Fireman C F Reffell

SS Falaba (Liverpool), Mercantile Marine Service

Died on Sunday, 28th March 1915, aged 22

Personal Information:
Born 1893 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Little information is currently known about this man.

Historical Information:
SS FalabaThe SS Falaba (Liverpool) was one of the Elder Dempster line’s fleet of West African services vessels. She sailed with 151 passengers, 95 crew and a cargo valued at £50,000, from Liverpool bound for Sierra Leone at 6:00 p.m. on 27 March 1915. The following day, some 36 miles south-west by west of the Small Lighthouse, she sighted a submarine flying the White Ensign. However, as the submarine approached, it exchanged its flag for the German naval ensign, it was U-28 under the command of Baron von Forstner.

 

SS FalabaCaptain FJ Davies of the Falaba attempted to outrun the U-boat at 15 knots, but with a top speed of over 16 knots, U-28 was capable of bettering his best speed on the surface. The ship hove to and commenced lowering boats in anticipation of an attack. Only five boats had been swung out when U-28 fired a torpedo from only 150 yards, which struck the Falaba amidships. She sank rapidly, disappearing beneath the water within 10 minutes. In consequence of the inadequate time given to evacuate the ship a total of 104 perished. The Falaba was the first unarmed passenger liner to be sunk during the First World War.

SS Falaba SinkingThe postscript to this tragedy was that U-28 itself had the misfortune to suffer the same fate as she attempted to sink the ammunition carrier Olive Branch in the White Sea on 2 September 1917. A shot landed in the ammunition hold of the boat, which resulted in an explosion so violent, that both attacker and victim perished together. According to one story, a heavy motor truck lashed to the deck of the Olive Branch was blown high into the air by the force of the blast and landed on top of the surfaced U-Boat causing such extensive damage that she sunk. The Merchant ship’s crew refused to take the submarines’s survivors into their lifeboats, with the result that the U-Boat’s entire compliment perished in the freezing temperature of the Arctic water.

Britain At War magazine article.

Memorial:
Tower Hill Memorial, London.

Tower Hill Memorial Tower Hill Memorial

The original Tower Hill Memorial of the 1914-1918 world war commemorates men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died at sea. It stands on the south side of the garden of Trinity Square, London, close to The Tower of London. The Memorial consists of a vaulted corridor 21.5 metres long, 7 metres wide and up to 10 metres high. It is built of Portland stone. The Names of the War Dead are carried on bronze panels, covering the eight main masonry piers that support the roof. They are arranged alphabetically under their ships of the Merchant Service. The original Tower Hill Memorial of the 1914-1918 world war commemorates men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died at sea.