SS Alcantara (1913)
|Name:|| RMS Alcantara (1914–15)
HMS Alcantara (1915–16)
|Owner:||Royal Mail Steam Packet Co|
|Operator:||Royal Navy (1915–16)|
|Builder:||Harland and Wolff|
|Completed:||28 May 1914|
|Maiden voyage:||June 1914|
|Fate:||sunk 29 February 1916|
|Class & type:||A-series|
|Type:||passenger liner (1914–15)
auxiliary cruiser (1915–16)
|Propulsion:||2 × quadruple-expansion engines, 1 × low-pressure steam turbine, triple screws|
|Speed:||18 knots (33 km/h)|
|Armament:||6 × 6 in (150 mm) guns
2 × 3 pdr guns
Arlanza, Andes, Almanzora
SS Alcantara was an ocean liner that went into service just weeks before the start of World War I, was converted to an armed merchant cruiser in 1915, and was sunk by the German armed merchant cruiser SMS Greif in 1916.
Harland and Wolff in Belfast built Alcantara for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She was one of the later members of RMSP's "A-series" of liners, which had begun with RMS Aragon launched in 1905. Alcantara was launched in October 1913 and made her maiden voyage in June 1914 on RMSP's route between Southampton and the east coast of South America.
Armed merchant cruiser
In 1915 the Admiralty requisitioned five of RMSP's A-series liners, including Alcantara, to be armed merchant cruisers. She was armed with six 6 in (150 mm), anti-aircraft guns and depth charges, and commissioned as HMS Alcantara.
The Royal Navy allocated the four most modern A-liners, including Alcantara, to the 10th Cruiser Squadron, whose duty was to form the northern part of the Allied naval blockade of the Central Powers. The Squadron patrolled about 200,000 square miles (520,000 km2) of the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and Arctic Ocean to prevent German access to or from the North Atlantic.
Battle with Greif
In January 1916 Alcantara embarked on the 10th Cruiser Squadron's G patrol. She was due to return to port on 1 March, but on the morning of 29 February 1916 she encountered Greif disguised as the Norwegian merchant ship Rena out of Tønsberg, Norway. Alcantara ordered the other ship to stop for inspection, which she did. The Royal Navy ship closed to 2,000 yards and slowed to lower a boarding cutter when Greif hoisted the Imperial German Navy war ensign ("Kriegsflagge"), increased speed, and opened fire.
Alcantara returned fire from her port side guns. Range was never more than 3,000 yards and at times was as little as 750 yards. One of Greif 's torpedoes detonated amidships against Alcantara 's port side, and one of Alcantara 's shells exploded the ready ammunition for Greif 's after gun. Both ships lost speed. After 30 or 40 minutes Alcantara 's steering gear was disabled.
Greif 's crew abandoned ship 40 minutes after opening fire, but she was carrying a large amount of cork that at first kept her afloat. Alcantara rolled, capsized and sank. Eventually a large explosion, possibly of ammunition, sank Greif. The battle killed 230 men from Greif and 68 from Alcantara.
References and further reading
- Nicol, Stuart (2001). MacQueen's Legacy; Ships of the Royal Mail Line Two. Brimscombe Port and Charleston, SC: Tempus Publishing. pp. 101, 113–115. ISBN 0-7524-2119-0.
- Poole, Francis (July 1975). "Alcantara vs. Greif: Duel of the Merchant Cruisers". Proceedings (Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute): 52–57.
- Schmalenbach, Paul (1977). German Raiders. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-85059-351-4.