On this day in 1917, the HMS Stephen Furness, an armed boarding steamer, is torpedoed by the German submarine UB-64 off the western coast of the Isle of Man, sinking before lifeboats can be lowered. The loss of one hundred lives includes five Canadians from the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve. Lost at sea, they are commemorated on the Halifax Memorial. We remember:
Able Seaman Albert Edward Wigmore
Able Seaman William Franklyn Romans
Able Seaman Harold Bennett Lawes
Able Seaman Robert Donald Watt
Able Seaman Henry Leo Meehan
Today is Niobe Day in Canada, marking the arrival of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Niobe in Halifax on 21October 1910, as the first warship of the new Naval Service of Canada.
Acquired from the Royal Navy, the HMCS Niobe was an armoured cruiser that had launched in 1897, serving around the world, in particular during the Second Boer War. The ship’s arrival in Halifax on 21October 1910 marked the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (thus considered “Trafalgar Day” in the Royal Navy).
During the early years of the First World War, HMCS Niobe patrolled the St. Lawrence approaches and eastern coast of America, chasing and intercepting German ships. In July 1915 the old and worn out Niobe returned to Halifax and served as a docked depot ship, hosting enlisted sailors, trainees and the Canadian naval headquarters.
During the Halifax Explosion on 6 December 1917, the Niobe was heavily damaged as metal debris swept across its decks, killing 19 men. Aboard the Niobe’s pinnace (a smaller steamboat used as a tender), six men had rushed towards the Mont Blanc, hoping to regain control of the ship; all six were killed instantly and the pinnace destroyed when the Mont Blanc exploded.
Repaired after the Halifax Explosion, the Niobe continued its role as a depot ship, until being sold off as surplus in 1920 and eventually scrapped. In recent years, a number of artifacts from the storied Niobe have re-surfaced, including the ship’s wheel, and a massive anchor, found in the Halifax Harbour. Read more about the discoveries here: