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HMS Hythe

 

 

HMS HYTHE:HMS Hythe was a former cross channel (Dover-Calais) steamer.She was a cargo carrier owned by South East and Chatham Railways.She had no passenger accommodation.She had been converted to a minesweeper in October 1914 and she had two 12 pounder guns fitted.Her Captain was Lt Commander Arthur H Bird Royal Naval Reserve.The navy was using vessels like her because the German and Turkish submarines had been sinking British/French shipping.By using shallow draught craft it was hoped that torpedoes would pass beneath a ship and represent a small target.Hythe was launched in 1905 and cost £19,575 (Admiralty compensated her owners to the amount of £12,500 following the disaster).Because the Hythe had no passenger accommodation a fabric awning was rigged on herdeck to help protect the crowded deck from spray and the weather.Considering her size and construction the ship was very top heavy.The officers would be allowed in the engine room area to keep warm.However before sailing the Company witnessed a public Courts Martial.This took place in Port on her deck.Apparently a sailor had refused orders and was awarded 81 days imprisonment.Some 5 officers and 213 men boarded the Hythe plus 30 other personnel.The Hythe left Mudros at 4pm and had 50 miles to go to Cape Helles.It was travelling in a darkened state to avoid enemy bombardment.They were due to land and some forty minutes remained of their journey.At about 8pm there was a warning that another ship was bearing down on them.This other ship was HMS Sarnia.She was also a steamer, but larger than the Hythe.She had landed her cargo and troops and was leaving the Peninsula.She was steering a course S67W and the Hythe was steering a course N82E.This was near head on.Both ships were travelling in excess of 12 knots.Several attempts at a change of course by both ships, failed to avoid a collision.The Sarnia struck the Hythe 25 feet from the bow on her Port side.The force was so great that the Hythe stopped dead in the water.The foremast on the Hythe fell onto the fabric awning.The impact and devastation resulted in many fatalities on the deck of the Hythe.The force of the impact caused the Hythe to swing around by the stern and break free.The gapping hole in her Port was instantly filled by the cold sea water.She immediately began to sink and would go down in ten minutes flat.On the deck some managed to step onto the Sarnia as she remained alongside for several minutes.Others leapt into the cold sea,no life jackets,only debris to hold onto.Captain Salomons was reported as trying to save his men.He handed over his life jacket to another soldier.The Captain of the Hythe ordered "everyman for himself".There does not appear to be any co-ordinated attempt to organise the rescue. Sarnia put out a boat and saved some life.She was herself holed and would return back to port, steaming stern first to avoid taking water.Captain Salomons drowned and he was not recovered.A further 128 members of 1/3rd Company were lost plus 15 other Army personnel and 11 crew from the Hythe.Only 103 members of the 1/3rd Company survived.

 


 
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