Daily Event for April 25

Here is a strange tale involving two ships belonging to two nations, and a decade of time. On April 25, 1908 at 10:30 AM the cruiser HMS Gladiator departed Portland for the Portsmouth Naval Base, two hours later at 12:30 PM the liner St. Paul of the American Line left Southampton for Cherbourg and on to New York, two hours after that at 2:30 PM the two ships would meet.

It was snowing and as the two ships approached each other in the Solent just off Yarmouth, Isle of Wight the
storm turned into a white out. Gladiator was built in 1896 at the Portsmouth Dockyard and was 5,750 tons,
the St. Paul was built in 1895 at William Cramp in Philadelphia and was 11,629 GRT, over twice the size of
the cruiser, the ships were on a collision course.

Blinded by the snow the ships signaled each other, but the signals did not seem to match the actions taken by
the St. Paul. Her captain ordered his helm put hard to port which of course caused the ship to turn to starboard, at the same time he signaled Gladiator that he was "going to port." The captain on the Gladiator assumed that St. Paul's captain had made an error as ships were supposed to pass starboard to starboard, his signal that he was going to port seems to have meant his helm and not his ship, but in the few moments of confusion the captain of the Gladiator ordered his helm to starboard and therefore turned directly into the path of the St. Paul.

The liner was making 13 knots, which may have been too fast for the conditions but it was now too late, the
St. Paul's bow crashed into the Gladiator, the glancing blow opened about 40' of her hull to the sea by pealing
back the hull plates. St. Paul's bow was crushed and upon inspection it was found she only stayed afloat
because of her watertight bulkhead near the bow. Gladiator however was not so lucky, she was mortally
wounded and close to foundering when she ran aground off Sconce Point, 250 yards off shore.

The St. Paul launched boats to pick up survivors and Gladiator managed to launch four of her own, but she
soon rolled to starboard and sank in shallow water, most of her crew swimming to shore, over two hundred were saved, but twenty-three men were trapped inside the ship and perished. A further three bodies were recovered and one man died of his injuries in hospital. The St. Paul made it to a drydock where she was repaired, but Gladiator was lost. In October she was raised and towed to Portsmouth where it was decided she was too badly damaged to repair and she was sold for scrap.

On April 25, 1918, exactly ten years later, the surviving ship, St. Paul (now USS St. Paul ID-1643), having just arrived at Pier 61 in New York after undergoing conversion into a troopship at Robins Drydock Company, capsized at the dock and sank in shallow water. She rolled over just like Gladiator had done ten years before, taking three or four lives. An open door was the most likely cause. She however was raised and repaired, but never saw war service. In 1923 she was towed to Germany and scrapped.
© 2008 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honour
In memory of those who lost their lives in
HMS Gladiator
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Ball, Ernest
Stoker 2nd Class
Barker, Alfred T.
Able Seaman
Burt, William C.
Leading Seaman
Cacutt, Arthur W.
Able Seaman
Churchill, Edward
Able Seaman
Corbett, John H.
Stoker 2nd Class
Died in hospital
Cowdrey, Edward
1st Writer
Body recovered
Curran, George
Stoker (RNR)
de Cruz, Arthur
Petty Officer 1st Class
Franklin, Thomas W.
Petty Officer 1st Class
Frogbrook, George W.
Able Seaman
Gladman, Edwin
Able Seaman
Graves, William G. P.
Greenham, George
Petty Officer 1st Class
Kirk, Cecil
Leary, John
Stoker (RNR)
Livingstone, Richard
Leading Seaman
Lockyer, Levi
Petty Officer 1st Class
Meech, Jonathan
Petty Officer 1st Class
Nash, Albert J.
Stoker 2nd Class
Page, John
Stoker 2nd Class
Polkinghorne, Josias
Chief Armourer
Rashley, Percy G.
Officer's Steward
Sciberras, Spiro
Officer's Steward
Maltese national,
body recovered
Spence, Sydney G.
Able Seaman
Wade, Michael
Stoker (RNR)
Widgery, William E.
Ship's Steward
Body recovered

April 1908: HMS Gladiator seen on her side.

April 1918: SS St. Paul seen on her side.

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