March 22, 2013 - 14:19 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The fact that SS Armenian once sailed the high seas and worked the cargo routes of the North Atlantic is news to most people, including Armenians, Tigran Kalaydjian said in his article published in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator.
“Built as a freighter, the SS Armenian was a valuable transportation vessel in the profitable cargo service that existed between Great Britain and North America at the turn of the 20th century. The exact location of its final resting place remained a mystery until 2008, when its wreck was discovered off the western coast of England and it was seen for the first time since World War I.
The SS Armenian was built in 1895 by Harland & Wolff, the Belfast shipyard that would later become famous for making the legendary trio Titanic, Olympic and Britannic. The vessel was 156 meters long and had a displacement of 8,825 tons.
The ship was launched on November 25, 1895 as the SS Indian for Frederick Leyland & Co, but wasn’t delivered until September of the following year, by which time it had been renamed the SS Armenian.
With very little contact between Great Britain and a nation called Armenia, the clue behind the sudden name change lies in the events inundating the British press throughout 1895. During this time, the sultan and the ruling elite of the Ottoman Empire were diligently putting into action their final solution to the ‘Armenian Question,’ a solution which required the destruction of the empire’s Armenian minority as a cohesive unit and its dispersal throughout the country.
The SS Armenian began its final voyage in June 1915 with 175 men onboard. It was chartered to carry a cargo of 1,422 mules from the US to Bristol, England. The animals were intended as replacements for the horses that had been lost in the fighting in France.
At around 6:30 p.m. on June 28, while heading northeast off Trevose Head, Cornwall, a watchman on the Armenian sighted a German submarine. In what proved to be an erroneous decision, Captain James Trickey ordered the ship ahead full-steam in an attempt to outrun the U-boat, which turned out to be the U-24. The captain was signaled to stop and surrender after two shots were fired across the ship’s bow, but he refused. The U-boat’s commander, Rudolf Schneider, then opened fire with the deck gun, scoring several hits on the Armenian, one shot taking out the Marconi room.
After more than a dozen men lay dead or injured on the deck, Trickey finally agreed to surrender. Much to his surprise, he and the crew were treated well by the Germans from that point on. With several lifeboats damaged from the shelling, they were allowed to take the remaining boats and make for the Cornish coast. The Armenian was then sunk by two torpedoes fired into its stern. It went down in minutes.
The survivors were picked up the following day by the Belgian steam trawler President Stevens. Four of the injured died before they could be rescued. 29 men lost their lives, including 19 Americans.