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Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number 397
Launched November 12, 1908; delivered April 24, 1909; maiden voyage May 1, 1909; mined on November 21, 1916
Hull: length 600' 4"; beam 65' 5"; 14,317 tons; depth of hold 39' 6"; 4 masts; 4 decks and shelter deck; fitted with electric light, submarine signaling device and refrigerating machinery; water ballast
Power: twin screws; quadruple expansion engines by builder with cylinders of 30", 43", 63", and 89" diameter, stroke 60"; 1,222 n.h.p.; steam pressure 200 lbs.; 16 knots
Registered in Belfast; official number 124674; call sign MMW; code letters HNTB
Economic conditions having deteriorated during the construction of the Minne class ships the fourth was transferred before completion to the White Star Line to become the Arabic. It was several years before the International Mercantile Marine Company felt able to order a fourth Minne for the Atlantic Transport Line. The experience gained operating the first three Minnes informed improvements in the design of the fourth, chief among which was greatly increased passenger accommodation. She was fitted for wireless communication from the outset and accommodated the operators within her superstructure; the call letters for this ship were "MMW."
In late April 1911 19-year-old seaman J. W. Browning fell overboard when his lifeline broke while he was working on the lifeboats. According to the New York Times he fell sixty feet from the "speeding liner" and "had to swim desperately" in his sea boots to avoid being drawn into her screws. "Within a few seconds after the alarm the Minnewaska (III) had cut a wide circle to port and was heading back over her course." A boat under the command of Chief Officer James Grant Hutchison was soon lowered and Browning was back on board thirteen minutes after his fall, but without his sea boots.
WHITSTABLE SAILOR FALLS FROM ATLANTIC LINER
GALLANT RESCUE IN MID OCEAN
CLINGS TO BUOY COMRADE TOSSED INTO OCEAN
American newspapers are to hand giving accounts of the daring rescue of a Whitstable sailor which was effected in mid ocean.
"The New York World" of May 1st says:--"The fifty-five passengers on the Atlantic liner Minnewaska, which reached her pier early yesterday afternoon, witnessed the thrilling rescue of a seaman. He was William J. Browning, nineteen years old, of Whitstable, Kent, where the famous English oyster grows. (Browning is the second son of O. E. Browning of 20, High Street.) While the passengers were taking afternoon tea in the lounge on the upper promenade deck on Monday there was a series of shrieks on the ship's siren. The liner began to turn on her starboard helm, and presently every one was pointing to a man bobbing on the rollers astern. Chief Officer J. G. Hutchinson rushed for the emergency lifeboat No. 2, beside which a half dozen able seamen stood waiting. It was Able Seaman Chadwick who had rushed up the bridge ladder and informed Captain Thomas F. Gates and Second Officer Simmons that Browning had fallen overboard. Chadwick had hurled a life belt after Browning. Another life buoy was thrown from the bridge as the ship swung around. There was a confused sea, on with a heavy swell. At times rollers hid the struggling sailor from View. Browning struck the water feet first, after falling sixty-five feet. As he came up he noticed the life buoy Chadwick had thrown. Then he felt the suction of the ship's wave and knew he would be sucked towards the vessel and chopped to pieces by the propellers unless he swam away. The lad kicked off one of his sea boots. He could see Chief Officer Hutchinson and the men standing by the emergency boat as the ship swung around. This gave him hope. Browning struck out for the life buoy, which was fifty feet away. As he approached it, rollers carried the life ring further from his grasp. He struggled on and seized it at last. "I was nearly all in when I reached it," said the boy afterwards. Once in the ring he kicked off the other boot and then took it 'cool and easy,' continuing to swim enough to keep himself comfortable. After the steamer, which had been going at a fifteen-knot pace, had swung around to within three hundred yards of the sailor, Chief Officer Hutchinson's boat was cut away. The swells rose so high that the boat could not be seen in the valleys. When Browning was pulled into the boat passengers cheered. When he climbed to deck they applauded again."
"The New York Times" of May 1st says:--"About 4:30 o-clock on Monday afternoon Browning and another sailor were sent to fix the covers on the life boats on the boat decks, sixty feet above the water. Browning was on the outside of the boat on the edge of the deck, which behind the boats is not railed so they can be launched, when a life line, to which he was holding, broke and he fell backwards into the sea."
(The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 13 May 1911)
Organized deck sports competitions had long been a popular feature of extended voyages, and these events were occasionally held on board Atlantic Transport Line ships even before World War One. A printed program for one such event held on bord the London-bound Minnewaska (III) on June 9 and 10, 1911, (Kinghorn collection) lists events including the Men's Potato Race, Ladies Bell Ringing, Men's Bun Eating, Spar Fighting, and Tug-o'-War.
In October 1914, while the Minnewaska (III) was taking on cargo in New York, a fire developed in number two hold, where a consignment of sugar had been loaded. The blaze was extinguished only when the hold was flooded to a depth of twenty feet. The fire destroyed sugar worth $120,000 and there was some concern that it may have been deliberately set by German agents. But it seems to have been an accident and was blamed by Captain Thomas F. Gates, on spontaneous combustion. The Minnewaska (III) was not materially damaged and sailed on schedule.
The Minnewaska (III) is recorded in the Morton Allan Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals making 66 voyages to New York between May 1909 and January 1915. She then served as a British Army troop transport. The Minnewaska (III) sailed from Avonmouth on Friday March 5, 1915, bound for Alexandria, which she reached early in the evening on Sunday, March 14. She sailed next for Gallipoli on April 18, with the headquarters of the Ist Australian division and many troops on board. A number of officer's horses were also shipped to the Gallipoli Peninsula but were not landed. The Minnewaska (III) was present at the Gallipoli landings and was involved in a minor collision with Derfflinger off Anzac Cove on April 28. The Australian War Memorial collections include several photographs of taken on board Minnewaska (III) or showing her in service as a transport, and these can be found by searching the website.
The Minnewaska (III), defensively armed with a gun mounted on her stern, made five voyages ferrying troops and artillery to the Dardanelles. She had some narrow escapes but on November 29, 1916, she finally struck a floating mine in Suda Bay, Crete, en route to Saloniki. She was transporting 1,600 troops on this occasion and had a crew of 200. She took on a rapidly increasing list but Captain Gates decided to steam at full speed to the nearby shore and successfully ran her aground 50 yards west of Cape Deutero at the entrance to Suda Bay. Gates was decorated with the Order of the British Empire for his actions, which saved many lives. It took about two hours to evacuate the ship and the men were rescued without loss by the trawler Danestone, the drifters Principal, Trustful and Deveronside, and the destroyer Grampus. But her bottom had been torn away by the mine and the Minnewaska (III) had to be abandoned on the beach where she lay. In 1918 she was sold to shipbreakers for scrap and was broken up in situ. Parts of the wreck remain on site.
Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present, Eugene W. Smith, Massachusetts, 1977; Gilbert Provost's Register of Ships; The Great War Forum; Australians at War; Merchant Fleets in Profile 2; the Ships of the Cunard, American, Red Star, Inman, Leyland, Dominion, Atlantic Transport and White Star Lines, Duncan Haws, 1979; Atlantic Transport Line brochures of c.1909, August 1913, and c.1914 (Kinghorn collection); The New York Times, June 4, 1907; May 1, 1911; October 22, 1914; January 28, 1917
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