SS Ceramic (1913)

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SS Ceramic
Name: SS Ceramic
Operator: White Star Line (1913-1934)
Shaw, Savill & Albion Line (1934-1942)
Route: Liverpool to Australia
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast
Launched: 11 December 1912
Acquired: 5 July 1913
Fate: Sunk by U-boat, 6 December 1942
General characteristics [1]
Type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 18,481 GRT
11,710 NRT
Length: 655 ft 1 in (199.67 m)
Beam: 69 ft 5 in (21.16 m)
Depth: 43 ft 9 in (13.34 m)
Decks: 7
Propulsion: 3 × triple expansion engines
1 × low pressure turbine (centre shaft)
3 shafts
9,000 ihp (6,711 kW)
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)

SS Ceramic was an 18,400-ton ocean liner of the White Star Line launched in 1912, and later sold to the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line. In 1942 German submarine U-515 sank the Ceramic, leaving only one survivor from the 656 on board.

Ship history[edit]

Ceramic was built at the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast. She had seven decks and eight holds and in her original configuration 38% of her cargo capacity was refrigerated. Her total cost was £436,000 and she entered service on 24 July 1913.

She sailed the Liverpool to Australia route after her maiden voyage, then served as a British troopship during World War I, surviving two encounters with enemy submarines. After the war, she returned to her regular run. In 1934, White Star merged with Cunard, and Ceramic was then sold to Shaw, Savill and Albion, but kept the same itinerary. In 1936, Ceramic was given a major reconstruction in Govan, which improved her speed by one knot.

At the outset of World War II, Ceramic again carried troops, but soon returned to civilian service. On the night of 6 December 1942 she was in the Atlantic Ocean west of the Azores, bound for Australia, when she was hit by three torpedoes fired from U-515. Ceramic was crippled but still afloat, and about eight lifeboats were launched, all full. About three hours later, U-515 fired two more torpedoes, which broke the ship's back and sank her immediately at position 40°30′N 40°20′W / 40.500°N 40.333°W / 40.500; -40.333Coordinates: 40°30′N 40°20′W / 40.500°N 40.333°W / 40.500; -40.333.

Sea conditions had become very stormy, and lifeboats began to capsize, leaving the people to struggle in the water. Despite the storm (which was severe enough to be a hazard to the U-boat) the commander Werner Henke had been ordered to return to the location of the sinking to look for the captain, in the hopes of finding out the Ceramic's destination. However, he only stayed long enough to pull in one person, Sapper Eric Munday of the Royal Engineers, and took him aboard the submarine. (Sapper Munday was eventually sent to Stalag VIII-B in Upper Silesia and remained there until he was liberated.) When Henke returned to the site of Ceramic's sinking, the occupants of one of the eight fully loaded lifeboats waved to him. He felt taunted by this, so he took Munday aboard, and left the rest to perish. Henke was later captured and accused of machine-gunning survivors in the water, but it is likely that the survivors simply drowned in the rough seas.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howse, Caroline (2009). "S.S Ceramic". Archived from the original on 31 Jul 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Ceramic". 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012.