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Volume Three - The Pontoon Era - The Great War 1914 - 18 . . .

With the zenith of coal exports from Penarth Docks being reached in 1913 the Great War brought new challenges. There seems to have been a news blackout regarding activity at the docks, quite understandably, since the Germans were watching and listening intently. Undoubtedly, Penarth will have served an important service supplying the navy and merchant ships with fuel and provisions for the war effort.

"During the Great War all docks and railways were under strict government control, and there was necessarily a great shrinkage in trade." [220] To gain an idea of the number of ships with Cardiff as their home port, after the Great War had ended, in 1920 there were 122 shipping companies owning 1.5 millions tons of shipping based at Cardiff. [218] Companies such as Radcliffe, the largest Cardiff shipowner with their fleet of 28 ships at the commencement of war were hit hard with 20 of these vessels lost by the close of hostilities in 1918. [221]

Some ships were lost after sailing from Penarth during the hostilities:

On the 2nd December 1917 the steamer 'Birchgrove' of 2,821 gross tons (built 1894) was torpedoed by U-84 in the Bay of Biscay whilst on a voyage to Bordeaux delivering coal loaded at Penarth. One crew member was lost. [144]

Later that month on the 22nd, the steamer 'Mabel Baird' of 2,500 tons (built 1901) was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel 4 miles from the Lizzard by UB-57 whilst loaded with coal outbound from Penarth. Five were lost. [144]

A report in the Llanelli Star [147] of 3rd April 1915 has the intriguing headline "Was Submarine Sunk - Admiralty Officials Inspect the 'Lizzie' - The steamer 'Lizzie', whose officers and crew claim to have sunk the German submarine U37 last week, has been transferred from Llanelly to Penarth, where she has been placed upon the pontoon and examined by Admiralty officials. The object of the examination was to ascertain as far as reasonably could be done whether the 'Lizzie' had actually sunk the submarine.

It is understood that the Admiralty officials discovered certain marks upon the stem and keel of the 'Lizzie', but it is said they thought there would have been deeper indentations if the steamer had actually rammed the submarine. On the other hand, the officers and crew of the 'Lizzie' as was reported exclusively in the "Star", say they are perfectly satisfied that the submarine went down. They saw her periscope just before they passed over her, and it immediately disappeared as if the submarine had sunk like a stone. They also saw oil on the surface of the water."

Poppy image previous page sketched by Julie Carder [124]


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