RMS Arabic

RMS (also SS) Arabic was a passenger ship of the White Star Line that served the Liverpool - New York and Liverpool - Boston routes.  On 19 August 1915, the German submarine U-24 torpedoed Arabic, and the ship sank in 9 minutes.  Arabic was the first White Star Line ship to be lost in World War I.  Forty-four lives were lost and 390 were saved.  American reaction to the Arabic sinking was the proximate cause for Germany suspending unrestricted submarine warfare until 1917.
  1. Ship and career
  2. War and sinking
  3. Aftermath
  4. Arabic specifications
  5. Links of interest

Ship and career

Arabic was a White Star liner, the second of three ships to be so named in White Star history. Arabic was built by Harland and Wolff of Belfast, Ireland, and began life as Minnewaska for the Atlantic Transport Line. She would have been part of the Atlantic Transport Line's Minne- class ships, sisters being Minnehaha, Minneapolis, and Minnetonka. Two more sisters, Mongolia and Manchuria, would follow. As the ship was being built, both Atlantic Transport and White Star were acquired by J. P. Morgan’s International Mercantile Marine conglomerate, and the ship was transferred to White Star. Atlantic Transport would get their own Minnewaska (III) in 1908. White Star altered the ship’s design to accommodate more passengers. Her superstructure was extended aft of the third mast and extended forward of the second mast. She was also renamed Arabic. Arabic was launched on Thursday, 18 December 1902. Her maiden voyage commenced on Friday, 26 June 1903, where she served the Liverpool – New York route. She also made trips on the Liverpool – Boston route. Arabic was also the ship that carried the body of Titanic’s bandleader, Wallace Hartley, back to England.

War and sinking

When World War I began, Arabic remained in commercial service for White Star and was not used as a troopship or hospital ship.  Her contemporaries, such as Oceanic (II), Olympic, and Britannic (II), were called to war duty. On 19 August 1915, the German submarine U-24 torpedoed Arabic without warning off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland, in the general vicinity of where Lusitania was torpedoed three months earlier. Arabic sank in 9 minutes. Forty-four people died in the Arabic sinking, but 390 were rescued.


American protests over the Arabic sinking led to Germany pledging an end to unrestricted submarine warfare and no further unannounced sinkings of merchant ships. Germany reneged on this pledge in 1917, one of the final actions leading to the United States’ declaration of war on Germany on 6 April 1917 and entry into World War I on the side of the Allies. After the war, Germany surrendered to the United Kingdom the North German Lloyd liner Berlin as war reparations. This ship was acquired by White Star and became the company’s third Arabic in 1920.

Arabic specifications

Flag United Kingdom
Shipping company White Star Line
Port of registry Liverpool
Gross tonnage 15,801
Length overall 600.7 feet / 183.08 meters
Beam 65.5 feet / 19.96 meters
Draft 44 feet / 13.41 meters
Number of funnels 1
Number of masts 4
Decks 4
Machinery Twin screws geared to quadruple steam expansion engines
Service speed 16 knots, 17 knots maximum
Builder Harland and Wolff, Belfast, Ireland (present-day Northern Ireland)
Yard number 340
Launch date 18 December 1902
Maiden voyage 26 June 1903
Sunk 19 August 1915
Passenger accommodation 200 first class 200 second class 1,000 third class

Links of interest

RMS Arabic at Great Ships SS Arabic at The Atlantic Transport Line RMS Arabic at Titanic-Titanic
Contributors: Mark Baber Andrew Clarkson Jonathan Kinghorn Jeff Newman References: "Arabic" at Encyclopedia Titanica.  Online.  <http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/6937/1094.html?981928150>.  Accessed 1 May 2012. Baber, Mark and Jeff Newman.  "R.M.S. Arabic (II)."  Great Ships.  Online.  <http://www.greatships.net/arabic2.html>.  Accessed 30 April 2012. Clarkson, Andrew.  "Arabic II."  Titanic-Titanic.  Online.  <http://www.titanic-titanic.com/arabic_2.shtml>  Accessed 2 May 2012. Kinghorn, Jonathan.  "S.S. Arabic."  The Atlantic Transport Line.  Online.  <http://www.atlantictransportline.us/content/00Arabic.htm>.  Accessed 2 May 2012. "Launch of a White Star Liner."  The Times.  20 December 1902.  Via Encyclopedia Titanica.  Online.  <http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/6937/134828.html?1229732642>  Accessed 2 May 2012.

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