RMS Leinster

Coordinates: 53°18′53″N 5°47′43″W / 53.3147°N 5.7952°W / 53.3147; -5.7952
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Postcard image of the RMS Leinster
United Kingdom
NameRMS Leinster
OwnerCity of Dublin Steam Packet Company
Port of registryDublin, Ireland
RouteKingstown (now Dún Laoghaire)-Holyhead
BuilderLaird Brothers of Birkenhead
Yard number612
Launched12 September 1896
CompletedJanuary 1897
Out of service10 October 1918
FateTorpedoed and sunk by German submarine UB-123 on 10 October 1918 while bound for Holyhead.
General characteristics
Tonnage2,646 GRT
Length378 ft
Beam75 ft
Height42 ft
Installed powerSingle eight-cylinder triple-expansion steam engine
PropulsionTwin propellers
Speed24 knots
  • During World War I:
  • one 12 pounder gun
  • two signal guns

RMS Leinster was an Irish ship operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. She served as the Kingstown-Holyhead mailboat until she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine UB-123, which was under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm, on 10 October 1918, while bound for Holyhead. She sank just outside Dublin Bay at a point 4 nautical miles (7.4 km) east of the Kish light.

The exact number of dead is unknown but researchers from the National Maritime Museum believe it was at least 564, which would make it the largest single loss of life in the Irish Sea.[1] [2]


In 1895, the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company ordered four steamers for Royal Mail service, named for four provinces of Ireland: RMS Leinster, RMS Connaught, RMS Munster, and RMS Ulster.[3] The Leinster was a 3,069-ton packet steamship with a service speed of 23 knots (43 km/h). The vessel, which was built at Laird's in Birkenhead, England, was driven by two independent four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines.[4] During the First World War, the twin-propellered ship was armed with one 12-pounder and two signal guns.[5]


The ship's log states that she carried 77 crew and 694 passengers on her final voyage. The ship had previously been attacked in the Irish Sea but the torpedoes missed their target. Those on board included more than 100 British civilians, 22 postal sorters (working in the mail room) and almost 500 military personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. Also aboard were nurses from Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.[6]

Just before 10 a.m. as she was sailing east of the Kish Bank in a heavy swell, passengers saw a torpedo approach from the port side and pass in front of the bow. A second torpedo followed shortly afterwards, and struck the ship forward on the port side, in the vicinity of the mail room. The ship made a U-turn in an attempt to return to Kingstown as it began to settle slowly by the bow, but sank rapidly after a third torpedo struck, causing a huge explosion.

Leinster's Anchor – Carlisle Pier, Dún Laoghaire, adjacent to the National Maritime Museum.

Despite the heavy seas, the crew managed to launch several lifeboats and some passengers clung to life-rafts. The survivors were rescued by HMS Lively, HMS Mallard and HMS Seal. Among the civilian passengers lost in the sinking were socially prominent people, such as Lady Phyllis Hamilton, daughter of the Duke of Abercorn, Robert Jocelyn Alexander, son of Irish poet and hymn writer, Cecil Frances Alexander, Rev. John Bartley, the Presbyterian minister of Tralee, who was travelling to visit his mortally wounded son in hospital, Thomas Foley and his wife Charlotte Foley (née Barrett), who was the brother-in-law of the world-famous Irish tenor John McCormack, who adopted their eldest son, and Richard Moore, only son of British architect Temple Moore. The first member of the Women's Royal Naval Service to die on active duty, Josephine Carr, was among those who died, as were two prominent officials of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, James McCarron and Patrick Lynch.[7]

Several of the military personnel who died are buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.[8]

Survivors were brought to Kingstown harbour. Among them were Michael Joyce, an Irish Parliamentary Party MP for Limerick City, and Captain Hutchinson Ingham Cone of the United States Navy, the former commander of the USS Dale (DD-4).

One of the rescue ships was the armed yacht, and former fishery protection vessel, HMY Helga. Stationed in Kingstown harbour at the time of the sinking, she had shelled Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin two years earlier.[9] She was later bought and renamed the Muirchú by the Irish Free State government as one of its first fishery protection vessels.

Ninetieth anniversary of the sinking of RMS Leinster

The last act[edit]

On October 18, 1918 at 9.10 a.m. UB-125, outbound from Germany under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Werner Vater, picked up a radio message requesting advice on the best way to get through the North Sea minefield. The sender was Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm, aboard UB-123. Extra mines had been added to the minefield since UB-123 had made her outward voyage from Germany. As UB-125 had just come through the minefield, Vater radioed back with a suggested route. UB-123 acknowledged the message and was never heard from again.

The following day, ten days after the sinking of the RMS Leinster, UB-123 detonated a mine while trying to cross the North Sea and return to base in Imperial Germany. There were no survivors.[10]


In 1991, the anchor of the RMS Leinster was raised by local divers. It was placed near Carlisle Pier[11] and officially dedicated on 28 January 1996.

Anchor of RMS Leinster, showing memorial plaques.
Anchor of RMS Leinster, showing memorial plaques.


2008 Commemoration[edit]

In 2008, 90 years after its sinking, a commemorative stamp was issued by An Post, recalling particularly the Post Office's 21 staff who died in the tragedy.[12] The sinking of the vessel is further recalled in the postal museum of the General Post Office, in Dublin's O'Connell Street.

2018 Centenary Commemoration[edit]

On 10 October 2018 an official commemoration took place in Dún Laoghaire attended by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan T.D. in which she confirmed that Leinster is now under the protection of the National Monuments Acts, which covers all shipwrecks over 100 years old.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Donal Byrne (10 October 2018). "Events to mark centenary of RMS Leinster sinking". RTE. Retrieved 10 October 2018. Today marks the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Leinster, which resulted in the deaths of 564 people in the single-largest loss of life on the Irish Sea.
  2. ^ Byrne, Donal (10 October 2018). "The Sinking of RMS Leinster and SS Dundalk". RTÉ.ie. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  3. ^ "RMS Leinster Log". Dún Laoghaire Harbour. Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company. 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  4. ^ "The Irish Mail Service". The Engineer. London. LXXXIII: 280. 18 September 1896. Retrieved 29 November 2017.(registration required)
  5. ^ "The Sinking". rmsleinster.com. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  6. ^ Lecane, Philip (2005). Torpedoed! : the R.M.S. Leinster disaster. Penzance: Periscope. ISBN 978-1-904381-30-3.
  7. ^ C. Desmond Greaves, The Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, p.221
  8. ^ "Grangegorman Military Cemetery". 28 February 2011. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  9. ^ Townshend, Charles. Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion.
  10. ^ Roy Stokes Death in the Irish Sea: The Sinking of RMS Leinster and Philip Lecane Torpedoed! The RMS Leinster Disaster
  11. ^ "Commemorating the sinking of the RMS Leinster, 1918-2018 | Century Ireland". www.rte.ie. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Minister Hanafin launches RMS Leinster anniversary stamp". An Post. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bourke, Edward J. Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast: 1105–1993, published by the author, Dublin 1994.
  • de Courcy Ireland, John "Ireland and the Irish in Maritime History", Glendale Press, Dublin 1986.
  • Ferguson, Stephen. Sorting Letters on the Sea: Holyhead mail boats and the Leinster tragedy. An Post, Dublin 2018. ISBN 978-1-872228-73-0
  • Higgins, John (Jack) The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster Recalled; article in the Postal Worker (Vol 14, No 11, November 1936), the official publication of the Post Office Workers Union, written by the only survivor from the ship's mailroom.
  • Lecane, Philip Torpedoed!: The R.M.S. Leinster Disaster, Published by Periscope Publishing Ltd, Cornwall TR18 2AW, Softback, ISBN 1-904381-29-4 Published in Ireland, hardback, ISBN 1-904381-30-8
  • Lecane, Philip “Women and Children of the R.M.S Leinster: Restored to History,” Elm Books ISBN 978-0-9931989-4-6, Dublin 2018.
  • Stokes, Roy Death in the Irish Sea: The Sinking of RMS Leinster, Collins Press, Cork 1998. ISBN 1-898256-52-7
  • Liffiton, John L. The Last Passenger Liner Sunk in the Great War. article in the Medals Society of Ireland Journal (No. 49, September 1999).

External links[edit]

53°18′53″N 5°47′43″W / 53.3147°N 5.7952°W / 53.3147; -5.7952