HMT Marquette

HMT Marquette

HMT Marquette

H.M.Transport S.S. Marquette had a short military existence and was torpedoed in Oct 1915 when sailing out of Alexandria Harbour under command of Captain John Bell Findlay.

The Marquette, official number 106972, was a 7,057 gross ton ship, length 486.5ft x beam 52.3ft, x31.3ft, one funnel, four masts, single screw, triple-expansion engines, 770 NHp and a speed of 14 knots. There was accommodation for 120-1st class passengers. Built in 1897 by A. Stephen & Sons Ltd, Glasgow as the Bodicea for Wilson's and Furness-Leyland Line, she was launched on 25th Nov.1897. She made her maiden voyage from Glasgow to London and New York on January 15th 1898.

Later that year she became one of 5 sister ships acquired for the Atlantic Transport Line for around £140,000 each. She made only one trip across the Atlantic in service with her new owners before, on September 15th 1898, she was renamed SS Marquette. She then began further regular sailings across the Atlantic. By September 1905, she had been transferred to the Red Star Line and, once fitted with radio, she commenced the Antwerp to Philadelphia service for that Company.

By the end of 1914, she had completed her final Atlantic crossing, as Antwerp and other Belgian ports had fallen into German hands. She was then requisitioned for use as a British war transport ship, for which she was re-painted grey.

Less than 12 months later, she was torpedoed without warning, and sunk in the Aegian Sea with the loss of many lives.On her final voyage, she sailed in the late afternoon on October 19 1915 for Salonica, Greece.  Her departure was fraught as a rousing send off with cheers and songs by British and French sailors manning warships in port was interrupted by a fault in the steering gear.  A fire in a case on the deck caused a further diversion until it was thrown overboard.  At dusk the transport was joined by its escort and the portholes were blacked out. The passengers and crew carried out lifeboat drills, as there were rumours there was German U-boats in the area.

On the evening of the fourth day the escort, the French destroyer "Tirailleur", left the convey. At 0915 the next morning, October 23th Capt. Dave N. Isaacs NZMC (the Quatermaster) was out strolling on deck with several nurses and drew their attention to a "straight thin green line about 50 yards away streaking through the water towards the ship", a periscope was seen cutting the water, and a terrific explosion on the forward starboard side signalled the ship had been struck by a torpedo.  At once the steamer Marquette began to list to port, but righted herself and then began to sink by the bow. She sank in thirteen minutes with a heavy loss of life - 128 troops including (17 NZMC staff), 10 nurses and 29 crewmen.  Total loss 167. She was torpedoed off Platanona Point, 30 to 36 miles (57.5 kilometres), south from the anti-submarine net at Salonica Bay, which would have meant safety, by the U.35 under Lt-Cdr Waldemar Kophamel. 

The U-35 was commissioned into the German Imperial Navy on November 3rd, 1914. She was powered by 2 diesel engines which gave her a submerged speed of around 9 knots. She was 67.80 meters long, 6.32 meters at the widest point, 3.6 meters from keel to water deck and she displaced 878 tons. She could carry 6 torpedoes. Armed with 4 torpedo tubes, 2 at the bow and 2 at the stern, she was brought into service in the eastern Mediterranean to support the struggling Austrian's and Turks. The U-35 was to become the most devastating U-boat in WW1, holding the record for tonnage sunk at 224 ships. Not all of U-35's targets were sunk using her valuable torpedoes; some were sunk using her deck cannon after the crew had been allowed to leave the ship.

Many of the deaths and injures to the nurses were due to inexperienced men (soldiers helping out as some crew members had not turned up at their stations for various reasons) lowering the lifeboats and the angle of the sinking ship. Only one lifeboat filled with nurses managed to get away and that was half filled with water. The survivors floated for hours in intense cold clinging to rafts, debris, etc, before being picked up utterly exhausted by rescue ships. Those who died on Saturday 23 October 1915 when the Marquette went down are commentated on the Mikra Memorial. The Mikra Memorial, at the south end of Mikra British Cemetery, commemorates almost 500 nurses, officers and men of the Commonwealth forces who died when troop transports and hospital ships were lost in the Mediterranean, and who have no grave but the sea.

1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in Gallipoli