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stan johnson

S.S.Falaba.

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I have been trying to find out what actually happened tp The S.S.Falaba.. From what I gather, she was first captured by a U-Boat and then sunk by torpedo. This happened on the 28th March 1915. However 104 crew and passengers lost their lives. Surely if she WAS captured how come all those lives were lost? Any ideas ?

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Stan - Some info. on the sinking Here

Cheers, Terry

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Stan

Some further details

FALABA

Elder Line; 1906; A. Stephen & Sons; 4,086 tons; 380 -5 X 47-

4x22-9; 424 n.h.p. ; 14 knots ; triple-expansion engines. The

steamship Falaba, Capt. Davis, left Liverpool at 6 p.m. on

Saturday, March 27th, 1915, for Sierra Leone. She carried 151

passengers and 96 crew, together with cargo valued at £50,000. At

11.40 on the morning of the 28th, when 38 miles W. of the Smalls

lighthouse, she sighted a submarine flying the white ensign but as

she came closer this was hauled down and the German naval ensign

substituted. The submarine, which was the U-28, 870 tons, Cdr.

Baron von Forstner, who had sunk the Yeoward liner Aguila (which

see) on the previous day, immediately signalled 'Stop and abandon

ship'. To this signal the Falaba paid no attention but increased to

full speed. A second signal then came from the submarine, 'Stop, or I

will fire into you'. As the U-28 could do 16 knots on the surface,

Capt. Davis decided that he had no alternative but to obey, as he

could not outpace the submarine. He therefore stopped his ship and

swung out five of his boats but had no time to do more before the

U-28 fired a torpedo at a range of 150 yards. She remained afloat for

barely ten minutes after the explosion.

The steam-drifter Eileen Emma, Skipper George Wright, picked

up 40 persons, six of whom, including Capt. Davis, died shortly

afterwards. The drifter Wenlock, Skipper Denis Randleson, rescued

another eight, of whom two died. Altogether 104 persons perished.

Regards John

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Thanks for the info. The U-Boat didnt appear to give them much time to get to safety.

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In these sorts of cases, it's best to look at primary source documents -- and U 28's KTB (war diary) paints a bit different picture of what happened. (I have it on microfilm, scans for this data available upon request.)

After von Fortsner stopped Falaba, he gave the crew and passengers 10 minutes to abandon ship. At that point, chaos and panic seem to have broken out upon the steamer. Von Forstner describes boats being launched seemingly randomly and poorly and was of the impression that a portion of the crew had taken to the boats, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. Out of resepct for the passengers, von Forstner waits another 10 minutes, and then three minutes more (so 23 minutes total after ordering the ship to be abandoned) before firing a torpedo in the steamer.

After the torpedo was away, von Forstner sights another boat being launched... Falaba sank within 10 minutes of being torpedoes.

Best wishes,

Michael

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Thanks Michael, I noticed that U28 sank in September 1917..Its sinking was attributed to "An Explosion" nothing else????? During that month 10 or 11 U-Boats were lost. (John Terraine.Business in greatwaters.)

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U 28 was finishing off the steamer Olive Branch by gunnery when the steamer's cargo of munitions exploded.

September 1917 was indeed a bad month for U-boats. I have it as 11 losses. A few of these are still missing or are presumed to have been mined with the wrecks have yet to be found.

Best wishes,

Michael

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Stan,

There is an article concerning this in the Illustrated London News of 10th April 1915 with a few pictures.

The Elder, Dempster Liner 'Falaba' carrying mails and passengers fro West Africa, was chased and sunk by a German Sumbarine on Sunday, March 28, off the Bristol Channel. The ship went down within ten minutes of being stopped, the enemy cutting short the few minutes grace allowed for those on borad to take to the boats, and firing her torpedo bafore all had time to leave the ship. The crew and passengers numbered some 250, of whom 140 were picked up. Of those eight died from exposure. One of the boats was capsized by the explosion of the torpedo while being lowered. Another was upset by the sea. While the drowning men and women were struggling, the submarine's men mocked at their perishing victims. Survivors testify that. "All the reports concerning jeers from the crew of the submarine I can fully corroborate," says the "Falaba's" rescued wireless operator, "as we drifted quite close by them.......Our earnest appeals, however, met with nothing but taunts and laughter." The German Government threatens, should severity be shown to captured crews of submarines, to subject British officers-prisoners to similar treatment. The British Government, in reply, refuses to recognise submarine crews "engaged in sinking innocent British and neutral merchant-ships and wantonly killing non-combatants" as "honourable opponents."

Andy

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Not sure how this will come out.

Ready to get into the boats: The Falaba's passengers with hastily donned life belts.

post-1871-1208180842.jpg

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As the Falaba was sinking after the German outrage, survivors clinging to the keel of a capsized life-boat

post-1871-1208181285.jpg

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Miramar gives tonnage as 4,806, not 4,086.

Best wishes

David

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FWIW, The Times also reports the tonnage as 4,806. One article has a list of survivors (crew, 1st and 2nd class passengers) supplied by the Elder Dempster Co, if anyone is interested.

regards,

Martin

p.s. Went to check the tonnage in "Dictionary of Disasters At Sea", Hocking, which had been available (in PDF format) on a French website but it is no longer there. Infringing copyright no doubt but it was handy.

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Martin, you should have taken a copy whilst it was available, but I think there is another site with the info, but I don't know its address.

Best wishes

David

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Thanks, David. I did make a copy a while ago, on another computer, but that is now in a storage box somewhere in Brisbane. Not to worry.

Great that you came across those photos, Andy. Interesting that, despite the ship being under threat of sinking by submarine, someone had calmness of mind to stop and take a few snaps.

regards,

Martin

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Great, thanks for that Kath. Glad to see that, though that French website sank beneath the waves, all those PDF files made it safely to the lifeboats!

regards,

Martin

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A search of the catalogue at the National Archives Kew http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/search.asp calls up these:

ADM 137/3117 Report of Wreck Commissioners Courts into loss of s.s. FALABA 1915 BT 26/577/134 SS Falaba (African Steamship Company Ltd) travelling from West Africa to Liverpool. Embarking at Calabar, Bonny, Forcados, Lagos, Sekondi, Sassandra, Axim, Sierra Leone and Las Palmas. Official Number: 124000. List of passengers disembarking at Plymouth and Liverpool. 1914 Feb 23

BT 26/579/25 Liverpool: SS Falaba (African Royal Mail Line) travelling from Lagos to Liverpool.Embarking at Calabar, Forcados, Lagos, Accra, Sekondi, Axim, Sassandra, Sierra Leone, Bathurst, Grand Canary and Tenerife. Official Number: 124000. List of passengers disembarking at Liverpool. 1914 May 4

BT 26/604/26 Liverpool: SS Falaba (Elder Dempster Company Ltd) travelling from West Africa to Liverpool. Embarking at Douala, Calabar, Bonny, Forcados, Lagos, Accra, Sekondi, Sierra Leone and Las Palmas. Official Number: 124000.List of passengers disembarking at Plymouth and Liverpool. 1915 Feb 23

T 1/11804 F. Unwin et al. Claims to compensation for loss of life and property in the sinking of the S.S. Falaba by a German submarine. 1915

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"as we drifted quite close by them.......Our earnest appeals, however, met with nothing but taunts and laughter."

In researching U boat attacks one has to be very careful about sources. There is a golden rule here. If an account has reached the newspapers during hostilities, it has been through either the British or German naval intelligence propaganda machine. Unadorned patrol reports and Board of Trade papers usually tell a different story. I can only judge from my own experience of wading through primary sources and I suspect the U boat account is the more accurate with the 'atrocity angle' tagged on the mask that the crew had possibly panicked.

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Clio,

I could not agree more, it was just placed here for interest. I have come across several articles that once it had been through the hands of the press bore little resemblance to what actually happened.

Andy

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Martin,

Dictionary of Disaster at Sea - Hocking.

The information from Spithead, above, is word for word.

Regards,

Donald

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Stan I have just acquired on ebay deutschland 3 photos taken from the conning tower of U-28 showing its torpedo attacks on the Aquila, the South Point and the FALABA. The Falaba attack is of interest for a number of reasons. It shows that 2 torpedoes hit simultaneously (ie there are two separate huge water plumes). They hit the starboard hull 1/4 of the way from the stern (ie in the engine room). The attack was launched at 45 degrees (ie at 4 o'clock) rather than at 90 degrees as in the other two photos. The submarine's wake pattern indicates the torpedoes were launched from U-28s stern tubes as she was moving away from the Falaba in a counter clockwise turn. I would estimate the range at about 200 yards (some trig calculations should establish this more accurately in future). The sky was overcast with low cloud and the sea calm (ie no whitecaps). The smoke from Falaba's funnel reached back behind her stern indicating she was either stopped and headed into the wind, or else she was still under power and moving forward. There are no lifeboats in the water in this photo. If someone has U-28s KTB for March 27 and 28, 1915 I would like to have a copy of it to compare to my photos. Hope this helps. Lorne Rae

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Can anyone point me to two sources:

1. The 'Falaba' Casualty List, and

2. The names inscribed on the Memorial at Tower Hill?

I am particualrly interested in one of those who died - William Hugh Cornwallis Trousdell.

Many thanks,

Barry

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Thanks, Neil. I'll look now. Regards, Barry

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