Marmora (1903)

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Introduction

Although there have been a number of ships named Marmora, the name was only used once by P&O.

Marmora was the third of 10 'M Class' P&O passenger ships to be built before the start of WW1. The previous two had been built by Caird & Co. but this time it was the turn of Harland & Wolff. She was named after the Sea of Marmora (or Marmara) which lies between Gallipoli and Istanbul in Turkey.

Marmora served with P & O as a passenger liner until being requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1914. After conversion to an Armed Merchant Cruiser, she served as HMS Marmora and was sunk by German submarine UB-64 off the south coast of Ireland in 1918.

Marmora
Marmora. Allan C. Green Identifier H91.325/1254 [20]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Cargo/Passenger Ship (Ref)
Original Owners and Managers The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation
Country First Registered UK
Shipbuilder Harland & Wolff Ltd
Shipyard Belfast
Country where built UK
Yard Number 350
Official Number 116011
Call Sign Signal letters VJDS
Classification Society Lloyd's Register
Gross Tonnage 10,509
Deadweight (DWT) 5703
Net Tonnage 5,239
Length 530.4 Ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth or Beam 60.3 Ft
Depth 25.5 Ft
Draught 26 Ft 5.5"
Engine Type Quadruple-expansion Steam Engine
Engine Details 2 engines each with cylnders of bore 29", 42", 60", 85" and stroke 54"
Engine Builder Harland & Wolff Ltd
Engine Builder Works Belfast
Engine Builder Country UK
Boiler Details 5 double-ended and 2 single-ended boilers operating at 215 psi
Propulsion Type Twin Screw
Power 1,799 NHP
Maximum Speed 17
Cost of Vessel £344,084
Crew N/K
Passengers 377 first class, 187 second class
Cargo Capacity 233,320 Cu. Ft. inc 84,205 insulated

Additional Construction Information

  • 2 decks and spar deck
  • Fitted with refrigeration machinery
  • Fitted with electric light

The launch of Marmora was reported in the Northern Whig newspaper on 10 April 1903.

Cutting
Cutting from the Northern Whig [25]

Ship construction was always a dangerous business before better health and safety measures were put in place and one unfortunate driller met his death during the construction of Marmora as reported in the Irish News and Belfast Morning News on 20 May 1903.

Cutting
Cutting from the Irish News and Belfast Morning News [26]

Public Rooms

The high standard of finish of the public rooms, especially the ornate woodwork, is shown on the photos below.

Marmora
First Class dining room [23]
Marmora
First Class smoking room [23]
Marmora
Second Class Music room [23]

Marmora was registered at Belfast on 13 November 1903 and commenced trials after which she was handed over to P&O.

Marmora
View along boat deck during trials [23]

Career Highlights

Date Event
9 Mar 1903 Launched
20 Nov 1903 Completed
1 Jan 1904 Maiden voyage to India
3 Aug 1914 Hired by the UK Admiralty for use as an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC)
Nov 1916 Requisitioned by the UK Admiralty - this action was contested by the company
Feb 1917 Ownership returned to P&O but vessel continued to be used for war duties
23 Jul 1918 Torpedoed and sunk by UB 64

Service Pre-WW1

Marmora arrived at Tilbury Docks in early December 1903 and on 18th and 19th December P&O opened her to visitors for a small admission charge to raise money for the Passmore Edwards District Cottage Hospital at Tilbury.

Cutting
Advertisement for open days [28]

On 1 December 1903, P&O placed advertisements in several newspapers including the Daily News for Marmora's forthcoming maiden voyage to India on 1 January 1904.

Cutting
Advertisement for maiden voyage [27]

As advertised, Marmora left Tilbury on 1 January 1904 bound for Bombay and calling at Marseilles. The journey to Australia required bunker stops at Marseilles, Port Said, Aden, Columbo, Fremantle and Sydney; these ships consumed about 9,000 tons of coal during each round trip to Australia. After her maiden voyage Marmora undertook scheduled trips to Australia until the outbreak of WW1.

Postcard
Postcard showing Marmora [14]

In October 1907 Marmora repatriated survivors from cargo vessel Mervinian which had foundered in the Bay of Biscay in heavy weather causing the cargo to shift. Six people had drowned and the survivors had been in an open boat for a week before being picked up by Greek vessel Cristofore Vagliano and taken to Gibraltar.

Postcard
Postcard showing Marmora [14]

Service during WW1

Naval-History.net has logs of the voyages of HMS Marmora from which a lot of this information is derived. [22]

The Admiralty hired Marmora on 3 August 1914 - the day before the UK declared war on Germany. She was commissioned as an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) on 10 August 1914 and fitted with eight 4.7" guns. Work was done to convert her to an AMC at a yard in London - presumably immediately after commissioning as HMS Marmora. Given the speed this happened the work must have been planned some time ahead of commissioning.


HMS Marmora was attached to the Cape Verde division of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. As an AMC her complement and other features was as below: [22]

Complement:

  • 32 Officers
  • 133 Seamen
  • 38 Marines
  • 118 Engine Room team
  • 35 Non-executive ratings

Boats

  • 1 six-oared gig - 27 Ft
  • 2 five-oared whalers - 24 Ft
  • 1 steam launch
  • 5 eight-oared seamless steel lifeboats - 28.3 Ft
  • 3 eight-oared carvel built lifeboats - 28 Ft
Marmora
HMS Marmora. Catalogue No. SP 1075 (Surgeon Parkes collection of ships portraits) [24]

HMS Marmora set off for Las Palmas on 18 August 1914 and joined the task of intercepting and checking shipping on the route between Madiera and St Vincent in the West Indies. Wasting no time she intercepted the German three-masted auxiliary motor schooner Rhineland on 4 September 1914, took the crew prisoner and sunk the vessel with 11 rounds of gunfire. HMS Marmora spent much of the time through to 1917 patrolling the area between Freetown, the Cape Verde Islands, the Canary Islands, Gibraltar and the Caribbean.


On 23 June 1916 HMS Marmora arrived at Liverpool for a refit and update of her armaments. In November 1916 the government compulsorily purchased the vessel but, as with Moldavia, this was challenged by P&O and ownership reverted. There was another refit at Devonport in February 1917 after which HMS Marmora was assigned to escorting convoys between South Africa and South America and the UK. At some point she had been fitted with depth charge launchers as these were used against a submarine in 14 November 1917. She escorted her last Atlantic convoy from Rio de Janeiro to the UK

Loss

On 18 July 1918 HMS Marmora was instructed to leave Cardiff where she was docked and proceed to Dakar to escort convoy HD45 home to the UK. Early on 23 July and in the company of three other vessels a lookout spotted the tracks of two torpedoes but there was not time to take evasive action and both struck the ship with devastating effect. Within half an hour HMS Marmora was clearly beyond hope and Captain Woodward gave the order to abandon ship. The survivors were picked up by the accompanying ships, put aboard destroyer P67, and taken ashore at Milford Haven. The ship had been torpedoed by German submarine UB 64 captained by Otto von Schrader who during the course of WW1 sank 57 ships, damaged 6 more and took one as a prize.

Roll of Honour

The table below derived from data held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission provides details of those that lost their lives. Most of them were firemen or trimmers. Edward Gallagher (not Galloway as in the press cutting) rescued several of his colleagues but lost his life trying to rescue another.

Cutting
Cutting from the Dundee Courier 29 July 1918 [29]

Forename Surname Age D.O.D. Rank Organisation Cemetery/
Memorial
Grave Ref. Additional Information
David James Aston 19 23/07/1918 Fireman Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 30 Son of Samuel and Lucy Jane Aston of 13 Pera Rd. Taibach Port Talbot.
R Brazier 18 15/02/1919 Trimmer Mercantile Marine Reserve Liverpool (Ford) Roman Catholic Cemetery Screen Wall (SJ. 368). Son of John Brazier of 83 Latimer St. Liverpool.
Arthur George Daltrey 19 23/07/1918 Able Seaman Royal Navy Chatham Naval Memorial 28 Son of Mr. and Mrs. John Daltrey of 47 Copperfield Rd. Mile End London.
Thomas Fitzgerald 23/07/1918 Fireman Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 30 Husband of Mrs. E. Fitzgerald of 11 Bridge St. Swansea.
Edward Gallagher 26 23/07/1918 Leading Fireman Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 30 Son of James and Sophia Gallagher of 27 Beersbridge Rd. Belfast; husband of Nancy H. Gallagher of 2 Whitewell Rd. Belfast.
Edward Gammidge 20 23/07/1918 Able Seaman Royal Navy Chatham Naval Memorial 28 Son of Edward and Kate Gammidge of 18 Cleveland Place Infirmary Rd. Sheffield.
Alber A Hedley 16 23/07/1918 Trimmer Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 31 Son of James and Margery Hedley of 33 Villiers St. Sunderland.
Albert James Lindway 23/07/1918 Trimmer Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 31
Arthur Morris 24 23/07/1918 Fireman Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 31 Son of John and Gwenllian Morris of 26 Church St. Briton Ferry Glam.
Alfred Sargent 44 17/11/1916 Fireman Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 20 Son of Mark Richard and Sarah Ann Sargent of Woolwich London.
Edward Steward 23/07/1918 Fireman Mercantile Marine Reserve Plymouth Naval Memorial 31
Poppies




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