SS Candidate

Candidate was a British, single-funneled steamer of 5,858 gross registered tons that sailed between Great Britain and the West Indies.  On her last voyage to the West Indies she was commanded by Captain Sandiford and carrying a cargo of groceries and hardware.  An attempt had been made to paint out the name on her stern.

On in foggy morning of Wednesday, 6 May 1915, Candidate was off the coast of County Wexford, Ireland, when U-20 shelled the steamer at a distance of about 300 yards.  The shells struck the funnel and the upper parts of the ship.  Candidate’s firemen panicked and rushed to the lifeboats against Captain Sandiford’s orders to stay at their posts.  Sandiford tried to swing his ship’s broadside away from the submarine and only expose the ship’s stern, but the U-20 soon fired on the bridge and Sandiford stopped his ship.  He reluctantly ordered his crew to abandon ship.

The U-20 stopped shelling to allow the crew of the Candidate to abandon ship.  Second cook Fred Smyth had warned the chief cook that they were being shelled and the chief officer ordered Smyth into a lifeboat.  As they were leaving the ship, Smyth noticed that the deck was full of shell holes.

One lifeboat swamped as it hit the water.  The other three lifeboats got away safely.  As the boats retreated into the fog, the U-20’s commander, Kapitanleutnant Walther Schwieger, ordered the Candidate sunk.  The U-20 fired a torpedo into Candidate’s engine room.  The impact of the torpedo made a great noise and vibration that could be felt from the submarine, but did not seem to affect the steamer at all.

Schwieger ordered the submarine to move closer to the ship and ordered the submarine guns to fire on Candidate’s waterline.  It was at this time that Schwieger could see the ship’s name on her stern, which had been painted over but not successfully.  Slowly, Candidate sank stern first, threw her bow in the air, and then disappeared.

The survivors of the Candidate saw a small armed naval trawler near the scene whose gun would not have been powerful enough to sink the submarine but could have done enough damage to keep the submarine from submerging again.  To their astonishment, the trawler ran away.  Its name was the Lawrenny Castle SA 52.

At 3 p.m. the survivors were picked up by the naval trawler Lord Allendale, commanded by Captain Foster.  Hearing the complaint that the Lawrenny Castle had fled the scene of the sinking, naval officer Lieutenant Stevens, whose patrol included Lawrenny Castle, ordered the captain of the fleeing vessel to proceed to the nearest Irish harbor and turn himself in for arrest.

Candidate survivors specifically requested the Admiralty that news of their torpedoing be relayed to Lusitania for the larger ship’s safety.  The message was not passed on to Lusitania.

References:
“County Wexford.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 28 April 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/County_Wexford>

Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1982.

“WWI U-boat Successes:  Ships hit by U-20.”  Uboat.net.  Online.  <http://uboat.net/wwi/boats/successes/u20.html>.

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