On May 3, 1917 the HMT Transylvania, an armed transport ship set sail from Marseilles en route to Alexandria in Egypt, on board were around 3,000 soldiers and a large contingent of medical personnel, including many nurses.
Although a relatively new ship, she was poorly maintained, her lifeboats were in bad condition, overcrowded and her crew did got get on well with soldiers.
On one occasion sailors rebuked soldiers on U-boat watch when they reported dolphins on the surface as periscopes breaking the surface. As a consequence the soldiers were reluctant to report possible U-boat sightings in case they were accused of crying wolf.
Transylvania steamed across the Mediterranean and at about 9:50 on the morning of May 4 she entered the bay of Genoa, just a few miles off the Italian shore. It was windy with heavy seas and large rolling waves.
A loud explosion was heard and the ship juddered then began to list alarmingly. She had been struck by a torpedo from a U-boat, the U-63.
The alarm was sounded and panic set in as water poured into the hull. The captain gave the order to abandon ship and launch the lifeboats.
Read more in this week’s Advertiser, out now.