Ballarat

In March's (2017) edition of Sea Breezes, we carried the astonishing story of the SS Otaki and her battle with the German armed cruiser Moewe.

Andrew Bell reminded me, recently, of another 1917 loss, that of the troopship Ballarat taken over from Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. Quoting from Lloyds Register Dictionary of Disasters at Sea –

"The troopship Ballarat was approaching the entrance to the Channel on April 25th, 1917, when she was torpedoed by a German submarine. Including troops, who were all reinforcements from Victoria for the 2nd and 4th Australian Brigades, there were some 1,750 persons on board at the time. The day being Anzac Day the men were parading for a memorial service on board when, at 2.50pm, the torpedo struck the ship. One propeller was smashed, a 6in gun destroyed, the main steam pipe fractured and the after watertight bulkhead blown in. The Ballarat at once began to settle in the water, but admirable discipline was maintained and the men, who had been exercised at boat drill repeatedly by the colonel of the Victorian Scottish who was in command of the draft, went to their places in splendid order.

There was no loss of life, all the troops and crew being taken off by their own boats or by escorting destroyers. The captain of the Ballarat, Cdr GW Cockman, RNR, DSR, received the congratulations of the Admiralty on this splendid feat, and the Australian troops were congratulated by King George V.

This is an incredible story and the fact that there was no loss of life, says so much about the discipline, training and bravery of all onboard the Ballarat. Her wreck lies eight miles south of the Lizard.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - April 2017 Issue
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