28th April 1917 – ex-Royal yacht Medina sunk

Medina sunkbyUB31RMS Medina was built for P&O by Caird’s of Greenock, for their service from London to Australia. She was the last of ten sister ships, the M Class, and was 625 feet long, 12,350grt. Launched on 14th March 1911, she was completed in October that year, designed to carry 450 passengers in a very sumptuous First Class, plus 220 in Second Class. Her maiden voyage, on 11th November 1911, was momentous as she had been chosen to act as the Royal Yacht, carrying King George V and Queen Mary to India for the Delhi Durbar. For this one trip she was commissioned into the Royal Navy, and technically became HMS Medina with the crew mainly from the Royal Navy: she was briefly fitted with an extra mast, to maintain Royal flag etiquette, and her hull was repainted in white with bands of blue and gold, and buff funnels. She was back in the UK by February 1912, when she returned to Cairds for refitting for her commercial service, and was finally delivered to P&O in June 1912.

SSMedinaWith the outbreak of the Great War, she was requisitioned and provided with defensive armament, but continued on the service between Sydney and London. She was returning to London in early 1917, carrying large quantities of meat and butter, plus tons of copper, tin and gold ingots. She called at Plymouth, where fortunately most of her passengers debarked, then sailed for London, but on 28th April 1917 she was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-31. Six of the engine-room personnel were killed in the explosion, but the rest of the crew escaped, as the liner began to sink. The wreck, some 4 miles off Start Point in south Devon, is around 64 metres deep, and is a popular site for skilled divers, as she is virtually upright. There have been a number of salvage attempts, and in 1988 a quantity of items from her were auctioned at Sotheby’s. However the wreck is now collapsing and no further salvage is expected.