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.

Mines Laid on the Approaches to Bombay Harbour. 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.

[intergeo id=”AN2YTM”][/intergeo]


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).

Unkai Maru After Deck

However, research shows that this date that he wrote must be incorrect.

Unkai Maru View from Forward

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).

"Maru" Midships from Foredeck. Bombay Harbour.

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.

Unkai Maru View from Aft

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
Takata Maru collision 1-Feb-1916
Daijin Maru collision 2-Feb-1916
Seiun Maru ran aground (wrecked) 24-Feb-1916
Kenkon Maru No.11 abandoned 26-Feb-1916
Seiko Maru missing 23-Mar-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
Kohina Maru torpedo 2-Aug-1916
Temmei Maru gunfire – shelled 10-Aug-1916
Heiyo Maru missing 11-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
Take Maru missing 21-Sep-1916
Hiroshima Maru ran aground (wrecked) 22-Sep-1916
Kachidate Maru foundered 27-Sep-1916
Kaiho Maru ran aground (wrecked) 11-Nov-1916
Nagata Maru scuttled 30-Nov-1916
Taki Maru torpedo 16-Dec-1916
Michi Maru collision 21-Dec-1916
Wakamatsu Maru ran aground (wrecked) 1916
Ship Name Cause Date Lost
Chinto Maru charges/explosives 4-Jan-1917
Suruga Maru ran aground (wrecked) 12-Jan-1917
Kisagata Maru No.3 torpedo 20-Jan-1917
Matsu Maru ran aground (wrecked) 21-Jan-1917
Gishun Maru missing 30-Jan-1917
Sakatagawa Maru foundered 1-Feb-1917
Zenra Maru ran aground (wrecked) 27-Feb-1917
Shinsei Maru torpedo 28-Feb-1917
Hoyen Maru foundered 1-Mar-1917
Sawa Maru torpedo 6-Mar-1917
Taizan Maru charges/explosives 2-May-1917
Tamon Maru No.11 foundered 12-May-1917
Kokai Maru ran aground (wrecked) 22-May-1917
Tansan Maru torpedo 22-May-1917
Miyazaki Maru torpedo 31-May-1917
Nikko Maru ran aground (wrecked) 10-Jun-1917
Unkai Maru mine 16-Jun-1917
Otaru Maru No.1 missing 26-Jun-1917
Daito Maru collision 2-Jul-1917
Shinsan Maru torpedo 2-Jul-1917
Shigizan Maru mine 7-Jul-1917
Tamon Maru No.16 foundered 7-Jul-1917
Kageshima Maru torpedo 20-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
Toyokawa Maru foundered 1-Sep-1917
Hikosan Maru torpedo 2-Oct-1917
Kobe Maru foundered 2-Oct-1917
Ikoma Maru scuttled 20-Oct-1917
Moyori Maru gunfire – shelled 20-Oct-1917
Kochi Maru fire 23-Oct-1917
Sakai Maru ran aground (wrecked) 5-Nov-1917
Hitachi Maru (II) scuttled 6-Nov-1917
Yanagawa Maru collision 8-Nov-1917
Fukuyama Maru No.6 missing 11-Nov-1917
Yeisho Maru missing 17-Nov-1917
Kounyu Maru collision 1-Dec-1917
Taikosan Maru collision 14-Dec-1917


Lloyds Register of Shipping, Returns of Vessels Totally Lost, Condemned, etc. 1916.

Lloyds Register of Shipping, Returns of Vessels Totally Lost, Condemned, etc. 1917.

Lloyds Register of Shipping, Returns of Vessels Totally Lost, Condemned, etc. 1918.

Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, RETURNS OF VESSELS TOTALLY LOST, CONDEMNED, etc.