The ‘Arcadian’ Sinking of 1917
The "Arcadian" cruise ship was originally called the ‘Ortona’ and was launched in 1885 for the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. She was a 8,900 gross ton, twin screw steamer with two funnels and capable of a very respectable 15 knots. She regularly sailed from London to Australia to London via the Suez Canal. In 1902 she was used as a Boar War troop carrier. After the Boar War she was refitted as a cruise ship to carry 350 passengers and renamed the ‘Arcadian’. She was one of the the largest cruising vessels in the world at that time.
Upon the outbreak of World War One she was once again requisitioned as a troop ship and carried troops for the Dardanelles campaign. On the 15 th April 1917 the ‘Arcadian’ was torpedoed in the Agean Sea and sank with the loss of 277 lives. The ship sank in less than 10 minutes. Amazingly, although torpedoed and sinking within ten minutes, there were over one thousand survivors from this heavily laden troop ship. The high survival rate was no doubt due to the mainly military personnel who would have been young, physically fit, well drilled and organised. Most of the survivors were taken to Crete.
On Crete one of the survivors, H.D. Spencer, wrote a cheque (illustrated here) which a local padre was kind enough to cash and so provide funds for this fortunate, but no doubt destitute, individual. The cheque, hand written on ruled notebook paper, states, "Parrs Bank Ltd (Crompton & Evans Union Bank Ltd, Matlock). Pay self or order Five pounds (signed) H. D. Spencer". The cheque is dated "April 25 th 1917" which is 10 days after the sinking. There is a 1d English duty stamp at top right which is underneath the written date. There is a Greek duty stamp at bottom left which is hand stamped. (Use the 'slider' for a closer view of these details).
The back of the cheque is full of the endorsements which were necessary to progress the cheque from Crete, through the Comptoir Nationale D’Escompte de Paris and eventually to London – note the Union of London & Smiths Bank Ltd hand stamp on the front. It was finally stamped "Paid May 30 1917 Cancelled" and its journey came to an end.
One can only hope that ‘H.D. Spencer’ got back as safely as this remarkable cheque.
"amazingly although torpedoed and sinking within ten minutes over 1,000 personnel still survived"