Single Project


LOCATION: -4.69, 53.41

This wreck is believed to be the AGBERI, but currently that is unconfirmed.

The SS AGBERI was a passenger steamer owned by the Elder Dempster shipping company. Undertaking transport duties for the Allies during 1915 – 1916 she made four trips between Russia and Brest, carrying Russian troops to France for the Tsarist government. By Christmas Day 1917, she was undertaking cargo and passenger shipments.

Captained by Herbert Lamont, she sailed from Dakar, Senegal, to Liverpool with a general cargo of African produce. She may have also carried ivory and silver specie. She was part of a convoy when the attack occurred.

She was zig-zagging at the time, though that did little good. At 2:42 p.m., a torpedo hit her on the port side amidships, foreside of her bunkers. The crew and passengers were calm and disciplined, and managed to get into the small-craft on board and leave the ship before she sank. They were picked up by convoy escorts and patrol vessels. She went under in thirty minutes. U 87 would be dealt with by the convoy escorts.

Her crew would be taken to Stanley Sailor’s Hospital, Holyhead. Between 35 and 63 survivors were landed at midnight at the hospital to receive expert care.

The AGBERI was part of the ‘Agberi’ Class, Official Number 120880. A steel-screw steamer, she was fitted with two decks and a shelter deck. Her sisterships included the PATANI, the PRAHSU, the ABURI, and the FULANI.

Weighing 4889.218 gross registered tonnes, she was 113 metres long, 15 metres wide, and 6.6 metres high. She was built by Workman Clark & Co. Ltd, Belfast (Yard No 220), for Elder Dempster & Co. She was launched from their Belfast shipyard in 1905. She was important enough to both Workmans and Elder Dempster to feature in a newspaper to advertise her vast holds and her comfortable staterooms.

Her sinking would have been a blow to the firm, but their large shipping fleet absorbed this loss and others, and survived the war. U 87 had been involved in another Elder Dempster sinking, that of the TAMELE, on 16 July 1917.

Original image caption: 'AUGUST, 1916. R.M.S. "AGBERI," WITH RUSSIAN TROOPS ON BOARD, AT BREST.' Source: The Elder Dempster Fleet in the War 1914-18. Liverpool: Elder Dempster & Co. Ltd., 1921. n.p. [facing 49].

War history of AGBERI

3 September 1915 – requisitioned for service as an Ammunition Carrier to northern Russia for the Imperial Russian Government until 7 October 1915.

1915 – 1916 – completed four round voyages to the Arctic carrying Russian troops to Brest for the Imperial Russian Government.

14 September 1915 – was challenged by the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS HILARY (M 90) in an approximate position of 62°50 N 12°00 W and was allowed to proceed.

8 October 1915 – served as a Timber Transport (Collier) for the Office of Works and then returned to the White Sea for winter until 2 November 1915.

3 November 1915 – served as an Ammunition Carrier to Northern Russia for the Imperial Russian Government until 27 June 1916.

28 June 1916 – served as above until 11 December 1916 but was sub-chartered to Hudson’s Bay Co from 13 August 1916 to 24 September 1916 inclusive.

Part of the crew list of the AGBERI. Source: BT99/3345, 120880. The National Archives. Kew.

West African crew

As was the case with all Elder Dempster line ships, the AGBERI had a large complement of crew from Sierra Leone, West Africa. Twenty-five young men are listed in the crew list for this voyage serving mainly as firemen and trimmers – working below decks to feed the furnaces with coal. Their names are listed below:

  • Momo, Fireman aged 26 – died of dysentery on the GASCON on 14 February 1918
  • Sam Davies, Fireman, aged 26
  • John Sawyer, Fireman, aged 24
  • Thomas Williams, Fireman, aged 24
  • John Brown, Fireman, aged 22
  • John Roberts, Fireman, aged 25
  • T Shears, Trimmer, aged 20
  • Benoni Peel, Trimmer, aged 23
  • Thomas John, Trimmer, aged 19
  • John Bull, Trimmer, aged 23
  • Joseph Freeman, Trimmer, aged 23
  • Anthony Smart, Trimmer, aged 20 – died on the BURUTU on 3 October 1918
  • Tom Brown, Pantry Steward, aged 20
  • B. Wollo, Assistant Steward, aged 22
  • Charles Wilson, Engineers Steward, aged 21
  • Tom Newman, Scullion, aged 27
  • Johnson Smith, Cook Bakery, aged 36
  • Dan Davies, Fireman, aged 29 – Percival street, Freetown
  • Jim Brown, Fireman, aged 24 – 5 Bathurst Street, Freetown
  • Four O’Clock, (Sherbro Island), Fireman aged 24
  • Joseph Coffee, Trimmer, aged 22 – Saunders Street, Freetown
  • Borbor, Trimmer, aged 24 – Pultney Street, Freetown
  • John Eustace, Engineers Steward, aged 18
  • George Washington, Scullion, aged 18
  • J. Williams, Steward, aged 16
Northern Whig. 7 July 1905, p.8. The British Newspaper Archive. Web.

Pearce, Duncan and Anne, Lilian. 1914. ‘Report’, Christiana & Her Children; a Mystery Play. London, New York: Longmans, Green.

‘SS Agberi [+1917]’ Wreck Site. 2001 Web.

The Elder Dempster Fleet History: 1852-1985, James E. Cowden and John O. C. Duffy (1986).

The National Archives, Kew. ADM–Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies. ADM 137/4007. Enemy submarines: particulars of attacks on merchant vessels in home waters. 16–30 Dec. 1917. ‘British S.S. “AGBERI”’, n.p.

---., Kew. ADM–Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies. ADM 137/4144. Assessments of results of attacks on German submarines. ‘I. D.—Form I. “P.56”’, n.p.

---., Kew. BT–Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. BT 99/3345. Official Nos: […] 120880. ‘List C. & D. List of Crew, and Other Particulars of a Foreign Going or Home Trade Ship […] Agberi.’