At 1.55am, less than two hours into the New Year, HMS Iolaire suddenly shuddered to a halt as it struck the rocks at Holm. The boat listed heavily to starboard as a large wave crashed into her and lifted the stricken vessel further onto the rocks. As she began to sink, waves swept over the deck as between 50 and 60 men immediately opted to jump overboard and swim the 20 or 30 yards to shore. Unfortunately, this decision proved to be disastrous as none of them would succeed in this initial attempt at escape. Apart from hostile sea conditions, the night was as black as the tragedy itself. Some distress flares were fired into the night skies and a number of passengers suddenly realised that the vessel’s stem was within a few yards of a rocky ledge which extended to the shore. Some of those on board attempted to use this potential escape route but, unfortunately, many were drowned or perished as they were dashed onto the rocks by the uncompromising waves. Shortly after 2am, Lieut. Robert Ainsdale, the Officer of the Watch at Battery Point, reported to Admiral Boyle the initial sighting of a red distress flare from the direction of Holm.