The Maidan was a “Steel Screw” Steam Cargo Ship of 8,205 GRT built at W. Hamilton & Co. (Glen Yard No. 231), Glasgow, Scotland in 1912 for T & J Brocklebank, Liverpool, London.
She was 152.4 meters in length, 17.7 meters in beam, and 10 meters in draught. Propulsion was provided by a steam engine connected to a single shaft. In 1919, the propulsion system was upgraded to a 4-cylinder quadruple-expansion steam engine built by D. Rowan and Co., Glasgow, Scotland which gave the Maidan a top speed of 13 knots.
During the early years of WWI, the Maidan was requisitioned for use by the Ministry of War Transport (MOWT) as a troop transport. She carried the Liverpool Scottish Regiment and the Queen’s Westminster Riflesinfantry battalions from Southampton on 01 November 1914 and delivered them to Le Havre on 03 November. These battalions were among the first infantry battalions to be landed in France.
In 1921, the ship changed captains, with Captain Nicholas Breen taking command. Captain Breen was, by all accounts, a trusted and experienced mariner. He was also known as a somewhat arrogant “know-it-all” that did not take advice from his officers. As captain of the Maidan, Captain Breen made several passages between European ports and India over the next 2 years.
The Final Voyage:
On 21 May 1923 the Maidan departed Calcutta enroute back to Europe loaded with 10,000 tons of cargo, with a stop in Ceylon on 27 May, Bombay on 05 June, then to the Gulf of Aden where the ship stopped at Port Sudan to take on bunkers (coal) and additional cargo on 07 June. Just after 0030 on the morning of 09 June, the Maidan departed Port Sudan on its way north to Suez at a speed of 10.5 knots. The weather that night was later described at the Board of Trade Enquiry as being “fine, clear, and moderate”. Bearings were taken on the Abington Reef Beacon at 0845, with a course change at 0945 to 025-degrees True. Ship’s Lat. and Long. were calculated where it was determined that the ship had travelled 118-miles from Port Sudan, followed later by a second change of ship’s heading.
The First Mate, after taking bearings on the Elba Mountains at 1815, found that the ship’s actual position was approximately 2.5 miles east of her intended route. Captain Breen was duly informed of this and chose to maintain the ship’s course and speed, and no other navigation fixes or bearings were taken afterwards.
Captain Breen went below at 2230, leaving orders to be contacted when ST. John’s Island was sighted (Note: St. John’s Island is now called Zabargad Island). At 0126 on 10 June, the Second Officer was the Officer of the Deck and sighted St. John’s Island almost dead ahead of the ship at an estimated distance of 8-10 miles. He ordered a course change of one point to Starboard and immediately contacted Captain Breen.
Captain Breen made no other course or speed changes, even though it was readily apparent that the ship was nowhere near it’s intended track.
Soon afterward, discolored water was seen off of the port bow, indicating a reef. The helm was immediately put hard over to port and engines reversed at full speed. The ship remained like this for approximately 4-minutes as the ship was still moving forward while taking off headway when suddenly she struck the reef at Rocky Island at 0139.