On the 27th February 1916 the Maloja left Tilbury en-route to Bombay with passengers and general cargo. As she approached the Strait of Dover at full speed and overtook the Canadian collier, Empress of Fort William. The Maloja was about 2 nautical miles off Dover when her starboard quarter struck one of the mines laid by U-Boat SM UC-6. There was a large explosion and the bulkheads of the second saloon were blown in. The liner started to sink at once and her captain, Commodore CE Irving (RNR) ordered the engines stopped and reversed to take her way off and the allow the lifeboats to be launched. Once in reverse, the engines could not be stopped and she was still going astern nearly half an hour later, when she sank with her props still spinning. Some 155 passengers and crew lost their lives. One of the largest wrecks in Kent waters, the Maloja today is largely covered with sand at some 21m, though some parts still stand proud at 5m. Divers report that this area of sand waves change landscape on a yearly basis and sometimes, dive to dive.
The Maloja was still in sight of the Empress of Fort William, which immediately went full ahead to assist. Hearing the mine explode on the Maloja and seeing the liner well down by the stern, her captain WD Shepherd ordered full speed and told his crew to prepare the boats. While still one nautical mile astern of the Maloja, the collier ran into the same minefield of UC-6, struck one of them and also began to sink. She was carrying 3,500 tons of coal from South Shields to Dunkirk. Half an hour later, those same crew of 20 sat in those same boats as they watched their own ship go down. Upright, today the Empress of Fort William sits at 24m and is 7m proud.
Many of the 155 Maloja dead were Lascars and P&O erected a monument to 22 of them in St Mary’s Cemetery. Second Lieutenant Henry James Fraser Harris is remembered together is also remembered there. Thirteen of the dead are buried in the St Mary the Virgin New Cemetery, Dover. They include three servicemen, four women, and four children aged 3,5,6 and 8.
U-boat SM UC-6 sailed from Zeebrugge on 27 September 1917 to lay mines off the Kentish Knock and did not return. It was later reported by British patrols that strong explosions had occurred in explosive nets laid in the area that same day. The wreck of UC-6 was discovered by divers in 2006 between the North Foreland and the southern buoy of the Kentish Knock. This is 8.8 miles to the northeast of the North Foreland in position 5130102”N 0134695”E. This position matches exactly where this U-boat would have struck a mine. The wreck is quite intact, sanded up and laying at around 22m.