100 Years of Burdigala & Britannic

1916 – 2016 A Centennial worth celebrating!

The three protagonists: HMHS Britannic, S/S Burdigala & U-73. Model rendering by Dimitri Galon

It was on the morning of 14th November 1916 when S/S Burdigala[1], a 12.380 GRT displacement steam liner commandeered by the French Navy and converted to a ‘Croiseur Auxiliaire’, heading from Salonika towards Toulouse, while passing through the Kea Channel, sunk from a mine [designated as minefield No 33[2]] laid in the Kea Channel by the German submarine U 73[3]. She was heading south with just the 450 strong crew sailing from Thessaloniki and heading to Toulon for loading another 2,000 troops of Zouaves[4] as re-enforcements to the Entente’s[5] massive Gallipoli Campaign[6], which during the one year that it was fought would cost more than 250,000 lives from both warring sides. It was exactly one week before the HMHS Britannic[7] was sunk.

Mine field Nr. 32 laid outside the St. Nicholas Bay, Kea island on 28th October 1916. (Bundesarchiv – Militärarchiv der B.R.D.).
  • Human losses due to this sinking were minimal, thanks to the actions of the Captain, Commandant Rolland, First Officer Mercier and Chief Engineer Richard.
  • Historical sources present two different versions of S/S Burdigala’s sinking. The French, refers to a torpedo attack (see Auguste-Antoine Thomazi, page 180[8]), while the English refers to a mine hit (see Paul G. Halpern, page 253[9]). German sources (see Arno Spindler, 3rd volume, page 343[10]), consider the ship as sunk by a mine. The Greek Press at the time (daily newspaper Emprós, November 2nd[11] and 3rd[12] 1916, Gregorian calendar) reports the incident by supporting the French, torpedoing version.

Likewise it was on the morning of 21st November 1916 when Titanic’s sister-ship the commandeered by the British Admiralty great liner-converted to hospital ship, HMHS Britannic with a displacement of 48.158 GRT [the largest ocean liner of the time] sinks after hitting a mine, laid in the Kea Channel by the same German submarine U 73. Britannic was heading north towards the port of Moudros with just her crew, medical officers and nurses of about 1,200 souls. At Moudros she was going to take on wounded British soldiers ca. 2,000 to 2,500 souls. The detailed account of her sinking is logged here: http://hmhsbritannic.weebly.com/sinking.html[13][14][15]

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