Steamer Afric A Casualty Of War
By James Donahue
A torpedo from a German submarine destroyed the White Star Line's steamship Afric in the
English Channel on February 12, 1917. She took 22 sailors to the bottom with her.
The Afric was not a grandiose vessel, even though she was part of the mighty fleet of ships
serving the White Star Line at the turn of the century. Clearly built for the commerce trade, the ship went into service in
A general description of the Afric established that she had a most ordinary profile. She
was 570 feet long, had a single funnel, four masts and only three decks, thus showing very little superstructure. She offered
cabins for up to 350 passengers.
What was unique about the Afric was that she was a refrigerated ship, designed to carry
cargos of meat . . . up to 12,500 hanging carcasses . . . on long voyages from Liverpool to Sydney, Australia. Thus she was
a form of meat wagon put to sea.
Strangely, the owners sent the ship to New York on its maiden voyage, then immediately
put the ship back in drydock in Belfast for "modifications." This implies that they wanted more speed since she was going
to be carrying perishable cargos halfway around the world. In the end the twin-screw ship maintained a steady speed of 14
It was on Sept. 9, 1899, that Afric began her regular route between England and Australia.
She remained on that route faithfully until the Boer War, when she was pulled aside for service as a troop carrier for the
Then, early in World War I, she was struck by a torpedo from German submarine C-66 and
quickly sunk, right off the coast of England.
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