THIS week marks the centenary of one World War One's most tragic episodes. The sinking of the RMS Leinster just outside Dublin Bay by a German submarine on October 10, 1918, resulted in the deaths of over 500 people – the greatest single loss of life in the Irish Sea.

Bound for Holyhead, the ship carried 771 passengers and crew and was commanded by Captain William Birch, a Dubliner who had settled with his family in Holyhead. Apart from Birch, the Leinster had a crew of 76, drawn from the ports of Kingstown and Holyhead. Also on board were 22 postal sorters from Dublin Post Office, working in the ship's onboard postal sorting room. There were 180 civilian passengers, men, women and children, most of them from Ireland and Britain.

But by far the greatest number of passengers on board the Leinster were military personnel. Many of them were going on leave or returning from leave. They came from Ireland, Britain, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Wales.

One of these men was Charles Edward Blackburne, a 42-year-old former soldier, who was an expert on breeding, training and managing horses as well as a keen adventurer who had spent more than a year travelling in Canada and Alaska.

Charles served in the Boer War where he was decorated and stayed on in South Africa after the conflict where he married his long time sweetheart Emily Beatrice Jones in 1903. Their first child, a daughter, lived for only 11 days, but two more children, Audrey Beatrice was born in 1907 and Charles Bertram was born in 1911.

A few years later Charles and his family moved to Mold where they lived in a house on Wrexham Road known as Tyddyn, which enabled him to carry out his business affairs in Liverpool where he supplied horses and carriages as well as enjoying his country pursuits such as hunting, fishing and shooting.

When war breakout, Charles rejoined the army and fought in France. He was wounded badly in the shoulder in 1915 and would take no further active part in the conflict. He was given a staff position in the army in Ireland and moved his family to Dublin to live with him there and was in Ireland when the Irish Rebellion of 1916 took place.

In October 1918, Charles was to due attend a training course in Cambridge and his wife and their two children as well as their French Governess all boarded the RMS Leinster at Kingstown.

Just before 10am as the Leinster was sailing east of the Kish Bank in a heavy swell, passengers saw a torpedo approach from the port side and pass in front of the bow. A second torpedo followed shortly afterwards, and it struck the ship forward on the port side in the vicinity of the mail room. Captain Birch ordered the ship to make a U-turn in an attempt to return to Kingstown as the ship began to settle slowly by the bow; however, the ship sank rapidly after a third torpedo struck the Leinster, causing a huge explosion.

In lifeboats or clinging to rafts and flotsam, the survivors now began a grim struggle for survival in the rough sea but many were to die while awaiting rescue, including Charles, both children and the French Governess. Only Charles's wife Emily (known as Bee) survived from the Blackburne family along with around 200 other survivors who were landed at Victoria Wharf, Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), where the ferry terminal now stands.

Tragically Charles and his two young children were not the only people from Flintshire to perish in the disaster. Lt Joseph Francis, who was born in Flint and lived in Shotton, worked as teacher before the outbreak of war whereupon he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1915 and was posted to Flanders. According to the records, Joseph was awarded two medals, including one for bravery, and was later posted to Dublin, which explains why he was on the RMS Leinster when it was torpedoed.

Like Charles, Bagillt soldier, George Wright Mole, was a veteran of the Boer War where he was awarded both the Queen’s South Africa Medal and King’s South Africa Medal. He worked as a postman in Bagilt before World War One, but on October 10, 1918, Sgt Mole, 39, of the Royal Defence Corps. was another soldier to find himself on the RMS Leinster where he died. A report in the County Herald on October 25, said: "The Sergeant was coming home to his wife and daughter on leave. Prior to joining the Colours, he had been for some years Postman in the Bagillt District and was highly regarded".

Tragedy was to strike the German side soon after when the submarine which carried out the attack on the RMS Leinster, UB-123, struck a mine in the North Sea on October 19, 1918, with the loss of all 36 crew members.

At the time of the tragedy, the signing of the armistice was just weeks away, and it was deemed necessary to understate the scale of the attack of the Leinster. It suited neither Britain nor Ireland to have it known that Irish men were in the British forces and the numbers reported dead were minimised with the first figure suggesting that 176 had died. The last official figure was 501 but subsequent research has identified 529 victims.

Now the RMS Leinster Centenary Commemoration Group in Holyhead, which comprises of members of the Holyhead Maritime Museum, Holyhead Heritage Group and other contributing individuals under the chair of Cllr. Ann Kennedy, has prepared a number of events in readiness for this week's anniversary.

At 11am, on Wednesday, October 10, an Ecumenical Service is being held St Cybi’s Church, Holyhead, in remembrance of those who lost their lives. There will be a special welcome to family members of those on the RMS Leinster and a reading of the Roll of Honour plus a performance by Ysgol Gymraeg Morswyn Choir and the Magee Brothers. It is followed by a one minute silence, laying of wreaths and other tributes at the Holyhead War Memorial, the Cenotaph.

Other public evens are being held throughout the week including talks, Maritime Museum tours, a drama, a musical evening 'the story of RMS Leinster in verse and song,' at the Ucheldre Centre, a football match, after dinner talks, Leinster exhibition and an amateur radio event.

The Maritime Museum, in Holyhead currently tells the story of the sinking and houses many artefacts from the ship.Outside the museum are the "bitts," the iron posts used to tie the ship up to the dock side and recovered from the Leinster wreck.

Barry Hillier Trustee, of the Holyhead Maritime Museum added: "In all, 70 children were left without fathers after the tragedy and three wives were pregnant with children who would never know their fathers. It was a terrible loss of life that people still remember in Holyhead to this day. It affected many local people.

"We are hoping that we can encourage as many as possible to visit Holyhead at this time and participate in the town’s remembrance of those lost with the deserved recognition of their service and sacrifice."