SS Basil 1917

50°35,026'N 00°40,987'W

SS Basil was a 3223 tonne steamship owned by the Booth Line. Her 334 hp engines gave her a steady speed of 10 knots. Late in World War 1 she was requisitioned by the British Government for use as a troop transport ship. She was also used to take Horses, Feed and munitions across to France and was fitted, by the navy , with a 4.7” gun on her stern.

Built in Befast in 1895, she was launched as SS Mourne but was sold in 1899 and became SS Basil.

On 11th November 1917 she was en route from Southampton to Boulogne, commanded by Captain Edward Whitehouse, with a cargo of artillery shells when she encountered thick fog off the Sussex coast. Around midnight the French Steamer Margaux was on her way from France entering the fog bank at the same time. With no lights to avoid being seen by submarines, both ships were a a head on collision course. They collided head on with the Basil sinking almost immediately not giving the crew time to launch the lifeboats. Booth the owners reported that 48 were killed but other reports state that 13 of her 41 crew survived.

Booth Steamship Co.

Founded in the 1866 as Alfred Booth & Co to operate services to Northern Brazil and the Amazon. In 1881 the Booth Steamship Co. was formed. In 1901 the Booth and Singlehurst’s Red Cross Line were amalgamated into a single company and named Booth Steamship Co.(1901), Ltd. At the same time, to tidy up the tug and barge operations on the River Amazon, Booth & Co.was formed and these small units transferred to this company. In 1911 the Iquitos SS Co.and it’s fleet was absorbed by Booth SS Co. In 1946 the Booth Line was sold to the Vestey Group of companies and in 1975 all the group’s ships were pooled under Blue Star Ship Management Ltd and the Booth Line ceased to exist as a separate entity.
Today SS Basil can be found in 38 m of water at position (50°35,026’N  00°40,987’W)       and has been heavy salvaged over the years and like all other steel wrecks she is collapsing.

The wreck has munitions in almost every hole.  Photo Steve Clarkson





Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd., Belfast

Owners         (1899 to 1917)

Booth Steamship Co. (Booth Line), Liverpool

Previous owners (1895 to 1899)

Dixon Thomas & Sons Ltd. – Lord Line – Irish Shipowners Co., Belfast

Ship was then called “SS Mourne”


Transport – Steel Steam Ship


3223 grt


103m x 13.3m x 8m


Triple expansion engines with three boilers and a single shaft


334 hp