BORN LIVERPOOL 1888. SON OF PATRICK & ELLEN O'BRIEN. HIS WIFE ANASTASIA LIVED IN LIVERPOOL. HULL MERCHANT NAVY ROH. HULL CREWMAN.
The Romeo, J Neile, master, left Scapa on 23 February 1918 bound for Liverpool. She was on Admiralty charter for carrying meat and provisions to the Fleet, but was returning to Liverpool in ballast after having called in at Stornoway, remaining there for six days. She was equipped with a twelve pound gun for defence against enemy submarines.
On 3 March 1918 at 2.40 a.m. she was about 10 miles south of the Mull oif Galloway, steaming at 10 knots and zig-zagging. The weather was fine with occassional snow showers, the wind light and the sea smooth. The first officer was in charge on the bridge. There was a lookout on the forecastle head, another on the bridge and one on the gunner´s platform aft. All lights on the ship were carefully screened and no navigation lights were burning. Suddenly a green and red light appeared off her port bow. Fearful of a collision with another ship, the order was given to show the Romeo´s navigation lights at her bow. This was a fateful mistake as she had been tricked by the German submarine U102into giving away her exact position. Within a couple of minutes a torpedo slammed into the Romeo´s port side between the stoke hole and the engine room. The explosion was terrific and split the ship in two. At first she took a list to port, then righted herself before sinking like a stone in less than two minutes. There was no time for the crew to launch any of the lifeboats and the crew of 37 men was thrown into the water.
The two gun crew managed to cling to a swamped boat and eventually bailed it out. Shortly afterwards they spotted a sailor in the water and hauled him out into the lifeboat, but he later died at about 10.00 a.m. At daylight the two gunners managed to get the mast and sail up before being picked up by the steamship Ardgarvel at 11.00 a.m. and were later landed at Greenock.
The only other survivor was the wireless operator, Arthur Sneddon. He was picked up by a trawler and landed at Holyhead by the patrol boat Kilgobnet at 11.00 a.m. on 4 March.