Battle or Action:

HMS Laurentic, sinking of

  Detail :

 See also: Laurentic Memorial.

HMS Laurentic Being in Montreal when the war began, Laurentic was immediately commissioned as a troop transport for the CEF. After conversion to armed merchant cruiser service in 1915, she struck two mines off Lough Swilly north of Ireland on 25 January 1917 and sank within an hour. Only 121 of the 475 aboard survived.The Laurentic was delivering cargo to Nova Scotia for Canadian and American governments as payment for munitions. 45 minutes after leaving port she was struck by two mines laid by the German U-boat, U-80. It was the second time that her commander had been maltreated by enemy action. Captain Norton was in command of H.M.S. Hogue when that cruiser was torpedoed in the North Sea. The Laurentic had only left harbour about an hour and a half before, and was steaming full speed ahead with Captain Norton on the bridge, when a violent explosion occurred on the port side abreast of the foremast, followed within a few seconds by a second explosion abreast of the engine-room. The latter stopped the dynamo, plunging the ship in total darkness and rendering the wireless unworkable. After telegraphing Full speed astern, he sent up a rocket, and ordered the boats to be swung out for immediate use, if necessary. When it was found impossible to beach the vessel, and that she was gradually sinking, the men were ordered into the boats. To make quite certain that not a living soul remained on board, Captain Norton searched the ship in company with the chief steward and by the light of an electric torch. The most terrible experience of all was yet to come. Although it is very probable that a few of the ship's complement of 470 men were killed as a result of the two explosions, the majority got safely away. Of these only 120 survived the bitter weather. The remainder died of exposure. One boat, containing seventeen frozen bodies, was picked up many hours later; in another there were only five survivors out of twenty. In addition to her passengers and crew, the ship was carrying about 35 tons of gold ingots stowed in its second class baggage room. At the time the gold was valued at £5 million, (approximately £750 million in 2009 values). Royal Navy divers made over 5,000 dives to the wreck between 1917 and 1924 and recovered all but about 1% of the ingots. Still to this day 22 bars of gold remain on the sea bed, perhaps under parts of the hull, The last of the gold recovered was some 10 metres under the sea bed, thus the remaining gold must be difficult to reach. 11 Freemasons lost their lives on HMS Laurentic.
Sources; Daring Deeds of Merchant Seamen in the Great War - Wheeler, Harold F. B 1918.

See also: Wrecksite EU.

 Rank Initials Surname Died Lodge
 Sub. Lt. Engr J.R. BROWN 25-01-1917 Evening Star No. 3644
 Lt. Engr. J. CARLISLE 25-01-1917 Royal Gloucester No. 130
 Sub. Lt. Engr P. CATON 25-01-1917 Combermere No. 605
 Lt. Engr. J.W. GIBBINS 25-01-1917 Bootle No. 1473
 Ch. Carp. R.R. GODFREY 25-01-1917 Cycling & Athletic No. 2335
 Cdr. Engr. C.E. HURST 25-01-1917 Prince of Wales No. 1035
 C.P.O. W.H. JAGO 25-01-1917 St John's No. 1247
 Lt. Engr. E.A.R. LARMOUR 25-01-1917 Prince of Wales No. 1035
 Sub. Lt. Engr E.E. MIDGLEY 25-01-1917 Evening Star No. 3644
 Surg. F.E. ROCK 25-01-1917 Cavendish No. 2620
 C.P.O. C. TAYLOR 25-01-1917 Western District United Service No. 2258

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