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The Sinking of the TRANSYLVANIA


Barney
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There are times when research throws up strange facts that maybe you were not looking for but are intriguing all the same.

The 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) Essex Regiment was a War raised Volunteer outfit that went to France in November 1915 and served there until they were, sadly disbanded in February 1918. They never left France. So why then is there an obscure monument on a windswept headland in Italy bearing the name of a Pal from West Ham?

???????.and what were the Japanese Navy doing in the Mediterranean??????

The chap who started this line of enquiry was Pte Arthur Ley Davies. Born in Saffron Walden, deep in rural Essex Arthur moved with his parents, to 110 Studley Road in Forest Gate in 1910. He enlisted at Stratford in January 1915, and is recorded in the Battalion War Diary as ?being accidentally shot by a comrade? early in 1916. Badly wounded, he was shipped home to recover, which in time he did. His story subsequently, whilst ultimately tragic is a one of those stories that never makes it into a book but deserves telling nevertheless????..

By the way - if you guys get fed up with these West Ham snippets just let me know and I?ll just retire to the Lounge with Gollum!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, Arthur never returned to the 13th Battalion. On recovery he was attached to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion stationed at Harwich in Essex. It was becoming common for wounded men to end up on a different Unit on recovery, after all, they were sent where they were most needed.

Early in 1917 the 36 yr old Pte Davies found himself posted as part of a composite unit of replacements detailed for Salonika in preparation for the impending Offensive by the Allies. Shipped once again to France they were then entrained for the long journey south to the Mediterranean port of Marseilles.

There on 3rd May 1917, Arthur Davies along with 2,860 men and 200 Officers boarded the hired steamship ?Transylvania? bound for the Expeditionary assembly area in Alexandria. Some 14000 tons she was only launched in May 1914 and intended for the Transatlantic routes. She was taken over by the War Office in April 1915 for use as a Troopship.

Enemy U Boats operated in the Mediterranean so it became the habit of those Troopships to hug the coast of France and Italy until on the following morning they entered the Gulf of Genoa.

It had came as a surprise to everyone when they learnt that their escort was to be from the Japanese Imperial Navy. They had apparently, successfully performed this duty on a number of occasions following Sir Edward Carsons? recent announcement ? Japan is co-operating with our Naval Forces in these waters??.?
I didnt know they were involved let alone on our side!

Anyway, off Cape Valdo, some 8 kilometres south of the Italian town of Savona, despite the best attempts at protection by the two escorting Destroyers, the Matsu and the Sakaki, the Transylvania was hit by a torpedo fired by the German submarine U63, commanded by Captain Otto Schulze.

The Matsu immediately lay alongside the stricken vessel in the storm tossed waters and began to take off the British troops and Nurses at great risk to itself, whilst the Sakaki stood off and attempted to engage the U Boat. Other Japanese Destroyers from the Escort raced to the scene.

However as the boats were being lowered and the troops assembling calmly on deck, a second torpedo hit twenty minutes later and the Transylvania began to sink. The Matsu took over 1000 men from the sinking ship, whilst other destroyers rescued many more from the freezing water. The Sakaki, circling the small flotilla finally chased off the U Boat.

In all, 414 men lost their lives in this incident, amongst them was Arthur Davies and 21 men from the 3rd Battalion, Essex Regiment. The bodies recovered and identified on the Savona coast were buried in a small plot in the town cemetery. Though some were recovered as far off as France, Monaco and even Spain, Arthur?s body was not one of them.

So that is why Arthur Davies, of the 13th Essex, is Commemorated on the Savona Memorial, along with 275 others.

Almost as a postscript, the Official History adds that the Japanese Naval Officer in command of the small Flotilla placed on record his ?admiration at the silence and calmness of the men in the sinking ship and the courage of the nurses?.

And I never knew they were there?????. Barney

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