RMS Leinster

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Postcard of RMS Leinster
Postcard image of the RMS Leinster
Name: RMS Leinster
Owner: City of Dublin Steam Packet Company
Port of registry: Dublin, Ireland
Route: Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire)-Holyhead
Ordered: 1895
Builder: Cammel Laird of Birkenhead
Cost: £95,000
Yard number: 612
Launched: September 12, 1896
Completed: January 1897
Out of service: October 10, 1918
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk by German submarine UB-123 on 10 October 1918 while bound for Holyhead.
General characteristics
Class and type: Steamship
Tonnage: 2,646
Length: 378 ft
Beam: 75 ft
Height: 42 ft
Installed power: Single eight cylinder triple expansion steam engine
Propulsion: Twin propellers
Speed: 24 knots

During World War I:

  • one 12 pounder gun
  • two signal guns

RMS Leinster was a vessel operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, served as the Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire)-Holyhead mailboat until she was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine UB-123 on 10 October 1918, while bound for Holyhead. She went down just outside Dublin Bay at a point four miles (6 km) east of the Kish light. Over 500 people perished in the sinking — the greatest single loss of life in the Irish Sea.The official death toll was 501. However research by Roy Stokes author of "Death in the Irish Sea: The Sinking of RMS Leinster" and fellow writer Philip Lecane, author of "Torpedoed! The RMS Leinster Disaster" suggests the actual total was probably slightly higher.


File:Leinster anchor.JPG
Leinster's Anchor - Carlisle Pier, Dun Laoghaire
Adjacent to the National Maritime Museum.

The Leinster, under the command of Captain William Birch, was 2,640 tons vessel with a service speed of 24 knots (44 km/h). She had previously been attacked, but the torpedoes missed their target.

Her journal shows that she carried 77 crew and 694 passengers on her final voyage. The passengers included 22 postal sorters manning an onboard mailroom and just under 500 military personnel. The latter comprised army, naval, airforce and nursing personnel from Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Just before 10 a.m., while east of the Kish Bank, passengers on the Leinster saw a torpedo approach from the port side. It missed the ship, passing in front of the bow. Shortly afterwards a second torpedo struck the ship forward on the port side, in the vicinity of the mail-room. Captain Birch ordered the ship to make a u-turn, in an attempt to return to Kingstown. The ship began to settle slowly by the bow. Then a third torpedo stuck the Leinster. There was a huge explosion and the ship sank quickly. Some lifeboats had been launched and survivors also clung to life-rafts. British destroyers HMS Lively, HMS Mallard and HMS Seal picked up survivors after the Leinster sank. Captain Birch was among those lost in the sinking. Wounded in the initial attack, he was drowned when his lifeboat became swamped in heavy seas and capsized while trying to transfer survivors to HMS Lively.

Among the civilian passengers lost in the sinking were socially prominent people such as Lady Phyllis Hamilton, daughter of the Duke of Abercorn, Robert Jocelyn Alexaner, son of Irish composer Cecil Frances Alexander, Thomas Foley who was the brother-in-law of the world-famous Irish tenor John McCormack, Lieut. Col. Charles Harold Blackbourne, veteran of the Boer War, Alfred White Curzon King, 15-year-old nephew to Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, and Maud Elizabeth Ward, personal secretary to Douglas Proby. There were as well as the less socially prominent such as Gerald Palmer (15), a boy with a physical disability, from "The Cripples Home" in Bray, Co. Wicklow and Catherine Gould and five of her six children. (A Limerick paper described then as "humble decent people".)

Survivors were brought to Kingstown harbour. Among the survivors were Michael Joyce, member of the parliament of Limerick, and Captain Hutchinson Ingram Cone, former commander of the USS Dale (DD-4). One of the rescue ships was the armed yacht and former fishery protection vessel HMY Helga. Stationed in Kingstown harbour at the time of the sinking, she had shelled Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin two years earlier. She was later bought and renamed the Muirchú by the Irish Free State government as one of its first fishery protection vessels.

90th anniversary of the sinking of Leinster

According to research the UB-123 was lost in a minefield in the North Sea on her way back to Germany, on or about 19 October 1918. The bodies of her commander Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm (27) and his crew of two officers and thirty-three men were never recovered.[1]

Anchor of RMS Leinster, showing memorial plaques.


  1. Roy Stokes Death in the Irish Sea: The Sinking of RMS Leinster and Philip Lecane Torpedoed! The RMS Leinster Disaster

Further reading

  • Bourke, Edward J. Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast: 1105-1993, published by the author, Dublin 1994.
  • de Courcy Ireland, John "Ireland and the Irish in Maritime History", Glendale Press, Dublin 1986.
  • Higgins, John (Jack) The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster Recalled; article in the Postal Worker (Vol 14, No 11, November 1936), the official publication of the Post Office Workers Union, written by the only survivor from the ship's mailroom.
  • Lecane, Philip Torpedoed!: The R.M.S. Leinster Disaster, Published by Periscope Publishing Ltd, Cornwall TR18 2AW, Softback,ISBN 1-904381-29-4 [www.periscopepublishing.com]. Published in Ireland, hardback, ISBN 1-904381-30-8
  • Stokes, Roy Death in the Irish Sea: The Sinking of RMS Leinster, Collins Press, Cork 1998. ISBN 1-898256-52-7

External links

See also

de:RMS Leinster eo:RMS Leinster