My interest in the RMS Royal Edward began when I learned that my Grandfather, Richard Henry Polglase, had died when she was torpedoed 13th August, 1915.
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RMS (later HMT) Royal Edward was a passenger ship belonging to the Canadian Northern Steamship Company that was sunk during the First World War with a large loss of life while transporting Commonwealth troops. She was launched in 1907 as RMS Cairo for a British mail service from Marseilles to Egypt.
Design and construction
The S.S. Cairo and sister ship S.S. Heliopolis were built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, Scotland, shipbuilders and contractors to the Admiralty, who also built Dreadnoughts, etc.
The Cairo was launched in July 1907 and entered service in January 1908. As built, she was 160.3 metres (525 ft 11 in) long (overall) and 18.4 metres (60 ft 4 in) abeam. She was powered by three steam turbines that drove three propeller shafts, at up to 19 knots (35 km/h). She could accommodate up to 1,114 passengers in three classes: 344 in first class, 210 in second class, and 560 in third.
The Cairo entered service for the Egyptian Mail Steamship Company, a British-owned company that provided a fast mail service between Marseilles and Alexandria. The service was not successful and the Cairo and Heliopolis were laid up in 1909 when the service ended.
Both ships were sold to the newly established Toronto-based Canadian Northern Steamship Company, a subsidiary of the Canadian Northern Railway, in 1910, operating under its Royal Line brand. The Cairo was renamed Royal Edward, the Heliopolis became the Royal George. They were refitted for the North Atlantic passage at Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company.
These two ships of the Royal Line sailed from Avonmouth to Montreal in the summer and to Halifax in the winter. At the outbreak of World War I both were requisitioned for use as troopships.
World War I
On 28 July 1915, Royal Edward embarked at Avonmouth most of her transport of 1,367 men; the 1st. Btn. Border Regt., the R.A.M.C. and the A.S.C. boarded her at Millbay, Plymouth. The majority were reinforcements for the British 29th Infantry, with members of the Royal Army Medical Corps. All were destined for Gallipoli. Royal Edward was reported off the Lizard on the evening of the 28th, and had arrived at Alexandria on 10 August, a day after sister ship Royal George had sailed from Devonport. Royal Edward sailed for Moudros on the island of Lemnos, a staging point for the Dardanelles.
On the morning of 13 August, Royal Edward passed the British hospital ship Soudan, heading in the opposite direction. Oberleutnant zur See Heino von Heimburg in the German submarine UB-14 was off the island of Kandeloussa and saw both ships. He allowed Soudan to pass unmolested, and focused his attention on the unescorted Royal Edward some 6 nautical miles (11 km) off Kandeloussa. He launched one of UB-14 ’s two torpedoes from about a mile (2 km) away and hit Royal Edward in the stern. She sank by the stern within six minutes.
Royal Edward was able to get off an SOS before losing power, and Soudan arrived on the scene at 10:00 after making a 180° turn and rescued 440 men in six hours. Two French destroyers and some trawlers rescued another 221.
Source: Wikipedia, HMT Royal Edward