The Inkosi, Captain John Arthur, master, left Liverpool at 6.00 p.m. on Wednesday 27th March 1918 bound for Lamlash, Arran onwards to Pernambuco (Recife), Brazil with a cargo 2,000 tons of coal and 300 tons of general cargo. At 7.18 a.m. on Thursday 28th March, she was zigzagging at full speed on a course of N 82 W (magnetic) when a torpedo struck the vessel amidships on the port side between the engine room and the stoke-hole. At this point she was about 10 miles southwest of Burrow Head. The explosion stopped the steamer immediately and three firemen who were on duty were killed. The boats were then lowered on Captain Arthur’s order, but the foremost boat had been rendered useless by the force of the explosion and in lowering the fall of the port after boat, the fall was carried away so rendering that boat useless. The remaining boats were safely lowered and most of the forty seven surviving crew men began to get into them.
Meanwhile the two gunners Lieutenant Corporal W. N. Griffiths and Private S. A. Mahugh, RMLI remained with the gun on the aft platform, ready should the submarine show herself on the surface. The captain then shouted to the gunners to abandon ship as he was about to do having destroyed the ship’s confidential papers. The decks aft were now awash and the engine room was full of water so the remaining men made their way to the boats which quickly pulled off to a safe distance.
The Inkosi didn’t appear to be settling as fast as originally anticipated so Captain Arthur said that he would board her again. The two gunners agreed to go with him and manned the gun ready to fire it in order to attract attention from other ships in the area. Unfortunately, the gun misfired and as the gunners tried to make ready the gun again Captain Arthur shouted to them to take to the boat immediately. The gunners depressed the gun and again joined Captain Arthur in the lifeboat. As they pulled clear a periscope appeared and shortly afterwards the German submarine U96 surfaced off the port bow of the steam ship to finish her off with her deck gun.
The U96 fired over a dozen rounds at the Inkosi and eventually at 8.18 a.m. the steamer sank about 6 miles southwest of Burrow Head. The submarine made no attempt to question the Inkosi crew who set off in the direction of Burrow Head with the U96 still motoring around the spot where the Inkosi had gone down. Both of the Inkosi’s lifeboats landed at the Isle of Whithorn and it was only then that the three firemen were discovered to be missing and were presumed to have died in the attack on the steamer.
History courtesy of Adrian Corkill (www.iom-shipwrecks.com)
|Ship type||Steamship / Armed merchantman|
|Owner||Charente Steamship Co. Ltd|
|Built by||Hall, Russell & Co. Aberdeen|
|Engines by||Hall, Russell & Co. Aberdeen|
|Propulsion||Triple-expansion steam engine 484nhp|
To find out more about this wreck dive site, have a look at SS Inkosi wreck dive tour.