(ScStr: dp. 2,774; l. 331.3'; b. 47.6'; dr. 20.1'; cpl. 105; a. 3 4", 3 12-pdrs., 2 .30-cal. mg., 4 18" tt.)
The steel-hulled, screw steamer Arvonianóbuilt in 1905 at Stockton, England, by Richardson, Duck and Co.ówas turned over to the United States Navy on loan by the British Admiralty "for war purposes" at the Admiralty Dockyard, Devonport, England, on 27 November 1917 and commissioned that same day, Comdr. David C. Hanrahan in command.
Arvonianóher crew composed of volunteers from American warships in European watersówas fitted out at Devonport and conducted ship's drills in Plymouth Sound. On 18 December, the ship was renamed Santee and she got underway for Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland. She arrived on the 19th and resumed fitting out for service as a decoy, or "Q" ship.
At 1600 on 27 December, Santee sailed from Queenstown for Bantry Bay, Ireland, to carry out exercises. She was south of Kinsale at 2045, when a lookout spotted an approaching torpedo. Before he could report, the weapon struck Santee's port side just abaft the engine room bulkhead. The ship was plunged into darkness. Comdr. Hanrahan ordered his men to battle stations and sent away the "panic party," those sailors who played the role of a crew precipitously abandoning their sinking vessel. They left the ship, as Hanrahan later reported, in "fine panicy [sic] style." This ruse was an attempt to lure the enemy to the surface. Visibility was good, but the submarine did not show herself.
Two and one-half hours elapsed before Hanrahan called in the starboard lifeboat; and, a short time later, he radioed the Commander in Chief, Coast of Ireland, informing him of the condition of the ship. Destroyers and tugs were dispatched to her aid from the Irish coast. The damaged Santee was taken in tow, and reached Queenstown at noon on the 28th. Cummings (Destroyer No. 44) and Sterett (Destroyer No. 27) aided in picking up the remaining boats from Santee's "panic party."
Repairs at Queenstown lasted through January. Santee was towed to Plymouth and thence to Devonport where she arrived on 8 February. She was decommissioned on 8 April 1918 and returned to the Admiralty and resumed her former name, Arvonian. The ship apparently remained in the hands of the Royal Navy until sold to commercial interests in March, 1919