SS Afric

SS Afric was a steamship built for White Star Line by Harland and Wolff shipyards. She was of the Jubilee Class, had a reported tonnage of 11,948, and had a port of registry of Liverpool.[1] Afric was launched on November 16, 1898, and was involved in shipping between Liverpool and Australia.[2]

Afric at Hobart, Tasmania
United Kingdom
Name: SS Afric
Owner: White Star Line
Builder: Harland and Wolff, Belfast
Launched: 16 November 1898
Maiden voyage: 8 February 1899
Fate: Sunk, 12 February 1917
Status: Wreck
General characteristics
Class and type: Jubilee Class
Tonnage: 11,948 GRT
Length: 550 ft (167.6 m)
Beam: 63.3 ft (19.3 m)
Installed power: Two four-cylinder quadruple-expansion steam engines
Propulsion: Two propellers
Speed: 13.5 knots (25.0 km/h; 15.5 mph) service speed
  • 320 passengers
  • 15,000 deadweight tons of cargo capacity

Afric was the first of five Jubillee Class ships built by White Star Line for their new service to Australia, the others were Medic, Persic, Runic and Suevic. Afric was a single funnel liner with capacity for 320 Third class passengers on three decks, she also had substantial cargo capacity with seven cargo holds, most of them refrigerated for the transport of Australian meat.[2][3]

Afric made her maiden voyage on 8 February 1899, between Liverpool and New York; this was considered a test run, and when she returned she underwent further work to prepare her for her intended career on the Australia service. She entered service between Liverpool and Sydney via Cape Town on 9 September 1899.[2]

During the Boer War from 1900 to 1902, Afric was used to transport troops and horses to South Africa on the outbound part of her journey, returning them to the UK on the return journey.[2]

Following the conclusion of the war, Afric settled into the routine of normal peacetime service, which was mostly uneventful, except for one incident in November 1913 when she ran aground and became stuck on a sandbank in the River Mersey whilst leaving the Canada Dock at Liverpool. After several unsuccessful attempts to free her, she was eventually pulled off the sandbank by tugs at high tide after her cargo had been removed by barges to lighten the ship.[4]

Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Afric was requisitioned by the Australian government in October 1914 for use as a troopship and was given the designation HMAT (His Majesty's Australian Transport) A19. In April/May 1915 she was refitted at Sydney to carry 549 troops and 500 horses. She completed six troopship voyages up to November 1916,[5] however on 12 February 1917 she was sunk in the English Channel after being torpedoed by the German submarine UC-66, whilst sailing outbound between Liverpool and Plymouth, 12 miles south south-west of the Eddystone Lighthouse,[6] there were 145 survivors, but 22 people lost their lives.[2][7]

The wreck lies at the position (49°59′N 04°18′W) at a depth of around 70 metres (229.7 feet), and has been filmed by divers.[8][6]


  1. "Harland and Wolff - Shipbuilding and Engineering Works". Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  2. Kerbrech, Richard De (2009). Ships of the White Star Line. Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978 0 7110 3366 5.
  3. "The s.s. Afric". Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953). 1899-11-22. p. 3. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  4. "THE GROUNDING OF THE AFRIC". Daily Commercial News And Shipping List (7127). New South Wales, Australia. 7 November 1913. p. 4. Retrieved 8 September 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "A19 AFRIC". Flotilla Australia. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  6. "Afric". Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  7. "LINER AFRIC SUNK; 17 MEN MISSING; 12,000-Ton White Star Steamer Is Believed to Have Been in Admiralty Service. 145 OF CREW ARE LANDED American on Saxonian Reaches Queenstown Wounded;- Other Ships Sunk. Three Other Ships Sunk. BERLIN REPORTS SINKINGS. Tells of Destruction of Ten Vessels on Feb. 12. LINER AFRIC SUNK; 17 MEN MISSING THE RYNDAM GETS BACK. Was Near English Coast When She Was Ordered Back. TWO MORE CUNARDERS HERE. The Laconia and the Ascania Saw No Submarines on Their Way Over". The New York Times. 1917-02-14. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
  8. "White Star liner 'Afric' - underwater video". YouTube. FinnborgBraga. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
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