SS Ancona

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Merchant Marine - Well-Known Vessels - THE ITALIAN LINER ANCONA WHICH was sunk by the German submarines, sailing from New York for Italy - NARA - 45499968.jpg
Kingdom of Italy
Name: Ancona
Owner: Italia Società di Navigazione a Vapore
Builder: Workman, Clark & Co, Belfast
Launched: 19 December 1907
Sponsored by: Miss Violet Ardill
Commissioned: February 1908
Homeport: Genoa
Fate: Sunk, 8 November 1915
General characteristics
Type: Passenger Ship
Length: 482 ft 3 in (146.99 m)
Beam: 58 ft 3 in (17.75 m)
Depth: 26 ft 2 in (7.98 m)
Installed power: 1,221 Nhp[2]
Propulsion: 2 x Workman, Clark & Co 3-cylinder triple expansion
Speed: 17.0 knots

SS Ancona was an Italian passenger steamer, built in 1908 by Workman, Clark and Company of Belfast for the Societa di Navigazione a Vaporetti Italia of Genoa. The vessel was designed and served as an emigrant ship on the routes between Italy and the United States.

Design and Construction[edit]

In 1907 Italia Società di Navigazione a Vapore placed an order with Workman, Clark & Co of Belfast to build two passenger ships for them (future SS Ancona and SS Verona) to operate on their Genoa and Naples to New York route. The ship was launched on December 19, 1907[3], with Miss Violet Ardill of Greystones being the sponsor on behalf of Duke d'Andria.[3] After successful speed trials, the vessel was commissioned in February 1908.[2] Accommodations were built for about 60 first-class passengers in state rooms in the promenade deck-house, and the ship had total capacity of around 2,500 passengers. To supply such large number of passengers, the space on the orlop deck was insulated and supplied with an acidic refrigeration system.[3] In 1909 accommodation for first class passengers was expanded to 120 and in September 1910 she was refitted to carry 60 first and 120 second class passengers. As built, the ship was 482 feet 3 inches (146.99 m) long (between perpendiculars) and 58 feet 3 inches (17.75 m) abeam, a mean draft of 26 feet 2 inches (7.98 m).[2] Originally, Ancona was assessed at 8,885 GRT and 6,020 NRT[2], but after refitting she was reassessed at 8,210 GRT and 5,034 NRT.[1] The vessel had a steel hull, and two triple-expansion steam engines supplying combined 1,221 nhp power, with cylinders of 26-inch (66 cm), 43-inch (110 cm), and 71-inch (180 cm) diameter with a 48-inch (120 cm) stroke, that drove two screw propellers, and moved the ship at up to 17.0 knots (19.6 mph; 31.5 km/h).[2][3]

On February 28, 1908, after successful completion of her speed trials on the Skelmorlie Mile, Ancona, whilst coming up the Lough on her return trip from the Clyde to Liverpool, hit in the stern and sank Harbour Commissioners' twin screw tug Musgrave.[4]

Operational history[edit]

Upon delivery Ancona sailed to Italy. She departed for her maiden voyage from Genoa on March 26, 1908 with 59 passengers in steerage and 9 in cabin and proceeded to Naples. After reaching Naples, the vessel took 341 more passengers in steerage and 23 in cabin bringing the total number of people on board to 432. Ancona left Naples on March 28 and reached New York on April 10. On her return journey on April 23, Ancona boarded 910 people in New York and 1,343 in Philadelphia for a total of 2,253 passengers heading to Italy.

Ancona continued serving New York and Philadelphia from Italian ports of Genoa, Palermo and Naples throughout her career. Overall, she transported almost 100,000 people between the start of her service in 1908 and the outbreak of the World War I, most of them in steerage. When World War I broke out in August 1914, Italy initially stayed neutral, but many Italians travelled from America back to their home country, many of them on Ancona. After Italy's entry into the war in May 1915, there was another surge in the number of Italians returning home to take part in the hostilities. Ancona departed for her final eastward transatlantic voyage from New York for Naples on October 16, 1915 carrying 1,245 Italian reservists and about 5,000 tons of general cargo, including flour, beef and other provisions.[5]


She was torpedoed and sunk on 8 November 1915 by SM U-38, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Max Valentiner off Cape Carbonara at 38°14′N 10°08′E / 38.233°N 10.133°E / 38.233; 10.133Coordinates: 38°14′N 10°08′E / 38.233°N 10.133°E / 38.233; 10.133. The torpedo was fired after a chase and bombardment by U38, at the end of which SS Ancona stopped to enable evacuation into lifeboats. The U-boat raised the flag of Austria-Hungary during the final minutes of the attack. The German Empire was not then at war with Italy. It is believed that 282 lives were lost.

The Ancona incident[edit]

SS Ancona is located in Italy
SS Ancona
Wreck location

In November 1915 U-38 caused a diplomatic incident when she sank the Italian passenger liner Ancona off the coast of Tunisia, while sailing under the Austrian flag. The Ancona, bound from Messina to New York City, was fully booked and over 200 lives were lost, including nine Americans. Coming as it did six months after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania off Ireland, the Ancona sinking added to a growing outrage in the US over unrestricted submarine warfare, and US Secretary of State Robert Lansing despatched a sternly-worded protest to Vienna.[6]

After receiving no satisfactory response from Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Baron István Burián von Rajecz, in December 1915 the US demanded that the Habsburg government denounce the sinking and punish the U-boat commander responsible. Germany, then concerned to maintain American neutrality, advised Burián to accede to the US demands, and Vienna eventually agreed to pay an indemnity and assured Washington that the U-boat commander would be punished, although this was a meaningless promise since he was a German officer. Following the settlement of the affair, the Austro-Hungarian government requested that German submarines refrain from attacking passenger vessels while flying the Austrian flag.[6]

Burián's diplomatic accession to US demands angered Grand Admiral Anton Haus, commander of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, who had advocated taking a hard line following the sinking. Haus justified the sinking on the grounds that the Ancona could have been used on its return voyage from the US to transport armaments or Italian emigrants returning home to enlist in the Italian Army. Germany's decision in April 1916 to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare terminated the debate.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Lloyd's Register, Steamships and Motorships. London: Lloyd's of London Press Ltd. 1911–1912.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lloyd's Register, Steamships and Motorships. London: Lloyd's of London Press Ltd. 1908–1909.
  3. ^ a b c d Marine Engineer, v. 30, p.272 (1908)
  4. ^ Marine Engineer, v. 30, p.377 (1908)
  5. ^ The New York Times, October 17, 1915, p.16
  6. ^ a b c Venzon, Anne Cipriano; Paul L. Miles (1999). The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 54. ISBN 0-8153-3353-6.

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