The U-Boat War in the Irish Sea

RMS Leinster was an unfortunate victim of the ‘U-Boat War’ when Germany targeted the Allied trade routes bringing in food and war materials. During the four years of the Great War there were almost 1700 incidents involving U-boats on this important sea route. The image below indicates some of the 170 losses that occurred around the Welsh Coast.

The Holyhead Maritime Museum is participating, with others, in an important project covering the ‘U-boat War in the Irish Sea’. The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by a partnership between the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, School of Ocean Sciences and the Nautical Archaeology Society.

Further information can be found here – https://rcahmw.gov.uk/commemorating-the-forgotten-u-boat-war-around-the-welsh-coast-1914-18/ and Twitter @LlongauUBoat

Welsh coast u boat attacksImage from The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

Compensation for a Widow

The loss of RMS Leinster was discussed a number of times at Parliament after the armistice of 1918. Questions were asked about the lack of naval escort on the day. The government stuck by their reasoning that the Leinster’s speed was enough to protect her. They also cited the bad weather that would have reduced the ability of naval vessels to keep up with the ship. The government continued to refuse to have an official inquiry into the tragedy.

The extract below, from Hansard in June 1919, covers an exchange between Sir Aukland Geddes, President of the Board of Trade and Sir Owen Thomas, MP for Anglesey. Reference is made to the lack of proper compensation for Mrs Williams, widow of Head Stoker, Thomas Williams, of 18 St. Cybi Street, Holyhead.

Captain Redmond, MP for the City of Wexford, makes a comparison between the loss of the Lusitania and Leinster in respect of the need for an inquiry.

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The Surviving Gunner

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This is Evan Rowlands RNR. He was one of three naval Gunners on board RMS Leinster and the only one to survive the sinking. He was born at Newborough, Anglesey in 1868 and went to sea at age 14. Prior to the war he served as Quartermaster for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company and lived with his family at 13 Well Street, Holyhead. During the early days of hostilities he served as a DEMS Gunner on ships carrying beef from Argentina for the war effort. He died in 1939.

A Survivor’s Story

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Engineer William Thomas Jones  survived the sinking of RMS Leinster. He was in the Stokehold when the first torpedo struck. He instructed the Firemen to leave and soon followed them when the Leinster was again torpedoed causing catastrophic damage. As the vessel was sinking Mr Jones jumped into the water and clung onto a raft with a number of others until rescued by a destroyer and taken to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire).

The photograph above is of part of the Leinster display at the Holyhead Maritime Museum. It includes William Thomas Jones’ Mercantile Marine Medal and also two ‘Torpedo Badges’ issued to those surviving a submarine attack. Those shown are of gold thread and were issued to ship’s officers. Ordinary seamen would have received similar badges but coloured red.

The account of Mr. Jones’ experience was extracted from an article published in the Chronicle shortly after the tragedy.