Gaunt and Salway Family Tree



HMS Louvain


From kind permission of Ian Boyle at  



The following has been taken from the Court Martial report and witness statements. The Court Martial was held in Portsmouth 3 months after the sinking.

HMS Louvain was sailing on a regular run between Malta and Mudros. She left Malta at around 15:00hrs on the 18th January 1918 where she was escorted as far as the Corinth Canal, and passed through the canal where she was met by at the Eastern end by HMS Colne. She was carrying Mail, Officers and ratings to Mudros. Many of the ratings were on their way to be assigned to other Royal Navy Ships.


At 19:40hrs on the 20th January 1918, UC 22 spotted a steamer with an escorting destroyer. Oblt.z.S Carl Bunte, the UC 22 commanding officer, maneuvered to lay a minefield across formations path. The first mine was laid at 20:00hrs and the last one at 20:10hrs. UC 22 then began her torpedo attack.

At about 9pm on the 20th January Louvain was struck on the stern port quarter by a torpedo that penetrated the hull and entered the dynamo compartment just as Colne had passed over the wake of Louvain heading toward her starboard side on a zig zag pattern. The ship began to sink rapidly by the stern.

Hands were abandoning ship and boats were being lowered but boats were beginning to sink as soon as they reached the water due in part to still being made fast to the boat deck davits as the deck became level with the water.

A second torpedo was fired at Colne who then changed course and increased speed to 21 knots full speed and sailed down the along the incoming torpedo track and dropped two D Type depth charges set to 80 feet. After both depth charges exploded Colne reduced speed to 17 knots and swung around 180 degrees to starboard and headed to the last sighted position of Louvain which by now had sunk.

Crew on board Colne reported a strong smell of oil in the air and oil was reported on the surface of the water.

Colne stopped for two and half hours picking up survivors and searching the area no other attacks were reported.


The Courts Martial Summary:

HMS Louvain was sunk by a torpedo fired by an enemy submarine.

All possible precautions were taken by Colne against attack and everything possible was done by her to save lifes.

The evidence is insufficient to establish destruction of the submarine, but there are grounds to believe she was damaged.

The Commanding Officer of the Colne is to blame for making a false radio call that may have delayed arrival of other ships to hunt the submarine or render further assistance.

Louvain should have been zig zagging on her track. But the court is unable to apportion blame as neither the master or the officer of the watch survived.

The loss of life in boats is traceable to insufficient amount of boat drill or a complete understanding of it by ships crew or passengers, and faulty organisation in placing all the surviving officers together instead of distributing them among all boats and rafts to have a steadying influence.

The papers regarding her loss may be found in the National Archives at kew under references: ADM.137/3715 and ADM.137/3715 Gents.




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