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Cardiff’s Merchant Fleet Takes a Heavy Toll

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On the eve of the war, Cardiff’s trade in coal was at record levels of 10.5m tonnes per annum; there were more than 100 coal-exporting businesses and around seventy firms managing over 300 ships. Losses over the course of the war, principally from German U-boat attacks, saw at least 200 of these ships sunk and close on 1,000 lives lost. The sinkings took place not only around the coast of the British Isles but also in the Mediterranean and off Norway. Cargoes included wheat, sugar, iron ore, steel, oil, military/government stores and, not surprisingly, coal. At the beginning of the U-boat a campaign warning was usually given to enable the crew of the ship under attack to take to the lifeboats, but in February 1917 the Germans declared ‘unrestricted submarine warfare’ and vessels were torpedoed or fired on without warning, 124 Cardiff-registered vessels were lost in 1917 alone.

This tribute was suggested by Tiger Bay and the World.