Burnley to remember troop ship sinking

HMT Royal Edward

HMT Royal Edward

  • 100th anniversary of sinking of HMT The Royal Edward
  • 35 of the dead from Burnley
  • German officer to take part in act of reconciliation
  • Activities to take place at Burnley Football Club
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The catastrophic sinking of a First World War troop ship with the loss of hundreds of lives will be remembered a century on in Burnley.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the demise of The Royal Edward, Burnley Borough Council and 207 Field Hospital will hold a series of events on August 12th and 13th.

The Royal Edward was a Canadian passenger liner that was given over to be a troop ship during the First World War – it is believed 35 of the men who perished were from Burnley.

A poignant vigil and service will be held at Towneley Hall War Memorial attended by dignitaries, the military and the public remembering those who lost their lives.

The service at 7-30pm on August 13th will be led by Major David Banbury, 207 Field Hospital’s padre.

val officer Commander Wilfred Mecklenborg will pay his respects to those who died in an act of reconciliation, alongside members of the Royal British Legion and the Sea Cadets as well as Burnley Football Club supporters’ groups.

HMT Royal Edward set sail from Avonmouth on July 28th, 1915, bound for Gallipoli carrying around 1,367 officers and men who were the main draft for the 29th Division, along with 400 men from medical units. Of these 170 were from the East Lancashire Area.

On the morning of August 12th the Royal Edward left the port of Alexandra, Egypt, on the final leg of her journey.

The following day a lifeboat drill was carried out and while the crew and troops were stowing equipment after the drill the ship was struck astern by German torpedoes and sank in just six minutes.

The total death toll is uncertain but the Commonwealth war graves commission records 861 names which does not include the crew.

Of the 170 men on board from the East Lancashire Field Ambulances 60 drowned. Many of the survivors were rescued by the Hospital Ship Sudan.

From 6pm, there will be various stands in Towneley Hall including a mock First World War Casualty Clearing Station.

Subsequent activities will be held at Burnley Football Club on Saturday, August 15th when the Clarets host Birmingham City.

Major Kath Higgins, who recently returned from Sierra Leone dealing with the ebola crisis, will also take part in the commemorations.