In the first article in this series, I discussed probably the most memorable wreck along our coastline, the Tadorna, wrecked off Ballycrenane in 1911. Continuing this series, I’ll delve into some of the lesser known shipwrecks and shipping accidents that have occurred around the Ballymacoda coastline – the first of these are three incidents which occurred during World War I – the running aground of the S.S. Messina in 1917, and the sinking of the schooner Edith and the steamship S.S. Lucena on the same day in 1915 by a German submarine off Knockadoon Head.
The Grounding of the S.S. Messina
The Messina was 4,271-ton cargo ship owned by Gulf Line, based in West Hartlepool, England. The Messina was a relatively new vessel, having been built in 1911 by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd in Newcastle. Towards the later part of World War 1, on the night of February 20th 1917, the Messina ran onto rocks near Knockadoon Head and was stranded. The HM Trawler Indian Empire arrived from Queenstown (Cobh) to assist, under Lieutenant Arthur Sanderson. Three other vessels, the tugs Stormcock, Hellespoint, and Warrior were also involved in the operation. An interesting side note here is that the Warrior had been one of the first vessels to come to the aid of the torpedo stricken Lusitania in May 1915, and was credited with saving 74 lives.
The salvage operation conducted on the Messina off Knockadoon was complex, and lasted three days, with different methods being tried to free the vessel from the rocks. Eventually on February 22nd, Petty Officer J.C. Williams, of H.M. Drifter J.E.C.M., assisted by Sanderson, risking being crushed to death, used explosives to shatter the rocks, which allowed the assembled boats to tow the Messina free.
Those involved in the salvaging of the Messina off Knockadoon applied to the British Admiralty for naval salvage money for the successful outcome of the operation. This was common practice at the time, as was the practice of awarding prize bounty money to Royal Navy ships involved in the sinking or capture of enemy vessels. In the resulting compensation case, a sum of £2,550 was awarded to those involved in the salvage of the Messina.
The Messina having been saved from destruction off Knockadoon Head, had difficult times ahead. On the evening of October 15th 1918, on a voyage from Plymouth to Baltimore, it was shelled by the German submarine U-152, in a confrontation lasting 2 hours. The Messina put on full speed and zigzagged in accordance with the wartime regulations, luckily escaping with minimal damage, having been hit once by a German shell on the port side. A little over a year later, on December 14th 1919, having survived the grounding off Knockadoon and the treacherous U-Boat infested waters of World War I, the Messina was abandoned in a storm in the North Atlantic and eventually sank. She was on a voyage from St. John to Antwerp, carrying a cargo of grain.
The Sinking of the Schooner Edith & S.S. Lucena
The schooner Edith was 78-ton British registered merchant ship, built in 1876, and owned by John Rooney of the port town of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, England. On Sunday June 27th, 1915, she was on route from the town of Silloth on the north coast of England to Cork, carrying a cargo of plaster of Paris. Unfortunately for the Edith, the German U-Boat U-24 under Captain Rudolf Schneider was lurking in the waters about 10 nautical miles off Knockadoon Head.
The crew of the Edith reported that the submarine surfaced 100 yards from them, and was flying the Union Jack flag, a common deception tactic at the time. The submarine crew then ordered them to quickly leave their vessel. The three crew, all men from Kilkeel in Co. Down, got into their punt and began to row a safe distance from the Edith. From their deck gun, the crew of U-24 fired 4 shells and sank the defenseless Edith. The crew of the Edith were picked up and landed in Youghal.
On the very same day, the S.S. Lucena was also stopped in a similar fashion by the crew of U-24 approximately 4 miles south of Capel Island. The Lucena was a cargo ship, operated by Joseph Monks & Co. Ltd. of Liverpool, and was travelling from Granton in Scotland to Bantry with a cargo of coal. Similarly to the Edith, the crew of the Lucena were ordered to leave the ship before it was shelled and sank by U-24. The crew were later picked up and landed in Queenstown (Cobh).
In what the U-24 crew probably deemed an extremely successful day, the Indrani, a 3,640 ton steamship was torpedoed by U-24 in St. George’s Channel and also sank on the very same day.
U-24 remained in service for the remainder of the war, until the German surrender in November 1918. The submarine was eventually broken up in 1922.
With incidents such as these, and the Imperial German navy’s campaign of unrestricted warfare on the seas from 1917, it is very easy to see why the Irish Coast Watching Service was setup in the early stages of World War II. Read more about the coast watching service in Ballymacoda in the previous post on the Ballymacoda History Project – The Coast Watching Service in Ballymacoda – now updated the show the excellent work done recently by members of the local community to restore the ‘LOP 21‘ marking.
References and Further Information
The London Gazette, July 30th 1918
The Victoria Daily Times, Victoria, British Columbia, December 13th 1919
The Sydney Stock & Station Journal, June 30th 1915