Troopship Royal Edward.
Before the Great War, the Royal Edward was launched in 1907 as a service for British mail from Egypt called RMS Cairo.
At the start of the War in 1914, she became a Troopship, initially bringing Canadian troops over to Britain. She was then anchored in Southend and used for some months to hold enemy aliens, after which she was again put into use as a troopship.
On 28th July 1915 she left Avonmouth, Bristol with 1602 officers, men & crew on board destined for Gallipoli. The majoritory of men were reinforcements for the 29th British Infantry Division, but there were also men from the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The Royal Edward arrived in Alexandria on 10th August then departed for the harbour of Moudros on the island of Lemnos, a staging point for the ships in the Dardanelles. On the morning of the 13th August the German submarine UB-14 spotted her & launched two torpedoes from about a mile away and hit the Royal Edward in the stern. The ship sank within six minutes.
Before she went down, the crew managed to put out an SOS call and 440 men were rescued by the hospital ship Soudan, and 221 by two French destroyers & some trawlers that were nearby. The Royal Edward was the first troopship to be sunk in the First World War.
It was reported in the Luton News on 19th August 1915 of two Lutonians that were aboard the ill-fated troopship. Sergt. Arthur Maurice Woodcroft & Pte Walter Cecil Allen.
Arthur Woodcroft was born in Colchester, Essex in April 1892. In 1911 he is living with his mother, father, 4 sisters & 3 brothers at 73 Ivy Road, Luton. Arthur is working as a straw hat packer. His father is also working in the straw hat factory as a blocker. Arthur joined the R.A.M.C. He survived the sinking of the Royal Edward. He lived through the Great War, married Henrietta May Sullivan in September 1918 & died in Luton in November 1984 aged 92.
Walter Cecil Allen was born in 1880. He married Mary Isabella Lines in June 1908 & in the 1911 census they are living at 15 Rothesay Road. They have 2 daughters Vera Mary aged 2 & Eva Monica aged 3 months. Mary's sister Elizabeth Harriett Lines is living with them. Walter is a sign writer. Walter survived the sinking of the troopship & died aged 66 in 1946.
It later transpired that Pte Allen was not on board the Royal Edward after it sailed from Alexandria, but a young private with the R.A.M.C., No 82 Pte Ewart William Clark, 17-year-old son of Daniel and Emma Jane Clark, of 7 Park Road West, Luton, was among those lost in the disaster.