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