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The Kyarra was a twin-masted schooner-rigged steamer. She was built in 1903 by the W. Denny Brothers ship builders, Dumbarton on the river Clyde, Scotland. At this stage in history ships such as the Kyarra were fitted out to a very high standard. Brass was extensively used throughout the Kyarra.
As with many ships, the Kyarra shared her design with a sister ship named the Kanowna. The Kanowna was actually launched four months ahead of the Kyarra but both ships were fabulously designed and built.
The Kyarra was launched on 2 February 1903. She was 415 feet 5 inches long and had a beam of 52 feet 2 inch's with a draught 31 feet 4.5 inch's. After launching the Kyarra was moved to a fitting out dock and it was during this period that the Kyarra's final touches were put in place. When finished the Kyarra would weigh 6953 tons with a net tonnage of 4383. Her engines two of which were fitted both produced 375 bhp each. These triple expansion engines by Denny pushed her to a speed of 15.4 knots.
Both the Kyarra and the Kanowna were ordered by the Australian United Steam Navigation Company Limited. AUSN. The Kyarra was assigned the International Code letters T.W.S.C. being registered at the port of Fremantle Australia 1903.
The purpose of the Kyarra was to not only carry fare paying passengers but also a range of general cargo. This meant she had an impressive 42 first class, 3 berth cabins. 20 second class cabins each with 8 berths. Not surprisingly for such an elegant ship she also had a number of state rooms.
The cargo area consisted of 253,000 cubic feet of space and cargo winches were set fore and aft of the Kyarra's foredeck and aft deck holds.
The Kyarra was a very profitable and successful ship. But in October 1914 the British government requisitioned the ship. She was painted white, had red crosses painted onto her hull and fitted out as a hospital ship.
Commonwealth control of the Kyarra ended on the 4 January 1918. On 19 January 1918 just a couple of weeks after ending control of the Kyarra Captain Albert Donovan took command and readied the ship for a return to Britain.
early May 1918 the Kyarra arrived in London Britain. Although the
journey had been dangerous the Kyarra was safe - for the time being
On 26 May 1918 the Kyarra sailed West along the South coast of England. Dover, Eastbourn and Brighton were just some of the towns she sailed by as the hours past and she made her way towards Plymouth. She was making good progress. As the Kyarra started to move around Anvil point no one on board could have said for sure she was being watched.
As Oberleutnant Lohs gave the order to fire from a hidden position just a short distance from the Kyarra the fate of the ship was sealed. As the torpedo left the submarine and made its way towards the Kyarra people on board new the dangers of the sea during war time but none had any idea how close that war was about to come to their lives.
Aboard the Kyarra the shout of 'torpedo' sent fear into the heart of every one close enough to hear it. Captain Donavan run to the port side of the bridge. The watchman had spotted the signs but it was already to late.
Less than 100 yards away, approaching on a determined course was the signs of a torpedo. The order for hard to port was given but was never actioned. There just wasn't enough time. The torpedo struck the Kyarra amidships the port side. Just forward of the boilers.
Six of the Kyarra's crew were killed. It took just 20 minutes for the Kyarra to sink. The once beautiful ship was gone.