Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
kenora

SS Transylvania

22 posts in this topic

Hi

Looking through the archives of the forum I have not seen any entries relating to the loss of the above transport so I thought I'd put this in. My Great Uncle Philip (Fip) Murphy, a recently qualified Doctor in 1917, was a Lieutenant in the RAMC and was posted to Alexandria. On May 3rd he left Marseilles on the transport 'Transylvania' and on the following morning the ship was sunk by two torpedoes from U63, just a few miles off the Italian coast near Savona. He survived but 412 crew, officers and soldiers died. . I recently found letters he wrote home during his service including some written after the sinking describing the experience and thought I'd transcribe them here as I think they are really interesting:

(Written to his younger sister)

"We left this harbour on the evening of the 3rd on a very large transport having on board a living freight of roughly 3,400 souls. Everything went well until the next morning at 10am when the good ship got her first torpedo about midships.

I had the good or bad luck, just as you like to call it, to be on duty on that side & saw the cursed torpedo come towards us from about a distance of 300 yards. It appeared, to me, to come exceedingly slowly. At first I could not believe my eyes but very soon I realised that what I saw was only too real. Thus I stood for quite an appreciable time my gaze attended to the line in the blue sea by a peculiar fascination. When it did strike & explode, I felt little or no shock except for a great shower of water.

This shot unfortunately got us in the engine room, with the result that, although we were only 5 miles off shore, we came to an almost immediate stand still. It therefore came as no surprise to us when 10 mins later we got our second present from the Hun in the shape of another torpedo that just missed a destroyer that had come alongside to take men off.

The nurses and sisters (69) got off in the first boat & thank God came through without a scratch. Fortunately for everyone the good old ship did not take the final plunge for an hour & a half after being struck & to this alone is due the comparatively small loss of life"

(To his Mother)

Even after my rescue I did not realise the gravity of my position & in fact it is only now that I am beginning to see the great danger I was in. Now when I come to review the things that occurred on that eventful morning, & especially consider that I was about 3 hours on a raft not much larger than your wicker card table. The sea was pretty calm during the early hours of the morning & even so after the torpedoes struck us, but towards noon (a few hours after the accident) when we were all on boats, rafts etc it became rather rough with the result that I was continually thrown off my raft; but fortunately God was good to me and I usually came up within easy reach of it. On my raft were 1 major, 3 captains for about two hours. After an extra big wave we parted company but the raft & I still stuck together with the addition of two soldiers from another raft. Afterwards I was picked up by a tug boat from the port of refuge & the first person I saw was the major dead, one of the captains in a collapsed condition & the other unfortunate captain has not been found so far as I know"

Fip was taken by fishing boat to Savona and collapsed exhausted in his wet uniform on his rescuers bed, apparently to the poor fisherman's great annoyance.

"Needless to say I have none of my nice kit left except one tunic, slacks, one pair of socks, one tie, one collar, one shirt & one handkerchief.....we arrived here in all sorts of extra - ordinary caps, coats and boots, with the result that the inhabitants here could not decide whether we were prisoners or otherwise.....at any rate it is an experience which I hope will never befall me again"

He attended the funeral of the Ship's Captain and some of the officers in Savona and kept some very nice photographs of the procession through the town streets.

Fip hoped he could 'get a Blighty' as he was understandably not keen to get on another ship and repeat the experience. However that was not to be and on 4th June he boarded another transport (he doesn't mention the name) and this time after a nerve wracking journey (during which more U Boats were sighted) he made it to Alex and served there until 1919 attached to No 19 General Hospital. The rest of his service was relatively undramatic apart from serious outbreaks of 'Spanish Flu' in the Hospital in 1918 /1919 which killed off huge numbers of his patients.

A Devout catholic, Fip attributed his survival at least in part to a religious medal called a green scapular which he was wearing around his neck:

"I was on a raft & spent the better part of three hours getting out of the sea on to my raft as the sea persisted in upsetting it. All my clothes were of course soaking but the green scapulars which I had around my neck were quite dry. This I know, at the time, appeared most peculiar to me.."

Years later I can remember that Fip's sister, my Grandmother, gave us green scapulars whenever we travelled, and insisted we wear them, to keep us safe. Fip never spoke about the sinking in later life despite the best efforts of his son and daughter to get him to do so. However in 1977 the BBC made a radio documentary on the 60th anniversary of the sinking and a nurse whom Fip had some part in rescuing, told the makers about him and he travelled to Savona for the anniversary ceremony. I must check if the BBC still have it in their archives.

Anyway I hope this is of interest

Regards

Shane

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Shane,

Thank you for this. I found your great uncle's account fascinating. Claud Williams, whose memoir forms the second part of the newly published Light Car Patrols, 1916-19, took the Transylvania from New York to Glasgow in April 1915. Williams was a New Zealander, on his way to the UK the long way round because it was deemed to be the safer route. While he was waiting in NY the Lusitania, which had also sailed from NY, was sunk off Ireland, so he and fellow-passengers had an anxious crossing, which was in fact interrupted by an encounter with a U-boat. On that occasion the Transylvania was allowed to continue on its way.

Russell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Russell,

As it happens I live in the town of Cobh, formerly Queenstown, where most of the Lusitania dead and survivors were brought in. Many of them are buried in the old town cemetery. There is a nice memorial in a square in the town. After all the to-do that we had here for the centenary of the Titanic disaster last year I am hoping they will organise something equally impressive for the Lusitania centenary in two years time

Shane

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, Shane, for sharing the letters with us.

Very interesting.

Kath.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Shane

Fascinating accounts of this sinking. Thanks for sharing. I researched a local man to my area who was killed when she went down.

I'm intrigued that you say there are no other accounts on the forum. There have been quite a few over the years. I get 3 pages of threads by doing a search on transylvania.

Hywyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So there is.....don't know how I missed all that! Look forward to reading through it. Thanks for the heads up Hywyn !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, I am new to this forum - and forums in general. I have been 'googling' SS Translyvania in the search for more information relating to my Great Uncle Earnest. He died when the Transylvania sank on 4th May 1917 at 20 years old. He was a Private. His body is buried along with 2 other people from the ship in Var, France in the Porquerolles Cemetry - I have a photograph of his grave. We have letters that he wrote to his mother, the last one of which he wrote on 26th April 1917 just over week before he died and he writes that they were leaving for Egypt that night - I assume from a UK port - Liverpool? as they sailed from Marseille on 3rd May. I am keen to find out which UK port they sailed from and why his death certificate wasn't issued until February 1919. Can I get hold of his Service records and if so how?

I will also search for Transylvania as suggested in a previous post but any further information would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks

Kari

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kari, welcome to the forum.

There are 16 pages of Service Record for 37096 Pte. Ernest Tubal Morgan available to view by subscription on Ancestry.co.uk.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kari,

I can only tell you that my Great Uncle who survived the sinking, arrived at his RAMC base at Le Havre after travelling from Blackpool. . I'm not sure what English port he sailed from but if I were to guess I'd say Folkestone to Calais. This would minimise the time on the water which was desirable for obvious reasons. However he was in the RAMC, not the infantry so your Great Uncle may have taken a different route. The delay in issuing death certs was recently discussed elsewhere in the forum. Another Great Uncle of mine was killed in Nov 17 and his cert was not issued until August 19.

Shane

P.S I've since found evidence that in fact he departed from Southampton for Le havre

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a memorial book to a person who died in the sinking of this ship

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kari

If the ship left UK it would name the ports of call and departure and have a general loading list (not specific to names of other rank soldiers) in Kew file WO25/3557which covers departures from Apr to Jun 1917. It just might be that the ship began it's voyage at Marseilles on that occasion,if so there won't be an entry for it as it's a UK departures listing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This memorial to Major H.L.Bibby of the Duke of Lancaster's Yeomanry is in St.Asaph Cathedral, North Wales. Bibby's body wasn't recovered, so he is named on the Savona Memorial to the missing of the "Transylvania" sinking.

His father resided in St.Asaph. Many years ago I saw in an antique shop in Bangor a horse's-hoof inkwell with a silver plate identifying it as one of Maj. Bibby's chargers.

post-12434-0-53593300-1383914733_thumb.j

Clive

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My husbands grandfather was connected to the Transylvania in some way - in with his medals is a card with a poem written to commemorate the sinking of the Transylvania. The story in the family is that he was on board and that he was believed to be dead and didn't return back to Scotland for some time - his wife was receiving his pension and then he appeared after spending some time in Italy!! Not sure if there is any truth to this story however the card is with his medals- one of which has the Palestine clasp on it?

I have scanned the card and attached it as 2 pages the second is in another post

post-56819-0-12985700-1407541339_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the men I'm researching is Private Archie Fyson RAMC who was one of those drowned in this incident. He is commemorated at Savona.

I found a line on his service documents a little odd; where it says: 'Became non-effective by' is followed by 'drowned'!!

Garth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

here is page 2 of the card

post-56819-0-16535500-1407541589_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a photo of the funeral of Col Bibby, the Captain Bruell and 13 other men, through the streets of Savona, May 6th 1917, together with a newspaper report of the sinking on 'Transylvania' from, I think, the Daily Sketch

post-101649-0-64364800-1407848059_thumb.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's the newspaper report

post-101649-0-40040400-1407848719_thumb.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This another photo of the funeral cortege, close up

post-101649-0-00234600-1407849001_thumb.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Photo of the ill fated H.M.T. Transylvania :

BillyH.

post-41657-0-62379700-1413793820_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Superb!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Surfer, thanks for posting the poem! I am researching the story of one of the men in the author's unit who drowned in the attack and that's really helpful, much appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0