SS Runic (1900)

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SS Runic at dock. (crop).png
SS Runic at harbour
  • Runic (1900–1930)
  • New Sevilla (1930–1940)
Builder: Harland and Wolff, Belfast
Yard number: 332
Launched: 25 October 1900
Completed: 22 December 1900
Maiden voyage: 19 January 1901
Out of service: 20 September 1940
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk by German submarine off coast of Ireland in 1940, with loss of two lives.
General characteristics
Class and type: Jubilee-class ocean liner
Tonnage: 12,482 GRT
Length: 550 ft (170 m)
Beam: 63.4 ft (19.3 m)
Installed power: Two four-cylinder quadruple-expansion steam engines
Propulsion: Two propellers
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) service speed
  • 400 Third class passengers
  • 100,000 carcasses of mutton
  • 20,000 bales of wool

The SS Runic was a steamship built at Harland and Wolff in Belfast for the White Star Line which entered service in 1901. Runic was the fourth of five Jubilee Class ocean liners built for White Star's Australia service along with her sister ship SS Suevic, where she ran on the LiverpoolCape TownSydney route.[1] She served this route until she was requisitioned for use as a war transport between 1915 and 1919, before returning to the Australia service.

She was the second White Star ship to be named Runic, an earlier ship of that name had served the company between 1889 and 1895.

In 1930 Runic was sold and converted into a whaling factory ship and renamed New Sevilla, she remained in service in this role until September 1940 when she was torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast with the loss of two lives.[1]

Design and construction[edit]

When White Star inaugurated service from Liverpool to Sydney in the late 1890s, they commissioned five steam ships to be built for that route:  the first three all entered service in 1899: Afric, Medic and Persic. All three were single-funnel liners which measured just under 12,000 gross register tons (GRT) and were configured to carry 320 third class passengers. Because the commissioning of these ships coincided with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, they were referred to as the "Jubilee Class". The next two ships of the class would be slightly larger than the first three. The first of these was Runic at 12,482 GRT, launched on 25 October 1900. The second, and largest of the class, was Suevic, at 12,531 GRT launched on 8 December 1900. Runic and Suevic had several minor design changes, the most noticeable of which were the lengthening of the poop deck, and the moving of the bridge closer to the bow. These ships could carry 400 passengers in Third class on three decks. They also had substantial cargo capacity with seven cargo holds, most of which were refrigerated with the capacity for the stowage of 100,000 carcasses of mutton. There was also a hold designed for the transport of up to 20,000 bales of wool.[2]

White Star Line career[edit]

Runic started her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Sydney on 19 January 1901, she quickly proved to be popular on the route. On 25 November that year she went to the assistance of the Union-Castle liner Dunottar Castle which had broken down, and towed the liner to the port of Dakar in West Africa.[2]

Runic at sea

Runic initially remained in commercial service after the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, but on 21 January 1915 she was commissioned by the Australian government as a transport ship and was given the designation HMAT (His Majesty's Australian Transport) A54.[2][3] On 1 May that year Runic collided with the 954 ton collier Horst Martini in fog whilst in the English Channel, the smaller ship sank, but no lives were lost.[2][4] On 28 November 1917 she was commandeered under the Liner Requisition Scheme and remained so until she was released back into commercial service on 10 April 1919, when she returned to the Australian service.[2]

In October 1921 Runic was sent back to Harland & Wolff for her passenger accommodation to be reconditioned. She spent most of the rest of the 1920s operating on the Australia service in tandem with the Medic, Suevic and Ceramic. On 3 November 1928 when she was on an extended voyage to Glasgow she collided with HMS London causing minor damage to her stern.[2]

Runic made her last voyage to Australia for White Star in December 1929, following her return she was laid up for disposal after nearly 29 years of service.[2]

New Sevilla[edit]

The stern of New Sevilla showing the stern ramp used to haul whale carcases onto deck, installed as part of the conversion to a whale factory ship.

In July 1930 Runic was sold to the Sevilla Whaling Co. Of London, a subsidiary of A/S Sevilla of Norway, who converted her into a whaling factory ship at the Germania shipyard in Kiel. She was renamed New Sevilla. Following the rebuild she had an increased gross tonnage of 13,801. Soon after she entered service in her new role A/S Sevilla was taken over by the Scottish firm Christian Salvesen in April 1931.[2]

After nearly a decade in this role, on 20 September 1940 during World War II New Sevilla was sailing as part of the convoy OB 216 from Liverpool to Antarctica when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-138. She initially remained afloat and was taken in tow, but sank the next day, 30 miles off Malin Head, Galway, Ireland at the position (55°48′N 07°22′W / 55.800°N 7.367°W / 55.800; -7.367). 282 crew were saved, but two lives were lost. The survivors were picked up by HMS Arabis and the Icelandic trawler Belgaum and landed at Belfast.[5][2]


  1. ^ a b "S/S Runic (2), White Star Line". Norway Heritage. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kerbrech, Richard De (2009). Ships of the White Star Line. Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 78–89. ISBN 978 0 7110 3366 5.
  3. ^ "His Majesty's Australian Transports [HMAT] Ships". Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  4. ^ "HORST MARTINI". Historic England. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  5. ^ "New Sevilla British Whale factory ship". Retrieved 10 July 2018.