News from 1916: Cymric is Torpedoed and Sunk

Mark Baber

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[MAB Note: From the fifth paragraph on, "this port" and similar terms refer to New York.]

The New York Times, 9 May 1916

LINER CYMRIC IS TORPEDOED OFF IRISH COAST
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Great White Star Vessel Was Bound to Liverpool from New York
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AFLOAT AT LAST ACCOUNTS
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Carries a Crew of 110 Officers and Men, but Has No Passengers Aboard
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BIG CARGO OF WAR STORES
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Crew Believed to Include a Score of Americans---Ship Had Several Escapes from Submarines
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QUEENSTOWN, (via London, Tues­day, May 9.)---The Cymric was torpe­doed at 4 o'clock Monday afternoon. It is reported that she is still afloat and is proceeding to an Irish port.
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LONDON, May 8.--The 13,000-ton White Star Line steamship Cymric, which for some time has been engaged in freight service, has been torpedoed by a German submarine, according to advices received here.­

The Cymric left New York April 29 with an enormous cargo of war muni­tions. As she usually makes the voyage from New York to Liverpool in ten days, she was therefore within a day or two of her destination. It is considered probable, in the absence of definite de­tails, that the disaster to the Cymric occurred off the west coast of Ireland, but whether on the northerly or south­erly route cannot be stated.

The fate of the steamship is not yet known, although an early message re­ceived in London reported that the Cymric was sinking. The crew aboard numbered about 100 men, but the steamer carried no passengers.
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The dispatch filed at Queenstown would seem to indicate that the Cymric had been attacked off the southwest or south coast of Ireland, possibly not far from where the Lusitania went down.

When the Cymric sailed from this port on April 29 she carried a crew of 110 officers and men and one of the largest cargoes of munitions of war yet shipped. None of these men is definitely known to be an American, although it was said unofficially yesterday that there were probably twenty Americans among them. J. J. MacPherson, the British Vice Consul in charge of shipping, said that eight new men were shipped on the Cymric for her last voyage, and that none of these was American. During the vessel's stay here twelve of her crew deserted and these eight were shipped to replace them

In addition to the regular crew three officers and two seamen of other British vessels, who had been stranded in this port, were being sent home.

According to the line's officials, the Cymric was in their service, denial be­ing made that she had been taken over by the British Government. There was a very small amount of commercial goods shipped on the vessel, practically the entire cargo consisting of more than 18,000 tons of munitions and other war material. While no intimate details of the munitions could be obtained yesterday, the manifest showed that the Clmric [sic] carried:

8 cases of firearms.
13 cases of guns.
80 cases of rifles.
820 cases of Gaines (gun covers.)
590 cases of primers.
2,163 pieces of forgings.
11,049 cases of empty shells.
300 cases of cartridge cases.
40 cases of aeroplanes and parts.
81 cases of tractors and parts.
62 cases of lathes.
7,554 barrels of lubricating oil.
60 cases of steel tubes.
107 cases of copper tubes.
1,768 plates of spelter.
20 cases of gun parts.
6 cases of bayonets.
624 cases of rubber boots and shoes.
220 cases of fuse heads.
7 cases of empty projectiles.
122 cases of forgings.
8,600 cases of cartridges.
6,720 cases of fuses.
18 cases of automobiles.
1,247 cases of agricultural machinery.
1,231 bundles of shovels.
831 bales of leather.
400 reels of barbed wire.
21,908 bars of copper.
1,056 cases of brass rods.

Captain F. E. Beadnell, who has been in the service of the White Star Line for more than twenty years and who was formerly commander of the Baltic, was in command of the Cymric.

The vessel was built by Harland & Wolff, Ltd., in Belfast, and was launched in 1898. She has a gross tonnage of 13,370 and is 585 feet long, with a beam of 64 feet and a depth of about 38 feet.

Never a fast vessel, the Cymric is rated as a ten or eleven day ship, and was one day from port at the time it was reported that she was sinking. For the last six weeks she has not carried passengers, and when in that service only had accommodations for one class.

The Cymric has had several narrow escapes from submarines during her previous voyages. On March 28, 1915, she was less than twenty miles away from the Falaba when the latter was torpedoed, having sailed a short time before that vessel. Captain Beadnell received the Falaba's call for help, but was forced to obey the Admiralty instructions and refrain from going to her assistance.

On Sept 26, 1915, when the Cymric reached here, members of her crew said that she was escorted Into Liverpool by a cruiser and two torpedo boats, and anounced [sic] that they believed that the Hesperian was torpedoed in mistake for their vessel, as both looked alike.
When the Cymric arrived here on Jan. 23, 1916, carrying $100,000 in gold and $26,250,000 in American securities, Captain Beadnell said that he had received a wireless warning shortly after clearing from Liverpool, that there were German submarines about and warning him to be on the lookout. This warning came from the Admiral at Queenstown, and the Cymric was met by three heavily armed patrol boats, which escorted her for more than fifty miles, or to the end of the danger zone. On that trip she carried a number of passengers.

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Mark Baber

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The New York Times, 10 May 1916

CYMRIC IS LOST; HAD NO WARNING, HER OFFICERS SAY
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White Star Steamship Sinks at Sea Many Hours After Being Torpedoed
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FIVE OF HER MEN ARE KILLED
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Others Are Landed on Irish Coast---No Americans in the Crew
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WASHINGTON SEEKING FACTS
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State Department Will Ascertain if German Pledge Was Violated by Submarine
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Cymric Got No Warning, Say Officers Who Saw U-Boat
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BANTRY, May 9 (via London, May 10)---One hundred and seven members of the crew of the Cymric arrived at Bantry this evening. Several, suffering from broken limbs, were sent to the hospital.

The officers of the Cymric declare that the vessel was torpedoed without warning. A submarine was seen, but it disappeared immediately after firing the torpedo.

The Cymric, although badly damaged, made her way for some hours, but finally sank. Many of the crew, on their arrivel [sic] here, were barefooted and only partially clad.
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Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES

LONDON, May 9---The White Star steamship Cymric, which was torpedoed yesterday, sank this morning.

The American Embassy has been notified by the American Consul at Liverpool that he understood there were no Americans aboard the Cymric. The vessel carried no passengers, and the crew, the Consul said, was entirely British.

The Embassy has not been informed as to the incidents surrounding the torpedoing of the ship, and is waiting to ascertain if the Germans gave warning and otherwise conformed to the promises to America in the latest note.

THE NEW YORK TIMES correspondent is authorized officialy [sic] to say that the Cymric was unarmed.
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By The Associated Press

LONDON, May 9 - Lloyd's reports that the White Star liner Cymric sank at 3 o'clock this morning. All those who were on board at the time were saved.

American Consul Frost, at Queenstown, has telegraphed to Consul General Skinner here that he has gone to Bantry to meet the survivors.

Consul Frost's message announced that five members of the crew of the Cymric were killed by an explosion.

London dispatches yesterday said the 13,000-ton steamship Cymric had been torpedoed by a German submarine. A message from Queenstown last night said the vessel, torpedoed at 4 o'clock Monday afternoon, was still afloat and was proceeding to an Irish port. The Cymric left New York on April 29 with a large cargo of war munitions for Liverpool. She had been in service as a freighter for several weeks, and carried no passengers.

[A number of paragraphs discussing the diplomatic implications of Cymric’s sinking have been omitted.]
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NO AMERICANS ON CYMRIC
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Vessel Not in Admiralty's Service, Say Owners
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The first news of the attack on the liner Cymric by a submarine arrived at the White Star office, No. 9 Broadway, at 1:30 o'clock yesterday morning. It read: "Regret to report that Cymric was torpedoed at noon today."

This was followed by a second message at 6 o'clock which said: “Cymric sank at 3 a. m. off Irish coast. Believe crew all saved."

A final message arrived here later in the afternoon and read: "One hundred and seven of crew landed in Ireland. Reported five killed by explosion. No details yet."

There were no Americans among her crew, the agents said, and this was borne out by the British Vice Consul, who signed eight men for the Cymric's last voyage.

The Cymric was built in 1898 as a one-cabin passenger vessel, with steerage accommodations. She was built for the Liverpool-Boston service, and had the biggest cargo capacity in the fleet, about 18,000 tons. After the war started the Cymric was placed in the New York service and carried second and third class passengers up to Jan. 28 of this year, when she left here for Liverpool with sixty-two cabin and sixty-four steerage passengers.

Her cost when new was about $1,000,000, but on account of the high freight rates she would have sold easily for $5,000,000.

The Cymric was engaged in carrying freight for the Allies at so much per ton, as scores of steamships are doing. She was not on Admiralty service, it was pointed out yesterday by a Customs official. Had she been, her Captain might have been unable to obtain clearance papers under the neutrality laws of the United States.

It is understood that the British Government carries half the risk of the ships which are engaged in carrying war munitions from the United States and Canada to England.

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Mark Baber

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[MAB Note: This concludes the coverage of Cymric's sinking.]

The New York Times, 11 May 1916

FINDS NO AMERICANS WERE ON THE CYMRIC
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Consul Frost Makes Report---London Thinks Attack Won't Cause Complications
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BANTRY, Ireland, May 10---Details of the sinking of the White Star liner Cymric were given today by members of the crew who were landed here. They say that the torpedo which destroyed the ship struck the engine room. The explosion blew all the skylights off and extinguished the lights throughout the vessel.

Four men were killed by the explosion and the Chief Steward was drowned trying to reach a boat when the crew abandoned the ship.

One hundred and seven members of the crew took to the boats soon after the liner was torpedoed, but returned when it was seen that the steamer was not in immediate danger of sinking. They remained on board for two hours when a sloop which had heard the Cymric's wireless calls for help 100 miles away arrived and took them off. The sloop stood by the stricken liner until she sank at 3:30 in the morning.

All of the crew were British subjects except one Russian and two Belgians. The officers say that the Cymric was unarmed. There were also six passengers on board, members of the British Consular service, all of whom were saved.
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LONDON, May 10---Wesley Frost, American Consul at Queenstown, sent a telegram today from Bantry to the American Embassy here announcing definitely that there were no Americans an board the Cymric. Mr. Frost said no warning was given, but that the wake of a torpedo was seen, and confirmed previous statements that the vessel was not armed. The weather was rough, and the members of the crew were in the boats from 1:30 A. M. until 9 P. M.

In official circles here it is not expected that the sinking of the White Star liner Cymric will cause a breach between Germany and the United States. While, according to the Admiralty. the Cymric was an ordinary freighter on which the Government was sending freight in common with private shippers, the fact that no Americans were on board and the doubtful status of the ship create a belief that Washington is hardly likely to make an issue of the sinking.

It is known that American officials here are making only the usual inquiries.
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WASHINGTON, May 10---This dispatch was received today from Consul Frost of Queenstown, who was at Bantry yesterday:

No Americans on Cymric. Five British lives lost. No warning given by submarine. Wake of torpedo was seen after explosion. Cymric was not armed. Weather rather rough. Crew in open boats from 1:30 to 9 P. M., May 8, former hour being that of the explosion. Cymric sank 3 o'clock this morning.
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ROLL OF CYMRIC'S DEAD
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Chief Steward Malcolm, Well Known to Travelers, a Victim
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The agents of the White Star Line a 9 Broadway received a cabled dispatch yesterday giving the names of the members of the crew of the Cymric who were killed by the explosion when the steamship was torpedoed on May 8 off the coast of Ireland.

The first on the list is J. B. Malcolm, the Chief Steward, who was well known to hundreds of Americans traveling regularly by the White Star Line. He was on deck at the time. The others were down below at their respective duties working the ship. Watts, third engineer, Morton, sixth engineer, and Beregan, fireman. Dudley, another fireman, had a broken leg, but he was carried into one of the lifeboats before the Cymric sank.

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Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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Very interesting articles there, Mark. As always, thank you for posting the information.

Here's a postcard of her in better times, that I purchased on ebay last year:

100706.jpg


It shows her in port at Boston. The postcard was mailed onboard Cymric from Queenstown on July 26, 1908.