HMAT A40 Ceramic

From Our Contribution

HMAT A40 Ceramic
HMAT A40 Ceramic.jpg
HMAT A40 Ceramic 2.jpg
Australian National Maritime Museum
Name HMAT A40 Ceramic
Owner Oceanic Steam Navigation Co Ltd of Liverpool (White Star Line)
Builder Harland & Wolff, Belfast
Yard number 432
Launched 11 Dec 1912
Completed 5 Jul 1913
In service 24 Jul 1913
Out of service 7 Dec 1942
Fate Sunk by torpedo, 6–7 December 1942
General characteristics
Type Passenger vessel (twin screw)
Tonnage 18,481 tons
Length 655.1 ft (199.7 m)
Beam 69.4 ft (21.2 m)
Depth 43.8 ft (13.4 m)
Propulsion Three screws
Speed 15 knots (27.8 kph)
Capacity Crew 264 + 14 Gunners (two stern-mounted QF 4.7 inch (120mm) guns)


From July 1913 until the outbreak of war, the Ceramic was used on the Liverpool-Australia run. She was owned by the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co Ltd of Liverpool (White Star Line), and leased by the Commonwealth from late 1914 until 9 Jul 1917 when management was transferred to the British Admiralty. While under Australian control she completed six journeys carrying troops to war zones.

During WW1 on three occasions the Ceramic was required to outrun a U Boat. In May 1916 in the Mediterranean a U Boat missed her with two torpedoes and she was required to outrun her attacker; in Jun 1917 in the Channel she again had to outdistance an attacking U Boat that had missed her with their first torpedo, and a month later she was pursued for 40 minutes by a U Boat on the surface using its gun to fire at her. After the war the Ceramic returned to her Liverpool to Sydney route before being sold in 1934 to Shaw Savill & Albion Steam Ship Co. They had her rebuilt in 1936, modernised, and given additional power.

She was again requisitioned in 1939 to carry Australian troops. In the South Atlantic in the small hours of 11 Aug 1940 Bank Line's 5,083 GRT cargo ship Testbank sighted Ceramic about a mile and a half ahead. Under wartime navigation regulations both ships were sailing without navigation lights. Ceramic's lookout failed to see Testbank until the two ships were about 350 yards (320 m) from each other. Both ships took avoiding action but were too late to avoid a collision, with Testbank ramming Ceramic's starboard bow. Ceramic's 279 passengers were transferred by boats to RMS Viceroy of India. Both ships were able to reach port and effect repairs

On Nov 23 1942 the Ceramic departed Liverpool as part of a convoy, with 200 military personnel on board as well as 150 civilians. Soon after leaving harbour she broke away from the convoy and continued on her route until during the night of 6 December, west of the Azores she was hit by a torpedo fired by U-515. The first torpedo was quickly followed by two more which stopped her dead in her tracks. About eight lifeboats were launched and filled with survivors, but with heavy seas they began capsizing and soon after all the survivors were in the sea. With the Ceramic still floating the U Boat fired two more torpedoes that sank her. The next day, trying to find out where she was headed, the U Boat rescued one of the Ceramic's crew, but left all of the other survivors to eventually drown. Nothing was known of her fate until the rescued crew member, Engineer Eric Munday, was released from his POW camp after the war.

Soldiers carried

Melbourne to Alexandria 22 December 1914 - 1 February 1915

Disembarked 3 February 1915

Sydney to Port Suez 25 June - 23 July 1915

Melbourne to Port Suez 24 Nov 1915 - ?? Dec 1915

Fremantle to Port Suez 12 February - 11 March 1916

Sydney to Egypt 14 April 1916 - ?? May 1916

England to Fremantle 25 Jan 1919 - 3 Mar 1919

England to Fremantle 9 August - 20 September 1919

Other Voyages

7 October 1916 from Sydney, New South Wales