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Remembered Today:

Loss at Sea - 22 May 1918


daggers
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The pic shown via the link in post 24 looks about the right age - built 1916.

Thanks to all for a good chase - so far so good.

D

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Unfortunately the picture of the Northumberland cannot be correct as the vessel is far too modern

Chris

Hi Chris,

I think you are right. Mea Culpa. That might be the 1955 version.

I found the following and thought perhaps some of our resident u-boat experts might be able to shed some light on it...it concerns the Northumberland on that very same voyage:

Orders were received on May 2, 1918, to entrain for duty overseas, and on the night of May 10, 1918, the 117th Infantry went on board transports at New York. The First and Second Battalions with 20 officers and 1922 enlisted men climbed up the gangplank and onto the HMS Northumberland, and the Third Battalion consisting of 27 officers and 949 enlisted men went aboard the HMS Anselm. There were nine troopships that sailed on the morning of the 11th of May and Captain Blair on board the HMS Northumberland started his voyage across the Atlantic. The Northumberland was a cargo ship owned by the Federal Steam Navigation Company and had for the most part been on the Australia, New Zealand and South Africa route before the war. She was 11,559 gross tons and built in 1915 and scrapped in 1951. The 1,942 men of the 117th Infantry were the only men on board the Northumberland that trip so there must not have been much space for troops as being that she was a cargo ship accommodations on board were crude as the men were likely bunked out in the holds of the ship. Some ten days later, after an attack by submarines off the Irish Coast, in which the convoy escaped without loss, the HMS Northumberland docked at Liverpool, England, where special trains carried the 117th Infantry straight through London to Folkestone.

This is taken from:

http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestr...h_Infantry.html

Is this pic the right ship?

Fal%20Sam%20Non%2021.jpg

I hope I got the right one this time! (crossing fingers)

-Daniel

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Hi Daggers,

I was able to coax a little more info out of Google:

The collision took place in the Irish Channel on May 22, 1918, when the Cliffburn was sunk and all of her crew were drowned. The Northumberland also sustained some damage. The Northumberland is a steel screw steamship of 12160 tons gross tons gross and 7861 tons net, 530 ft. long, and she was on a voyage from New York to Liverpool in convoy, carrying troops and Laden "with a cargo of general goods", was in Liverpool Bay near the Bar light-vessel. The wind was Northerly, light, the weather hazy, and the tide about high water slack. The Talthybius, following the vessel ahead, heading about S. 31 deg. E., was making about 13 knots; the regulation lights, including a stern light, were duly exhibited and burning brightly; and a good look-out was being kept.

That's all for now...

-Daniel

Thanks for the information. It is most likely that my grandpa was onboard whe the collision occured. Any other information you can provide is most appreciated. thanks again.

John

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Hi all,

There is some material on Cliffburn (Official No. 113935) at the National Archives UK:

Folio 115 of 1919: Owners of Cliffburn v Owners of Northumberland. Case no: C959 (Liverpool Disrtict Registry). Brief notes of proceedings. Appeal from Liverpool District Registry:

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalog...;CATID=-5440730

Ship Cliffburn, official number: 113935. When built: 1901. Registry closed: 1918.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalog...;CATID=-5728151

There are also crew lists for the Cliffburn at Memorial University spanning 1901-1914:

http://www.mun.ca/mha/holdings/viewcombine...icial_No=113935

No word from Columbia University yet...will try them again tomorrow.

-Daniel

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My grandpa was most likely onboard the Northumberland when the colision occured. He was with the 117th Infantry going over to Belgium. Records show he left New York on May 11, 1918. So I believe he was onboard. I read somewhere that the Northumberland came under submarine attack while on this voyage also. do you know anything about this?

John

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Hi all,

On this sweltering day in New York City, I happily have before me a frosty can of Becks and the materials from Lloyd's List Law Digest. I will do my best to summarize the 4 pages of materials as follows:

House of Lords

Monday, Feb. 20, 1920

From Lloyd's List Law Reports dated March 20, 1920, pp. 301-303

AND

Monday, Feb 5, 1920, p. 127 of same.

The collision took place at 12:43 PM in the Irish Channel. The Northumberland was en route from New York to Liverpool, with some 2000 troops on board and a cargo of frozen meat. She was in a convoy of some eight vessels, in two lines of four ships apiece, with cables run between them. The Northumberland was the second vessel from the port side of the front line. She was proceeding on a course of S. 25 E. with the other vessels in the convoy at a speed of 13 knots. The collier Cliffburn was on a course across the bows of the Northumberland from starboard to port at a very slow speed, en route from Maryport to Bundoran.

The Cliffburn was a single screw steamship of 238 GRT and 194 tons net.

There was dense fog; visibility was about 100 yards or so. Before she was sighted by the Northumberland the whistle of the Cliffburn was heard, and the lookout on the forecastle of the Northumberland sounded the bell three times. The helm of the Northumberland was put hard to port and the engines were stopped, then put full astern. At that moment the Cliffburn became visible. The stem of the Northumberland struck the Cliffburn squarely in the port quarter, sending her to the bottom.

The materials I have do not say how many people perished on board the Cliffburn in this incident. In fact, what I have is a record of the appeal of the original decision in favor of the owners of the Cliffburn. However, it is worth noting that in the documents I have, it states that the original case (in Admiralty Division) can be found in Lloyd's List dated January 17, 1919 and those in the Court of Appeal in LLoyd's List dated May 26th and 31st 1919 as well as the hearing in the House of Lords at page 127 , Vol. II of Lloyd's List Law Reports. I should mention that the owners of Northumberland lost their appeal.

I welcome any questions re: the above and offer a pdf of the documents to those who are interested; simply send me a PM with your email address and the docs are yours.

I may go back to get the rest of the materials relating to this incident but at present I do not know when, so you may want to track down a local copy of the aforementioned books in the interim if you do not want to wait.

-Daniel

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Daniel

I'm most grateful for this very clear statement of the events of 22/5/18 and will pass it on to my contact who is in touch with the grandson of one of the victims lost in Cliffburn.

I note your kind offer of copies which I shall pass on.

What a well of goodwill we have here!

D

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Hi Daggers, all..

So, we have identified six of the eight ships in the convoy:

Northumberland

HMS Anselm

Orduna

Elpenor

Canada

Talthybius

Here's a picture of HMS Anselm in dazzle paint circa 1918:

Anselm.jpg

Will see if I can ID the other two. I am wondering if the ship's log for Northumberland still exists, as that may be good to have a look at. FYI, in the book 'Borrowed Soldiers', it is stated that "Although none of the transports carrying the 27th or 30th division troops encountered danger, U-boat attacks were a serious threat...". So, perhaps there was no actual u-boat attack on this convoy after all? You can read this and a bit more about the convoy via Google Books, on pages 51-52.

In the book 'A Naval History of World War I', the author makes clear that u-boats were attempting to concentrate on the convoy routes, especially in May 1918. The book states "On 10 May the Germans had eight submarines in the danger area though which nive convoys had to pass." No specifics on attacks on our convoy, though they did carry out quite a few attacks during this time frame. May 10th: no attacks...May 11th: U86 sank the San Andreas...May 12th, the Olympic ran down U103 and British sub D4 sank UB72. May 17th found U55 sinking the Scholar while in convoy and later the same u-boat sank the Danbigh Hall in a different convoy. So, in this window we have three ships sunk while traveling in convoy.

I will look into this aspect further and see what I find.

-Daniel

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Hi all,

According to the book " The Thirtieth Division in the World War" the other ships were the "Ascania" and the "Haverford".

Both ships left New York on May 11, 1918 and the port of arrival was Liverpool England.

John

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I made one mistake. the Haverford departed out of Philadelphia on May 11, 1918 and arrived in Liverpool England on May 27, 1918.

John

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Great! Now we know the last two ships in the convoy.

There may be something about the Cliffburn via The Scotsman, but you have to pay a fee to find out. Can't post the exact link as the site appears to be down at the moment, but the main site is:

http://archive.scotsman.com/

Just enter Cliffburn and the time period in question and it will pop up.

-Daniel

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Daniel

The Scotsman had woken up when I tried just now.

Again, many thanks from the researcher of the war memorial who started all this, and the family member who is to view the memorial for the first time on Wednesday, when much of this material will be there for him.

D

post-16536-1249113239.jpg

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OK, a few comments:

None of the ships identified in this thread are listed a in the "merchant vessels attacked" section of British Vessels Lost at Sea 1914-1918. I won't take that as being absolutely conclusive -- to be absolutely sure you'd have to check files held at Kew -- but it's still significant.

Also, there's something odd about the suggested convoy timeline -- Northumberland runs down Cliffburn off the Maidens on May 22 yet the convoy doesn't arrive in Liverpool until the 27th. This makes no sense to me.

Best wishes,

Michael

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Hi Michael,

I think the Northumberland may have landed her troops and supplies on the 21st or the 23rd....one page (without citation of source) states "nine troopships that sailed on the morning of the 11th of May..." and "Some ten days later, after an attack by submarines off the Irish Coast, in which the convoy escaped without loss, the HMS Northumberland docked at Liverpool, England...".

However, another page (also without a citation) says "They sailed from Hoboken, N. J., on the transport Northumberland on May 11, 1918, and arrived at Liverpool, England, May 23, 1918." A third page mirrors the second, saying "They departed New York City on 11 May..." and "The convoy reached the Mersey Estuary on the west coast of England on 23 May". The cited source for the 23rd date is "The Thirtieth Division in the World War". Here's a scan (thanks Daggers!) of the relevant page:

post-32240-1249181001.jpg

I think the ship's logs, if they still are around, will clear the date problem up. The documents I got the other day do not shed any light on this; they only confirm the date of the incident itself.

-Daniel

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Hi all,

I had posted inquiries in a few other forums regarding the Northumberland, and in one I got a response that gives a bit of clarity to the claim that she was attacked by a u-boat; this claim apparently has some merit, as there is a notation in French Admiralty files that she was indeed the subject of such an attack. However, the curveball is that the attack was December 14, 1916, not in May 1918.

-Daniel

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Hi all,

Per my contact at Southampton Library, the following info can be added to the discussion about the Cliffburn:

22 May. Cliffburn, Belfast, 113,935, 17 years; description: S S, steel; tons: gross 238, net 94; crew: 8; from Maryport to Buncrana; cargo: coal; colliding vessel: S S Northumberland, of London; lives lost: 8; place of casualty: Off the Maidens Rocks, Co Antrim

The source for this information is the Board of Trade return of losses of 1918, in the section on collisions.

So, we have three names, and are short five.

-Daniel

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi all,

Just wanted to bump this up to see how the visit to the memorial went and see if any efforts are underway to get the remaining missing names/documents from Kew regarding this disaster. I am back from vacation and can pick things up again at Columbia Law Library again if there is still a need.

Thanks,

-Daniel

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Daniel

I was not able to get to the event, but heard that the grandson and nephew of the lost engineers was thrilled to see their names on the memorial when he visited, never having known of it before.

Thanks again for all your discoveries.

D

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