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The Ambush of SS Persia: Voices from a Lost Liner

By Alan Wren

Alan Wren's 'The Ambush of the SS Persia' is impeccably researched, well-written and richly sprinkled with noteworthy insights - fascinating, highly informative, and a pleasurable read.

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Nicholas C Jellicoe - 'Jutland - The Unfinished Battle' Passengers boarding P&O liner SS Persia on 18th December 1915 may have wondered 'Why am I doing this?' The sinking of RMS Lusitania by U20 had undermined the Cruiser Rules that previously protected passenger ships. Sea-travel had become more dangerous. So, why embark one week before Christmas, fully aware of the U-boat danger? Was it for love or duty? Love? Posts in India meant extended periods alone; month-old mail, outdated news, missed celebrations and embraces - absence from loved ones. SS Persia could span this divide. Duty? Engineers, miners, railway builders, jute merchants, clergy, missionaries, nuns, doctors, lawyers, a few healed soldiers, and the ship's crew. Both love and duty beckoned across perilous seas. Elsewhere, Max Valentiner and U-38 departed the rocky port of Bardia, Libya, after unloading guns and money to support overland attacks on the Suez Canal. Valentiner had detested the use of his U-boat as a freighter, but now sailed to rearm with torpedoes and shells, stores of diesel, water, and food, at last free to resume his hunt for enemy ships.


Roger Bolton, Presenter, Radio 4’s Feedback programme wrote -

“Alan Wren has written a tragic but fascinating history of the sinking of the SS Persia, a World War 1 atrocity.

More than that, he places the sinking in context, gives invaluable information about war at sea, and provides detailed biographies of some of those involved. Whether you have a connection with the doomed ship or not you will find his book a riveting read”

Antoine Vanner – Author of the ‘Dawlish Chronicles’ series and regarded as “the Tom Clancy of historical naval fiction” wrote -

“It’s an excellent piece of historical detective work by Mr. Wren and well worth reading.”

Nicholas Jellicoe, author of “Jutland: The Unfinished Battle” and grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe wrote -

“Alan Wren’s The Ambush of the SS Persia is well-written, impeccably researched and richly sprinkled with interesting insights making this particular take on the first U-Boat war through the lens of a single ship’s life a fascinating, highly informative and pleasurable read.”


From Comment
2021-08-18 Alan .... Review by Craig Stringer, researcher and creator of 1600 pages of biographic information of passengers and crew on RMS Titanic
I bought The Ambush of the SS Persia by Alan Wren as I have an interest in the ship and her passengers and crew. I must admit, I was expecting a fairly typical shipwreck book – a description of the ship, and then a retelling of her final voyage, with a what happened after to wrap things up. Don’t get me wrong, I have no criticism to make of that kind of book. I buy them because I enjoy them.
But Ambush of the SS Persia is different. The Persia was lost in the middle of the First World War. Many ships had been sunk by enemy action at this point, and thousands of lives lost. She was bound for India, and many of her passengers were people who had lived abroad for much of their lives. The loss of the ship filled newspaper columns for a short time in Britain, and her passengers and crew were infrequently mentioned, unlike say the Lusitania. The horrors of war in Europe quickly ensured that the Persia was forgotten.
What Alan Wren has done is to tell the story of the loss of the Persia in the context of the war. What led up to the events of her sinking, how the international politics of warfare had led to this point. He looks at implications of the sinking, and what became of some of the players in the story. Alan has also assembled the most comprehensive collection of passenger information that I have even seen collected about the ship’s passengers in one place. I can appreciate, from my own research, what a task that was.
The book is written in an engaging style, and comes with a range of appendices, including a passenger and crew list for the ship.
Why buy this book? The loss of the Persia caused a political outcry. But it also saw the loss of many innocent lives. The Ambush of the SS Persia brings the past back to life, and brings the voices from the ship to a modern audience. It is a labour of love, and a true memorial to those people who were aboard the Persia on December 30th 1915.

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