On 15th April 1917 Royal Mail’s Arcadian was en route from Salonika to Alexandria, then to the UK, with 1,335 troops and her crew, escorted by a single Japanese destroyer. Some 26 miles north east of the Greek island of Milos, she was hit by a torpedo from the German submarine UC-74. She sank within six minutes, with the loss of 279 lives.
Arcadian had been taken up by the Admiralty in February 1915, and was quickly converted into an armed merchant cruiser. In April 1915 she was used by General Sir Ian Hamilton as his HQ during the opening phase of the Gallipoli campaign. Subsequently Arcadian was used as a troopship, primarily in the Mediterranean.
She had been built as Ortona at Vickers in Barrow, for Pacific Steam, and was launched on 10th July 1899 and completed on 26th October 1899. When built she could accommodate 140 passengers in First Class, 180 in Second and 300 in Third, and was used on the London to Australia route. In December 1902 she was used as a troopship during the Second Boer War. In May 1906 Ortona was sold to Royal Mail, still on the Australian service. In April 1909 she was transferred to Royal Mail’s West Indies service, then in 1910 was sent to Harland & Wolff in Belfast, where she was converted into a cruise ship, and renamed Arcadian. She left on her first world cruise in January 1912.