HMS Bayano carries Caplin Cove’s son to a watery grave

Reprinted from The Packet, 4 October 2017
by Lester Green

Seaman Simeon Whalen (Courtesy of Crystal Martin)

Simeon Whalen was the second oldest son of William Thomas and Alfreda (Reid). Born and raised at Caplin Cove with 12 other siblings- 6 boys and 7 girls, he would have helped with the fishery and logging.

He filed his application for enlistment into the Royal Naval Reserve on January 2, 1914, enlisting for a period of five years at the age of 23 years. He completed his twenty-eight days of training successful firing 4 round from the great gun, 21 rounds from the rifle and 20 shots from the pistol.

On October 8, 1914, he received a letter of Royal Proclamation to report to HMS Calypso at St. John’s. He was transferred overseas aboard the H.M.S. Franconia on November 14 and assigned to HMS Excellent, a shore based accommodations and gunnery located at Portsmouth, England. He continued training for another month and received orders to report to the HMS Bayano on December 18.

HMS Bayano showing camouflage colors circa 1914-15.

The HM. Bayano was a merchant ship requisitioned and armed for service in the Royal Navy. The ship served as part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron that patrolled the North Sea and described as an Armed Merchant Auxiliary  Cruiser. On March 11, 1915, the ship was transferring coal from the Glasgow to Liverpool, England when she was struck by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-27 off Corsewall Point, Galloway, Scotland. There were 220 sailors aboard and only 26 survived. Survivors describe that within five minutes, the HMS Bayano took 194 men to a watery grave.

Two days after the tragedy, the Evening Telegram carried the headline “Loss of Bayano” and described how wreckage and bodies were discovered on 11th of March. The article reported that 26 survivors, 8 officers and 18 men, were rescued. A second article published by Evening Telegram on March 18  highlighted the loss of Newfoundlanders with title “The Gallant 12” and describes how 11 Royal Naval Reservist lost their lives. Stephen Keates from Barr’d Islands, Fogo, was among the 12 sailors who survived and the paper congratulated both him and his wife on his good luck. On April 6, 1915 the Evening Telegram reported another article titled “Heroics.” The article relates the story of how survivors reported that Captain Carr and the wireless operators continued to send S.O.S messages until the ship slipped below the surface within minutes of being struck by U-27’s fatal torpedo.

Among 11 of the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reservist who lost their lives when the HMS Bayano slipped below the surface of the frigid waters was Seaman Simeon Whalen. The people of Southwest Arm area now mourned the loss of a second sailor coming 2 months after Seaman George Stringer loss his life on the HMS Viknor.

Next week’s article will relate how the HMS Invincible, the latest in what the British Navy described as innovative battle cruisers, took part in the Battle of the Jutland, the largest naval battle of the great War. Onboard was Seaman John Hiscock of Northern Bights.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Loss of Bayano – Evening Telegram – 1915-03-13

Heroic Men-Evening Telegram-1915-04-06

Vivid Narrative of Sinking of the Bayano-Daily Star-1915-04-24

The Gallant 12-Evening Telegram-1915-03-18