HMS Cardiganshire, WWI

HMS Cardiganshire (5)

WWI Troopship

Workman, Clark & Co. in Belfast, Ireland built the fifth ship named Cardiganshire in 1913 with a tonnage of 9,426grt, a length of 520ft, a beam of 62ft 5in and a service speed of 14 knots. She was launched for Royal Mail Steam Packet Company but allocated to the Shire Line for the Far East run and was the largest and fastest ship on that route. In September of 1914 she was used to ferry units of the British Expeditionary Forces across the Channel and in February of 1915 was taken over by the Admiralty for a voyage to Zeebruge with troops and war supplies. As the ship approached Zeebruge (1) the Belgian pilot ordered full speed ahead and steered her into the mole causing damage to the bow. The pilot was subsequently arrested, investigated and shot for sabotage. In April of 1915 she participated in the Dardanelles campaign. On 14th January 1917, a submarine in the Mediterranean chased her and later that year crossed the Atlantic and brought US troops to Britain. Her first reported trip carrying US troops was on 28 May 1918 when the 2nd Trench Mortar Battalion embarked aboard the Cardiganshire at Port of Embarkation Boston, MA. and sailed the next day 29th May, 1918. The HMS Cardiganshire sailed with 20 Officers and 886 enlisted men of the 2nd Trench Mortar Battalion and 32 Officers and 726 enlisted men of the HQ Co., Supply Co. Batteries E & F of the 309th Field Artillery, 78th Division. The Cardiganshire arrived overseas on June 12, 1918.

In May of 1929 she was sold to Christian Salvesen's South Georgia Co. and converted into a whale factory ship with a stern ramp and the name SS Salvestria. On 27th July 1940 while approaching Rosyth she activated an acoustic mine and sank 2.5 miles off Inchkeith Light in the Firth of Forth. There were 5 men killed during the sinking. They were all Norwegian Merchant Navy men. The names of the men are: Ivar Harehaugen, Dayman Age 34, Alf Johansen, Greaser age 41, Karl Johansen, Baker age 58, Karl Norbeck, Boilermaker age 41, Einar Karsten Solheim, Greaser age 28.

(1) Zeebrugge, Belgian Port used by the German Navy as a base for U-boats

The Zeebrugge Raid, 1918 Zeebrugge was an outlet for German U-boats and destroyers based up the canal at Bruges, and the British planned to sink three old cruisers Iphegenia, Intrepid and Thetis, in the channel to block it. These would have to pass a long harbour mole (a causeway or pier), with a battery at the end (1-mile stone mole curving in front of canal entrance, 29-feet above sea level), before they were scuttled. It was decided therefore to storm the mole using another old cruiser, HMS Vindictive, and two Mersey ferries, Daffodil and Iris II, modified as assault vessels. Two old submarines were to be used as explosive charges, under the viaduct connecting the mole to the shore.

The attack went in on the night of 22-23 April, under the command of Commodore Roger Keyes. Vindictive was heavily hit on the approach, and came alongside in the wrong place. Despite much bravery by the landing party, the battery remained in action. One submarine did succeed in blowing up the viaduct, but the first block ship was badly hit and forced to ground before reaching the canal entrance. Only two (Ipheginia and Intrepid) were sunk in place.

Much was made of the raid. Keyes was knighted, and 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded. The Germans, however, made a new channel round the two ships, and within two days their submarines were able to transit Zeebrugge. Destroyers were able to do so by mid-May.

Photo of the end of the Zeebrugge Mole showing one of the gun emplacements. Note that the barrels of the gun have been bent upwards. May be as the result of the Cardiganshire incident or due to the damage caused during the 23 April 1918 raids.

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This page was created on 22 February, 2004 and last modified on: Sat, Jun 23, 2007

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