Cambank was a 3111 gross tonnage steamship owned by Merevale Shipping Company of Cardiff. She was en route from Huelva in Spain to Garston Merseyside with a valuable cargo of copper ingots and ore. Having encountered some rough weather her Captain Prescott put into Falmouth for some repairs to a hatch cover and then continued the voyage.
Arriving off Amlwch, a pilot was taken aboard. About 10 miles east of Point Lynas a submarine suddenly appeared about 250 yards away and without warning sent a torpedo at Cambank which was hit amidships and immediately began to sink.
The Captain ordered the boats to be lowered and 21 of the 25 on board were saved. Three in the engine room were killed outright by the explosion and a fourth was drowned trying to jump from the ship to the boat. The explosion was seen and heard on shore and the local lifeboat was launched to help bring the survivors safely to Amlwch Port and then onto trains to take them to their homes.
11 of them were from Cardiff where they arrived home to surprised families and interviews from the Western Mail which printed graphic accounts of their experience
There were other ships in the vicinity at the time of the attack on Cambank, but these were left unscathed. The suspicion is that Cambank was singled out because of her valuable cargo which was identified by German spies when loading at Huelva,
Chief Engineer, Fred Conway
Source British Merchants Seaman Cards
He spoke indignantly of the dastardly conduct of the Germans “It was sheer murder. We were torpedoed without a seconds warning”
“I was in the engine-room at the time and did not see the torpedo. All I remember is a terrific flash and report and then the water came surging round me. I was carried off my feet but by working along the ceiling with my hands I was able to reach the door”
“Think of it!” Mr Conway is reported to have said “We were steaming along on a beautiful morning after a bad voyage and everything was going swimmingly. Ten minutes later there was nothing but pieces of wreckage”
He expressed sympathy for his third engineer, Joe Boyle who had been killed outright along with a fireman and the donkeyman – “The poor chap was the only support of his mother. He lived in Garston and was only a few hours from home”
“The attack was made about eleven o’clock. One of the crew shouted ‘There’s a submarine’ and almost immediately the torpedo plumped right into us. We could see it coming like a snake. The explosion was terrible. A huge volume of water and fire reached about half-way up the mast”
“It was a bad voyage from beginning to end, nothing but gales and misfortunes. This is my second wreck. I hope it will be a long time before I go on another voyage”