Royal Mail Ship S S Leinster (Captain William Birch) operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, serving as the Dublin-Holyhead mail-boat is torpedoed by the U-boat UB-123. Having departed the Dublin ferry port at Kingstown (now re-named Dun Laoghaire) she is sunk just outside Dublin Bay at a point four miles east of the Kish light. When she goes down 501 people perished — the greatest single loss of life at sea in the Irish Sea. Despite many previous requests for a naval escort the Admiralty relied on the Leinster’s speed as her only protection from U-boat attack. She had been unsuccessfully attacked before but the torpedoes missed their target.
On her final morning she carries a crew of 77 and 694 passengers, of whom 500 are soldiers. Initially UB-123 fires two torpedoes; one misses, passing harmlessly across the ship’s bow, but the other strikes the Leinster mid-ship forward of the bridge. The ship begins to settle very slowly bow down in the water. In response to her distress call the British destroyers HMS Lively and HMS Mallard go to her assistance. It is believed that at this stage she could have been saved by being towed back into Dublin or Dun Laoghaire harbour but the captain of the submarine decides to administer the coup de grace and finish her off with a third torpedo. This he does as the Leinster continues taking on water and is disembarking her passengers into the lifeboats in rough seas. One hundred seventy-six of the 757 people on board are lost, including
- Captain Birch who has been wounded in the initial attack and drowns when the lifeboat he is in swamps in heavy seas and capsizes while trying to transfer survivors to HMS Mallard. Others killed include
- Lieutenant Commander George Richard Colin Campbell (Royal Navy Compass Department) age 34 the superintendent of the Magnetic Compass Department and inventor of the Campbell-Bennett aperiodic compass who is travelling with his wife and 4½ year old daughter. All are lost. He is the son of the Reverend Edward F Campbell.
- Clerk shorthand typist Josephine Carr (Women’s Royal Naval Service) killed at age 19 after being in the service less than 30 days. She is the first WREN killed on active service.
- Able Seaman David White (HMS Pembroke) is lost at age 41. His wife is pregnant and will name their son George Paul Leinster White.
- Lieutenant Anchitel Edward Fletcher Boughey (Rifle Brigade) drowns at age 26. He is the son of the Reverend Anchitel Harry Fletcher Boughey (Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge).
- Captain Harold Locke (Irish Regiment) is killed at age 45. He is the son of Frederick Locke DL JP.
- Captain Robert Ernest Lee (Royal Army Medical Corps) is killed at age 35. His brother was killed in action on Gallipoli in August 1915 and they are sons of the late Edward Lee JP.
- Second Lieutenant Douglas Gilbert Hayward Aldworth (Berkshire Regiment) is killed at age 19. He is the son of the Reverend Arthur Ernest Aldworth Vicar of Laverstock.
- J Shaw-Jones dies of injuries received in the sinking. He is a veteran of the South Africa War and rejoined the army at the outbreak of the Great War and was wounded twice and invalided out. He then worked in the Factory Audit Department of the Ministry of Munitions and was returning from a business trip.
- Corporal Samuel Eddy (Welsh Regiment) is killed at age 25. His brother was killed in action earlier this year.
Today’s losses include:
- The co-inventor or the Campbell-Bennett aperiodic compass with his wife and young son
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- The first WREN (Women’s Royal Navy Service) member killed in action
- Multiple sons of Justices of the Peace
- A twice wounded discharge veteran currently working in the Department of Ministry of Munitions
- Multiple battalion commanders
- Multiple families that will lose two and three sons in the Great War
- The son of a Member of Parliament
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Lieutenant Colonel George Ernest Beaty-Pownall DSO (Border Regiment commanding 1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers) dies of wounds at age 41. His brother has been killed in March 1917.
- Lieutenant Colonel Philip Edward Kelly (Royal Irish Fusiliers commanding 9th (North Irish Horse) Royal Irish Fusiliers) is killed at age 29.
- Lieutenant Colonel George Bissett DSO MC (commanding 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers) is killed at age 28.
- Major Leonard Coulthard Hill MC (Royal Field Artillery attached Fourth Army Artillery School) is accidentally killed at age 31. He is the son of the Reverend Percival Oakley Hill.
- Captain Kenneth Sutherland Rudd (West Yorkshire Regiment) is killed at age 24. He is the son of Prebendary Eric John Sutherland Rudd Rector of Souldern.
- Captain George Goldon Dilliway (Army Service attached Camel Transport Corps) is killed in Palestine at age 28. His brother was killed on the first day of the battle of the Somme.
- Captain Robert Chaworth-Musters MC (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) dies at home. His two brothers have previously been killed in action in the Great War.
- Lieutenant John Hackett (HMS Nimrod) dies of illness at home. He is the son of the Reverend John Hackett Rector of Orlingbury.
- Lieutenant Richard Henry Hocken (Canadian Light Horse Regiment) is killed at age 26. He is the son of H C Hocken MP.
- Lieutenant John Carruth (Dublin Fusiliers attached Irish Rifles) dies of wounds. His brother was killed in September 1916.
- Second Lieutenant Victor James French (Irish Guards) is killed in action at age 20. He is the son of ‘Sir’ Somerset French KCMG.
- Driver George Lawrence (Royal Garrison Artillery) dies of pneumonia at age 20. His brother died of wounds in July 1916.
- Private Frederick William Knight (Lord Strathcona’s Horse) is killed in action at age 22. His brother was killed in May of this year.
- Private Maurice Rudolph Hannam (Royal Air Force) dies on service in Canada at age 18. His brother was killed in November 1916 and the boys came from Brooklyn New York.
- Private James Samuel Griffiths (Manchester Regiment) is killed. His brother was killed in July 1916.
- Private Herbert Bennett (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed in Mesopotamia at age 33. One brother died of wounds as a prisoner of war in August 1917 while a second died of wounds at home in September 1916.