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Ben-my-chree (AWM AO1598).jpg
Stern view of HMS Ben-my-Chree
Career
Name: Ben-my-Chree
Operator: Isle of Man Steam Packet
Port of registry: Isle of Man Isle of Man
Builder: Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness
Laid down: 1907
Launched: 23 March 1908
Out of service: Chartered by the Royal Navy on 1 January 1915
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Ben-my-Chree
Commissioned: 3 March 1915 [1]
Fate: Sunk on 11 January 1917 by shore-based Turkish artillery fire.
Hull scrapped 1921
General characteristics
Displacement: 3,880 tons
Length: 375 ft (114 m)
Beam: 46 ft (14 m)
Draft: 18 ft (5.5 m)
Installed power: 14,000 horsepower
Propulsion: Three steam turbines, triple screw
Four 170 psi coal-fired double-ended cylindrical boilers.
Speed: 24.5 kn (45.4 km/h) maximum
Crew: 250
Armament: 1915: Additionally from May 1916:
  • 12-pounder guns
  • 2-pounder pom-poms
  • 3-pounder guns
Aircraft carried: Up to six seaplanes, usually four.

HMS Ben-my-Chree (Manx: "Lady of My Heart") was a Royal Navy seaplane carrier of the First World War. She had been built as a fast passenger ferry for the Isle of Man Steam Packet, the third to bear her name, in 1908 by Vickers for the EnglandIsle of Man route. To this day she holds the record crossing speed from Liverpool to Douglas for a steamship at under 3hrs.

As built, she had a capacity of 2,500 passengers in two classes but she was chartered by the Royal Navy on 1 January 1915 and converted to a seaplane carrier by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. A hangar occupied much of the aft part of the ship with cranes at the back for lifting the seaplanes from the sea. A flying-off deck covered most of the forward part, and a workshop for aircraft maintenance was also added.

She was originally based at Harwich, England, under the command of Commander Cecil L'Estrange Malone, where on 3 May she took part in an abortive air raid on Norddeich using a Sopwith Schneider to be launched from a trolley on the fore deck. The raid was abandoned because of thick fog and the ships returned to harbour the following day. On 6 May she was accidentally rammed by the destroyer HMS Lennox in thick fog, although damage was slight. Another attempt at raiding Nordeich was made on 11 May but was again abandoned because of several mishaps. During this raid Ben-my-Chree attempted to launch her Schneider seaplane to attack an airship, but the engine failed to start.

At the end of May 1915 she sailed for the Dardanelles, where her aircraft were mainly involved spotting for naval artillery. However one of her Short 184 seaplanes (piloted by Flight Commander Charles Humphrey Kingsman Edmonds) made the first ever aerial torpedo attack on 12 August 1915.[2] Although the 14 inch (356 mm) diameter torpedo hit the Turkish ship and exploded, the vessel had been previously torpedoed by the British submarine HMS E14 and beached. This was followed by a successful attack on 19 August against a 5,000 ton ship by Edmonds and Flight Lieutenant George Dacre. On the 2 September 1915 she participated in the rescue of Australian troops from the torpedoed HMT Southland off Lemnos.

Following the abandonment of the Gallipoli Campaign, she was transferred to Port Said in Egypt. SS Uganda collided with her on 11 February 1916 and caused serious damage to Ben-my-Chrees bows, which were temporarily repaired. Permanent repairs in dry dock took from 13 March until 26 April. Commander Charles Samson replaced L'Estrange Malone as captain of the ship on 14 May 1916. A few days later, Lieutenant William Wedgwood Benn, later Secretary of State for India (1929-1931), joined the ship as an observer.

Over the next few months, she operated from Port Said and Aden provided artillery spotting aircraft for the bombardment of El Arish, reconnaissance around Jaffa and Ramleh and bombing raids.

She was sunk on 11 January 1917 by shore-based Turkish artillery fire commanded by Mustafa Ertuğrul whilst at anchor at Castellorizo, in the Dodecanese Islands. The hull was salvaged for scrap in 1921.

After the success of their first turbine steamer Viking, the IOMSPC ordered Ben-my-Chree III from the same builders. She carried up to 2550 passengers and was capable of 27 knots, although her service speed between Liverpool and Douglas was 24 knots - even then an extremely costly ship to operate.

References

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