The wreck of the troopship Ismore

Wreck of Troopship Ismore

No Lives Lost —- Supposed Drowning of Many Horses


The Secretary of the Admiralty states that information has been received from the Commander-in-Chief at the Cape of Good Hope, dated December 3rd, reporting that the transport Ismore struck on the rocks off Columbine Point, near St Helen’s Bay, distant about 75 miles north of Table Bay, in calm, thick weather. The troops had been landed, also a quantity of baggage, most of the guns, swords, carbines and some ammunition. The men were reported to be comfortable and plenty of food available. The Admiralty was sending HM ships Niobe and Doris, also the transport Columbine, with lighters to assist.

A copy of a telegram has been received from the principal transport officer at Cape Town, dated the 4th inst., reporting that the transport Ismore (no 52.)broke up on Sunday night. Her stern is out of water and her bows gone. All hands and 20 horses were saved and will probably entrain to Malmesbury. The Ismore, which went ashore in Helen’s Bay on Sunday morning is the second transport that has come to grief on the voyage to the Cape the Persia having been disabled in a storm at St Vincent while conveying the C Squadron of Dragoons and some men of the Inniskillings on November 8th. In the latter case all the troops and horses were successfully transferred to the transport Goth, but in the case of the Ismore a large number of the horses were lost. She had on board the 63rd Field Battery, Royal Artillery from Bristol, “A” Squadron of the Tenth Hussars and a troop of “B” Squadron of the Tenth Hussars from Aldershot, and No. 9 Company (Bearer) Royal Army Medical Corp from Colchester. The military details would necessarily have with them a considerable number of horses, for the mounted troops on board number 460. As only 20 horses were reported saved, it is feared that the loss of animals is serious, inasmuch as they would not be3 of the chartered class, but selected trained chargers and gun-teams. The value placed upon such animals by military authorities is very considerable, and the loss will be much keenly felt by reason by the dearth of suitable and reliable mounts and gun-teams at the front. It is too be hoped that the troops will be able to save the six field pieces, if not the wagons and other pieces of the Field 63rd Battery, but nothing is said as to this being effected. The presence of warships at the scene of the wreck may have been valuable in this respect, assuming that the position of the wreck and weather permitted the sufficiently near approach of the working parties who would have the advantage of the necessary appliances for transferring the guns. The time at the disposal of those on the spot between the hours of the vessel sinking and breaking up to save much other than themselves would seem to have been very limited, and  therefore it cannot be hoped that any considerable proportion of the vessel’s war stores can have been saved. It is known that with the troops were landed some guns, swords, carbines etc. and ammunition; but the bulk of Ismore’s cargo cannot have been landed in the time available. It will be remembered that the Ismore endeavoured to leave England in a gale, and after futile attempts took shelter in Moelfre Bay on the Anglesey coast until November 8th, when she put to sea four days late.

The Ismore had on board400 rank and file of various sections. The 63rd Field Battery consisted of six officers, 170 men and 140 horses, with six 15 pounder guns 11 four-wheeled military vehicles, ambulance wagons, and stores. The Bearer Company of the Royal Army Medical Corps on board consisted of one officer and 52 men, with ambulance wagons and fittings. The A squadron and troop of B squadron of the Tenth Hussars on board numbered about 180 officers and men. There were altogether about 250 horses shipped, together with numerous wagons and vehicles. Major W Paget is the officer commanding the Field battery , and Major Alexander the Hussars.

The Press Association added that 230 valuable horses have been lost to the British cavalry and artillery proceeding to the front by the wreck of the Ismore. It is scarcely possible that the numerous ambulance wagons and other vehicles referred to in the above telegram can have been saved owing to the difficulties of transfer, and consequently one of the most important non-combative branches of the military service has lost probably their conveyance and medical equipment and supplies.

From the Glasgow Herald 3rd December 1889

By kind Permission of the British Library Board.