SS Traffic (II)

SS Traffic (II), shipyard number 423, was a passenger tender specially built for the White Star Line to transfer third class passengers from Cherbourg’s port to Olympic and Titanic.

 Traffic as she appeared in 1919
Traffic as she appeared in 1919, while being used as a troop transport.

Construction of Traffic and her sister ship Nomadic began at Harland and Wolff, Belfast on 22nd December 1910. Due to Olympic and Titanic being too big to be accommodated at Cherbourg’s port, Nomadic was built to transfer first and second class passengers to the ships, while Traffic was built to transfer third class passengers, baggage, mail and cargo out to them.

Traffic was launched on 27th April 1911, two days after Nomadic. On the same day that Titanic was launched, 31st May 1911, all for the first time, Olympic, Nomadic and Traffic all departed Belfast together, at 4.30pm. Olympic sailed to Liverpool for a visit; Nomadic and Traffic sailed to their new homeport – Cherbourg, France – arriving on 3rd June 1911. Traffic was under the command of Captain Gaillard.

Olympic departed Southampton for her maiden voyage to New York on 14th June 1911; this marked the proper start of Traffic’s career, as when Olympic arrived in Cherbourg, Traffic, for the first time, had to transfer Olympic’s third class passengers from the port out to the ship.

Traffic was involved in the build up to one of the very worst disaster in maritime history when, on the evening of 10th April 1912, Titanic arrived in Cherbourg on her maiden voyage, and all of those travelling third class from Cherbourg, around 100 people, were transferred from land to Titanic by Traffic. Four days later Titanic struck an Iceberg and sank.

During the First World War both Traffic and Nomadic remained in France, and in 1917, Traffic was used to transport American troops, continuing in the role of a troop transport until 1919, when she returned to normal duties.

 Traffic transporting troops in 1919
Traffic transporting troops in 1919.

After IMM sold the White Star Line to the Royal Mail Group in 1927, both Nomadic and Traffic were sold to Compagnie Cherbourgeoise de Transbordement. Both ships remained as passenger tenders in Cherbourg, serving White Star Line and other ships, possibly giving priority to White Star Line ships.

On 5th June 1929, Traffic was involved in an accident with White Star Line’s Homeric by bumping into her. Fortunately the damage was nothing more than only very minor.

Following the collision with Homeric, it is said that, Traffic, in October 1929, was fitted with new propellers to make her easier to handle.

On 9th December 1929, six months after the incident with Homeric, Traffic was involved in another collision – this time with Minnewaska, belonging to the American Transport Line. Again, fortunately, the damage was only minor.

In 1934, following on from improvements made to Cherbourg’s port, resulting in there being less need for tenders to serve the ships arriving there, both Traffic and her sister ship Nomadic were sold to Société Cherbourgeoise de Sauvetage et de Remorquage; both ships remained in Cherbourg, but were given new names, Traffic was renamed Ingenieur Riebell; Nomadic was renamed Ingenieur Minard.

During the Second Word War, on 17th June 1940, as Cherbourg was about to fall to the German army, Ingenieur Riebell, as she was then known, was scuttled (purposely sunk) by the French Navy, in an attempt, it is said, to help to block the port and to help prevent Ingenieur Riebell being of use to the German’s.

Ingenieur Riebell/Traffic was, however, raised by the German’s and put into use as a as an armed convoy escort.

While being used by the German Navy on 17th January 1941, Ingenieur Riebell/Traffic was sunk in the English Channel by a British torpedo. The location of the wreck is not known. Traffic’s sister ship, Nomadic, survives to this day and is now a museum ship open to the public.

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