Remembering the Kyleclare

Remembering the Kyleclare 2

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the Irish merchant ship Kyleclare in the Bay of Biscay.
The ship left port from Lisbon on February 21st 1943 en route to Dublin. She was captained by Master-Captain A.R. Hamilton from Galway and spent the first two days of its voyage steaming down the Tagus and into the Atlantic.

The ship was sighted in the Bay of Biscay by a German U boat under the command of Kapitanleutnant Max Teichert. Without warning he fired a fan of three torpedoes from a distance of 500 metres. The moment of firing was logged at 2.38 p.m. Central European Time on February 23rd 1943. Apparently it was only after the torpedoes left the tubes that the submarine ascended and Teichert saw the double inscription EIRE EIRE on the ship’s side. Seconds later they heard a double explosion echoing throughout the submarine. He went straight to the position of the sinking but found nothing left except wreckage and a massive cloud of smoke. Eighteen Irish lives were lost that fateful day, a tragic end for the Kyleclare and her crew.

This wasn’t the first time the ship and crew found themselves in danger, they had a lucky escape in Antwerp during two days of bombings in the battle of the Netherlands in May 1940. And a month later in Co. Mayo the Limerick steamer was involved in saving the lives of the crew from the British ship the Clan Menzies who was hit and sunk by a number of Nazi torpedoes. A short time later the Kyleclare arrived on the scene and picked up the remaining survivors of the blast and brought them safely to Killala Bay.

These were just some of the hazards Irish seamen had to encounter back in the days during the Emergency. Transporting essential cargoes that could not be produced at home was so important that sailors who died at sea were regarded as soldiers who had died on the battlefield. Our nation owes its seamen a great debt for the dangerous service they undertook so readily. Their deeds and experiences should never be forgotten. Pictured is the Memorial for Irish Seafarers at Memorial Bridge, City Quay.

By Jason McDonnell