Daily Event for February 25

February 25, 1917 The Cunard liner Laconia while on a voyage from New York to Liverpool, was torpedoed and sunk by the U-50 160 miles west of Ireland. The Laconia was hit on the starboard side at about 10:30pm and hit a second time twenty minuets later. Twelve of the two hundred and ninety four on board were killed including two Americans, a mother and daughter who were washed out of a lifeboat.

The ship sank by the stern in about 40 minuets giving time to launch the boats in an orderly fashion. After the ship had sunk the U-50 approached one of the boats to make inquiries about the ship and the fate of those on board. After receiving satisfactory answers the U-50 submerged and left the area. The survivors were picked up about six hours later by two British patrol ships.

Some ship's names are famous others are infamous but are some names unlucky? If so than Laconia is one of the unlucky names for sure. On April 9, 1921 Cunard launched the second Laconia and this ship suffered the same fate. She was sunk by the U-156 on September 12, 1942. There were over 1,600 people killed, mostly Italian POW's however, over 1,000 had survived.

The U-156 realizing the tragedy made a heroic effort to rescue those in the water. Several other U-boats in the area also came to the rescue only to be attacked by US bombers. This would later be known as "The Laconia incident" After this Karl Dönitz ordered his U-boats not to attempt to rescue survivors.

Even before the two Cunarder's were lost there was another ship named Laconia which had a bizarre incident happen. She had been built in 1856 by J & G Thompson in Glasgow as a brig but she was rebuilt in 1870 for passenger service. On March 13, 1874 while returning pilgrims from Mecca to Algiers a rogue wave washed 278 people overboard. Nine of them were drowned in the incident.

The final example is the Greek liner Lakonia. The name is a bit odd because on the stern it is spelled Laconia while on the bow a "K" is used. On December 22, 1963 she caught fire in the North Atlantic killing 128.
The ship sank under tow on the 29th 250 miles west of Gibraltar.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock

SS Laconia