HMS Laurentic, Royal Naval Reserve
Drowned at sea on Thursday 25 January 1917 (aged 26)
Tullylish (All Saints) Church of Ireland Churchyard, Co. Down (South of Church)
Thomas Steele was born on 8 July 1890 in Monkstown, Co Antrim and he was a son of Alexander and Anna Maria Steele (nee Holahan, sometimes Holohan) who were married on 2 July 1886 in Great Victoria Street Presbyterian Church Belfast. Alexander Steele, a millwright from Whiteabbey, was a son of Thomas Steele, a spinning master. Anna Holahan from Whiteabbey was a daughter of James Holahan, a clerk.
Alexander and Anna Steele (nee Holahan) had three children:
Isabella (born 28 January 1887 in Whiteabbey)
Margaret (Maggie, born 20 September 1888 in Whiteabbey)
Thomas (born 8 July 1890 in Monkstown)
Anna Maria Steele (nee Holahan) died in a diabetic coma on 26 October 1892 (aged 32) in Dunbarton House Hospital, Gilford.
In 1901 Alexander Steele was living in the townland of Loughans, Tullylish (between Banbridge and Portadown). Alexander Steele was working as a mechanical engineer in a factory and he, his parents Thomas and Isabella, his sister Maggie and his children Isabella, Maggie and Thomas all lived together.
Thomas Steele was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and his address was the Commercial Hotel, Belfast when he and Annie Gorman were married on 15 December 1916 in Knockbreda Church of Ireland Church Belfast. Annie Gorman (aged 28) from 69 Hay Park Avenue, Belfast was a daughter of Joseph Gorman, a shopkeeper.
During the Great War Lieutenant Thomas Steele served in the Royal Naval Reserve and he died on 25 January 1917 aboard HMS Laurentic. He had been married for just six weeks.
Steam Ship (SS) Laurentic was built by Harland & Wolff for the White Star Line and this ship entered service between Liverpool and Montreal on 29 April 1909. She gained fame in 1910 because of her role in the capture of murderer Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen who was travelling to Canada aboard the SS Montrose. SS Laurentic outpaced the SS Montrose and with police aboard she arrived in Canada in time to intercept and arrest the fleeing suspect.
At the beginning of the Great War SS Laurentic was requisitioned by the Admiralty and as His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Laurentic she was used as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. On 23 January 1917 she left Liverpool bound for Halifax Nova Scotia. Her cargo included more than 3,200 bars of gold (weighing around 40 tons) which was going to pay for munitions.
On the morning of 25 January 1917, the ship made a short stop in Lough Swilly to drop off sick crewmen and when leaving the Lough that evening she struck a mine that had been laid by the German submarine U-80. HMS Laurentic sank and more than 350 of the 475 people aboard died. Between 1917 and 1932 all but a few of the gold bars were recovered. Engineer Lieutenant Robert Ririe Mitchell from Holywood died in the same incident. Some of the casualties (known and unknown) were buried in the graveyard beside St Mura’s Church of Ireland Church in the village of Fahan, Co. Donegal. There is now a memorial cross in the graveyard.
Lieutenant Thomas Steele’s body was recovered and he was buried in Tullylish (All Saints) Church of Ireland Churchyard, Co. Down. There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
THY WILL BE DONE
His next-of-kin in CWGC records is his wife Annie whose address was 88 Hamilton Road, Bangor.