9 January 1917 – Feline intuition

Yesterday, the HMS Ben-my-Chree left Port Said to work with a French naval squadron on a reconnaissance patrol of the coast of Asia Minor. She was ordered to operate from the Island of Kastelorizo, which is situated less than a mile from the mainland.

The ship arrived early today, but the weather on arrival, was too stormy for immediate operations and the Ben-my-Chree, on the advice of the French admiral de Spitz, who was already inside, went into the harbour and anchored.

A lighter, with stores to unload, came alongside. When this departed it took with it the ship’s Manx cat, which had been aboard since 1909, and no amount of coaxing could get it to return.

At 1410hrs an explosion occurred 15 yards off the port beam. Thought at first to be an air attack, it was soon realised that the ship was being shelled at a range of 5000 yards from the guns that the Short seaplanes had failed to locate at the beginning of November. The third round set fire to the hangar and, thereafter under continual hits from 6 inch and 17-pdr shells, the position was untenable and at 1445hrs the order was given to abandon ship. Ommander Charles Rumney Sansom and Mr Robinson (Ship’s Engineer) were the last to leave.

The Ben-my-Chree on fire

The Ben-my-Chree on fire

The ensuing fire was then directed at other ship’s in the harbour and the town of Castelorizo. Considerable damage was caused. The crew of Ben-my-Chree, under Capt Wedgwood Benn, formed part of the defence force to oppose any landings the Turks might make. The ship’s surgeon organised a hospital ashore.


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