SS Kyarra 1918

N50 34.888 W1 56.569

Kyarra in dry dock

The 6,953 t Kyarra was built by Denny & Bros of Dunbarton. Ship was one of two with the same design and her sister ship was “the Kanowna”. Both ships had been commissioned by the Australian United Steam Navigation Company at a cost of over £150,000 each. Both ships spent most of there life around the Australian coast.

The Kyarra could carry over 250 passengers and had State cabins as well as 42 first class and 20 tourist class cabins.She had a crew of around 190 including 22 officers.

In October 1914 the British Government requisitioned the ship, painted it white with a red cross flag and converted it to a hospital ship.
In December 1914 she sailed to Alexandretta returning to Australia with the wounded soldiers. and for the next couple of years she made a few trips to Britain carrying passengers and cargo.

In 1918 Captain Albert Donavan took command with orders to bring the ship back into the war zone around Britain via New Zealand and the Panama canal. On arriving in Tilbury the Kyarra was loaded with a crew of 112, 34 military ratings and 2500 Tons of general cargo and then set off on its long trip back to Australia.

On 26th May 1918, whilst zigzagging down the English Channel passed the Isle of Wight, the lookout alerted the captain to a torpedo approaching the port side. It was too late and the torpedo created a hole in the side of the ship which then began to sink. Captain Donavon ordered all to abandon ship.

Five men in the engine room lost their lives and one of the crew later died of his injuries.

The torpedo had come from UB-57 comanded by Johannes Lohs. UB 57 had had 11 patrols and sunk 47 ships and damages 10 ships with a total loss of ships of 129.173 tons. 

On 3 August he sailed from Zeebrugge for the last time. The last contact he made with base was on the evening of the 14th, as UB 57 was homeward bound roughly in the area of the Sandiette Bank, east of the Straits of Dover. Nothing more was heard. UB 57 is believed to have hit a mine. Ships sunk on this last patrol were the Clan Mac Vey (5815 BRT), Glenlee (4915 BRT) and City of Brisbane (7094 BRT). In total, Lohs sank approximately 165.000 tons of shipping.

Lohs’ body washed up on shore a week later. He is buried in the military cemetery at Vlissingen.

Select the image below to see the search for UB-57


Today the wreck lay in 30 m of water and has significantly deteriorated since Steve first dived the wreck in the late 60’s.

Ships details

NameOfficial numberFlagIMO
KYARRA 115755 AUS  
Year builtDate launchedDate completed
1903 02/02/1903  
Vessel typeVessel description
Passenger Liner Steel Screw Steamer  
BuilderYardYard no
William Denny & Bros, DumbartonLeven Yard 672 


6953 grt / 4383 nrt /415.5 ft 52.2 ft 28.6 ft  
Engine builderDenny & Company, Dumbarton
Engine detail
2 x Q4cyl (23, 37.5, 43, 43 x 48in), 770nhp, 2 screws 


First ownerFirst port of registerRegistration date
Australasian United Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., Fremantle Fremantle  
Other names
Subsequent owner and registration history
1914 requisitioned as a hospital ship and in March 1915 as a troopship
04/01/1918 returned to owners