Bad omens for Hartlepool ship sunk by German u-boat

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Behind every story, a wealth of detailed information often goes unrecorded.

Volunteers from the local Heroism & Heartbreak: True Tales from the Hartlepools at War Project are finding this out during their wonderful research.

Their detective work has unearthed reminders of the vital contributions made by Hartlepool’s seamen and their ships, to the British effort in the First World War.

One example, found in the archives of the Northern Daily Mail, was the key events in the life of the 3,000 ton steamship Aries.

She was launched from the William Gray shipyard on August 22, 1895, for the West Hartlepool shipping company of Rickinson & Sons, and was ultimately sunk by a German U-boat on February 25, 1917 - yet she packed a lot into her 22-year career.

Less than a year after her launch, and during a voyage from India to the UK, one of her firemen, Liverpool-born John Kelin, was drowned.

The following year, on June 11, 1897, she arrived at Dundee from Calcutta with a cargo of 17,499 bales of jute, a number of which had been damaged as a result of a fire in the ship’s bunker coal.

And just one day adter that seaman J. Stenbeck, fell from the foretopmast staysail onto the deck.

He suffered a severe cut to the forehead as well as back injuries and needed hospital treatment.

More ill luck fell on the ship when her propeller-shaft bearing collapsed in 1898 while in dock at Dover. The damage was so bad that she had to be towed by a steam tug to the Deptford Dry Dock in London for repairs.

And it just kept on coming, Just two months on from the start of the First World War, the Aries was aground near Flamborough Head and lifeboats had to be called.

Successfully refloated, she was sold in 1915 to the Reindeer Shipping Co. Ltd, and survived another two years of war. Finally, she was captured and sunk by gunfire from the German submarine U-50 off the west coast of Ireland on February 25, 1917.

Many local shipping companies suffered badly during the First World War, not least Rickinson and Sons, which in 1914 owned six ships but by the end of the war owned just one.

Another of its vessels, the Ariel was another victim of the U-boats operating in the Mediterranean. She was torpedoed and sunk off the Algerian coast by UB-105, on October 3, 1918.

The Heroism & Heartbreak project aims to piece together the stories of these and a great many other Hartlepool-built and Hartlepool-owned ships.

Visit to find out more. If you have any maritime stories to tell, e-mail, or call in to Hartlepool Central Library.