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Remembered Today:

SS Donegal


David A

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My Grandfather Alfred Thomas Ive served in the Royal Fleet Reserve in WW1  on ships known as Defensive Armed Merchant Ships (D.A.M.S.). I was told he survived a sinking from a torpedo hit. He served on the SS Donegal which was sunk by a torpedo in 1917 but I have been unable to find a crew list to confirm this. Can anybody shed more light please?

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Hallo David and welcome to the forum.

 

If you have a date and place of birth for your grandfather, or even better his service number, it may be possible to track down his service record in the National Archives, which should enable you to confirm his ships. Otherwise, with a relatively common name such as his, finding the correct record is going to be a problem.

 

Best wishes,

 

seaJane

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Thanks Jane for  your reply, I have his service record and it does list him serving on the Donegal during the period in which it was sunk. It does not mention the sinking or anything untoward. He may not have been onboard at that time which is why I would like to find the crew list just as confirmation.

Kind regards

David

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There ought to be some evidence on the service record if he wasn't in fact on board, so I think you can probably take it for granted that he was. I've looked for the crew list of DONEGAL in the Archives and can only find those for 1915; there's no sign of him, but it may be a different DONEGAL: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_dss=range&_sd=1914&_ed=1919&_q="ship%3A+donegal"+thomas+116018

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Were DAMS gun crews formally listed as part of the crew of the merchant ship?

RM

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Hi David, a bit of information for you from a letter in my possession dated 1974, written by a wounded soldier who was being taken back home from the front on the Donegal. He goes on to say...... "the two hospital ships Lan Franc and Donegal both left Le Treport Tuesday afternoon April 17th 1917. They were in convoy together Donegal in front. We were torpedoed first and then a few minutes later the Lan Franc was hit by the same submarine.I was picked up by the destroyer Jackal H55.From the deck we watched both of the ships go on end and sink."  I have no crew lists but thought this may perhaps help. The submarine was UB40. I believe HMS Badger H52 was also in the vicinity at the time. My Grandfather was a casualty being taken home on the Lan Franc. Regards, Bob.

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Thanks for the response, I just wish I had asked more questions of my father and grandfather when they were alive to complete the family history story.

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19 minutes ago, Bob Davies said:

Lan Franc

 

Hi Bob, just a minor point, but the ship's name was Lanfranc - all one word.

sJ

40 minutes ago, rolt968 said:

Were DAMS gun crews formally listed as part of the crew of the merchant ship?

RM

 

That's a point - I don't actually know! @horatio2 probably does.

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8 minutes ago, seaJane said:

Hi Bob, just a minor point, but the ship's name was Lanfranc - all one word.

sJ

Hi sJ, I stand corrected ;-) Thanks for verifying that :-) From the Daily Sketch attached.  Regards, Bob.

 

DSCF6118.JPG

DSCF6119.JPG

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ow was a Hospital ship allowed to be armed? Once designated a Hospital ship how could it be a DAMS?

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Hi

The casualty list for SS Donegal,Official number 116018, on 17 April 1917 includes an RNR gunner Peter MacFadyen, Official number  SD 2034 (TNA version). His record card states that the ship was an Admiralty transport. This suggests that the ship had a gun crew. (2 or 3 men?)

There appears to be a crew list for 1917 for a ship with official number 116018 at TNA, (BT99/3336).

Before Covid you could contact TNA online and pay for them to search and then scan the record. 

best wishes

ernest james

 

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I believe that the DONEGAL was operating as an armed Ambulance Transport rather than as a Hospital Ship when she was sunk.

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6 hours ago, ernest james said:

Hi

The casualty list for SS Donegal,Official number 116018, on 17 April 1917 includes an RNR gunner Peter MacFadyen, Official number  SD 2034 (TNA version). His record card states that the ship was an Admiralty transport. This suggests that the ship had a gun crew. (2 or 3 men?)

There appears to be a crew list for 1917 for a ship with official number 116018 at TNA, (BT99/3336).

Before Covid you could contact TNA online and pay for them to search and then scan the record. 

best wishes

ernest james

 

 

5 hours ago, Malcolm12hl said:

I believe that the DONEGAL was operating as an armed Ambulance Transport rather than as a Hospital Ship when she was sunk.

That might explain why the ship name appears on his seaman's record.

I confess to having only researched one DAMS gunner:

https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/261659-ab-joseph-forrest-rnvr-ss-baku-standard/?tab=comments#comment-2650923

On Joseph Forrest's record, although it records his death as due to the loss of the Baku Standard, his "ship" was HMS President III.

I don't know if this was the normal practice.

RM

Edited by rolt968
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28 minutes ago, rolt968 said:

his "ship" was HMS President III.

This is the problem with nearly all DAMS gunners in WW1. They are recorded on the books of HMS PRESIDENT III but rarely are the names of actual DAMS ships  given nor, for that matter, are the locations of the DAMS shore bases (eg Liverpool), at which they served between ships, recorded.. The only certain ID is when DAMS ships were lost and their gunners are on CWGC. Only then are gunners linked to their DAMS.

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This is an interesting web page/site and has a picture of survivors of the SS Donegal. http://www.glensidemuseum.org.uk/beaufort-war-hospital-home-page/

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Donegal was both armed and escorted — the armed portion is stated in British Vessels Lost at Sea 1914-1918, while the German official history, based upon the U-boat's KTB, states that the steamer was accompanied by two destroyers. The U-boat that sank Donegal was UC 21 under the command of Oblt.z.S. Reinhold Saltzwedel. Salzwedel had received the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern the month before and would be awarded the Pour le Mérite in August 1917. He was the 10th highest scoring U-boat commander of the war and the second highest scoring U-boat commander operating out of Flanders.

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42 minutes ago, Michael Lowrey said:

Donegal was both armed and escorted

Thanks Michael. Here is a quote from the "Maritime Archaeology Trust".....

A crew report offers the following view:

“SS Donegal was under escort when the captain spotted a torpedo track some 400 yards or so away to port at 7.43pm, and gave the order "hard to starboard", but this was too late, and in the words of the captain: "...my ship was struck near the port propeller with the result that the stern was practically blown away and carried with it the 13-pounder gun, which had only been mounted the day before. One of the gunners who was standing by it is missing and must have been killed..."

The vessel began to sink rapidly but HMS Jackal got alongside and took off some 500 troops, with other ships picking up some of the remainder. Three-quarters of an hour after the attack, Donegal lurched to starboard, throwing those left on board into the sea as she foundered, with the loss of 69 crew and 26 of the wounded soldiers. This report  seems at odds with much other casualty reporting which suggests 29 soldiers lost and 11 crew.

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