20th March 1917 –
HMHS Asturias torpedoed

Asturias peacetimeAsturias was built by Harland & Wolff for Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., running from Southampton to Buenos Aires. Completed in 1908, she could carry 432 passengers in First Class, 223 in Second Class and 775 in Third Class, with a crew of 254. She was 365 feet long, 12,000grt. Requisitioned at the outbreak of the Great War, Asturias was converted to a hospital ship for 896 patients, although she generally carried considerably more. HMHS Asturias initially served at Gallipoli, Egypt and Salonika, carrying sick and injured back to the UK. Later she served on the cross-Channel route for injured troops from France.

HMHS_AsturiasOn 20th March 1917, having unloaded over 1,000 troops at Avonmouth, HMHS Asturias was en route to Southampton, with all lights burning and the Red Cross markings clearly lit. In spite of this she was attacked by the German submarine UC-66. Badly damaged by a torpedo, the captain managed to beach his vessel near Bolt Head. Thirty-one aboard had been killed in the attack, with a further 12 missing. After inspection she was declared a total loss. However, later the government bought the wreck and salvaged her, and she was used as a floating ammunition hulk at Plymouth Harbour.

arcadianAfter the war, Royal Mail purchased the hulk and she was extensively refitted at Harland & Wolff and then returned to service as Arcadian, in 1923. She was used operating luxury cruises to the Mediterranean and Scandinavia, before she was finally laid up in October 1930. She was scrapped in Japan in February 1933, sailing to the scrappers in convoy with White Star’s Baltic and Megantic.