , a chimney and two masts and was equipped with electricity , a ventilation system for fresh air and a Marconi radio for wireless telegraphy . The rescue equipment included 16 lifeboats and ten foldable folding boats.


Departure from Liverpool

The Hesperian left Liverpool on Friday, September 3, 1915 at 7:00 p.m. for another crossing to Quebec and Montreal. She was commanded by Captain William S. Main. There were 814 passengers and 300 crew members on board. The passenger steamer had been divided for next cargo and passengers and troops transport. This is also the case on this trip.

There were no Americans among the passengers, but one of the stewards was an American citizen . Most of them were British or Canadians, such as Ellen Carbery of St. John, founder of Ellen Carbery's Ladies Emporium, one of the first private Canadian women's outfitters (died); Marjorie Campbell Robarts, sister of John Robarts, a high Canadian dignitary of the Baha'i religion (survived) or Major Percy Guthrie, Canadian battalion commander and former member of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly (survived). The passengers were well aware of the risk of being attacked by a German submarine or running into a German mine, as numerous British merchant ships had already been sunk in the course of the submarine war .

Also on board was the embalmed body of Frances Stephens , the widow of the Canadian politician George Stephens . Frances Stephens had died four months earlier in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania and was to be transferred to Montreal on the Hesperian to be buried next to her husband. She was therefore sunk twice by the same submarine under the same commander and found her final resting place on the bottom of the Atlantic instead of next to her husband.

The submarine attack

On the evening of September 4, 1915, the German submarine of the Imperial Navy U 20 under the command of the 30-year-old Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger was waiting about 85 miles from Fastnet Rock , a small rock island off the coast of the Irish county of Cork potential targets. Schwieger spotted the ocean liner zigzagging at top speed westward only a few hours after it had left Liverpool. Although he knew neither the identity nor the purpose of the ship, he immediately made the decision to attack.

The torpedo struck the starboard side of the bow at 8.30 p.m. and exploded in the forward engine room . A wall of water and rubble shot into the air and hit the bridge and the boat deck with great force , causing considerable damage. The ship shuddered and immediately began to lean to starboard, causing furniture to slide and dishes to break. Steam from the engine room rose and enveloped the upper decks. Captain Main had the ship that was hit stopped immediately, the alarm bells sounded and the SOS signal sent. He also gave his officers the order to lower the lifeboats . The evacuation proceeded according to the circumstances in an orderly manner and most of the boats could be safely manned and lowered into the water. Eyewitnesses later reported that there was not much panic among the passengers.

After less than an hour, the ship was evacuated, only the captain and some officers were as so-called "Skeleton Crew" ( skeleton crew remained on board) as captain Main hoped the Hesperian but lugging still in a nearby harbor or have run aground to be able to. Due to the bulkhead construction of the Hesperian , the ship stayed afloat for a long time, but finally sank about 130 nautical miles west of Fastnet Rock on September 6th.

A total of 32 people were killed in the incident when one of the lifeboats on the port side overturned while it was being lowered and threw its occupants into the sea, including 20 male crew members, stewardesses Mary Green and Eliza Kennedy, Canadian soldier Charles Kingsley and nine civilian passengers , including six women and an eleven month old girl. The survivors were rescued during the night by several nearby ships and brought to Ireland .

In contrast to the sinking of the Lusitania , after his return to Wilhelmshaven , Schwieger was not congratulated on his successful patrol. He was ordered to Berlin to justify his act and to officially apologize. He was accused of having sunk another unarmed passenger steamer without warning, although there were direct instructions to the submarine commanders not to do so anymore. The emperor did not want to risk another case like that of the Lusitania .

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