HMAT A40 Ceramic

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HMAT A40 Ceramic.jpg

HMAT A40 Ceramic

Builder/Built 1912 Harland & Wolff in Belfast
Type Passenger vessel (twin screw)
Displacement 18,481 tons
Speed 15 knots


Owned by the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co Ltd of Liverpool (White Star Line), and leased by the Commonwealth until 9 Jul 1917 when management was transferred to the British Admiralty. While under Australian control she completed six journeys carrying troops to war zones.

During WW1 on three occasions the Ceramic was required to outrun a U Boat. In May 1916 in the Mediterranean a U Boat missed her with two torpedoes and she was required to outrun her attacker; in Jun 1917 in the Channel she again had to outdistance an attacking U Boat that had missed her with their first torpedo, and a month later she was pursued for 40 minutes by a U Boat on the surface using its gun to fire at her.

After the war the Ceramic returned to her Liverpool to Sydney route before being sold in 1934 to Shaw Savill & Albion Steam Ship Co. They had her rebuilt in 1936, modernised, and given additional power.

She was again requisitioned in 1939 to carry Australian troops. On Nov 23 1942 the Ceramic departed Liverpool as part of a convoy, with 200 military personnel on board as well as 150 civilians. Soon after leaving harbour she broke away from the convoy and continued on her route until during the night of 6 December, west of the Azores she was hit by a torpedo fired by U-515. The first torpedo was quickly followed by two more which stopped her dead in her tracks. About eight lifeboats were launched and filled with survivors, but with heavy seas they began capsizing and soon after all the survivors were in the sea.

With the Ceramic still floating the U Boat fired two more torpedoes that sank her. The next day, trying to find out where she was headed, the U Boat rescued one of the Ceramic's crew, but left all of the other survivors to eventually drown.

Nothing was known of her fate until the rescued crew member, Engineer Eric Munday, was released from his POW camp after the war.

Soldiers carried

Melbourne to Alexandria 22 December 1914 - 1 February 1915

Disembarked 3 February 1915

Fremantle to Port Suez 24 June - 23 July 1915

Fremantle to Port Suez 24 Nov 1915 - ?? Dec 1915

Fremantle to Port Suez 12 February - 11 March 1916

Fremantle to Egypt 14 April 1916 - ?? May 1916

England to Fremantle 25 Jan 1919 - 3 Mar 1919