seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Sinking of the RMS Leinster

RMS Leinster, a ship operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company and serving as the KingstownHolyhead mailboat, is torpedoed and sunk by the Imperial German Navy submarine SM UB-123, which is under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm, just outside Dublin Bay on October 10, 1918, while bound for Holyhead. The exact number of dead is unknown but researchers from the National Maritime Museum of Ireland believe it to be at least 564, making it the largest single loss of life in the Irish Sea.

In 1895, the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company orders four steamers for Royal Mail service, named for four provinces of Ireland: RMS Leinster, RMS Connaught, RMS Munster, and RMS Ulster. The RMS Leinster is a 3,069-ton packet steamship with a service speed of 23 knots. The vessel, which is built at Cammell Laird‘s in Birkenhead, England, is driven by two independent four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines. During World War I, the twin-propellered ship is armed with one 12-pounder and two signal guns.

The ship’s log states that she carries 77 crew and 694 passengers on her final voyage under the command of Captain William Birch. The ship had previously been attacked in the Irish Sea but the torpedoes missed their target. Those on board include more than 100 British civilians, 22 postal sorters and almost 500 military personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. Also aboard are nurses from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

Just before 10:00 AM as it is sailing east of the Kish Bank in a heavy swell, passengers see a torpedo approach from the port side and pass in front of the bow. A second torpedo follows shortly afterwards, and strikes the ship forward on the port side in the vicinity of the mail room. Captain Birch orders the ship to make a U-turn in an attempt to return to Kingstown as it begins to settle slowly by the bow. It sinks rapidly, however, after a third torpedo strikes her, causing a huge explosion.

Despite the heavy seas, the crew manages to launch several lifeboats and some passengers cling to life-rafts. The survivors are rescued by HMS Lively, HMS Mallard and HMS Seal. Among the civilian passengers lost in the sinking are socially prominent people such as Lady Alexandra Phyllis Hamilton, daughter of James Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Abercorn, Robert Jocelyn Alexander, son of Irish composer Cecil Frances Alexander, Thomas Foley and his wife Charlotte Foley (née Barrett) who was the brother-in-law of the world-famous Irish tenor John McCormack. The first member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service to die on active duty, Josephine Carr, is among the dead, as are two prominent officials of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, James McCarron and Patrick Lynch.

Captain Birch who is wounded in the initial attack, drowns when his lifeboat is swamped in heavy seas and capsizes while attempting to transfer survivors to HMS Lively. Several of the military personnel who die are buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.

Survivors are brought to Kingstown harbour. Among them are Michael Joyce, an Irish Parliamentary Party MP for Limerick City, and Captain Hutchinson Ingham Cone of the United States Navy, the former commander of the USS Dale (DD-4).

One of the rescue ships is the armed yacht and former fishery protection vessel HMY Helga. Stationed in Kingstown harbour at the time of the sinking, she had shelled Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin two years earlier. She was later bought and renamed the Muirchú by the Irish Free State government as one of its first fishery protection vessels.

At October 18, 1918 at 9:10 AM SM UB-125, outbound from Germany, picks up a radio message requesting advice on the best way to get through the North Sea minefield. The sender is Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm aboard SM UB-123. Extra mines have been added to the minefield since SM UB-123 had made her outward voyage from Germany. As SM UB-125 had just come through the minefield, Vater radios back with a suggested route. SM UB-123 acknowledges the message and is never heard from again.

The following day, ten days after the sinking of the RMS Leinster, SM UB-123 accidentally detonates a mine while trying to cross the North Sea and return to base in Imperial Germany. It is October 19, 1918. Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm, who has a wife and children, never returns to them. Thirty-five other German families are similarly bereaved. No bodies are ever found.

In 1991, the anchor of the RMS Leinster is raised by local divers. It is placed near Carlisle Pier and officially dedicated on January, 28, 1996.


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Rebels Surrender Ends the 1916 Easter Rising

pearse-surrenders-to-loweThe Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army rebels headquartered at the General Post Office (GPO) on Sackville Street, after days of shelling, are forced to abandon their headquarters when fire caused by the shells spreads to the GPO. James Connolly, Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, has been incapacitated by a bullet wound to the ankle and has passed command on to Patrick Pearse. Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, a founding member of the Irish Volunteers, is killed in a sortie from the GPO. The rebels tunnel through the walls of the neighbouring buildings in order to evacuate the Post Office without coming under fire and take up a new position at 16 Moore Street.

On Saturday, 29 April, 1916, from the new headquarters on Moore Street, after realising that they will not break out of this position without further loss of civilian life, Pearse issues an order for all companies to surrender. Pearse surrenders unconditionally to Brigadier-General William Henry Muir  Lowe (photo). The surrender document reads:

“In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the City and County will order their commands to lay down arms.”

The other posts surrender only after Pearse’s surrender order, carried by nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell, reaches them. Sporadic fighting, therefore, continues into Sunday, April 30, when word of the surrender is received by the other rebel garrisons. Command of British forces has passed from Lowe to General John Maxwell, who arrives in Dublin just in time to accept the surrender. Maxwell is made temporary military governor of Ireland.

The surrender signals the end of the 1916 Easter Rising, the most significant campaign in the struggle for Irish independence since the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The Rising leaves large parts of the city decimated and results in thousands of casualties. It is also, unambiguously, a spectacular military failure. And yet it is the spark that lights the fuse on the Irish War of Independence which, within five years, forces the British government to the negotiating table to discuss the terms of Irish independence.

Martial law, which was declared in Dublin by British authorities, remains in effect in Ireland through the fall of 1916.

The 1916 Easter Rising results in at least 485 deaths, according to the Glasnevin Trust. More than 2,600 are wounded, including at least 2,200 civilians and rebels, at least 370 British soldiers, and 29 policemen. The vast majority of the Irish casualties are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in the aftermath of the fighting. British families come to Dublin Castle in May 1916 to reclaim the bodies of British soldiers and funerals are arranged. Soldiers whose bodies are not claimed are given military funerals in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.