Henry Walter David Morant

Date of birth: C. 1893
Place of birth: Not known
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Insert Rank
Service: Merchant Navy
Vessel: Arcadian
Died: 15th April 1917 aged c. 26 years
Death location: At sea in the Mediterranean

 

Service history
Arcadian, 7,950 gross tons, was originally built in 1899 as the SS Ortona for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company for use on the Australian run. At that time she could accommodate 130 1st class, 162 2nd class and 300 3rd class passengers.  In 1906 she was passed to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (RMSP Co) and used for a short while on the West Indies route; in 1910 she was rebuilt as the ‘Arcadian’ at 8939 tons to accommodate 300 1st class passengers.  During WW1 she was defensively armed and used as a troopship.

Arcadian pre WWI – copyright unknown

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It was whilst she was carrying out such duties in the Mediterranean Sea, en route Salonika to Alexandria, carrying 1,335 people – army personnel and ship’s company – that she was attacked by U-74 (Kapitan-Leutnant Wilhelm Marschall) 26 miles north-east of Milo and sunk by torpedo.  The loss of life was fortunately not as heavy as it might well have been due to the fact that the ship had just completed a ‘life-boat drill’ with this exercise instilling confidence in the men.  The ship sank in six minutes and, due to the calmness resulting from this drill, 1,058 survived as a consequence of their own efforts and that of the escorting destroyer.  Those personnel lost consisted of 19 army officers and 214 other ranks, 10 naval ratings (RN Gunners) and 34 members of the crew including Henry.  Had it not been for the sudden capsizing of the vessel many more would have been saved.  A considerable amount of wreckage and spars was sucked down with the ship and much of this returned to the surface with great force killing many men swimming in the water.

Fate of U-74
Commissioned on 26 November 1916 and commanded by Kapitan-Lt Wilhelm Marschall (captain until his taking over U-105 6th December 1917), she had to surrender to the Spanish authorities in Barcelona when she ran out of fuel.  Subsequently she was handed over to the French on the 26th March 1919 and broken up in Toulon in July 1921.  During her patrols U-74 was very successful sinking a total of 37 ships and damaging 4 more.  Wilhelm Marschall went on to become a senior Flag Officer in the Kriegsmarine.  He was a P O W from 1945 to 1947 and died in 1976.

Life before the War
As at the time of publishing this research we are unable to determine Henry’s exact age; he does not appear in the 1911 census at all – house, vessel or service establishment!  However there is a family shown living at 64 Kentish Street, Shirley, Southampton:

Father David (52) and Mother Alice (46) (married 23 years) and their children
Cecil (18)
Lionel (15)
Hilda (13)
Sydney (11)
Ernest (8)
William (5)

A check of records gives a birth in this registration district of Henry Walter D Morant in the 1st quarter of 1891.  From this we can assume that Henry was the oldest Morant child, born 1893, and making Henry 26 at the time of Arcadian’s sinking.

 

Researcher: Terry Randall
Published: 4th February 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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