Leasowe Castle marks 100th anniversary of First World War maritime tragedy that claimed 85 lives

HMT Leasowe Castle was built by Cammell Laird and was hit by a torpedo in May 1918 while carrying 3,000 British troops – the Leasowe Castle venue has commemorated the event a century on. Tony McDonough reports

HMT Leasowe Castle
HMT Leasowe Castle was sunk by a torpedo in May 1918 with 85 lives lost

 

Built by Birkenhead shipbuilder Cammell Laird in 1917, steam vessel HMT Leasowe Castle was ferrying 3,000 British troops from Alexandria to Marseilles when she was hit by a torpedo fired from German U-boat35 on May 27, 1918.

She had been hit by another torpedo a month earlier off the coast of Gibraltar but had managed to limp into port. On the second occasion she wasn’t so lucky and sank with the loss of 85 lives.

Now, exactly a century later, the Leasowe Castle venue in Wirral, a Grade II-listed hotel and restaurant, has paid tribute to its namesake and welcomed John Creedy, the grandson of one of the vessel’s passengers.

To commemorate the lives that were lost, John has temporarily donated a framed image of the ship alongside a brief account of the events that took place, both of which will be on display in the castle.

Machine gunners

The keel of HMT Leasowe Castle was actually laid by Cammell Laird in 1915 in a contract with the National Steam Navigation Company of Greece. However, work on her was suspended and she was eventually transferred to the Byrom Steam Ship Company.

She was later acquired by the Government and used to ferry troops. On the day she sank her passengers comprised companies of machine gunners from the Warwickshire Yeomanry, South Notts Hussars and the Bucks and Berks Yeomanry.

Moving account

Leasowe Castle general manager, Mike Dewey, said: “Leasowe Castle is steeped in history, dating as far back as the 16th century and HMT Leasowe Castle is certainly a very special part of our timeline.

“We are incredibly moved by John’s account of his grandfather’s story and are honoured that he has chosen to commemorate this milestone anniversary of the ship’s sinking with us.

Leasowe Castle
Leasowe Castle in Wirral, a Grade II-listed hotel and restaurant

 

We are able to get a glimpse into exactly what happened on that day in 1918 as John shared a transcript written by his grandfather documenting the events as they occurred. With great emotion he described how ‘nothing was visible but a tremendous swirl of water and bits of wreckage’.

“We are very fortunate that this piece of history has been preserved for over three generations and we are able to pay our respects today in 2018.”

Pay homage

Leasowe Castle’s recently refurbished Wreckers Bar also pays homage to the surrounding shores, inspired by historic group of people known as ‘wreckers’ who were situated across the North Wirral Coastline from New Brighton to Leasowe.

Mike added: “To pay tribute to the anniversary of HMT Leasowe Castle we will be displaying the names of those who died outside Wrecker’s Bar to allow guests and residents alike to learn more about the event and really embrace the history of the Castle.

“We would encourage anyone who is interested in finding out more to visit us as images and information will be on display for a short time.”

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