SS Armenian was an 1895-built cargo liner built for the Leyland Line, but managed by the White Star Line from March 20, 1903. She was employed on the cargo service between Liverpool and New York, with the passenger service between the two ports having been previously withdrawn. The Armenian was fitted out to transport horses and used as a transport in the South African War. In 1901, she was also used to transport 963 Boer prisoners of war to Darrell’s and Burt’s Islands.
The Armenian sailed last on March 3, 1914, before being briefly laid up prior to deployment as a horse transport to France. Although no longer fitted as a passenger vessel, the Armenian and the SS Turcoman, were used to transport the Grenadier Guards to Belgium on October 7, 1914.
On June 28, 1915, she was engaged by the German submarine U-24 off Trevose Head, Cornwall. After a failed attempt at escape, the crew were allowed to abandon ship and the vessel was sunk by two torpedoes fired into her stern. Twenty-nine members of the mostly American crew were lost in the sinking, along with the vessel’s cargo of 1,400 mules.
Following on from the sinking of the RMS Lusitania 52 days earlier, the sinking caused a second crisis to develop between Germany and the United States as the majority of the men who died were Americans. The survivors were picked up the following day by the Belgian steam trawler President Stevens, although four of the survivors later died.