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SS Egypt in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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SS Egypt



1st August 1914 Hospital ship  

HMHS Egypt

SS Egypt was a passenger liner that sunk after a collision with the Seine, on 20 May 1922 in the English Channel. 252 people were rescued from the 338 passengers and crew on board at the time. A subsequent salvage operation recovered most of the cargo of gold and silver.

Name: SS Egypt, Owner and Operator: P&O Port of registry: London, UK. Route: London-Bombay.

Builder: Caird & Co. Launched: 1897. Out of service: 20 May 1922. Fate: Sank after collision.

Tonnage: 7,941 grt. Length: 500 ft (150 m). Propulsion: Steam engine Speed: Cruising: 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph). Max: 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph) Capacity: 301 first class, 208 second class, Crew: 294

The Egypt was built at Greenock on the River Clyde and launched in 1897. She generally worked on the United Kingdom to India route but served as a hospital ship during the First World War.

  • Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.
  • Medical Staff strength.
  • Officers:12
  • Nurses:10
  • Other:58
  • Accommodation capacity.
  • Officers:20
  • Cots:175
  • Berths:266
  • Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
  • Date From:2nd August 1915
  • Date To:1st June 1919
  • Ships Crew details:

The Final Voyage.

Egypt departed from Tilbury, Essex on 19 May 1922 carrying just 44 passengers as well as a cargo of gold and silver bullion and gold sovereigns worth over £1 million (around £200 million at the 2012 gold price).

The voyage proceeded normally until the early morning of the 20 May when fog was encountered. As a safety measure Captain Collyer greatly reduced the speed of the ship. The Egypt remained in fog until the afternoon when the navigator was able to sight landmarks on the French coast and fix the ship's position.

After continuing the voyage for several hours a dense fog bank was suddenly encountered at around 7 o'clock. The engines were stopped but almost immediately afterwards a fog whistle was heard. A ship emerged through the fog and within seconds the other ship (the Seine) crashed into the port side of the Egypt. The Seine had a strengthened bow for ice-breaking and this penetrated deeply into the Egypt before the ships drifted apart.

An SOS was transmitted and replies were received from the RMS Andes and SS Cahiracon but the Egypt sank in less than 20 minutes before either ship arrived.Most of the passengers and crew were able to abandon ship in the lifeboats which were picked up by the Seine.

The Salvage.

With such a valuable cargo salvage attempts soon began but the wreck of the Egypt was not located until 1930. She was found to be lying upright in a depth of 170 metres (560 ft) making the recovery extremely difficult with the technology of the time. Giovanni Quaglia (From the Genoese company "Societą Ricuperi Marittimi" (So.Ri.Ma.)) was in charge of the operation and decided to use a diver in an armoured suit to direct the placing of explosives to blast through the ship to expose the strong room. The diver was then used to direct a grab which picked up the gold and silver. The salvage continued until 1935 by which 98% of the contents of the strong room had been recovered

John Doran


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Those known to have served in

SS Egypt

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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