HMS Ben-my-Chree

HMS Ben-my-Chree (Manx:
Manx language
Manx , also known as Manx Gaelic, and as the Manks language, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, historically spoken by the Manx people. Only a small minority of the Island's population is fluent in the language, but a larger minority has some knowledge of it...

 "Lady of My Heart") was a packet steamer and a Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 seaplane carrier of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. She had originally been built as a fast passenger ferry
A ferry is a form of transportation, usually a boat, but sometimes a ship, used to carry primarily passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo as well, across a body of water. Most ferries operate on regular, frequent, return services...

 for the Isle of Man Steam Packet
Isle of Man Steam Packet
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Limited is the oldest continuously operating passenger shipping company in the world, celebrating its 180th anniversary in 2010....

 — the third to bear her name — in 1907 by Vickers
Vickers was a famous name in British engineering that existed through many companies from 1828 until 1999.-Early history:Vickers was formed in Sheffield as a steel foundry by the miller Edward Vickers and his father-in-law George Naylor in 1828. Naylor was a partner in the foundry Naylor &...

 for the England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

 route. To this day she holds the record crossing speed from Liverpool to Douglas for a steamship at under three hours. As HMS Ben-my-Chree she became part of aviation history when she was the platform for the first ship-launched airborne torpedo attack on a ship on 12 August 1915.

Design and construction

SS Ben-my-Chree was ordered in 1907 by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. She was built at the Vickers
Vickers was a famous name in British engineering that existed through many companies from 1828 until 1999.-Early history:Vickers was formed in Sheffield as a steel foundry by the miller Edward Vickers and his father-in-law George Naylor in 1828. Naylor was a partner in the foundry Naylor &...

 shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness
Barrow-in-Furness is an industrial town and seaport which forms about half the territory of the wider Borough of Barrow-in-Furness in the county of Cumbria, England. It lies north of Liverpool, northwest of Manchester and southwest from the county town of Carlisle...

 at a cost of £112,000. She was powered by Vickers direct-drive steam turbines coupled to triple screws which moved her over the water at 24.2 knots (47.4 km/h), although in one sea trial she reached a speed of 24.6 knots (48.2 km/h). The ship had a certificate for 2,549 passengers, and she had a crew of 119. Her engines burnt up to 95 tons of coal a day, which made her an expensive ship to run unless she had a full complement of passengers. This proved difficult to achieve by the Steam Packet Company, and so for nine months of the year Ben-my-Chree found herself laid up.

Royal Navy chartered

SS Ben-my-Chree was chartered by the Royal Navy on 1 January 1915. The next day she began her transformation to HMS Ben-my-Chree, a seaplane carrier, at the shipyards of Cammell Laird
Cammell Laird
Cammell Laird, one of the most famous names in British shipbuilding during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, came about following the merger of Laird, Son & Co. of Birkenhead and Johnson Cammell & Co. of Sheffield at the turn of the twentieth century.- Founding of the business :The Company...

 in Birkenhead
Birkenhead is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside, England. It is on the Wirral Peninsula, along the west bank of the River Mersey, opposite the city of Liverpool...

. Part of her superstructure
A superstructure is an upward extension of an existing structure above a baseline. This term is applied to various kinds of physical structures such as buildings, bridges, or ships...

 was removed, aft of her second funnel, and a hangar was constructed. This was capable of housing six seaplanes, which were lifted in and out of the water by a derrick
A derrick is a lifting device composed of one tower, or guyed mast such as a pole which is hinged freely at the bottom. It is controlled by lines powered by some means such as man-hauling or motors, so that the pole can move in all four directions. A line runs up it and over its top with a hook on...

. There was also a 60 feet (18.3 m) flying-off platform forward. Her armament consisted of four quick-firing 12-pounder gun
12-pounder gun
12-pounder gun or 12-pdr, usually denotes a gun which fired a projectile of approximately 12 pounds.Guns of this type include:* A cannon sized for a 12 pound ball, see Naval artillery in the Age of Sail*Canon de 12 de Vallière French canon of 1732...

s, and two 3-pounder guns. Later in May 1916 more 12-pounder guns, and 2-pounder pom-pom
QF 2 pounder naval gun
The 2-pounder gun, officially designated the QF 2-pounder and universally known as the pom-pom, was a 1.575 inch British autocannon, used famously as an anti-aircraft gun by the Royal Navy. The name came from the sound that the original models make when firing...

s, along with 3-pounder guns were added.

Navy service

She was initially assigned to the Harwich Force
Harwich Force
The Harwich Force was a squadron of the Royal Navy, formed during the First World War, that went on to play a significant role in the war.-History:...

, under the command of Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

 Cecil L'Estrange Malone
Cecil L'Estrange Malone
Cecil John L'Estrange Malone was Britain's first communist member of the House of Commons.-Early years:Born in Dalton Holme, Yorkshire on 7 September 1890, a rector's son, he joined the Royal Navy in 1905 and attended the Royal Naval College at Devonport. In 1912 he learned to fly and gained his...

, where on 3 May she took part in an abortive air raid on Norddeich
Norddeich (Norden)
Norddeich is a village in the borough of Norden in north Germany with 1,734 inhabitants. It lies in northwestern East Frisia on the North Sea coast....

 using a Sopwith Schneider to be launched from a trolley on the fore deck. The raid was abandoned because of thick fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

, and the ships returned to harbour the following day. On 6 May, she was accidentally rammed by the destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

  in thick fog, although damage was slight. Another attempt at raiding Nordeich was made on 11 May, but was again abandoned because of several mishaps. During this raid, Ben-my-Chree attempted to launch her Schneider seaplane to attack an airship
An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

, but the engine failed to start.

Making aviation history

At the end of May 1915, she sailed for the Dardanelles, where her aircraft were mainly involved in spotting
Spotting may refer to:Pastimes:* Aircraft spotting* Bus spotting* Car spotting* Train spotting* Spots , a method of smoking cannabisPhysical activities:* Spotting...

 for naval artillery. The then Chief of the Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 (RNAS), Colonel F.H. Sykes, ordered seaplanes to conduct exhaustive reconnaissance photography of the area. Naval Intelligence Officer Robert Erskine Childers
Robert Erskine Childers
Robert Erskine Childers DSC , universally known as Erskine Childers, was the author of the influential novel Riddle of the Sands and an Irish nationalist who smuggled guns to Ireland in his sailing yacht Asgard. He was executed by the authorities of the nascent Irish Free State during the Irish...

 oversaw these aerial photography missions, to great effect. These photographs would lead to one of her Short 184
Short Type 184
|-Manufacturers:Source: Barnes and James#Brush Electrical Engineering Co. Ltd. #Frederick Sage & Co. Ltd. #J. Samuel White #Mann, Egerton & Co. Ltd. #Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Company #Robey & Co. Ltd. #S E Saunders Limited...

 seaplanes (piloted by Charles Edmonds) making the first ever aerial torpedo
Aerial torpedo
The aerial torpedo, airborne torpedo or air-dropped torpedo is a naval weapon, the torpedo, designed to be dropped into water from an aircraft after which it propels itself to the target. First used in World War I, air-dropped torpedoes were used extensively in World War II, and remain in limited...

 attack on 12 August, when she successfully launched a single 14 in (355.6 mm), 810 lb (367.4 kg) torpedo. Although the torpedo hit the Turkish
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 ship and exploded, the vessel had been previously torpedoed by the British submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

  and beached. This was followed by a successful attack on 19 August against a 5000 long tons (5,080.3 t) ship by Edmonds and Flight Lieutenant
Flight Lieutenant
Flight lieutenant is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries. It ranks above flying officer and immediately below squadron leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "lieutenant"...

 George Dacre. On 2 September, she participated in the rescue of Australian troops from the torpedoed HMT Southland
HMT Southland
HMT Southland was an ocean liner launched in July 1900 as SS Vaderland for Red Star Line service between Antwerp and New York. During her passenger career, the ship initially sailed under British registry, but was re-registered in Antwerp in 1903...

 off Lemnos
Lemnos is an island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Lemnos peripheral unit, which is part of the North Aegean Periphery. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Myrina...


Following the abandonment of the Gallipoli Campaign, she was transferred to Port Said
Port Said
Port Said is a city that lies in north east Egypt extending about 30 km along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, north of the Suez Canal, with an approximate population of 603,787...

 in Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. collided with her on 11 February 1916 and caused serious damage to Ben-my-Chrees bows, which were temporarily repaired. Permanent repairs in dry dock took from 13 March until 26 April. Commander Charles Samson
Charles Rumney Samson
Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson CMG, DSO & Bar, AFC was a British naval aviation pioneer. He also operated the first British armoured vehicles in combat...

 replaced L'Estrange Malone as captain of the ship on 14 May. A few days later, Lieutenant William Wedgwood Benn
William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate
Air Commodore William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate PC, DSO, DFC was a British Liberal politician who later joined the Labour Party. He was Secretary of State for India between 1929 and 1931 and Secretary of State for Air between 1945 and 1946...

, later Secretary of State for India
Secretary of State for India
The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

 (1929–1931), joined the ship as an observer.

Over the next few months, she operated from Port Said and Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

 provided artillery spotting aircraft for the bombardment of El Arish, reconnaissance around Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

 and Ramleh and bombing raids.


On 11 January 1917 HMS Ben-my-Chree was at anchor in a bay, off the island of Castellorizo
Kastelorizo, , is a Greek island and municipality located in the southeastern Mediterranean. It lies roughly off the south coast of Turkey, about 570 km southeast of Athens and east of Rhodes, almost halfway between Rhodes and Antalya and to Cyprus...

, a Greek island on the southwest coast of Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. The ship was totally unaware that they were in range of a Turkish gun battery two miles away on the coast of mainland Turkey. The battery, commanded by Mustafa Ertuğrul, opened fire on the Ben-my-Chree, immediately holing her petrol store, which set the ship on fire. The ship's steering gear was also hit in the shelling, disabling her. This damage resulted in the captain being unable to move the ship out of range of the Turkish guns. The crew were ordered to abandon ship after half an hour of the bombardment. The crew used one of the three motor lifeboats to ferry the crew to safety; her other two lifeboats had been destroyed in the shelling.
The complete complement of 250 men were saved, as the motor lifeboat was able to use the stricken Ben-my-Chree as a shield as they went ashore. The attack continued for five hours until the burnt-out hulk of the ship sank in the shallow water of the Bay. Later in the day the captain and the chief engineer returned to the Ben-my-Chree, rescuing the ship's cat and dog, which had both survived the attack.

The hulk of HMS Ben-my-Chree lay in the bay of the island until 1920. A salvage steamer called Vallette was sent to raise her. She was then towed to the port of Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

. There she was examined in detail, where it was decided she was beyond repair. Three years later, in 1923, she was broken up at Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...


External links

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