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RMS Moldavia

From SN Guides

Contents

Introduction

Guide entry commenced by Benjidog on 30/08/07 - work in progress

SS Moldavia was the first of the P&O "M" Series passenger liners and, like her later sister-ship RMS Morea, she was named after a historic area of Europe - in this case a remote principality which became a part of the present-day Romania.

SS Moldavia was launched at 11:00 on Saturday 28 March 1903 with the naming ceremony being performed by the daughter of Sir Thomas Sutherland the Chairman of P&O. Moldavia cost P&O £336,178. She was torpedoed and sunk towards the end of WW1.


Basic Data

  • Type: Passenger liner
  • P&O Group service: 1903-1916, 1917-1918
  • P&O Group status: Owned by parent company
  • Registered owners,managers and operators: The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
  • Builders: Caird and Co Ltd.
  • Yard: Greenock
  • Country: UK
  • Yard number: 301
  • Registry: Glasgow, UK
  • Official number: 117382
  • Signal letters: N/K
  • Call sign: N/K
  • Classification society: N/K
  • Gross tonnage: 9,500 grt
  • Net tonnage: 4,928 nrt
  • Deadweight: N/K
  • Length: 520.6 ft
  • Breadth: 58.3 ft
  • Depth: 24.8 Ft
  • Draught: N/K
  • Engines: Two triple-expansion three-cylinder steam engines
  • Engine builders: Caird and Co. Ltd
  • Works: Glasgow
  • Country: UK
  • Power: 12,000 ihp
  • Propulsion: 2 screws
  • Speed: 16.5 knots
  • Boilers: Coal-fired, three double-ended and four single-ended boilers, 185 psi
  • Passenger capacity: 350 first class, 160 second class
  • Cargo capacity:90,000 Cu Ft in 6 holds served by 10 hydraulic cranes
  • Crew: 370
  • Employment: Built for the UK-Australia mail service

Career Highlights

  • 28 March 1903: Launched
  • 20 April 1903: Fire broke out in one of the fuel bunkers. Extinguished by fire brigade but damage suffered to bulkheads
  • 30 June 1903: Completed and ready to start trials
  • 30 July 1903: Delivered to P&O
  • 21 August 1903: Left Gravesend for first voyage – a three-day cruise with the Sir Thomas Sutherland on board with various dignitaries as guests including the Governor of the Bank of England
  • 11 September 1903: Opened for viewing by the public
  • 25 Septempber 1903: Start of maiden voyage to Bombay
  • December 1903: First voyage to Australia via Marseilles and Columbo
  • 19 January 1907: Ran aground on Goodwin Sands in dense fog. Deal lifeboat was launched and tugs dispatched from Dover but Moldavia managed to refloat on the tide without assistantce.
  • 1915: Requisitioned by HM Government for use as an armed merchant cruiser with conversion done at the Royal Albert Dock
  • 1 February 1916: Commenced services as HMS Moldavia
  • November 1916: Compulsorily purchased by the government but reverted to P&O ownership after this was legally contested
  • 23 May 1918: Torpedoed and sunk off Beachy Head

War Service

HMS Moldavia joined 10th Cruiser Squadron whose role was to enforce a blockade between the North of Scotland and Iceland. The Squadron intercepted merchant ships, put an armed guard aboard and ensured they sailed to an Allied port where the cargo was inspected. The Squadron was based at Busto Voe in the Shetland Islands (mainly used for coaling) with repairs being carried out on the Clyde.

She intercepted various ships and escorted them to port for inspection. Her gunners were called upon to finish off an abandoned ship SS Patio in November 1916.

On 9 February 1917 she intercepted an Italian merchant ship called SS Famiglia which had already been intercepted by a German U-boat who had put an armed guard aboard and ordered her to sail to Germany. When stopped by HMS Moldavia the Germans scuttled her with explosive charges and the ship was abandoned. The crew were picked up and taken to Loch Ewe

On 30 July 1930 HMS Moldavia moved to new duties as an escort to convoys between West Africa and Plymouth. In November 1917 she left Freetown for Plymouth carrying 609 cases of gold bullion and arrived safely at Plymouth two weeks later.

In March 1918 she was dispatched to Canada and on 11 May 1918 left Halifax as an escort to convoy HC1 bound for London. She carried both cargo and 477 men from the US Army 28th Regiment. On 23 May 1918 off Beachy Head, she was struck on the port bow by a torpedo fired by UB-57, commanded by Johann Los, and badly damaged. She first took a 25 degree list to port, then came upright again before gradually listing to starboard. According to accounts posted on the Internet (not checked with original sources), she continued to steam ahead for about 15 minutes before starting to sink and had sunk 20 minutes later. Captain Adrian H Smythe RN ordered the ship to be abandoned and she sank under the waters of the channel at 03:50. There were no crew losses, but 56 American Servicemen who were in a compartment near where the torpedo struck, lost their lives.


According to External Reference #2 the wreck lies at a depth of 50m and is a popular dive site. I would have thought this would have been classified as a war grave in accordance with the 1986 Protection of Military Remains Act (PMRA.) but apparently she is not and is regarded as a popular diving site.

According to External Reference #3 She was a huge ship with over 1000 portholes, some but not all have been recovered. She lies on her port side with depth to the highest point at 30 metres. Fitted with eight 6 inch guns, two of which can be seen at the stern where much of the decking is still in place. It is possible to swim through some of the cabins where light fixtures and brass bathroom taps have been recovered.

External resources

  1. P&O - A Fleet History: Stephen Rabson and kevin O'Donahue; World Ship Society, Kendal, ISBN 0 905617 45 2
  2. Adventuredivers Website: Moldavia Wreck Info
  3. Dive Sussex Website: Dive Sussex Home Page
  4. 20th Century Passenger ships of the P&O: Neil McCart, Pub. Patrick Stephens, Wellingborough - ISBN 0-85059-716-1

P and O "M" Class Passenger Liners

RMS Moldavia RMS Mongolia RMS Marmora RMS Macedonia RMS Mooltan
RMS Morea RMS Malwa RMS Mantua RMS Maloja RMS Medina


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