100 Years of Burdigala & Britannic

1916 – 2016 A Centennial worth celebrating!

The three protagonists: HMHS Britannic, S/S Burdigala & U-73. Model rendering by Dimitri Galon

It was on the morning of 14th November 1916 when S/S Burdigala, a 12.380 GRT displacement steam liner commandeered by the French Navy and converted to a ‘Croiseur Auxiliaire’, heading from Salonika towards Toulouse, while passing through the Kea Channel, sunk from a mine [designated as minefield No 33] laid in the Kea Channel by the German submarine U 73. She was heading south with just the 450 strong crew sailing from Thessaloniki and heading to Toulon for loading another 2,000 troops of Zouaves as re-enforcements to the Entente’s massive Gallipoli Campaign, which during the one year that it was fought would cost more than 250,000 lives from both warring sides. It was exactly one week before the HMHS Britannic was sunk.

Mine field Nr. 32 laid outside the St. Nicholas Bay, Kea island on 28th October 1916. (Bundesarchiv – Militärarchiv der B.R.D.).
  • 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.

Likewise it was on the morning of 21st November 1916 when Titanic’s sister-ship the commandeered by the British Admiralty great liner-converted to hospital ship, HMHS Britannic with a displacement of 48.158 GRT [the largest ocean liner of the time] sinks after hitting a mine, laid in the Kea Channel by the same German submarine U 73. Britannic was heading north towards the port of Moudros with just her crew, medical officers and nurses of about 1,200 souls. At Moudros she was going to take on wounded British soldiers ca. 2,000 to 2,500 souls. The detailed account of her sinking is logged here: http://hmhsbritannic.weebly.com/sinking.html

It was during  the August of 2015 that the Friends of Kea Society-SFK organized an event in Kea island titled “The Shipwrecks of Kea” that the idea of organizing a proper “Centennial Celebration” during 2016 to commemorate the two shipwrecks was first discussed. Hence the ball got rolling and the Municipality of Kea together with SFK are co-organizing this event titled “100 Years from the Sinking’s of S/S BURDIGALA & HMHS BRITANNIC”, in Kea Island, Cyclades, Greece, to be held between Friday September 30th and Sunday October 2nd 2016.

The Centennial Celebration aims to:

  • diffuse and bring back to focus the historical events which took place in the area 100 years ago
  • to engage and attract either as speakers or delegates renown personalities from the historical, diving, diplomatic, government and business communities (international & local)
  • to commemorate and honor by symbolic acts, the souls lost or suffered during the two ships sinking’s
  • to promote Kea island as a unique diving and tourist destination
  • above all, to offer a memorable experience for both participants and sponsoring partners
  • Needless to say, a world-wide press coverage is part of our plan, ensuring a first rate exposure for sponsors’ products and services!

A note worthy of your attention:

  • Proceeds from the Event will be used to award scholarships to top grading students from the Kea island high school [under the auspice of the Hon. Mayor of Kea Municipality]
  • For this purpose we are establishing the “Carl Spencer Scholarship”
  • Donations will be solicited from the International Diving/Historic Community as well from Domestic Foundations, Corporations, NGO’s & individuals.

Preliminary Program of Events & Activities

Three days of Centennial celebrations from Friday 30th September to  Sunday 2nd October 2016.

  • Friday 30th September 2016 morning: A team of technical divers will descend to the S/S BURDIGALA shipwreck with a task to place a commemorative plaque ‘1916-2016: 100 YEARS of S/S BURDIGALA, sunk on 14 November 1916 in the Kea Channel. The Region of South Aegean, The Municipality of Kea & The Friends of Kea Society, 30-9-2016’.
  • Friday 30th September 2016 morning: Similarly, another commemorative plaque ‘1916-2016: 100 YEARS of HMHS BRITANNIC, sunk on 21 November 1916 in the Kea Channel. The Region of South Aegean,The Municipality of Kea & The Friends of Kea Society, 30-9-2016’. In addition, a third plaque in memory of the British diver Carl Spencer, who lost his life during the 2009 National Geographic Society expedition will also be placed. The Region of South Aegean,The Municipality of Kea & The Friends of Kea Society, Honor the memory of Carl Spencer who led the National Geographic Society expedition to HMHS BRITANNIC, May 24th 2009′. Such will be positioned in the bridge of Titanic’s sister-ship, most probably by the TRITON class submersible of the U-Boat Malta Org or via ROV or via a separate dive mission.
  • Friday 30th September 2016 early afternoon: A flotilla of big and small vessels will visit in a celebratory manner (flying the appropriate flag dress code) from the surface above, the two shipwrecks and the flagship (possibly a Greek Navy or Coast Guard official ship) will lay a wreath honoring the souls lost or suffered during each sinking ship. Invitations will be sent to: the Political and Naval leaderships, Ambassadors and Naval Attachés of France & the United Kingdom, VIP’s, delegates, and other dignitaries.
A scene from another flotilla mobilization in Europe; we would like to see something similar on the blue waters of the Kea Channel
  • Friday 30th September 2016 evening: Open Film Session, a world’s premier of the DARK WATERS special for the event film version, kindly prepared by the U-Film/U-Boat Malta organizations. @ Folk Museum of Kea, Mylopotamos, open-air garden theater.
  • Saturday 1st October 2016 morning [09:00]:  Convening of the International Conference pertaining to the Sinking’s of S/S BURDIGALA & HMHS BRITANNIC. Notable and knowledgeable speakers will present topics [indicatively] as:
    • The Historical Environment of the WW I era
    • The role of the German U-Boats
    • The Story of the S/S Burdigala
    • An account of the various U/W Missions undertaken so far, from the discovery of the wreck in 2008 up to today
    • Lunch break

The Conference will take place at the new premises of the Kea Events. As a side attraction, a paintings/photo/video Gallery and Memorabilia Exhibition will be set-up, along with appropriate booth spaces for our Sponsors.

  • See the Full program here: https://100years-kea-shipwrecks.org/event-program/

  • Saturday 1st October 2016 night [21:00]: Gala dinner for the Delegates, VIP’s, sponsors and local guests, offering an opportunity to taste local food, delicacies, wine and live local music performed by the Youths of Kea Ensemble.
  • Actor-producer Yannis Simonides will offer poetry by 6th century lyric poet Simonides of Kea praising heroes and fallen warriors, in the original Greek and in English language
  • The reception will be held around the pleasant pool area of the Kea Events premises.
  • Sunday 2nd October 2016 morning :Visit of the Archeological Museum of Kea @ Ioulis [Guided Tour will be offered by the resident archeologist’s].

    • Walk on the paths of Ioulis

    • 13:30 – 15:30 Buffet Lunch & Music at the ‘Spiti Sti Hora’ [Hosted by SFK Member Chris Liodakis, with magnificent vistas of Ioulis below, the Kea Channel & Makronissos Island in the distance].

  • Sunday 2nd October 2016 evening: Departures from the island to Lavrion Port via ferry-boat.
  • For those who wish to stay on and possibly do some local diving, private arrangements can be made via the services of Kea Divers or Planet Blue Diving Center
  • For others who may wish to stay on in Greece or depart on Monday 3rd Oct., (i.e. for touring Athens, Delphi, Olympia or visit other islands), private arrangements and assistance can be rendered through our preferred Tourist Agency/partner, namely www.landfly.gr/en/100-years-kea-shipwrecks/
Panoramic view of the Kea Events premises
The Kea Events venue in full swing!




2 thoughts on “100 Years of Burdigala & Britannic

  1. Has any thought been given to mini submersibles being rented for tourists to dive to HMHS Britannic as part of a tourist attraction since not everyone knows or has experience with scuba diving?


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