Remembering the RMS LEINSTER (and the MEXICO CITY) – 10 October 1918

The torpedoing of the LEINSTER is well known as the worst loss of life in the Irish Sea during the Great War. The 100th anniversary is being commemorated today by Holyhead Maritime Museum with a special event to be attended by descendants of the crew and passengers.

Less well known is the contribution the LEINSTER made to another sinking months earlier, in which she saved the crewman from the SS MEXICO CITY.

Built by the Sunderland Shipbuilding Company in 1896, the MEXICO CITY was originally named the SS NARRUNG. She was built for colonial trade and fitted with the latest electric lighting, and comfortable enough to be remarked upon as such in Newcastle’s newspapers.

 

A painting of MEXICO CITY in her livery as NARRUNG. (Copyright: Australian National Maritime Museum, Samuel J Hood Studio.)

A painting of MEXICO CITY in her livery as NARRUNG. (Copyright: Australian National Maritime Museum, Samuel J Hood Studio.)

 

Sadly, she was also prone to mishaps from the day of her launch, when she suffered damage as she went into the water, to almost foundering in 1912. Then there was the failed attack on her by U 35 in 1916. Finally, on 5 February 1918, when steaming from Liverpool to Milford Haven to form a convoy and when 15 miles from South Stack, Holyhead, she was sighted by U 101 and hit with a torpedo near the number two hatch on the port side. The ship’s boats were immediately launched, but those lost included the master who was last seen entering his cabin to recover the ship’s papers to throw overboard.

The stories of the LEINSTER and MEXICO CITY intertwine through the subsequent fates of the MEXICO CITY’s life boats. One of the lifeboats was picked up at 11.15a.m. the next day by the Leinster. It contained the ship’s Chinese cook and seven Chinese seamen.  The surviving crewmembers in the other lifeboats suffered similar if not worse ordeals.

The U 101 came alongside one lifeboat to search for officers to question, but the surviving Chief Officer remained hidden in the bottom of the boat until the Chinese sailors managed to drive the submarine away.  A boat containing sixteen men was sighted by the ship WAR BRACKEN, but it capsized as it was being made secure to the ship’s side. Only four men out of the sixteen survivors onboard were recovered from the sea and landed at Milford Haven. Another boat containing the MEXICO CITY’s Chinese boson and five other crewmembers landed at Douglas.

Whilst it is right that the LEINSTER’s sinking be remembered today, we should also remember the positive contribution she made to saving lives.

 

The anchor from the RMS LEINSTER has been installed as a memorial at Dún Laoghaire.

The anchor from the RMS LEINSTER has been installed as a memorial at Dún Laoghaire.

 

The majority of the MEXICO CITY’s crew are commemorated on the Hong Kong Memorial, the Plymouth Naval Memorial, the Tower Hill Memorial, and in cemeteries on the Isle of Man. Their names include:

Charles Emms, Ship’s Master; Ah See, Fireman; Ah Too, Carpenter; Ah Yu, Fireman; David Allen, Chief Engineer; Thomas Ashcroft, Fifth Engineer; John Cameron, Third Mate; Benjamin, Evans, Fourth Engineer; Fah Mok, Sailor; Fok Foo, Fireman; Ghong Lee, Greaser; George Hill,  Able Seaman; Hing Pai Hi, Cook; Edward Hodson, Third Engineer; Hong Seng. Greaser; Hong Wah, Fireman; Kai Chong, Sailor; Kwok Chow, Fireman; Kwok Yong, Fireman; Thomas Wright Leslie, aged 43, Second Mate; Ling Ah Sang, Quartermaster; Mow Hong, Fireman; William Edmund Pinder, Wireless Operator; Francis Smart, Second Operator; Tai Ah Hing, Second Boatswain; Wee Chun, 2nd Cook; Woo Jong Meng, Ship’s Boy; and Yai Low, Fireman

 

The ‘U-Boat Project’ commemorates the Great War at Sea around the coast of Wales. It is a 2-year Heritage Lottery Funded partnership project led by the RCAHMW, with an overall value of £1M, which provides unprecedented access, for the first time in 100 years, to the remains of 17 wrecks on the seabed off the Welsh coast which are part of our Great War heritage, but which remain under-researched and under-valued.

The U-boat Project team is delighted to invite you to our two-day MOROL / U-Boat Project 1914-18 conference: ‘Commemorating the Welsh experience of the Great War at sea’, in Pater Hall, Pembroke Dock on 3 and 4 November 2018.

Please follow this link to register your attendance: https://ti.to/digital-past/commemorating-the-war-at-sea-2018

The Project’s exhibition can now be seen at Swansea Museum, Porthcawl Museum, Parc Howard, and other venues over the coming months.

 

Developments on the project may be followed here:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LlongauUBoat
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/llongauUboat
E-mail: uboat@rcahmw.gov.uk

October 10, 2018

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