Gallipoli painting depicting the SS River Clyde

artefact

The SS River Clyde was a 3,913 GRT British collier built by Russell & Co of Port Glasgow on the Firth of Clyde and completed in March 1905. In the First World War the Admiralty requisitioned her for the Royal Navy and in 1915 she took part in the Gallipoli landings.

Entry in 1915 the River Clyde was adapted to be a landing ship for the joint French and British invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Openings were cut in her steel hull as sally ports from which troops would emerge onto the gangways and then to a bridge of smaller boats from the ship to the beach. Boiler plate and sandbags were mounted on her bow and behind them a battery of 11 machine guns was installed. The machine gun battery was manned by Royal Naval Air Service men commanded by Josiah Wedgwood. Work began on painting SS River Clyde's hull sandy yellow as camouflage, but this was incomplete by the time of the landing.

On 11 April 1915 SS River Clyde was in the natural harbour of Moudros on the Aegean island of Lemnos, where assembling in final preparation for the landings. The troop ship HMT Aragon reached Moudros from the Port of Alexandria in Egypt and transferred the 4th Battalion, The Worcester Regiment and the 2nd Battalion The Hampshire Regiment to SS River Clyde. Both battalions were units of the 88th Brigade, which was part of the 29th Division.

On 25 April 1915, River Clyde sailed to take part in the landing at Cape Helles. She was commanded by Commander Edward Unwin, formerly of the Dryard class torpedo gunboat HMS Hussar. She was carrying 2,000 soldiers: mostly from 86th Brigade units of the 29th Division: the 1st Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the men from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Unwin beached River Clyde at V Beach beneath the Sedd el Bahr castle, on the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. The plan failed and the River Clyde, beached under the guns of the Turkish defenders, became a death trap. Three attempts to land made by companies of Munster Royal Dublins and Hampshires all ended in costly failure. Further landing attempts were abandoned and the surviving soldiers waited until nightfall before trying again.

Members of SS River Clyde's crew maintained the bridge from the ship to the beach and recovered the wounded. For their bravery six of them were decorated with the Victoria Crosses: Commander Unwin (aged 51), Midshipman George Drewry (20) and Wilfred Malleson (18), Ale Seaman William Williams (34), plus Sub-Lieutenant Arthur Tisdall (24) of the Royal Naval Division (RND). Williams was killed on the landing and was decorated posthumously Samson was severely wounded the next day but survived. On his return to Scotland he was handed a white feather while wearing civilian clothes. Tisdall was killed on 6 May when the 6th (Hood) battalion RND advanced along Kanli Dere in the Second Battle of Krithia. Drewry, Samson and Williams had come with Unwin from HMS Hussar. Malleson, who died in 1975, served on the Duncan-class battleship HMS Cornwallis.

After the Helles beach-head was established. V Beach became the base for the French contingent and the River Clyde remained beached as a quay and breakwater. Her condensers provided fresh water and her holds became a field dressing station. She remained a constant target for Turkish gunners ashore.

In 1919, River Clyde was refloated, repaired at Malta and sold to Spanish owners. They operated her as a tramp steamer in the Mediterranean, renaming her first Angela and then Maruja y Aurora. In 1965 there was an attempt to buy and preserve River Clyde but in 1966 her owners sold her for scrap and she was broken up at Aviles, Spain.