Sunday 11 February 1917 – We Lost 435


The Cunard cargo carrier Lycia under the command of Captain T A Chesters, sights a German submarine at 08:30 twenty miles northwest of the South Bishop Light.  By the time Captain Chesters has picked her up on the starboard beam, his ship has already been struck by a shot. Captain Chesters immediately alters the Lycia’s course so as to place the submarine astern, and he opens up at about 3,000 yards.  In the unequal duel that follows, the Lycia’s funnel, starboard boats, forward cabin, chart room, officers’ and engineers’ quarters are wrecked, and being unable to steer the ship under the growing force and accuracy of the enemy’s shell, Captain Chesters gives the order to abandon ship.  The crew takes to the port boat while the Captain, Chief Officer, Third Engineer, the Gunner and one of the boys manage to scramble aboard the starboard boat, which is dragging alongside. When the lifeboats clear the ship, the submarine ceases firing, submerges and the reappears alongside Captain Chesters’ boat. The submarine commander orders Captain Chesters to come aboard, which he does. The commander of the submarine then puts three of his crew in the boat together with eight bombs and sends her back to the Lycia where the German crewmen hang the bombs on each side of the rigging, and in the engine room. The ship’s papers, the breech plug of her gun, her telescopes and three cartridges are lowered into the boat, after which the safety pins are removed and the bombs placed below the waterline.  The boat is then ordered back to the submarine. Meanwhile, Captain Chesters, who has been treated very courteously, is asked by the U boat commander why he had fired his gun while not flying his Ensign.  The British Captain points out to him that before he could fire his gun, he had to remove the flagstaff. Captain Chesters is then allowed to return to his boat the bombs, a few minutes afterwards beginning to explode.  The submarine then goes in chase of another vessel that appears on the horizon, and shortly afterwards the Lycia sinks.  Her boats are picked up this evening by two minesweepers and the SS Ireland Moor, the crew being treated with the utmost hospitality and safely landed at Holyhead.

Britain issues the Balfour Declaration proclaiming support for a Jewish state in Palestine.

Today’s losses include:

  • A man whose son will be born next July and will become a Jurist
  • A man whose son will be born next April and killed at El Alamein in May 1941
  • The 3rd son-in-law of the 9th Lord Belhaven and Stanton to be killed in the Great War
  • Multiple families that will lose two sons in the Great War
  • A man who will have two brothers lost in the Great War
  • The son of a member of the clergy

 Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Major Bertram Joseph Wakley (North Lancashire Regiment) dies of wounds at home at age 37. His son who is named after him will be born in July and become a judge on the south eastern circuit. Major Wakley is the last of three son-in-laws of the 9th Lord Belhaven and Stanton to lose his life in the Great War.
  • Captain James Middlemass Thorburn (Royal Garrison Artillery attached Royal Flying Corps) is killed in action at age 31. His son will be born in April and killed in action at El Alamein in May 1941. His brother was killed in March 1915.
  • Lieutenant Herbert Charles Collins (Manchester Regiment) dies of illness on service at age 27. He is the last of three brothers who lose their lives in the Great War.
  • Second Lieutenant Samuel Grant Mellis Smith (Indian Army Reserve of Officers attached Gurkha Rifles) is killed in action in Mesopotamia at age 30. He is the son of the late Reverend George Smith.
  • Private Christopher Williamson (Honourable Artillery Company) is killed at age 30. His brother will be killed in September.