SS Hilda - Sinking


Hilda had left Southampton at 22:00 on 17 December 1905 on her regular service to Saint-Malo in Brittany. She was carrying 103 passengers. Thick fog forced her to anchor off Yarmouth, Isle of Wight to await better weather conditions. The voyage was resumed at 06:00 on 18 December. Hilda passed through the Race of Alderney at 12:30 and after leaving Jersey behind the weather conditions worsened. By 18:00, Hilda was approaching St Malo. The light from the town were visible, as was the Jardin Lighthouse but snow squalls reduced visibility and Captain Gregory was forced to abandon the attempt to reach port.

Several times the visibility improved briefly but then deteriorated. Hilda was forced to abandon each attempt to reach port. Around 23:00, the visibility improved again and another attempt to enter the harbour was made. A few minutes later, Hilda struck the Pierre de Portes rocks, which lie to the west of the entrance channel to St Malo harbour. Distress rockets were fired and the passengers donned their lifejackets. Attempts were made to launch the lifeboats, but five of them either could not be launched or were dashed to pieces on the rocks. The sixth washed up at Saint-Cast-le-Guildo, some 15 miles (24 km) west of St Malo. The tide was ebbing, and Hilda broke in two some 15 minutes after running aground. About 20 or 30 people on the stern part of the wreck managed to climb the rigging to await rescue. By 09:00 on 18 November, when they were discovered by SS Ada, only six remained. A total of 125 people had died. Amongst the dead were 70 Breton "Onion Johnnies" returning from selling produce in England.

Captain William Gregory had been employed by London and South Western Railway for 36 years. He joined the company in 1869 at the age of 20. His first command was SS Honfleur in 1880. In 1885, he was appointed as master of Hilda. The only surving crew member was able-bodied seaman James Grinter. He had been twice shipwrecked before. The five surviving passengers were Olivier Caroff of Roscoff, Tanguy Laot of Cléder, Jean Louis Mouster of La Feuillée, Paul-Marie Pen of Cléder and Louis Rozec of Plouzévédé.

Another London and South Western Railway steamer, SS Stella, was wrecked on The Casquets, Channel Islands, on 30 March 1899 with 112 fatalities. On 21 February 1907 the Great Eastern Railway suffered the loss of SS Berlin, wrecked off the Hook of Holland with 141 fatalities.

Read more about this topic:  SS Hilda

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