The San Hilario
The Abandon Ship! exhibition includes a model of the San Hilario, whose crew abandoned ship after being attacked by a German U-Boat in the First World War.
The San Hilario was built in 1913 by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The ship was owned by the Eagle Oil Transport Company (later absorbed into Shell) which transported oil between the Gulf of Mexico and Britain. All its ships were given the Spanish names of Christian saints. In fact, one of the fleet – the San Wilfrido – was the first British merchant shipping loss of the First World War. It hit a German mine and sank in the North Sea on 3 August 1914, one day before war was officially declared.
On 20 April 1917 the San Hilario was sailing from South America to Queenstown (now Cobh) in County Cork, on the south-west coast of Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom. About 250 miles off the coast of Cork, the San Hilario was fired on by the German submarine U-43. The ship attempted to escape while firing back but it was damaged and overtaken.
Eventually the captain, Mr F Cole, gave the order to ‘Abandon Ship’. He was taken prisoner by the U-boat, and the rest of the crew spent four days in lifeboats before they were rescued. The ship itself was sunk by the U-boat, which had already sunk the Russian ship August on the same day.