News from 1915 Southland Torpedoed

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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The Advertiser, Adelaide, 23 November 1915
Retrieved from the National Library of Australia web site,
http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/


AUSTRALIAN HEROES
---
THE SOUTHLAND AFFAIR
---
A SUBLIME STORY

---
Melbourne, November 22
---
The Minister of Defence (Senator Pearce) has made available a copy of the
special order of the day issued by general headquarters in regard to events
in relation to H.M. transport Southland, which reads:

The commander-in-chief publishes this plain account of the submarine attack
upon H.M.T. Southland, without any comment except his compliments to the
volunteer stokers. The facts, he feels, are best left to speak for
themselves. On September 2, 1915, the Southland, transport (Captain Kelk),
was struck by a torpedo from an enemy submarine at 9.45 a.m., being then
south of Mudros Bay. A second torpedo passed just astern of the transport a
few minutes later. Almost immediately after the explosion the ship listed
noticeably to starboard, also by the head. Both the fore holds were soon
awash above the level of the upper troop deck. The troops on board ---the
21st Battalion and one company of the 23rd Battalion A.I.F.---were just
about to parade. They fell in just as the ordinary drill and waited for
orders to be passed from the boat deck for the required numbers to be sent
up, without any sign of anxiety to get an early place. A large number of
troops had to stand for nearly two hours on the enclosed promenade deck of
what during the first 30 or 40 minutes was believed to be a sinking ship.
The first boats on the davits were lowered quickly and successfully, but
considerable delay took place before the boats inboard could be got to the
davits and lowered with the assistance of the troops. Two boat loads, among
which were Colonel Linton and the 6th Infantry Brigade Staff, were capsized
in spite of all precautions, and one was overturned causing the majority of
the casualties. Private Smith, of C Company, 21st Battalion, distinguished
himself by diving from the deck to prevent the patent raft from drifting
away. This raft had to be lowered by one fall, owing to the other having
jammed and been cut. The work of loosening the horse-stall fittings and
other woodwork was taken in hand
systematically as soon as the first boat load left the ship, and ample was
soon available for use should the bulkhead give way. At 11.30 a.m. the
hospital ship Neuralia arrived with boats swung out ready for lowering. At
that hour the only troops remaining on board were the staff of the 2nd
Australian Division, a few details,, and a party of volunteer stokers under
Captain M. Wellington, adjutant 21st Battalion, who had offered to help the
master to get the ship into port. Boats from the Neuralia took off to that
ship the divisional headquarters and detail, and also picked up boats and
swimmers in the vicinity. Closely following the hospital ship other vessels
arrived which soon picked up the remaining boats, swimmers, and men afloat
on wreckage.

The Southland, escorted by a destroyer, reached Mudros safely on the evening
of September 2, drawing 34 ft. forward and 20 ft. aft. The following is the
list of officers of the Australian Imperial Force, comprising the volunteer
party who worked the H.M.T. Southland into port:---Captain Nelson
Wellington, adjutant 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry; Captain H. Garrett, A
Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Lieutenant A. H. Crowther, A
Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Second Lieutenant J. W.
Pearce, B Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Lieutenant J. T.
Hamilton, A.R.A.M., 2nd Division, Signal Company, 2nd Australian Division;
Lieutenant R. V. Stewart, 29th Divisional Train, Imperial Army; Sergeant F.
S. Foras, C Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Lance-Corporal R.
W. A. Hearn, A Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Private V. C.
Williamson, B Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Private D.M.
Patterson, C Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Private C. A.
Sellway, C Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; E. L. White, C
Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Private A. G. Waugh, A
Company, 21st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; H. V. Izzard, D Company, 23rd
Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Private L. A. Homewood, B Company, 23rd
Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Private G. Brown, B Company, 21st
Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade; Sapper H. H. Fishborne, Australian
Engineers, No. 1 Field Company; and Sapper Slade, 2nd Division, Signal
Company, 2nd Australian Division.

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Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Dec 29, 2000
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This is a fuller version of what's in the NYT article that started this thread off, way back when.

The Argus, Melbourne, 22 November 1915

"Courage and Coolness"
---
Orders Obeyed Promptly

---
[By Capt. C. E. W. BEAN, Official Reporter with the Australian Expeditionary
Forces]

The scenes on the transport Southland recall the story of the Birkenhead. It
was a cloudless, sunny morning, with a fresh breeze and a choppy sea. The
Southland was bowling along not far from the journey's end. The only land in
sight was the distant sun-bathed shores of one of the Greek islands.

Exactly at 9.43 o'clock in the morning some of those on deck saw the wake of
a torpedo travelling straight for the ship. They watched hopelessly. Next
moment there was a loud explosion. A hole 40ft. by 12ft. had been blown in
on the port side forward, and some of the deck stanchions had been blown
clean through the opposite side of the ship, making a hole there also. There
came the sound of water rushing in.

The men turned out immediately. There had been boat drill on the voyage, and
the men ran straight to their proper places and lined up there, the officers
shouting, "Steady, boys. That's the one thing---steady." The men's stations
were partly in the half-darkness of the twin decks and partly in the
sunlight on the upper deck.

The Southland was listing heavily to port. Afterwards the list changed with
a lurch to starboard, but the men stood there. The discipline was perfect.
In the forward parts of the ship they could see the hatch broken in and
water washing about the dark space of the hold, with the bodies of some of
their comrades who were killed by the explosion floating about in it.
Occasionally a man would turn his head and look down to see how the water
was making.

"Bad luck that two and a half months in the desert should end in this," said
one man. "Are we downhearted?" called another. "No!" they all shouted. "Are
we afraid to die?" called someone else. "No!" they shouted again. Every now
and then the sharp order would come down. "Twenty men wanted to clear
boats." A party would be immediately detached, spring up the companion to
the boat deck, whilst the others remained steady in the ranks below.

"Are there enough boats for all?" one of the men asked of his officer.
"Don't know," was the reply. "The best thing we can do is to cut down some
of these horse-boxes in case they are necessary." So the party set to work
with might and main, chopping down part of the temporary fittings.

Meanwhile, up in the sunlight some boats had been launched, but owing to
haste one or two overturned. The order came, "Six men wanted to jump into
the sea and right an overturned lifeboat." Six men came forward instantly,
dived over, righted the overturned boat, and baled her out. Most of the
boats were brought round to the gangways or rope-ladder, and the men filed
in from there. Other boats were lowered from the davits with the men already
in.

By 12 o'clock the last boat had left the ship. It contained a general and
his staff, who were travelling by this ship. During the long wait the men
had amused themselves singing songs. There remained on the Southland,
Captain Kelk, his officers, some members of the crew and a number of
Australian officers and men, who volunteered to stoke the ship and help
bring her to port. Portion of the scratch crew of the Southland proved worse
than useless from the first moment of the excitement, and though other
members of the crew gave an example of courage and coolness, the great part
of the crew's work had from the first to be done by the soldiers. A mining
engineer helped to get the pumps going, officers and privates stoked, and
the Southland was eventually able to struggle to Mudros.

An officer who saw the incident tells me that after the torpedoing of the
Southland a boat containing Brigadier-General Linton was near the ship, when
the boat overturned. Brigadier-General Linton was seen in the water swimming
well. Someone shouted to him, "How are you getting on, sir?" He
answered, "I am doing well; save the others first." The rescuers accordingly
continued picking up others, leaving Brigadier-General Linton, who was a
strong swimmer, amongst the last to be
picked up. When taken from the water he was alive, but much exhausted. He
died shortly afterwards from shock and exposure.

(Copyright Reserved by the Crown)

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