SS Kyarra was sunk by a U-boat before she collected collected her troop ‘cargo’

SS Kyarra on the Brisbane River

Author Anne McCosker

Queensland Nurses

First published in Nostalgia Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by

HERE are some more photos of the SS Kyarra, which was sunk off the Dorset coast on the morning of May 26, 1918.

The luxury passenger liner, which had been built in 1903 by Dumbarton shipbuilders W Denny Brothers, was being used as a hospital ship during wartime and was on her way to Plymouth.

Here, she was supposed to pick up 1,000 wounded Australian troops and return them to their homeland.

But she didn’t make it. Kyarra was torpedoed close to Anvil Point, Swanage, by a German U-boat.

There were more than 140 people on board and 2,500 tonnes of cargo.

In 20 minutes the 6,953-tonne ship had disappeared beneath the waves.

The Kyarra Kyarralay 30 metres below the sea for years, providing a home for a myriad of marine life, until Scuba diving became increasingly popular in the 1960s.

She was bought for sport diving in 1966 and is now one of Dorset’s most dived wrecks.

These photos have been passed on from Dr Richard Buckley and Anne McCosker and are from the book Queensland Nurses, Boer War To Vietnam, by Rupert Goodman, 1985.

The first was taken in 1914. It shows the Kyarra as a hospital ship carrying the first major contingent of Queensland nurses down the Brisbane River to Egypt.

The Kyarra was an Australian coastal steamer, well known to Brisbane residents before the First World War.

In the second photo, depicting Queensland members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, Anne McCosker’s great aunt, Sister Annie Scott, is to the far left.

The Australian Army Nursing Service, which was actually a reserve, was established on July 1, 1902.

The service was staffed by volunteer civilian nurses who would be available for duty during times of national emergency.

Anne McCosker is author of Lieutenant Martin’s Letters, an Anzac in the Great War.

The Kyarra was also used as a troopship, and Anne McCosker’s uncle, Sergeant Fred Martin, sailed on her in April 1915 on his way to the Gallipoli campaign.

Following Gallipoli, he spent much of 1916 convalescing in Weymouth, before promotion to Lieutenant and winning the Military Medal.

He was killed at Polygon Wood in September 1917.

Ms McCosker was given a bundle of letters sent by Lt Martin during the war by her aunt in the 1970s, but decided against reading them and placed them into storage.

It wasn’t until nearly 40 years later when Ms McCosker moved to Weymouth with her husband Dr Richard Buckley that they read the letters and started to transcribe them.

In one of Fred’s letters home, he includes a concert programme from his last night on board the Kyarra, on May 25, 1915.

These events are described in Anne McCosker’s book, Lieutenant Martin’s Letters: FWS Martin, MM, An Anzac In The Great War, which is about her uncle’s time in the Australian Infantry force from 1914 to 1917.

The book can be purchased from the Nothe Fort or from Books Afloat, and for more information on Mrs McCosker or to get in touch, visit www.annemccosker.com.

For more information on the shipwrecks off the Dorset Coast take a look at South Coast Shipwrecks: East Dorset & Wight 1870-1979 by Dave Wendes, which is available through southcoastshipwrecks.co.uk.

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