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17th April 1917 - The Great War, Day by Day - The Wartime Memories Project

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The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War - Day by Day

17th April 1917

On this day:

  • 200 Siege Bty at Vermelles   200th Siege Battery are at Vermelles.

  • Hospital ship Lanfranc torpedoed   

    HMHS Lanfranc.

    SS Lanfranc (190615) also HMHS Lanfranc (191517) Namesake: Lanfranc of Canterbury Owner: Booth Steamship Co Builder: Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Dundee Launched: 18 October 1906. Maiden voyage: 18 February 1907. Fate: Torpedoed and sunk, 17 April 1917

    General characteristics

    Tonnage: 6,287 Grt. Length: 418.5 ft(127.6 m), Beam: 52.3 ft (15.9 m), Draught: 27.2 ft (8.3 m). Installed power: 850 NHP. Propulsion: triple expansion engine; twin screw. Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h)

    HMHS Lanfranc was an ocean liner requisitioned as a hospital ship in the First World War. On 17 April 1917 she was torpedoed by the German U-boat SM UB-40.

    Lanfranc was built by the Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Company for the Booth Steamship Company, which ran passenger services between Liverpool and Manaus, 1,000 miles (1,600 km) up the Amazon River. With the outbreak of war she was requisitioned as a hospital ship.

    • Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.
    • Medical Staff strength.
    • Officers:5
    • Nurses:10
    • Other:
    • Accommodation capacity.
    • Officers:
    • Cots:109
    • Berths:249
    • Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
    • Date From:6th October 1915
    • Date To:17th April 1917
    • Ships Crew details:


    On the evening of 17 April the Lanfranc, while transporting wounded from Le Havre to Southampton, was torpedoed without warning. 22 British, including 2 officers, and 18 German other ranks were lost.

    John Doran

  • Ambulance transport   

    SS Donegal

    SS Donegal was a Midland Railway passenger ferry that served in the First World War as an ambulance ship.
    She was completed in 1904 and sunk by enemy action in April 1917.

    Building and peacetime service.

    In 18971903 the Midland Railway of England had Heysham Port on the coast of Lancashire built as a terminal for ferries to and from Ireland. In 1903 the Midland established its interest in Ireland by buying the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway.

    In 1904 the Midland took delivery of a pair of new passenger ferries from Clydeside shipyards in Glasgow to work between Heysham and Belfast. They came from different builders but they were sister ships: Antrim built by John Brown & Company of Clydebank, and Donegal built by Caird & Company of Greenock.

    Donegal had a triple-expansion steam engine rated at 386 NHP, giving her a speed of 13 knots (24 km/h). She and Antrim worked between Heysham and Belfast from 1904 until they were requisitioned for UK Government service in the First World War.

    War service and loss.

    Donegal was one of numerous ferries, many of them requisitioned from railway companies, that were converted into ambulance ships to carry wounded personnel from France back to Great Britain. Ambulance ships were classified as hospital ships under Hague Convention X of 1907 and as such were to be clearly marked and lit to make them easy to identify. Nevertheless in the First World War the Imperial German Navy attacked and sank a number of British hospital ships. The UK Government then announced it would cease marking hospital ships, alleging that German vessels had used their markings and lighting to target them.

    • Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.
    • Medical Staff strength. (Details not yet established)
    • Officers:
    • Nurses:
    • Other:
    • Accommodation capacity.
    • Officers:
    • Cots:
    • Berths:
    • Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
    • Date From:
    • Date To:
    • Ships Crew details:

    On 1 March 1917 a German submarine tried to attack Donegal but the steamer managed to outrun her. Then on 17 April 1917 both Donegal and a larger ship, HMHS Lanfranc, were sunk by U-boats when carrying British wounded across the English Channel.

    Donegal had sailed from Le Havre bound for Southampton carrying 610 lightly wounded soldiers and 70 crew. She had a Royal Navy escort. She was about 19 nautical miles (35 km) south of the Dean light vessel when the German Type UC II submarine SM UC-21 torpedoed her. She sank with the loss of 29 wounded British soldiers and 12 of her crew.

    A Royal Naval Reserve Lieutenant, H Holehouse, jumped from his ship into the sea to recover one of Donegal's wounded soldiers from the water. The man did not recover, but the Royal Humane Society awarded Lieut. Holehouse its bronze medal.

    Titanic connections.

    Two of Donegal's crew, Archie Jewell and John Priest, had served on RMS Titanic and survived her sinking in April 1912. Jewell had been one of Titanic's lookouts (although not on watch when she struck the iceberg) and Priest had been one of her stokers. Priest had also been on the liner RMS Asturias when she foundered on her maiden voyage in 1907, and on RMS Olympic when she was damaged in a collision with HMS Hawke in 1911.

    Priest then served on the armed merchant cruiser Alcantara when she and the German armed merchant cruiser SMS Greif sank each other in February 1916. Both Jewell and Priest then served on Titanic's White Star Line sister ship HMHS Britannic, and survived when she was sunk in November 1916. When Donegal sank, Priest survived yet again but Jewell was killed. In 1917 Priest was awarded the Mercantile Marine Ribbon for his service in the war.

    John Doran

  • 122 Seige Battery leave Anzin st Aubin   122 Siege Battery are in position & billets at Anzin St Aubin with 78 Group 17th Corps until April 17th when they move to forward position at Athies.

  • 17th April 1917 Ongoing training

  • 17th April 1917 Move to Fillievres

  • 17th April 1917 

  • 17th Apr 1917 Loneliness

  • 17th Apr 1917 Preparation for Move

  • 17th Apr 1917 Rain

  • 17th April 1917 Bathing and Fatigues

  • 17th Apr 1917 Training

Can you add to this factual information? Do you know the whereabouts of a unit on a particular day? Do you have a copy of an official war diary entry? Details of an an incident? The loss of a ship? A letter, postcard, photo or any other interesting snipts?

If your information relates only to an individual, eg. enlistment, award of a medal or death, please use this form: Add a story.

Want to know more?

There are:12 articles tagged with this date available in our Library

  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.

Remembering those who died this day.

  • Pte. Robert Henry Earl. South Wales Borderers 2nd Battalion Read their Story.
  • Capt. Herbert Lewis. Royal Field Artillery 1st North Midland Ammunition Column Read their Story.
  • Sgt. Robert O'Keeffe. Royal Munster Fusiliers 1st Garrison Btn. Read their Story.
  • Sgt. Thomas Ronaldson. Royal Engineers 526 (1st Durham) Field Coy. Read their Story.
  • Spr. J. B. Snedden. 1st Australian Tunnelling Coy. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Gordon Ottis Stillwell. Canadian Mounted Rifles 5th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pnr. Andrew Tate. Durham Light Infantry 1st/7th Btn. D Company

    Add a name to this list.

  • Items from the Home Front Archive

    Do you have any letters, photos, postcards, documents or memorabilia from the Great War? We would love to include copies. Please use this form to submit diary entries and letters or photographs for this new Section: add to this archive.

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