Cargo Liner Armenian Caught In Historic Events
By James Donahue
The steamship Armenian was launched in 1895, served as a cargo and sometimes passenger carrier between
Liverpool and New York, was converted to transport prisoners of war and later horses during the Boar War in South Africa,
and again during World War I.
Even though it’s existence amounted to a working cargo vessel for all of its 20 years, the Armenian
skirted great marine events in the history of that era.
The 512-foot ship was built by the famed ship-builders Harland and Wolff in Belfast just prior to
that firm’s launching of the super liners that included the Titanic. She was owned by the Leyland Line, but managed
by the White Star Line after 1903.
The Armenian was used to transport 963 Boer prisoners of war to Darrell’s and Burt’s Islands
during the Boar War of 1901. Then the vessel was fitted out to transport horses during England’s involvement in that
South African conflict.
The ship made a last sailing as a freight carrier in March, 1914, even as the clouds of World War
1 were building. After that it was refitted once again to transport horses, this time to France.
While historians mark the sinking of the Lusitania as one of the driving forces that got America involved
in the war, it was the sinking of the Armenian by a German U-Boat off Trevose Head, Cornwall, on June 28, 1915, just 52 days
later, that helped cement the rage.
Twenty-nine sailors, most Americans, were killed in the sinking, plus the Armenian’s cargo of
1,400 mules. Survivors were picked up the next day by the President Stevens, a Belgian steam trawler.