The Unkai Maru No. 7 was a 2,143 gross tonnage steamer owned by the shipping company Nakamura & Co., of Osaka Japan.
LLOYD’S WAR LOSSES, The First World War, casualties to shipping through enemy causes 1914-1918 (ISBN1-85044-314-9 LLoyd’s of London Press) reports that the Unkai Maru No. 7 struck a mine on 16 June, 1917 at 18° 33′ N, 72° 10′ E, bound for Bombay carrying rice.
The mine was laid by the German Raider SMS Wolf in February 1917.
And the map below shows the relative position of the Unkai Maru No. 7 to Bombay when it struck the mine, approximately 45 nautical miles south west of Bombay Harbour.
Pte. Monks took these photos of a “Japanese ship mined in Bombay Harbour” and labeled the date as Aug 1916, (although you can clearly see that he originally wrote 1917 and overwrote it).
However, research shows that this date that he wrote must be incorrect.
Only two Japanese ships were sunk through hostile actions in Q3 1916, the Kohina Maru (sunk August 2, 1916 near Alexandria by German Submarine UB46) and the Tenmei Maru (sunk Aug 10, 1916 off the south coast of France MED by German Submarine U35).
The VITA was in Bombay from June 4-22, 1917 (at Alexandra Dock No2 Shed) and it is reasonable to surmise that Pte. Monks was able to get out and about around the harbour during this extended stay. The Unkai Maru No 7 hit a mine laid by SMS Wolf on June 16 at 18° 33′ N, 72° 10′ E, bound For Bombay with a cargo of rice. It is recorded as being destroyed and the assumption was that it sank. However, rather than sinking, if it had in fact been able to make it into Bombay harbour (approximately 45 nautical miles) then it would have been there exactly during the time that Pte. Monks was also there. And it’s not difficult to imagine that any ship arriving at the harbour after striking a mine would have been of great interest to all sailors currently there, especially coming just 10-days after the SS City of Exeter also suffered the same fate and managed to sail into Bombay under her own steam.
So, the conclusion is that it was the Unkai Maru No7 that he saw, boarded and photographed in Bombay harbour and it happened in June 1917 rather than August 1916. It’s not difficult to imagine that several years later he could confuse the exact date (which he originally wrote as 1917 and then changed to 1916) but it is hard to believe that he would get the ship’s nationality (Japanese) and demise (striking a mine) wrong. The only Japanese steam ship listed in this region in Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, RETURNS OF VESSELS TOTALLY LOST, CONDEMNED, etc. during 1916 and 1917 is the Unkai Maru No 7. LLOYD’S WAR LOSSES, The First World War, casualties to shipping through enemy causes 1914-1918 (ISBN1-85044-314-9 Lloyd’s of London Press) further indicates that this was the only Japanese ship struck by a mine in this region and confirms the date and location of the incident.
This account is the only plausible version that fits with the information from Lloyds Register of Shipping (the definitive source). Regardless, the activities of the SMS Wolf certainly impacted the safety of the VITA and its crew and must have been a cause for grave concern for all shipping in and out of Bombay during this time.
The complete list of Japanese steam ships lost, missing, abandoned, etc. in 1916 and 1917 is shown below.
|Ship Name||Cause||Date Lost|
|Chikyu Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||31-Jan-1916|
|Seiun Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||24-Feb-1916|
|Kenkon Maru No.11||abandoned||26-Feb-1916|
|Chiyo Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||31-Mar-1916|
|Wakatsu Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||31-Mar-1916|
|Kagawa Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||23-Apr-1916|
|Yamaguchi Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||15-May-1916|
|Oyo Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||4-Jun-1916|
|Daiyetsu Maru||gunfire – shelled||24-Jun-1916|
|Yeijo Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||16-Jul-1916|
|Temmei Maru||gunfire – shelled||10-Aug-1916|
|Kansai Maru No.1||collision||28-Aug-1916|
|Chokyu Maru No.2||collision||29-Aug-1916|
|Kiyo Maru No.2||ran aground (wrecked)||12-Sep-1916|
|Hiroshima Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||22-Sep-1916|
|Kaiho Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||11-Nov-1916|
|Wakamatsu Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||1916|
|Ship Name||Cause||Date Lost|
|Suruga Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||12-Jan-1917|
|Kisagata Maru No.3||torpedo||20-Jan-1917|
|Matsu Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||21-Jan-1917|
|Zenra Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||27-Feb-1917|
|Tamon Maru No.11||foundered||12-May-1917|
|Kokai Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||22-May-1917|
|Nikko Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||10-Jun-1917|
|Otaru Maru No.1||missing||26-Jun-1917|
|Tamon Maru No.16||foundered||7-Jul-1917|
|Kotohira Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||27-Jul-1917|
|Kinryo Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||9-Aug-1917|
|Bandai Maru||gunfire – shelled||15-Aug-1917|
|Moyori Maru||gunfire – shelled||20-Oct-1917|
|Sakai Maru||ran aground (wrecked)||5-Nov-1917|
|Hitachi Maru (II)||scuttled||6-Nov-1917|
|Fukuyama Maru No.6||missing||11-Nov-1917|