Athol Backhouse Orme

Date of birth: 1893
Place of birth: Southampton
Service No.: N/A
Rank: Assistant Engineer
Regiment / Division: Mercantile Marine
Ship: SS Arabia (Greenock)
Died: 6th November 1916 aged 23 years
Death location: Insert data


Life before the War
Athol was the youngest of four siblings born to Thomas Charles Rushmer and Annie, nee Shelton.  Both parents were born in Southampton, Thomas in 1861 and Annie in 1862.  Thomas was employed by the railways in the town, latterly as an Assistant Marine Manager.

The family lived in Alma Road, Portswood for many years, latterly at No. 45.

Thomas died in 1934, with Annie following a year later.

Athol’s 3 siblings were:

Clarice Mary  b.18 January 1888 Southampton and died late 1990 Southampton.   Clarice would probably have extolled the virtues of staying single, she was 102 years old when she died!!

Dorothy Eleanor  b.1889 Southampton and d.1982 Southampton.

Basil Shelton  b.31 July 1891 and d.1973 Bucklow, Cheshire.  Married Melita F. Fairey in Southampton in 1918.  Basil was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in WW1.  He saw action in France and was promoted to Lieutenant before the end of hostilities.

War service
The SS Arabia, captained by W. B. Palmer, was on the homeward – bound journey from Freemantle in W. Australia to England in November 1916.  Off Cape Matapan in Greece, in a sea described as “like a millpond”, the Arabia was hit in the stern by a torpedo fired from UB-43.

UB-43 had been commissioned in Bremen on 24 April 1916 and was captained by Kapitaenleutnant Hans von Mellenthin on this particular sortie. UB-43 was “credited” with sinking 22 vessels.  It surrendered in Venice exactly 2 years after the Adriatic incident and was broken up there in 1919.

The Arabia had a total of 437 passengers and 304 crew on this trip.  The engine room took the direct hit, but only 2 crew were killed, one of them being Athol.

Four British minesweepers arrived within 90 minutes of the hit to pick up survivors from lifeboat and the Arabia sank after 95 minutes.

The survivors were put down in Malta, 300 miles from the incident.

A total of 3305 merchant ships were lost in WW1, with the loss of 17,000 lives, all of whom are commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial, London.  Athol’s name appears on the memorial on Pier 2, Course 9, Face B, Column A.


Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published.: 3rd November 2014
Updated: Insert dates here

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