Over the years, ships that sailed the high seas, were faced with a number of perils, among them the biggest human danger there was…pirates. No area of the globe was particularly more dangerous than another, and no area was immune to attack, as was seen on October 19, 1927, when the Chinese steamer, SS Irene was on a voyage from Shanghai to Amoy with 258 passengers and crew. As she set out, she was taken over by pirates masquerading as passengers on that Wednesday. After boarding, the pirates quickly seized control of the ship and headed out to sea.
It was then that two L-class British submarines intercepted the vessel and demanded that they halt and surrender. The two submarines were based off Mendoza Island (now Shenggao Island) at the entrance of the bay. Upon their arrival, they had been ordered to split up. L4 went to patrol around the entrance of the bay and L5 was ordered to patrol within. It was at this point that they encountered the SS Irene. Pirates are a bull-headed group, and they aren’t afraid of very much. They are after all, outlaws, and that makes them a tough bunch. The pirates refused to surrender, and the submarines were ordered to fire. They fired two torpedoes into the ships hold. Even after being hit, the pirates continued to try to make it to shore, but they had been too badly damaged. Finally, they began to abandon ship. At this point, the ship stopped, but it was already beginning to sink. The British submarines then rescued the passengers and crew.
The Irene incident of 1927 was a significant event of the British anti-piracy operations in China during the first half of the 20th century. It was part of a British attempt to surprise the pirates of Bias Bay, about sixty miles from Hong Kong. Royal Navy submarines were sent to stop the pirates, and the merchant ship SS Irene, of the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company, which had been taken over by the pirates on the night of October 19th was one if the first. The British were successful in thwarting the hijacking though they sank the ship. Sometimes, drastic measures must be taken in order to bring about the necessary changes. While we don’t hear about it as much, piracy still exists today. There may again come a time when drastic measures must be taken, and I know the authorities will do what has to be done.