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Thread: 10 October 1918 - 100 years ago today - the loss of the SS Leinster off Dún Laoghaire harbour

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpast's Avatar
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    Default 10 October 1918 - 100 years ago today - the loss of the SS Leinster off Dún Laoghaire harbour

    10 October 1918: The sinking of the mailboat RMS Leinster in the Irish Sea on this day. The ship was sunk by a German submarine and went down very rapidly. Over 560 men, women and children were drowned. It was the greatest loss of life suffered by an Irish owned vessel in the 20th century. The ship had set sail that morning from Kingstown [Dún Laoghaire ] for Holyhead, Wales. On that morning the Leinster carried about 180 civilians, 77 crew, some 500 soldiers and 22 postal workers. She was only just over the horizon soon after 10am that morning when disaster struck. The first torpedo hit her forward on the port side which blew open the mail sorting office aboard and killed many of the Royal Mail employees.

    RMS Leinster (2,640 gross tons) was built in 1897 at Laird Brothers, Birkenhead for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. At the time she was one of the fastest ships at sea with a speed of 24 knots.

    Captain Birch ordered the ship to make a U-turn in an attempt to return to port but the ship began to settle slowly by the bow; however the ship sank rapidly after a third torpedo struck her, causing a huge explosion. Attempts were made to launch the lifeboats but panic ensued as there was a mad scramble for them.

    The ship's log states that she carried 77 crew and 694 passengers on her final voyage and at least 564 people are known to have been drowned - the vast majority serving military personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and the RAF. Captain Birch was lost in the rescue operation undertaken by HMS Lively, Mallard & Seal. Survivors were brought ashore at Kingstown where emergency services treated them.

    Ironically the U Boat that sank her was herself lost soon after. The UB-123 was probably lost in a minefield in the North Sea on its way back to Germany, on or about 19 October 1918. The bodies of her commander Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm and his crew of two officers and thirty-three men were never recovered.

    The sinking of the Leinster had international ramifications. Delicate behind the scenes negotiations were going on to bring the War to an end. When US President Wilson heard the news he stalled the talks telling the Germans that, amongst other things there could be no peace as long as Germany attacked passenger ships. This was technically true but the ship was protected by Royal Navy sailors and armed with a 12 pounder. She was painted in camouflage colours and was carrying serving military personnel returning to Active Service. To the Germans she would have been seen as a legitimate target.

    Nevertheless within days the German High Command realised the game was up. On 21 October Reinhard Scheer, Admiral of the German High Seas Fleet, signalled his submarines:

    "To all U-boats: Commence return from patrol at once. Because of ongoing negotiations any hostile actions against merchant vessels prohibited. Returning U-boats are allowed to attack warships only in daylight. End of message. Admiral."

    One Month later the War was over. In the months and years that followed the loss of the Leinster was forgotten due to the great events that followed in Ireland in the aftermath of the War. It is only within the last decade or so that this tragedy has finally been given recognition as something that has its place in Irish History.
    Last edited by Catalpast; 11th October 2018 at 09:09 AM.
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    Politics.ie Member redneck's Avatar
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    An Post are doing a nice commemoration today too. There was 21 Postal sorters lost. The RMS Leinster was a Mail boat.
    Lets keep Dublin litter free- Coinnigh Atha Cliatha glán

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redneck View Post
    An Post are doing a nice commemoration today too. There was 21 Postal sorters lost. The RMS Leinster was a Mail boat.
    Yes I believe An Post had a minutes silence this morning for the men drowned that day

    The National Maritime Museum has special events on today to commemorate this

    To commemorate the centenary of RMS Leinster, Dun Laoghaire’s National Maritime Museum National Maritime Museum of Ireland National Maritime Museum of Ireland is hosting an exhibition funded by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council about the largest ever loss of life in the Irish Sea which occurred 12.25 nautical miles (22.7 kms) from the Museum, just one month before World War One ended.
    RMS Leinster Centenary | National Maritime Museum of Ireland

    Its Live in RTE Web now BTW
    Web Only Live - RT Player
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    Politics.ie Member owedtojoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catalpast View Post
    10 October 1918: The sinking of the mailboat RMS Leinster in the Irish Sea on this day. The ship was sunk by a German submarine and went down very rapidly. Over 560 men, women and children were drowned. It was the greatest loss of life suffered by an Irish owned vessel in the 20th century. The ship had set sail that mprning from Kingstown [Dún Laoghaire ] for Holyhead, Wales. On that morning the Leinster carried about 180 civilians, 77 crew, some 500 soldiers and 22 postal workers. She was only just over the horizon soon after 10am that morning when disaster struck. The first torpedo hit her forward on the port side which blew open the mail sorting office aboard and killed many of the Royal Mail employees.

    RMS Leinster (2,640 gross tons) was built in 1897 at Laird Brothers, Birkenhead for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. At the time she was one of the fastest ships at sea with a speed of 24 knots.

    Captain Birch ordered the ship to make a U-turn in an attempt to return to port but the ship began to settle slowly by the bow; however the ship sank rapidly after a third torpedo struck her, causing a huge explosion. Attempts were made to launch the lifeboats but panic ensued as there was a mad scramble for them.

    The ship's log states that she carried 77 crew and 694 passengers on her final voyage and at least 564 people are known to have been drowned - the vast majority serving military personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and the RAF. Captain Birch was lost in the rescue operation undertaken by HMS Lively, Mallard & Seal. Survivors were brought ashore at Kingstown where emergency services treated them.

    Ironically the U Boat that sank her was herself lost soon after. The UB-123 was probably lost in a minefield in the North Sea on its way back to Germany, on or about 19 October 1918. The bodies of her commander Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm and his crew of two officers and thirty-three men were never recovered.

    The sinking of the Leinster had international ramifications. Delicate behind the scenes negotiations were going on to bring the War to an end. When US President Wilson heard the news he stalled the talks telling the Germans that, amongst other things there could be no peace as long as Germany attacked passenger ships. This was technically true but the ship was protected by Royal Navy sailors and armed with a 12 pounder. She was painted in camouflage colours and was carrying serving military personnel returning to Active Service. To the Germans she would have been seen as a legitimate target.

    Nevertheless within days the German High Command realised the game was up. On 21 October Reinhard Scheer, Admiral of the German High Seas Fleet, signalled his submarines:

    "To all U-boats: Commence return from patrol at once. Because of ongoing negotiations any hostile actions against merchant vessels prohibited. Returning U-boats are allowed to attack warships only in daylight. End of message. Admiral."

    One Month later the War was over. In the months and years that followed the loss of the Leinster was forgotten due to the great events that followed in Ireland in the aftermath of the War. It is only within the last decade or so that this tragedy has finally been given recognition as something that has its place in Irish History.
    Let's be honest, it was forgotten because it was perpetrated by Irish Nationalists' "gallant allies in Europe". A lot of reporting by Nationalist newspapers at the time consisted of scapegoating soldiers for pushing women and children out of the way in a rush for the boats (The Leinster carried many soldiers returning from leave). Of course, some individuals soldiers may have behaved badly, but there is no evidence it was concerted or general in the way implied.

    It was the greatest single civilian loss of life in Ireland's 20th century, more than died in the entire week of the 1916 Rising, roughly one-third of the number of those who died in the Titanic. Yet somehow my school history course did not mention this disaster, though it mentioned the Rising, the Conscription crisis and the 1918 Election. Has that changed?

    "Official" history can often consist of selective forgetting. Was there any commemoration in 1968? The people of Dun Laoghire probably remembered, but not the rest of us.

    It can only be a good thing that this is now rectified. The Leinster, like the Lusitania, brought World War I to Irish shores, and it was not all faraway in Europe.
    "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" - David Hume

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    Quote Originally Posted by owedtojoy View Post
    Let's be honest, it was forgotten because it was perpetrated by Irish Nationalists' "gallant allies in Europe".
    Were these the same gallant allies who sent arms and ammunition to Irish Unionists in 1914 in Larne?

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by owedtojoy View Post
    Let's be honest, it was forgotten because it was perpetrated by Irish Nationalists' "gallant allies in Europe". A lot of reporting by Nationalist newspapers at the time consisted of scapegoating soldiers for pushing women and children out of the way in a rush for the boats (The Leinster carried many soldiers returning from leave). Of course, some individuals soldiers may have behaved badly, but there is no evidence it was concerted or general in the way implied.

    It was the greatest single civilian loss of life in Ireland's 20th century, more than died in the entire week of the 1916 Rising, roughly one-third of the number of those who died in the Titanic. Yet somehow my school history course did not mention this disaster, though it mentioned the Rising, the Conscription crisis and the 1918 Election. Has that changed?

    "Official" history can often consist of selective forgetting. Was there any commemoration in 1968? The people of Dun Laoghire probably remembered, but not the rest of us.

    It can only be a good thing that this is now rectified. The Leinster, like the Lusitania, brought World War I to Irish shores, and it was not all faraway in Europe.
    Well I went out to DL today and there were plenty of events on

    Met some of the relatives of the victims too

    I'm glad I went now even though it was a spur of the moment thing this morning to head out there....
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    Carrying 500 foreign brit troops hardly made it Neutral- if a ship was sunk carrying 500 German troops we still would be hearing the roars of triumph today-

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael-mcivor View Post
    Carrying 500 foreign brit troops hardly made it Neutral- if a ship was sunk carrying 500 German troops we still would be hearing the roars of triumph today-
    It was under the Rules of War a 'legitimate target' as I pointed out in my OP

    But it was still a huge human tragedy and most of the victims were Irish

    Holyhead in Wales also lost people on this day as well and I believe it will be commemorated there today as well
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael-mcivor View Post
    Carrying 500 foreign brit troops hardly made it Neutral- if a ship was sunk carrying 500 German troops we still would be hearing the roars of triumph today-
    For 'Brit troops', you may read many Irishmen. You may not like it, but many an Irishman including my grandfather served in that war. And you know what, they had a lot more spine and were greater patriots than many the keyboard warrior of today!!

    I too don't recall much about the Leinster disaster in my 2nd level history education but have been aware of it in later years, one of the last great losses of life among many on the Irish Sea. A sadness passed over when I heard it covered again this morning. For all the poor souls that perished and so close to the end of hostilities, even the u boat never made it back.

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    Politics.ie Member McTell's Avatar
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    You're right, all these events on 10 October, even a bishop getting shipwrecked in 1084, but nada about this ship




    October 10
    1084 - Patrick, Bishop of Dublin, dies in a shipwreck
    1711 - The Linen Board meets for the first time
    1771 - During his visit to Ireland, Benjamin Franklin attends a meeting of the House of Commons on this date
    1790 - Birth in Co. Tipperary of Fr. Theobald Matthew, “The Apostle of Temperance” and campaigner against alcohol
    1819 - Birth in Templemore, Co. Tipperary of Charles Stanley Monck, the first Governor General of Canada
    1865 - Magee College is opened as a combined arts and Presbyterian theological college in Derry/Londonderry
    1899 - Irish Transvaal Committee is formed to aid Boers against the English
    1899 - Eoin O Grownley, Irish language scholar, dies
    McTell tCurrently, I am missing certain information. That has been requested and will be added as soon as it is available available availableavailable

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