S/S Burdigala, chronological list of events

(All dates are in accordance with the new Revised Julian Calendar).


S/S Kaiser Friedrich, later on S/S Burdigala, built during 1897/98, in the F. Schichau shipyards, in Danzig (today Gdansk, Poland).



  • Establishment of the shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) by Hermann Henrich Meier and Eduard Crüsemann in Bremen, Germany.


  • The American Civil War begins and ends with more than 1.000.000 casualties. Terminated on 23.06.1865 with the Northern States being  victorious and the 40% of the national economy destroyed. This fact together with a severe shortage of workers, leads to the second large immigration wave, from Europe to the U.S.A.


  • Kaiser Friedrich III dies from cancer of the pharynx, just 99 days after his coronation. The year 1888 becomes the so called “year of the three Kaisers”, since that year Friedrich’s father, Wilhelm I, “The Great”, dies too.  Only 99 days after Friedrich’s death, Wilhelm II was crowned, destined to be the last German Kaiser.
  • Shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd later on decides name three of its ships after the three last Kaisers, in the order they ruled. Thus S/S Kaiser Friedrich was named after the Friedrich III and later on was renamed to S/S Burdigala.


  • The Ocean Liner S/S Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, built by A.G. Vulcan shipyards of Stettin on behalf of Norddeutscher Lloyd, sails on her maiden journey from Bremerhaven to New York. With an average speed of 21.39 knots, she soon conquers the speed trophy, the prestigeous Blue Riband for NDL.
  • It marks the first time that a German shipping company wins this trophy. Since that year, German shipping will dominate the world scene for a period of 10 years, with main players being NDL and HAPAG.


  • Launching day for the Ocean Liner S/S Kaiser Friedrich, later on S/S Burdigala, which was planned to reinforce the route already served by S/S Kaiser Wilhelm de Grosse, reaffirming the primacy and power of NDL, against all other shipping companies.
  • The shipbuilding company, Elbinger Dampfschiffs-Reederei Ferdinand Schichau GmbH, of Danzig, has code named the S/S Kaiser Friedriech build as number 587.


  • Completion date of all works on the newbuild.
  • S/S Kaiser Friedrich is undergoing sea trials from Danzig to Bremerhaven, the home port of Norddeutscher Lloyd. During the trip, the ship is evaluated by NDL’s engineers, who determine that she does not fulfill the contractual specifications.
  • NDL refuses to accept delivery from the shipbuilding company F. Schichau GmbH, one of the best known companies at that time. NDL agrees though to provisionally add her to its fleet for an extended trial period.


  • S/S Kaiser Friedrich commences her first transatlantic crossing under the flag of Norddeutscher Lloyd, from Bremerhaven to New York, via Southampton, commanded by NDL’s chief-captain, Ludwig A. Störmer.


  • Arrival at New York after a significant delay, a fact that would lead NDL toward new terse arguments with the shipbuilding company F. Schichau GmbH.


  • S/S Kaiser Friedrich sails without any passengers returning to Europe.
  • Immediately after her arrival, NDL cancels her two scheduled trips and the ship is sent for constructional and engineering modifications to F. Schichau, aiming to increase her speed. On 4th September of the same year, after all modifications are completed, the ship is delivered once again to the her ship owning company.

14. 09.1898

  • S/S Kaiser Friedrich sails for her second transatlantic crossing, arriving in New York on 21st September. The duration of the trip was 6 days and 12 hours, reaching an indicative average speed of 19-20 knots. Her cruising speed, also in this trip, doesn’t reach the contractual obligation by F. Schichau, of 22 knots.
  • During the three following passages (on 20.10.1898, 25.11.1898 and 16.12.1898, arrival dates of S/S Kaiser Friedrich in New York), the ship’s speed remains at the same slow levels.
  • After her last trip, during December 1898, the ship returns to Europe where changes are made again in order to help Kaiser Friedrich achieving the speed of the agreed 22 knots.
  • In addition to the fitting of new air pumps in the engines and in the boiler rooms, her funnels are heightened by 4.5 meters, altering as a result remarkably the ship’s appearance.


  • By the beginning of the new season, the ship departs from Southampton for New York.
  • The crossing lasts 7 days and 40 minutes, due to a loss of two propeller blades, eliminates even the last hope that S/S Kaiser Friedrich would be able to even get close to the 22 knots target.
  • The ship makes 8 more trips under the NDL flag, on the Bremerhaven – New York line. The fastest trip achieved was 6 days, 22 hours and 30 minutes, a fact that classified the ship in the category of the 19 knots class.


  • After S/S Kaiser Friedrich’s departure from New York, NDL takes the final decision to return the ship to her shipbuilding company, F. Schichau GmbH.
  • An long judicial fight starts between the two companies, which NDL will eventually winn by1908.


  • The ship is registered in the Hamburg list, under Ferdinand Schichau GmbH’s ownership.


  • S/S Kaiser Friedrich, chartered by HAPAG, begins her first trip under the flag of Hamburg-Amerika Linie, servicing the Hamburg to New York, via Southampton route.
  • Toward the end of her passage, she runs aground in New Jersey’s coastal shallows, but without damages.
  • After her second sailing on the same route, the ship returns to Europe (on 16.11.1899) and remains in Hamburg for refitting by the shipyards of Blohm & Voss. The purpose being is to increase the number cabins and the her cargo capability.


  • At the beginning of the new season, the ship departs from Southampton to New York, where she arrives on 4th April 1900.
  • It is the beginning of the most successful and steady period for S/S Kaiser Friedrich.
  • In the next seven months the ship makes eight complete transatlantic crossings, from Europe to the Americas and back.


  • Her arrival at the docks of HAPAG, in the Hoboken, N.J. area, coincides with the catastrophic fire of Hoboken – New Jersey, where NDL’s docks were located. S/S Kaiser Friedrich takes part in the rescue operations.


  • The new build  HAPAG’s ship, S/S Deutschland, during her maiden voyage, wins the Blue Riband, with an average speed of 22.42 knots, displacing NDL’s flag ship, S/S Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.
  • This fact marks the dynamic entrance of HAPAG in the higher class of transatlantic shipping but also the termination of S/S Kaiser Friedrich’s charter.


  • S/S Kaiser Friedrich crosses the Atlantic Ocean for the last time under the flag of a German flagged shipping company.
  • After her arrivial at Hamburg, the ship is once more returned to her owners, the F. Schichau GmbH shipyards and remains mothballed for about 12 years in the Elbe river awaiting for a new buyer.


  • The newly established shipping company Société d´ Etudes de Navigation, applies to the French Government to take over the postal service between France and South America.
  • The French Parliament approves the application and assigns the postal service to Société d´ Etudes de Navigation.


  • Société d´ Etudes de Navigation is renamed to Compagnie de Navigation Sub-Atlantique, with a budget of 15.000.000 French Francs.
  • The main stockholders of the company are bankers and ship-owners. Among them were Andre Berthelot, Cyprien Fabre, Alfred Fraissinet, Comte Arrnand, Pellerin de la Touche και Hubert Giraud.


  • Compagnie de Navigation Sud-Atlantique buys S/S Kaiser Friedrich for the amount of 4.000.000 French Francs,  approximately 1/3 of the ship’s value.
  • Before the ship is delivered to her new owner, she is undergoes a general refit at the shipyards of Blohm & Voss of Hamburg where, among others works, her boilers are replaced.
  • After the repairs are completed, the ship sails to Bordeaux, the home port of Cie Sub-Atlantique, under her new name, S/S Burdigala and under the French flag.


  • S/S Burdigala’s innauguration in the Cie de Navigation Sud-Atlantique fleet is celebrated by a lavish dinner party onboard the ship.


  • S/S Burdigala sails for her maiden vyage under the French flag, from Bordeaux to Buenos Aires with intermediate stops in Lisbon, Dakar of Senegal, Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Montevideo in Rio de la Plata.
  • During her return, the ship faces mechanical malfunctions and right after her arrival at Bordeaux she undergoes further repairs in the local shipyard.


  • S/S Burdigala sets off to her second voyage under the colors of Sub-Antlantique.
  • The ship remains on this line for about a year, without an event worth a mention. The only incident was her grounding on the river Garonne’s banks, in the port of Bordeaux after dragging of her anchorage.


  • The new build S/S Lutetia sails off to her first trip under the flag of Sub-Atlantique, heading for South America.


  • S/S Lutetia’s sister ship, S/S Gallia, is placed in the same line.
  • S/S Burdigala is withdrawn, because of her excessive coal consumption and  in view of necessary repairs, remains mothballed in Bordeaux until the break out of World War One.


  • Franz Ferdinand, the successor to Austria – Hungary’s throne, is murdered.
  • The nationalistic Serbian organization, Black Hand, is considered responsible for the murder.



  • Russia allies with Serbia.


  • The German Reich allies with Austria – Hungary and orders a general military mobilization.


  • France orders a general military mobilization.
  • World War One has begun.


  • German battleships S.M.S. Goeben and S.M.S. Breslau, chased by the Royal British Navy, reach Constantinople (Istanbul) and are voluntarily handed over to the Ottoman Empire Navy, changing their names to Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midili (Mytelene) respectively.


  • S/S Burdigala, is commandeered by the French Government and registered by the French Navy as an Auxiliary Cruiser (Croiseur Auxiliaire). She is designated to be used as troop transport in service from the Toulon Naval Base to Thessaloniki Port.


  • The Ottoman Empire enforces a blockade of the Dardanelles Straits, cutting off sea passage to the Entente Allied Forces toward their northern ally, Russia.


  • The Ottoman Empire fleet, under the command of German Admiral Wilhelm Suchon, attacks Russian naval bases in the Black Sea, in the cities of Odessa and Sebastopol.


  • S/S Burdigala is in Toulon where boarding of the 14th battalion of the 2nd regiment of Zouaves (14e Bataillon du 2e Régiment de Zouaves) begins. The battalion will participate in the battles of Struma (18-20.8.1918) and Bitola’s conquest (Monastery – Bulgaria) during November of 1916. The Zouaves was a selected corps of mercenaries of the French Army, originally consisting of soldiers from Algerian tribes. The main differentiating factors between the Zouaves and the rest of the French Army were  their warring tradition and their colorful uniforms of breeches and fez.


  • The Ottoman Empire, being an ally of the German’s Reich and Austrian – Hungarian Empire, declares war against the Entente.


  • S/S Burdigala debarks in Thessaloniki Port the 14th Battalion of the 2nd Zouaves Regiment.


  • The Gallipoli campaign commences. Eventually it will cost the life of 250.000 men from both sides until the end of the war (9.1.1916).
  • Entente’s strategic goal is to conquer the Gallipoli peninsula, ascertain control of the Dardanelles and advancing the Allies Forces towards Istanbul.


  • The German submarine U 21, commanded by Captain Otto Hersing, sails from Wilhelmshaven heading for the Mediterranean Sea, which was under Entente’s firm control. She is the first submarine to pass the Gibraltar narrows and to enter the Mediterranean.


  • The U 21 arrives at the Austrian–Hungarian base of Cattaro in Dalmatia, breaking through the Otranto Adriatic blockade enforced by the French Navy.


  • The U 21 sails from her Cattaro base, heading to Istanbul. During the voyage, sinks the British battleships HMS Triumph and HMS Majestic (27.5.1915). These sinkings mark Entente’s first losses from a German submarine in the Mediterranean Sea.


  • Italy declares war against the Austrian – Hungarian Empire.


  • The U 21 arrives at Istanbul, after breaking through the Dardanelles blockade enforced by Entente’s ships.
  • The successful operations of submarine warfare and breaking through Entente’s blockades by the U 21, marks the beginning of the submarine warfare in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Soon after U 21’s successful mission, a submarine flotilla (U-Flottille Pola) was created, based in Pola of Istria in the Adriatic Sea.


  • Bulgaria attacks Serbia.


  • S/S Burdigala sails from Toulon carrying the 242nd infantry regiment (242éme Régiment d´Infanterie), which debarks in Thessaloniki Port on 21.10.1915. It is the regiment which will participate in Bitola’s (Monastir – Bulgaria) conquest on November of 1916.


  • Bulgaria declares war against the united forces of the Entente.
  • By December of the same year Serbia is conquered by the Austria – Hungary, German and Bulgarian forces.


  • S/S Burdigala is in Marseilles.


  • S/S Burdigala leaves Toulon carrying sections of the 2nd regiment of Zouaves, the General Staff and the 3rd Corp CHR (Compagnie Hors-Rang) which are debarked at Thessaloniki Port on 21.11.1915.


  • The last British units withdraw from the  Gallipoli peninsula war theater.
  • Entente’s effort to conquer the Dardanelles has failed.


  • The battle of Verdun commences. It will cost the life of 700.000 German and French soldiers, until its ending on18.12.1916.


  • The German submarine U 73, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Gustav Siess sails from Kiel (Germany) heading towards the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Her primary mission is to lay minefields in areas with increased traffic by Entente’s ships.
  • The U 73 joins the submarine flotilla based in Pola (Istria) and Cattaro (Dalmatia), territories belonging at that time to the Austrian – Hungarian Empire.


  • The “Battle of Jutland” between the British and German fleets takes place in Jutland.


  • The “Battle of the Somme”  starts in northern France and by its ending on 18.11.1916 it costs the life of more than 1.000.000 British, French and German soldiers. It is considered to be among the deadliest battles of WW I. Besides the heavy loss of human life, this great battle also known as the “Somme Offensive” had no real effect in the balance of power of either sides.


  • The German submarine U 73 lays a minefield outside Thessaloniki Port. Two days later, she sinks by torpedo in the Gulf of Orphanó (Strimonic Gulf), the British minesweeper HMS Clacton.


  • Romania declares war against Austria – Hungary.


  • Italy declares war against the German Reich.



  • Both ships arrive in Thessaloniki Port.



  • The Temporary Government debarks at Thessaloniki Port. Greece remains as a united country just typically, since it has been practically divided into the Athens Nation and the Thessaloniki Nation; at the period the French Franc is used as its currency instead of the Greek Drachma.


  • Entente’s Forces support the Temporary Government in Thessaloniki and the Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos.
  • Entente’s goal is to weaken the pro-German King Constantine I, who’s wife, Queen Sophia, was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.


  • Constantine I wishes to form a new government and Spyridon Lampros becomes Prime Minister, only to resign on February 5th, 1917.


  • The Athens based Greek Government places  part of its fleet at the service of Entente.


  • Submarine U 73 sails from Cattaro with a mission to lay minefields in the Saronic Gulf, the Kea Channel and the passage between Tinos and Mykonos.


  • U 73 lays two minefields, eastwards and westwards of Fleves islet in the Saronic Gulf, designated as minefield No 31.



  • U73 lays 12 mines in the passage between the islands of Tinos and Mykonos. Designated as minefield No 33.


  • The Greek flagged cargo ship S/S Kiki Isaia (2.993 GRT co-owned by G. Isaias and K. Zalokostas) sinks near the islet of Fleves, in the exact area where the U 73 had laid her minefield No 31.


  • U 73 anchors at its base in Cattaro and remains there for ship repairs of the oil pumps.


  • S/S Burdigala, passing through the Kea Channel, sinks from either a mine or a torpedo. She was sailing from Thessaloniki and heading to Toulon. It was exactly one week before the HMHS Britannic was sunk.
  • Human losses due to this sinking were minimal, thanks to the actions of the Captain, Commandant Rolland, First Officer Mercier and Chief Engineer Richard.
  • Historical sources present two different versions of S/S Burdigala’s sinking. The French, refers to a torpedo attack (see Auguste-Antoine Thomazi, page 180), while the English refers to a mine hit (see Paul G. Halpern, page 253). German sources (see Arno Spindler, 3rd volume, page 343), consider the ship as sunk by a mine. The Greek Press at the time (daily newspaper Emprós, November 2nd and 3rd 1916, Gregorian calendar) reports the incident by supporting the French, torpedoing version.


  • Hospital ship HMHS Britannic sinks after hitting a mine, laid in the Kea Channel by the German submarine U 73.


  • The hospital ship HMHS Braemar Castle is beached after hitting a mine in the narrows between the islands of Tinos and Mykonos.


  • The Greek Government under Prime Minister Venizelos declares war against the German Reich.


  • Venizelos’ Government is recognized by the Entente as the sole Greek Government.

Copyright © 2009 by D. Galon and the S/S Burdigala Project Team

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