Originally owned by R. P. Houston & Co, of Liverpool (S.S. Hercules Co Ltd (Houston), Liverpool); Sold to German owners but requisitioned in 1915 as a collier, after been taken as a prize of war; Fitted with 1 x 6 pounder HA stern gun; Torpedoed by UB-21 whilst under the command of Walter Scheffer. The torpedo struck abreast of the main mast on the starboard side, this blew up the magazine blowing off the stern and sinking the ship stern first in 3 minutes; 20 crew, 1 life lost (gunner on stern).
On Monday 25th March, at 8 30 a.m. the s.s. HERCULES was 3.5 miles NNW magnetic from Flamborough Head and following sailing instructions, hugging the coast to Whitby. She was steaming at 9 knots and heading NW by N. The master and able seaman were on the bridge, a lookout on the forecastle and a gunner on the stern gun platform. In these circumstances the man on the wheel drew the master’s attention to the track of a torpedo about 20 feet distance abaft the starboard beam.
Orders at once given to starboard the helm but as soon as the order was given the vessel was struck abreast of the mainmast on the starboard side with the result that the magazine was blown up and the mainmast fell. Vessel immediately settled down by the stern and sank in 3 minutes. In the meantime boats were launched and all hands got in - except the gunner who was killed outright on the platform.
The crew stood by in the lifeboats until the vessel sunk and then pulled towards land. Five minutes later the mine sweeping trawler No 55, assisted by No 51, picked up the survivors and landed them at Scarborough at 10 a.m. A few of the crew including the master were slightly injured and all hands suffering more or less from shock. Ship’s papers and all crew’s effects lost. No submarine was sighted at anytime.
William Leoble A.B. is specially recommended when explosion occurred there was a stampede from the alley and this man stopped anyone coming out until the falling debris had cleared away. This undoubtably saved a serious accident. Also for the way he got the starboard lifeboat into the water practically single handed, the rest of the crew making for the port boat.