Torpedoing of the Troopship “Royal Edward”.
En-rout to Gallipoli 1915

On the 13th August 1915 the troopship “Royal Edward” was steaming towards Murdos carrying men and supplies for the Gallipoli campaign when the German Submarine UB14 torpedoed her. She became the first troopship to be sunk during the First World War. The sinking had a big effect on Furness Vale as she was carrying three men from the village Ernest Hall, Tom Walker and Joe Nuttall along with their good friend George Hibbert from Disley.


The four friends had enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps in December 1914.
Tom Walker was just 18.
Joseph Nuttall 33.

They were attached to the East Lancashire Division Field Ambulance.

The Royal Edward had been used on routes around Canada for the Canadian company Northern Steamships Ltd before the war. On the 8th April 1912 she encountered and reported an ice field in the vicinity of the area which RMS Titanic sank four days later.

On the 29th July 1915 the four boarded Troopship Royal Edward along with 1,586 officers, men and crew at Avonmouth destined for Gallipoli.

29th July 1915 (Tom Walker writes)

Dear Mother

Just a line to say I am alright. I am writing this on my bunk on board the “Royal Edward”. We are in the 1st class cabin it is all right. We sail tonight about midnight. We had an excellent send off from “Crowborough” on Thursday morning at 11 o’clock we changed at London and left about 2.30.p.m. When the train stopped at Exeter there were a lot of young women waiting at the station with a pint of tea four cakes bananas and some cigarettes presented by the Mayoress of Exeter to each of us.

It was 10 o clock when we arrived at Budeaux rest camp this camp is especially for soldiers waiting for boats. We came on board at 3 o clock this afternoon. There are a lot of R.A.M.C (Royal Army Medical Corps) on besides some Scotch Lancashire Fusiliers and Middlesex. There are a lot of cruisers and battleships waiting to go out with us in the harbor. I don’t know if I will get this posted or not before we go. I will have to post this without stamps unless I can get some off somebody. I will write again soon first chance I get.

With Love to All Tom


Wednesday 4th August 1915 (Tom Walker writes)

Dear Mother,

Just a line to let you know I am going on all right. I was a bit seasick on Monday morning but not much. We have had lovely weather all the way. We passed Gibraltar yesterday we did not stop but we had a grand view of it. It is a mighty place. I am writing this to be put off at Malta were we expect to be about Friday. We are staying there a few days I believe. We are on a fine boat the one that bought the Canadians across. The Carmania was in Dock in Devonport it looks very big by the side of the others that were in dock. We have nothing to do except answer Roll Call at 6 am and 9 am every day we are having a fine time and good food in the 1st class berths. It is very hot here we have had to put our drill suits and helmets on. All the men except for us have been to France since war broke out.

I was thinking on Monday I was at Furness Vale last week and now we are over a thousand miles away. It seems about three years since we left England instead of four days.
Hoping you are, all well

With love to all at home Tom”

7th August (Tom Walker writes)

Dear Mother,

I am just sending you a souvenir of Malta. We have had a fine time here I wouldn’t of missed it for anything.

Love to all at home Tom”

On the 10th August 1915 Royal Edward docked in Alexandria Egypt before setting sail for Murdos on the 13th August.

On the 12th August 1915 the German U boat UB14 under Commander Heino Von Heimburg left Bodrum with a crew of 14 and headed toward the known shipping route that troopships used between Alexandria and the Dardanelles. On the 13th August she spotted the Royal Edward 400 miles north of Alexandria 7 miles west of “Kandeliusa” Island. She was steaming unescorted towards Murdos and the U14 closed to within a mile and at 0915.a.m fired one torpedo, which struck the Royal Edward in the stern. She sank bow up within six minutes leaving the sea surface covered in wreckage and men. A lifeboat drill had only just taken place on the Royal Edward and most men were below deck restoring their kit when the Torpedo hit. This fact most certainly contributed to the large loss of life that occurred.

The hospital ship Soudan two French destroyers and some trawlers picked up the survivors.

Ernest Hall writes

“I don’t really know how to start this letter I am so upset. We have had an awful experience. After leaving Alexandria on Thursday the 12th we were sailing a long time when suddenly I heard a tremendous crash. I ran for my lifebelt but in the rush lost it. I managed to get into a lifeboat. We were in the lifeboat nearly four hours expecting to go down any moment, as it was a foot under water.

At last we got picked up by a French minesweeper were we were treated splendidly. From there we were transferred to a larger French boat and taken to an island off the coast of Greece. From there we were put onto another French boat and taken to another island. We then cast anchor until another French cruiser came and took us to “Alexandria”. Out of about 1600 at present only about 500 have been saved and out of 50 of our company only 28 saved. I don’t know who have gone down yet. It was very warm in the water or we may have all died of exposure it was a good job it was daylight or we would have been drowned. I shall never forget it we went down in five minutes in fact had no time to lower the lifeboats. Some of them went down with the ship. George Hibbert from Disley is saved but my other pals have not arrived yet”

In fact life long friends Joe (John Joseph) Nuttall and Tom Walker had both gone down with the Royal Edward. Of the group of four friends two would survive the sinking Ernest Hall and George Hibbert.

George was picked up by the hospital ship the “Soudan” after spending four hours in the water.

George Hibbert from Disley wrote

“It was terrible to see hundred’s of people struggling for there lives in the water and drowning before your very eyes. I never want to see such a sight again.”

The survivors were more fortunate than they would of realized at the time as the German U14 submarine had suffered technical problems and headed back to Bodrum. Had this not happened it is highly likely she would have stayed in the area and attacked the rescuing ships.

Of the 1,586 troops and crew on board there were less than 500 survivors. The attack highlighted the vulnerability of merchant and troopships operating un-protected and led to a change in operations.

18 year old Tom Walker and John Joseph Nuttall 33 are remembered on the Helles Memorial in Turkey, along with the other men that went down with the Royal Edward. The memorial stands on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsular and can be seen by ships passing through the Dardanelles.

Hellos Memorial

John Joseph Nuttall and Tom Walker are also remembered locally on the Furness Vale War Memorial.

The nautical location of the sinking of the Royal Edward was 36 deg, 31 mins north, 26 degs, 51 mins east. In real terms that is approx 8 miles west of the lighthouse islet of Kanhelioussa, itself lying south west of Nisyros/Nisiros in the Dodecanese islands of the Aegean Sea.

Heino von Heimburg

(24 October 1889 – October 1945).

Was a German U-boat commander in the Kaiserliche Marine during World War I and served also as Vice Admiral in the Kriegsmarine during World War II.

Later in August Heimburg and the UB-14 sank the Australian troopship Southland bound for Gallipoli. Approximately thirty men were killed and the remaining troops and crew were rescued by nearby ships. A skeleton crew of volunteers managed to keep the ship afloat and beach it in Moudros harbour.


From Wikipedia

German Submarine UB14

The sinking of the Cunard ocean liner RMS Lusitania occurred on 7 May1915, as Germany waged submarine warfare against the United Kingdom. The ship was identified and torpedoed by the German U-boat U-20 and sank in 18 minutes. The vessel went down 11 miles (18 km) off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland killing 1,198 and leaving 761 survivors. The sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany, contributed to the American entry into World War I and became an iconic symbol in military recruiting campaigns of why the war was being fought.

U-boat U-20.

Commander William Thomas Turner, OBE, RNR (October 23, 1856 - June 23, 1933) was the Captain of the RMS Lusitania.

Charles Frohman (July 15, 1856 – May 7, 1915) was an American theatrical producer.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Sr. (October 20, 1877 – May 7, 1915) was an extremely wealthy sportsman and a member of the famous Vanderbilt family of philanthropists