Single Project


LOCATION: -5.30, 51.67

The most recent surveys have confirmed that this wreck is the DRINA.

The DRINA was a defensively-armed passenger steamer, travelling from Buenos Aires to Liverpool when she struck a mine on St David’s Day, 1 March 1917, two miles from Skokholm Island, near Milford Haven. The DRINA had been requisitioned for use as a hospital ship – the first merchant ship to be taken over for this service in the First World War, but at the time of sinking she was carrying cargo. Fifteen lives were lost when she was sunk.

His Majesty’s Hospital Ship (HMHS) DRINA was a British passenger steamer built by Harland & Wolff, Ltd., Belfast, in 1913 and owned at the time of her loss by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, Belfast.  She had been requisitioned by the Admiralty for use as a hospital ship earlier in the war. However, from early 1916 she was considered better employed as a cargo ship, and at the time of her sinking was carrying a cargo of timber, carbon, meat and 300 tons of coffee, as well as 189 passengers. She was also armed with a 6-inch gun on her stern.

On 1 March 1917, the DRINA, travelling from Buenos Aires to Liverpool, was skirting the Welsh coast at night when she was sunk by a mine laid by the German submarine UC 65, two miles west of Skokholm Island off Milford Haven. Three hundred and nineteen passengers and crew were saved as the ship stayed afloat for half an hour, allowing time to launch and fill the lifeboats. However, two passengers and thirteen crew members lost their lives in the sinking.

One of the thirteen crew lost when the DRINA sunk was Frederico Saldanha Jones from Newport who was 22 years old and 4th engineer on the DRINA. He was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1896 to Cathleen Lloyd and David Morris Jones but lived and attended school in Merthyr Tydfil.

The DRINA in the River Mersey before conversion to a hospital ship. Copyright unknown.

The mine which sunk the DRINA had been laid by UC 65 commanded by KapLt Otto Steinbrinck three weeks earlier. Steinbrinck’s war diary and a hand-drawn map have helped us answer some of the questions surrounding the sinking of the DRINA. In historical sources it was reported that she was torpedoed near Skokholm by UC 65 on 1 March 1917. That day, however, UC 65 was on patrol in the English Channel where it attacked and sank a small flotilla of fishing vessels. Consulting the maps produced by KapLt Steinbrinck, it becomes evident that UC 65 was still responsible for the sinking of the DRINA because the submarine crew had laid three strings of mines just three weeks earlier during a daring mine-laying trip to Milford Haven. The red line on the map shows the U-boat’s dangerous underwater route right into Milford Haven!

The DRINA during her service as a hospital ship. Copyright unknown.

The DRINA was returned to commercial use to meet the shortage of ships that were equipped with the refrigeration facilities that she had. The DRINA could carry a large quantity of cargo, having holds insulated for the conveyance of chilled or frozen meat which were ‘capable of conveying 75,000 quarters of beef’. She also had insulated compartments for dairy produce and fruit. Moreover, ‘she was fitted with bilge keels for steadiness, and the water ballast consists of 2,440 tons in 12 tanks’. Ninety-two bags of letters and parcels went down with the ship.

At the time of sinking, the DRINA had on board the crew of the RADNORSHIRE which had been captured and sunk with the crew taken to Germany. They were released and were being returned to Britain on the DRINA. Among the RADNORSHIRE crew was an A. da Silva, listed as ‘Portugese Indian’ and an ‘officer servant’. The wireless operator of the RADNORSHIRE, Irishman Edward Sheehy aged 22, apparently suffered greatly from his ordeals and died on 11th July 1917 at home in Tuam, County Galway.

Also aboard the DRINA was John Hamilton, the Canadian captain of the schooner MAYOLA, which had been sunk by U 21 on 16 February 1917.


Bundesarchiv, Militärarchiv, Freiburg. Unterseeboote der Kaiserlichen Marine. BArch RM 97/1894. UC 65. Kriegstagebuch. 4 Feb. 1917 – 20 Feb. 1917.

'Drina.' Harland and Wolff: Shipbuilding & Engineering. n.d. Web.

'One Dive to HMHS DRINA.' Taff the Horns. n.d.-2018. Web.

The National Archives, Kew. ADM–Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies. ADM 137/3982. Enemy submarines: particulars of attacks on merchant vessels in home waters. 1–9 Mar. 1917. 'British s.s. “DRINA” sunk by submarine', n.p.

'The S.S. Drina - first ship to be converted for use as a Hospital Ship during WW1.' Fascinating Facts Of The Great War. 6 Apr. 2015. Web.