20th July 1918 | SS Justicia Sinks off Malin Head after Sustained Attack

On the 20th July 1918, after a grueling 22 hour assault involving two separate U-boats, the SS Justicia finally succumbed and went down off the coast of Malin Head.

SS Justicia

SS Justicia in dazzle camouflage (Credit Michael W. Pocock Maritime Quest)

The SS Justicia was a British troopship built in the famous Belfast shipyards of Harland and Wolff. She was launched on 9th July 1914 as the Statendam and was requisitioned in 1915 by the British government as a troopship.

Renamed Justicia she was first given to the Cunard Line – who had recently lost the RMS Lusitania – to manage. They had difficulty assembling a crew so she was handed over to the White Star Line. Many of the crew onboard the SS Justicia were the survivors of the Titanic’s sister ship Britannic which had been sunk in the War.

The ship was painted with dazzle camouflage, a technique to help confuse the enemy and make it harder to target, and was used to transport troops.

SS Justicia

Justicia before she went down (Credit Michael W. Pocock Maritime Quest)

On the 19th of July 1918 the Justicia sailed from Belfast to New York escorted by a number of destroyers. Around 23 miles south of Skerryvore, Scotland she was struck by a torpedo from the U-Boat UB-64. The torpedo blasted through the engine room instantly killing nine men, a tenth would die from his injuries later. The watertight doors were closed in time, temporarily saving her from sinking.

The U-boat tried again sending two more torpedoes towards the ship but they missed. A fourth hit but she still managed to remain afloat. Her escorts dropped depth charges and damaged the U-boat and sending it fleeing.

Most of the men were evacuated leaving a small crew. The engines still operated and the tug boat Sonia towed her towards Lough Swilly in an attempt to beach the stricken Justicia.

SS Justicia

Wreck of Justicia lies 45 km north-west of Malin Head at the depth of 68 metres (Credit Caters News)

After managing to survive the first wave of attacks the next morning, July 20th, a second U-boat UB-124 came upon the ship and fired two more killing blows. The remaining crew were evacuated and the ship finally sank around 45km north west of Malin Head. When the U-boat surfaced she was sunk with gunfire from the destroyers.

About the Author

Daniel Farrell
Interested in all things on the Irish coast and sharing the best of it. // Email: Daniel@coastmonkey.ie // Follow on Twitter: @DanielsSeaViews