Medina (1911)



Although there have been many ships named Medina, the name was only used once by P&O.

Medina was the final member of 10 'M Class' P&O passenger ships to be built before the start of WW1 and like the earliest of the class she was built by Caird & Co of Greenock. It is not known why this name was chosen, and there are a number of suggestions about this, but we do know that the name was originally intended for the 9th Member of the class but was not available so she was named Maloja instead. The name became available by the time this ship was built.

Medina was hired and fitted out for use as a Royal Yacht for a ceremonial visit to India before she could commence her intended duties with P&O. As soon as she returned to Britain she was rapidly refitted for normal duties. She was not requisitioned by the Admiralty during WW1 like many of her sisters and continued to provide passenger services until torpedoed in 1917.

Medina. Allan C. Green. Accession No. H91.325/94 [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 Caird & Co Ltd
Shipyard Greenock
Country where built UK
Yard Number 317
Official Number 131849
Call Sign HTQV
Classification Society Lloyd's Register
Gross Tonnage 12,350
Deadweight (DWT) N/K
Net Tonnage 6,700
Length 550 Ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth or Beam 62.8 Ft
Depth 34.5 Ft
Draught 29 Ft 9 7/8"
Engine Type Quadruple-expansion Steam Engine
Engine Details N/K
Engine Builder Caird & Co Ltd
Engine Builder Works Greenock
Engine Builder Country UK
Boiler Details N/K
Propulsion Type Twin Screw
Power N/K
Maximum Speed 16.5
Cost of Vessel £332,377
Crew N/K
Passengers 450 1st class, 220 2nd class
Cargo Capacity N/K

Additional Construction Information

  • Fitted with Marconi radio equipment
  • Watertight bulkheads to latest standards and cellular double-bottom ballast
  • Electric fans throughout including passenger cabins
  • Equipped with refrigeration machinery

The launching of the previous few 'M Class' vessels had been pretty low key but this was different and she was launched on 14 March 1911 with the naming ceremony being performed by Lady Alice Shaw-Stewart, the daughter of the late Marquis of Bath and wife of Sir Hugh Shaw-Stewart, a local dignitary. The event was given a lot of publicity - particularly by the Daily Mirror which revealed that there were plans to use the vessel for the attendance of King George V and Queen Mary at the Durbar being held to commemorate their becoming Emperor and Empress of India.

'The Scotsman' reported the launch on 15 March 1911 and described some of the internal features.

Cutting from 'The Scotsman' [56]
Cutting from the 'Daily Mirror' 16 March 1911 showing Medina just before and during launching [55]
Cutting from the 'Daily Mirror' 16 March 1911 showing Medina just after launching [55]

The photos below show the standard of some of the public rooms aboard Medina.

First Class dining room on Medina [1]
First Class music room as equipped as the Royal dining room on Medina [1]

Career Highlights

Date Event
14 Mar 1911 Launched
3 Sep 1911 Completed
10 October 1911 Commissioned as HMS Medina
11 November 1911 Departed Portsmouth for Bombay as a temporary Royal Yacht
5 February 1912 Returned to Portsmouth and returned to builders for reconversion for commercial service
28 June 1912 First commercial service to Australia
28 April 1917 Torpedoed and sunk

Service Pre-WW1

As already stated, Medina was hired for use as a Royal Yacht for a trip to India right at the start of her career and temporarily became HMS Medina. I am in the course of documenting everything to do with this trip in a separate section of my website and will provide a link from here when it is finished. I will just say here that she was commissioned on 10 October 1911 and left Portsmouth for Bombay on 11 November 1911. She returned to Portsmouth on 5 February 1912 and was taken back to Caird & Co to be refitted for commercial service. This included removing a temporary third mast that had been installed to carry the standards, replacing derricks and other equipment that had been removed to way for the third mast, and painting the hull and funnels black.

Medina left for her maiden commercial trip to Australia on 28 June 1912. The addition gave P&O ten 'M Class' ships to service a fortnightly Australia route.

In 1913 a 53 stone passenger described as 'The fattest man in the world' was conveyed to Adelaide as the star turn in a travelling circus. Two 2nd Class cabins were temporarily turned into one for his use and he was given a screened-off deck area for his use. On arrival it is reported that his agent wanted him to be put ashore using one of the ship's cranes but he was, quite understandably, not happy with this degrading arrangement and P&O temporarily installed a reinforced gangway. [1]

Medina continued to serve the Australia route until the outbreak of WW1.

Service during WW1

For the first two and a half years of the war, Medina would continue with the Australia service though the frequency of the voyages was much less than before. Her career was cut short in 1917 when she was torpedoed.


Germany changed strategy on 1 February 1917 by unleashing 'unrestricted submarine warfare' on Allied shipping with the intention of disrupting trade and communications with the UK by attacking any type of vessel without warning.

Medina was torpedoed and sunk on 28 April 1917 by a torpedo fired by German submarine UB-31 at position 50° 15' N, 03° 30' W

The following account of her loss comes from Neil McCart [1]

On April 28 1917 Medina was returning to London from Bombay. She had made her usual call at Plymouth to disembark mail and some passengers, leaving at 4.00 pm that day. She was due to dock at Tilbury in the early hours of the following day, but at 5.30 pm on the 28th she was about 15 miles east of Start Point in Devon, when she passed the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Spitfire. Less than half an hour later she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-31.

Medina's quartermaster had spotted the torpedo but there was not enough time to manoeuvre the ship and the torpedo exploded on the starboard side aft, blowing up the after part of the hurricane deck and the starboard engine room, killing the Fourth Engineer and four firemen. As his ship appeared to be settling rapidly, Captain H.S. Bradshaw ordered all the boats away, and this was carried out very efficiently. Captain Bradshaw left the ship at 6.45 pm but remained close by in his boat until Medina sank half an hour later.

One witness, Midshipman F. Poole RNR, was on HMS Spitfire and had the first dog watch on Spitfire's bridge. He recalls passing Medina at 5.30 pm and 20 minutes later glancing in her direction to see that she had made an unusually large swing to the south, not in accordance with her zig-zag diagram. She appeared to be slowing down and he called the Captain; just as he arrived a message came through from Medina saying she had been torpedoed.

Spitfire headed towards her at full speed, and on arrival Midshipman Poole recalls she was a little down by the stern. Fortunately it was flat calm so there were no problems in launching lifeboats and these were soon towed into Dartmouth and Brixham by the small craft which had appeared on the scene. Midshipman Poole remembers that they zigzagged around the stricken Medina for half an hour fully expecting her to sink at any moment. Meanwhile another destroyer HMS Laurel had arrived and prepared to take Medina in tow and head for Plymouth as it appeared she might not sink after all.

Midshipman Poole remembers that as this was happening Medina's commander was standing in a boat nearby sadly watching his ship. Just as a man was about to board Medina to make fast the towrope, there was a muffled explosion on board as her boilers blew up. Then in the words of Midshipman Poole: 'A few minutes later her bow rose slowly to a sharp angle for about a third of her length then stopped. She seemed to be hesitating as if protesting at her ignominious end, then quietly but gracefully slid beneath the waves — nothing was left of her but a few odd pieces of flotsam to mark the last resting place of a gallant lady.'

Details of those that lost their lives can be found on the Benjidog Tower Hill website HERE.

Since the loss of Medina there have been many efforts to salvage items on board and these are described in the Maritime Archeology Trust document HERE [58] and the Southerby's Auction Catalogue from 1988 HERE [59].

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