S.S. Apapa was a steamer in
the the Elder Dempster line, built
Harland and Wolff in 1914. During
the war she operated as a
defensively armed British Merchant
'Deaths at Sea'
records the name of
three other local man
who died whilst
serving aboard the
during the war
period but who is not
officially war dead.
Printer And Stewawrd Peter B Tytler
of 104 White Rock Street, Everton was born at Liverpool. He was
supposed drowned at
sea on the 16th May
1915, aged 51.
Assistant Steward William Rix
of 22 Old Haymarket, Liverpool was born at Bromley, London. He died at sea
of Epilepsy on the 29th April 1916, aged
Assistant Steward Thomas Alker
of Liverpool was born at Blackpool. He died in Sierra Leone on the
12th November 1917, aged
|The Apapa was en route from Sierra
Leone to Liverpool carrying cargo
and passengers, when she was
torpedoed without warning off
Anglesey in the early hours of the
28th November 1917, with the loss of
over seventy passengers and crew.
The 'Elder Dempster
Fleet in the War'
also lists the names
of a further three men who lost
their lives but who
are not listed by
the cwgc [see
THE SINKING OF THE R.M.S.
| IT was towards
4 o'clock on the morning of November 28th,
1917, with a choppy sea running - cold, dark
and wintry - that the R.M.S. Apapa,
one of the 7,000 ton mail steamers of the
Elder Dempster fleet, was steaming a good
13½ knots off Point Lynas, bound to
Liverpool from West Africa.
| Everyone was
in bed; no one save the lynx-eyed officers
of the watch and their men, were astir. No
doubt to many on the ship the sleep that
morning was one of calm contentment, for in
another six hours the ship would be safely
alongside Liverpool Landing Stage. She had
on board 119 passengers, 132 of a crew,
mails, and a full cargo of African produce.
The Apapa left Sierra Leone in
convoy. In due course the convoy was met by
six destroyers. some of the vessels were
bound for the English Channel, and the
remainder - the Apapa, City of
Glasgow, and Circassia - were
bound for Liverpool.
| Three of the
destroyers accompanied the English Channel
vessels, and the other three escorted the
Liverpool-bound ships, and remained with
them until about 6-30 p.m. on November,
27th, when they signalled that the three
merchantmen were to proceed independently;
the destroyers then left, probably going
into Milford. The three vessels kept in
company until 10 p.m., when the Apapa
lost sight of the other two. She proceeded
alone, making about 13½ knots, zigzagging,
and rounded the Skerries in safety. In
accordance with instructions received at
Sierra Leone, she steered a course to pass
Point Lynas at a distance of about two
miles. The weather at the time was bright
moonlight, with a strong westerly breeze and
rough sea. The Commander, Captain James T.
Toft, was on the bridge with the second and
fourth officers and an apprentice. There
were four look-outs, and the gun-crew were
at their posts.
| Suddenly the
Apapa shook from stem to stern, and
the passengers were thrown from their bunks.
"The ship has struck something" was the cry
as they rushed on deck. She was sinking,
that was evident enough, but fortunately she
was settling down on an even keel. The
engines were stopped to take the "way" off
the ship. Rockets were fired, illuminating
temporarily the impenetrable darkness of
that wintry morning. Captain toft ordered
the boats to be lowered away; that was a
comparatively eask task while the ship
maintained a fairly even keel, though she
took a slight list to starboard.
| The cries of
women and children were heartrending and
were the only sounds that broke the
stillness of that early morning, save
perhaps the noise of escaping steam. Close
examination proved that a torpedo had rent a
huge hole in the starboard side, right aft.
| Most of the
passengers and crew were in the boats when
the figure of a man suddenly disappeared
down a companion-way. His errard was one
from which he never returned. He was Mr.
Harragin, of the Gold Coast Customs, who was
coming home with his wife to spend a
well-earned rest in England, looking forward
to spending Christmas in the old country. He
had gone to the cabin to try and save his
wife who was lying ill with black-water
| He made an
attempt to carry her on deck, but she
declared herself too ill and weak to be
moved. "Very well," replied Mr. Harragin,
quietly; "I will stay with you." He did so -
and they passed into the "Great Unknown"
together. It is a much too sacred thing to
speculate upon the feelings of that hero as
he sat there beside his wife, awaiting
death. But what a death! Let us picture in
our mind's eye husband and wife clasped in
each other's arms, who knows! - maybe taking
a last long embrace on this earth - and then
a sudden rush of water into their cabin, and
then . . . .
| When almost
everyone was safely in the life-boats, and
the Apapa was steadily sinking - still
maintaining an even keel - a white streak
cut through the water towards tthe ship -
another explosion - columns of water shot up
ans swamped some of the boats, with a
waterfall effect; other boats, all filled
with survivors, which happened to be in the
wake of the second torpedo were crashed to
atoms, and alas, the occupants also.
| But the worst
was still to come, the second torpedo found
its mark also on the starboard side, but
more forward than the first. As soon as the
ship was struck a second time she heeled
over to starboard, lay on the surface for a
second or so, and then took her final
plunge, going down stern first.
| In heeling
over, the funnel caught a life-boat
containing thirty people which, with its
living freight, was sent beneath the waves.
Other life-boats became entangled in the
wireless ariels, while others were smashed
by the masts falling upon them; thus is
explained the large loss of life which
accompanies this ocean tragedy.
| It might be
thought that along period intervened between
the time when the Apapa was hit and
her final plunge. As a matter of fact, from
the time the ship was struck until she
disappeared only ten minutes elapsed.
| The remaining
life-boats pulled away from the scene of the
disaster, though one returned to pick up
Captain Toft, who after the ship had sunk
beneath him, was seen clinging to an
up-turned boat. The Commander maintained, to
the highest degree, that glorious tradition
of British seamanship which impels a
Commander to remain on the bridge of his
ship until she sinks.
| Six life-boats
in all were undamaged and remained afloat,
but owing to the roughness of the sea, they
were unable to cruise round for the purpose
of picking up those still struggling in the
water. For about two hours the survivors
drifted about, until succour arrived, steam
drifters coming to their assistance, and
eventually landing them at Holyhead. Captain
toft endeavoured to keep the boats together,
but when the drifters arrived it was found
that one boat was missing. The worst was
feared, but fortunately this life-boat was
picked up by a passing steamer and the
occupants landed at Liverpool.
| But the toll!
Out of a complement of 251 passengers and
crew, over 70 lives were lost, 40 of whom
| No doubt the
Huns celebrated another "victory" on board
their craft that morning, for it was
wonderful into what extravagances their
search for the destruction of innocent lives
betrayed their judgment.