Daily Event for August 10, 2010

August 10. 1918 the French passenger liner Polynésien was torpedoed and sunk just outside Valletta Harbour, Malta by SMS UC-22. Polynésien was one of three sister ships built at Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes
La Ciotat, France for the same ship line. She was built in 1890 and was 500' long and registered at 6,506 tons at the time of her build. The three ships (Australien and Armand Behic being the other two) were used on the Australian and east Indian trade routes and were by all accounts quite successful. These were some of the fastest ships on that route of their time with a normal speed of 18 knots, a speed usually associated with north Atlantic steamers.

Polynésien was the first ship of the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes to ever stop at Fremantle, Australia which she did on Jan. 30, 1901. In Sept. of 1906 she was near Hong Kong when a terrible hurricane hit the area, she was driven into the steamer Fatshan, which was later grounded to avoid sinking, but what damage was done to the Polynésien is unknown to me.

Polynésien was being used as a troop transport, taking Serbian troops from Bizerta, Tunisia to Salonkia, Greece when the torpedo struck. She was hit on the port side near the engine room and sank in a little over half an hour. While most managed to get off the ship, nineteen men were lost including six Serbians, eleven Indian firemen and two crewmen. Today the wreck is a semi-popular dive site, but difficult to reach.

One of her sisters was lost less than three weeks earlier, on July 19, 1918 Australien was sunk by SMS UC-52 off Cape Bon, Tunisia, she was also involved in trooping duties. The third ship, Armand Behic, which was laid down as Tasmanien, survived and was later scrapped. SMS UC-22 also survived the war sinking over 41,000 tons of shipping, she was surrendered to the French and later scrapped.
© 2010 Michael W. Pocock

Drawing of Polynésien published in the 1880's.

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