25th County of London Cyclist Battalion
The London Regiment


H.M.T.  Ceramic


His Majesty’s Transport 'Ceramic' was the troop ship which transported the 1/25th regiment from England To India. The ship departed from Devonport on the 3 Feb 1916. They arrived at Bombay on the 25th Feb.
 
Also known as the HMAT Ceramic A40 from 1914-1917 (His Majesty's Australian Transports). One of the largest of the troop ships to serve, Ceramic was also one of a relatively small number of merchant ships to see military action in both World Wars.
 
Ceramic was built for White Star by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, and launched in 1912. She was White Star's first "all cabin class" ship and also had two permanent 4.7 inch guns mounted aft. Ceramic made her maiden voyage on the Liverpool-Australia service on July 24 1913, at the time, the largest ship to serve Australia, as well as the largest to call regularly at Capetown. After completing her career with the Australian Government in May 1917, she was operated (mainly as a freighter) by the Shipping Controller under the Liner Requisition Scheme. At war's end she was refurbished by Harland & Wolff in both 1920 and again in 1936 and was owned by the Shaw, Savill Line until she was requisitioned as a trooper in 1940.

  

 

  • Built by Harland and Wolff, in Belfast in 1912 for the White Star Line.
  • length 655ft x beam 691/2ft  (200m x 21m).
  • 18,481 gross tons.
  • Steam driven passenger vessel, one funnel, four masts, triple screw, speed 15 knots.
  • Launched 11 Dec 1912, delivered 5 Jul, 1913.
  • Maiden voyage 24th Jul.1913.
  • In 1914 requisitioned as troopship for the Australian Expeditionary Force.
  • In 1934 bought by Shaw Savill & Albion SS Co. In 1936 rebuilt to 18,713 tons, modernised and given a speed of 16 knots. Again taken over for trooping in 1940.

H.M.T. Ceramic - Suez Canal - Feb 1916
 

Troops on board Feb 1916.
 



The transports HMAT Ulysses and HMAT Ceramic conveying
units of the second Australian contingent to Egypt .

Indian Ocean: Red Sea - January 1915
by Major Jacobs, 3rd Battalion (Aust)

H.M.T. Ceramic - 4.7 gun.


Further history of the Ceramic.
 
In May of 1916. while in the Mediterranean with 2,500 troops on board, Ceramic narrowly escaped after having two torpedoes being fired at her and was able to out-distance the U-boat. In June of 1917, Ceramic was fired on again in the English Channel . The torpedo missed and Ceramic took off once again out running her attacker. One month later, in July of 1917, Ceramic was chased for 40 minutes by a surfaced U-boat firing her deck guns, and again, she out distanced the U-boat.

After WWI, she went back into service as a passenger ship, sailing from Liverpool to Sydney. In 1939, (WWII) she was requisitioned once again for troop transport duties out of Australia, but continued carrying passengers as well. On November 23, 1942, Ceramic left Liverpool , commanded by Captain R. Elford, on what was to be her last voyage. She was carrying about 200 military personnel (mostly medical staff) and 150 civilians including children.

Sailing in a convoy initially, Ceramic departed the convoy and continued on her assigned route by herself. On the pitch dark evening of December 6, while sailing in bad weather West of the Azores , Ceramic was hit by a torpedo fired from U-515 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Werner Henke. A few minutes later, two more torpedoes hit the engine room below the water line, permanently stopping the ship. About eight lifeboats managed to get launched.

Ceramic was slow in sinking, and a few hours later the U-boat, lingering in the area, fired 2 more torpedoes at the liner breaking her in two. She disappeared within minutes. In rough seas and pouring rain, the lifeboats began capsizing and survivors were left struggling in the water.

The next day, still in rough seas, U-515 returned to the scene and surfaced near the survivors. Trying to find out where Ceramic was headed for, the U-boast crew threw a rope to one of Ceramic's crew the water, Engineer Eric Munday was taken aboard the submarine but not able (or willing) to provide much information to the German U-boat captain.

U-515 departed the area leaving Ceramic's survivors behind to die. Engineer Munday was kept on board the U-boat as a prisoner and transferred to Stalag 8B in Upper Silesia where he remained a POW until the camp was liberated at the end of the war. No one knew the story behind Ceramic's disappearance until Munday's release and he was able to tell the story.


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