Thursday 28 May 2015

From a Minesweeper in the Dardanelles

(Letter from Sub-Lieut. John Blundell, R.N., to his Uncle, the Rev. J. Blundell.)

May 30, 1915.

H.M.S. –––––––––––––––, at Sea.

DEAR UNCLE, — I was very pleased to get your letter this morning and to hear that Aunt Fanny is recovering from influenza, and that Cousin Dorothy got second prize in Divinity. It was most interesting to hear that Tabs had two black kittens this time; I rather thought that they would be grey, as the last lot were white. I quite follow your arguments about "Should clergymen fight?" As you say, the matter is of the greatest importance, and naturally The Times published your letter.

You tell me that you gather from the papers that the great silent Navy is having a quiet time now, and you ask me what we are doing. I wish I knew myself, but as we only go into port once a week to coal and are not allowed to communicate with the beach, I am rather ignorant of its doings. No, I am sorry to say I did not get the wild duck. It went, as all gifts do, into the Fleet Pool, and I got a pair of mittens (my seventh pair) instead. We are the Scouts, and come last on the list. There are five grades before us. The luckiest devils are the harbour defence flotillas, who get the fruit and fish. The next best off are the Coast Defence Patrols, who get the fowls and their so-called fresh eggs. The intermediate grades, such as Grand Fleet, seagoing flotillas, etc., get the general cargo, and we, who are far from home, get the frozen mutton, the imperishable corned beef, the indestructible tinned salmon, and the endurable woollen gear. The things that we might reasonably hope to find in our class, such as grouse and gorgonzola, never pass beyond the second grade.

As our boats are not sufficient to carry all hands, the latest scheme is to keep a large barrel of grease and thick oil on the upper deck, and preparatory to abandoning ship all men are supposed to strip and smear themselves over with this stuff as protection against cold water. They then, according to the latest Admiralty circular letter, are permitted to leave the ship. We had a false alarm the other night, hitting a floating mine, which didn't explode. A weird figure was seen hovering round the upper deck afterwards, and it took us all the middle watch to clear the oil and grease off the ship doctor.

My last skipper has been having an awfully good time in port since the Great Blockade began, as a German submarine kept on hovering about outside and they could not go to sea until it had been dealt with by the T.B.D.'s. It was known as the "Married Man's Friend," and they were quite sorry to hear of its decease. I saw Jack the other day. He is in one of the old battleships, officially termed "Fleet-Leader" (we call them "mine-crushers"), and he says his only diversion is the constant redrafting of his will so that each member of the family shall bear a fair burden of his debts.

Charlie Farrel is in the mine-sweeping brigade. He is now in his fourth trawler, and is known as "Football Charlie," as he's always being blown up. Rather bad luck on a fellow who is +2 at golf and who regards all other games (except fighting) as contemptible.

As you say in your letter, great issues are at stake, and it must be awfully exciting in England just now, but it's very dull at sea, so I will clear up this letter.

                              Your affectionate Nephew,


Text: Punch, 16th June 1915.
Image: Minesweepers by Charles Ernest Cundall.

Thursday 21 May 2015

The 'Genuine Relics' of the Volunteer Training Corps

Trumpington Volunteer Training Corps, November 1915. Percy Robinson collection.

Behind the roaring cannon, behind the flashing steel
The defenders of the Inner Line steady and constant kneel;
Some bent, or grey, some crippled, some three score years and ten.
Just praying, always praying for the Front Line fighting men.
These cannot lead a sortie, nor breast the ocean's foam,
But their fervent prayers as incense rise, from church and cottage home,
The poor man and the wealthy, all form the Inner Line
Learning how common sorrow forms a brotherhood Divine.
You can hear old voices quaver, you can see the slow tears fall,
Yet the Inner Line keeps steady; England and Honour call!
They pray, and who can measure such prayer's resistless might?
They trust the Lord of Battles; He will defend the right.
J. F. F.       

Volunteer movements raised for the defence of the country from potential invasion have been part of the history of these islands for generations. In Ireland the Volunteer movement goes back as far as 1715... to the Volunteers of the 1780s raised against French invasion... to the most well known of them all – the Home Guard of the Second World War made famous by Captain Mainwaring and the boys of Dad's Army.

But while the Home Guard is widely recognised, it is often forgotten that there was a similar service in the First World War.

Formed soon after the start of the war, usually by former army officers, volunteer units sprang up around the United Kingdom. They gave those who were too old or otherwise to join the regular army an outlet for their desire to serve and also to counter the perceived threat of German invasion. When first formed however, these units, which became known as the Volunteer Training Corps (VTC), were not formerly recognised.

A Central Committee of Volunteer Training Corps was set up and formally recognised in November 1914, but their remit only extended to Great Britain and an Irish Association was formed and recognised. The Central Committee drew up a set of rules for the Units and, as the Volunteers where allowed to wear a uniform but not khaki, agreed a uniform of Lovat green. All members also had to wear a red arm band bearing the letters "GR" for Georgius Rex and service was only open to those who had a genuine reason for not enlisting in the regular army.

In November 1915 the Australian newspaper, Geraldton Guardian, reported on a newspaper cutting received from home by one of their readers:
"The Irish Association of Volunteer Training Corps has been sanctioned by the Government for the purpose of encouraging and assisting those men who are not able to join the Regular Army for various reasons, to train themselves in military duties to assist the military when occasion requires – Corps and rifle clubs have already been started which have become affiliated to the Irish Association of Volunteer Training Corps, and agreed to accept their conditions, and are entitled to wear the uniform of the corps..."
As with the Home Guard in WW2, the VTC was often the butt of jokes such as the reference to the "GR" on their armbands standing for "George's Wrecks", "Grandpa's Regiment", "Genuine Relics" or "Government Rejects".

In 1915 all Volunteer Units which affiliated to the Central Committee were granted officially recognition however, the Committee was advised by the War Office that "any man below the age of forty years who joins a Volunteer Training Corps on or after the 1st June, 1915, will be required to sign an undertaking that he will enlist into the Army if specially called upon to do so." This was, allegedly, in response to a speech by Mr. Harold Tennant, Under-Secretary of State for War, that "in cases where good and sufficient reasons are not shown, a man ought not to be allowed to take the lesser obligation when he ought to fulfil the greater obligation of serving with the colours."

Grumblings soon emerged throughout the Volunteer movement in relation to the governments failure to make full use of the Volunteers' services.

In Ireland the secretary of the Association, Robert Anderson, wrote to Sir Matthew Nathan, G.C.M.G., Under Secretary for Ireland:
"I am directed by the Executive Committee of this Association to transmit herewith for the information of His Majesty's Government in Ireland copies of five resolutions which have been unanimously adopted by the undermentioned affiliated Volunteer Training Corps and forwarded to the Association, accompanied, in each case, by an urgent letter requesting that prompt action in the direction indicated should be taken. The Corps referred to are:–
(1) Belfast Volunteer Defence Corps. (2) City of Cork Volunteer Training Corps. (3) Irish Rugby Football Union Volunteer Corps. (4) Queen's University (Belfast) 'Veterans' Volunteer Corps. (5) Rathmines Volunteer Training Corps.
"While the resolutions of a similar character have not, so far, been received from the other affiliated Corps the Committee are aware that the accompanying resolutions reflect accurately and without exception the views of the entire body of affiliated Corps. As a matter of fact one Corps – The Howth & Sutton Volunteer Training Corps, quite an excellent and efficient unit raised shortly after the outbreak of the War – has actually disbanded in consequence of the failure to obtain any duty for its members. The Committee are apprehensive that other Corps, finding themselves in a similar position and being unable to hold their members together, may also disband."
Letter from Robert Anderson to Sir Matthew Nathan, 15 April 1916 (NAI)
In 1916 the VTC became part of the County Infantry Regiment system as Volunteer Battalions of their local regiment. The introduction of conscription in 1916 gave Military Service Tribunals the power to order men to join the VTC and the Volunteer Act 1916 meant that members had to remain in the Corps until the end of the war. It has been estimated that by February 1918, there were 285,000 Volunteers, 101,000 of whom had been directed to the Corps by the Tribunals.

During 1917, the VTC began to be issued with Enfield Rifles and battalions were tasked with roles such as line of communication defence and forming the garrison of major towns in case of a German invasion. They also undertook other tasks including guarding vulnerable points, handling munitions, assisting with harvesting, fire fighting and transport for wounded soldiers.

City of Cork VTC
Cap Badge
Cap Badge
Although the VTC were employed in a purely defensive auxiliary role they were engaged in actual combat on one occasion – the Easter Rising in Dublin in April 1916.

Four companies of the 1st (Dublin) Battalion, Associated Volunteer Training Corps composed of the Irish Rugby Union Football Corps, the St. Andrew's Corps, the Dublin Veterans Corps, the Glasnevin Corps, as well as City and Railway Corps and some motor-cyclists, were returning from field exercises when the news of the uprising reached them. The commanding officer, Major Harris, decided to march to Beggars Bush Barracks were they found it besieged. While they carried rifles they had no ammunition they did not even carry bayonets. They were fired on by a party of Irish Volunteers from a railway bridge. Part of the VTC force entered the barracks by the front gate, others made their way to the rear and scaled the wall. About 40 men at the rear of the column were pinned down by fire from surrounding houses and four were killed, including the cricketer, Francis Browning, who had been second-in-command. The VTC then assisted the small garrison of regular soldiers to hold the barracks for eight days. In total, five members of the battalion were killed and seven wounded.
"The V.T.C. in Dublin were the first to have the honour of shedding their blood in their country's cause. Those who were killed and wounded fell, it is true, under Sinn Fein and not under German bullets, but their military achievements ensured the progress of British arms just as much, even if indirectly, as though they had been fighting in France. We have read reports of the loyalty and bravery of the Nationalist Volunteers in Ireland, and we would say no word to detract from the honour properly due to any man who scorned to fight on the side of Germany and risked his life to show his true allegiance. But we want here only to tell the story of what was done by the 'G.R.' Volunteers when they were taken at a complete disadvantage and displayed a steadiness, enthusiasm, resource, and endurance which would have done credit to a corps of old soldiers." (Spectator, 20th May 1916)
I leave the final words to R. A. Anderson who wrote in the Spectator on 26th May 1916:
SIR, – The Executive Committee of the Irish Association of Volunteer Training Corps feel that they owe you a deep debt of gratitude for your generous appreciation of their services during the recent outbreak in Ireland, and they wish me to convey to you their best thanks for having given the public, through your columns, the facts relating to our Volunteer Training Corps movement in Ireland. It may be of interest to your readers to know that the Irish Corps now number seventy-seven officers and two thousand and ninety-seven men. They are located in Dublin and surrounding district, in Belfast, in Cork, and in Dundalk . . . They are governed by the same conditions and the same age restrictions as the English Association of Volunteer Training Corps. They are allowed to wear the uniform prescribed for Great Britain, and they are authorized to carry arms and to parade for drill purposes. They have been permitted to use military barracks as parade grounds and as headquarters, and they have further been lent a considerable number of drill-purpose rifles. The Irish Corps, like kindred bodies in Great Britain, wear the "G.R." brassard, issued by the War Office, and, like theirs, the Association is non-political in the same sense that the Army is non-political. Three hundred and forty-five members of the corps in Dublin were sworn in as special constables for service in the Dublin Metropolitan Police area on May 2nd and following days, and they remained on duty until May 11th. A large number of the outlying corps did similar duty either under the military or constabulary authorities, and rendered most valuable service.
The one thing that the corps affiliated to the Association lack is a military status, and, although this has been repeatedly asked for the Government has not found it possible to grant the request. There is a legal difficulty because the Volunteer Acts do not apply to Ireland, and there are, obviously, political difficulties. If these difficulties could be surmounted the strength of the corps might be quadrupled, and there would be ready for use in any emergency a trained and disciplined body of responsible citizens whose sole desire is to render such service as they can to their country and the State. The question of recognition raises other very serious problems. In the recent rebellion five of our members were killed and seven were wounded. In five cases dependants have been left unprovided for. Failing such recognition, it is generally believed that these corps, which proved their utility in exceptionally trying circumstances, will have to be disbanded, as the Executive Committee cannot see their way to advising men to expose themselves to grave peril and their families to the risk of ruin unless they enjoy the same degree of protection as is extended to military bodies. — I am, Sir, &c.,
R. A. ANDERSON, Hon. Secretary.    
18 South Frederick Street, Dublin.
[If the military authorities do not accord to the families of the men killed and to the men wounded, all as truly on active service as the men now in the trenches, the treatment due to combatants, they and the nation will stand disgraced. The notion of some petty legal punctilio being allowed to prevent these true soldiers of the British people from obtaining their due is simply unendurable, and we, at any rate, do not mean to endure it without protest. We cannot, however, believe that any such official outrage is really contemplated. We believe, instead, that the words of praise given by the General and the presence of the Prime Minister at the inspection of the corps are proofs that the debt of gratitude owed by the nation to the Dublin V.T. Corps will be paid by the recognition of the killed and wounded men as soldiers and combatants. — Ed. Spectator.]

The Volunteer Training Corps was suspended in December 1918, and officially disbanded in January 1920.

Edward Connolly, 21 May 2015

Our Volunteer Corps.

By a Villager.

Our fine old warrior, Major Chrustie, of Tiffin Lodge, raised it, and is its commandant. He is patriotic in heart, soul and cellar, and to hear him denounce the Huns saves fuel in cold weather. He found an able secretary and recruiter in Green, our auctioneer, who, being an expert in pinching and appraising cattle, is just the man for gauging human physique. He soon roped in the early spring and late autumn of Larkfield manhood, a big platoon strong. He even got me, though my game leg won't go far sideways, and I can never hope to form fours properly (on which I understand victory in the field so much depends).

We have had a hard training, including a special sermon from our Vicar, and are already widely known as the Larkfield Dare-Devils.

Now our contemptible neighbour, Sloshley, has a Volunteer Corps too, but it is nothing to ours. We have tunics – they haven't; we march smartly – they flop about anyhow; we have been promoted to aim at the running perambulator drawn by a long rope – they are still in the haystack stage. I intrude this trivial subject of Sloshley only because we went out to fight them last Saturday afternoon. The Major of course led us, and a brave show we made when we "debauched" (I believe that is the correct military term) on to the road to Wild Heath, where the battle was to take place under the eye of a real Colonel of Territorials. His fife and bugle band kindly played us part of the way; after that, those of us who could whistle whistled, and to this stirring accompaniment we completed the four-mile journey to the Heath like so many Alpine Chasseurs, all of us having, by advice, soaped our socks and horaxed our toes for three days beforehand.

At the Heath we were met by the Colonel.

"This your infantry?" he inquired of our Major.

"Yes, Sir."

"Where are your machine guns?"

"On this piece of paper, Sir."

"Very good; post them in what you think is the most strategic position, and your troops too."

So the Major fastened the guns to a strategic gatepost with a safety-pin. Then he spread us out along an adjacent hedge and ditch, and ordered us to lie down and try to look as if we weren't there.

There we lay for what seemed a week, rifles firmly grasped, straining at the leash. No word was uttered, except when the nettles became intolerable, and then only one. All this time Sloshley never came near, the poltroons! At the long last, however, the Colonel galloped back and shook our Major heartily by the hand.

"I congratulate you on your victory," he said.

"What victory Sir?" exclaimed the puzzled Major, "we have never stirred or seen a soul."

"Oh, that's all right," was the reply, "the battle was won by the superior disposition of your machine-guns. Your opponents had placed theirs where they could only fire on themselves!"

So, exulting, we turned our faces and marched back towards Larkfield, home and beauty. Only one man fell out (into a passing cart), having used the wrong soap for his socks.

'Our Volunteer Corps', Punch, 14th July 1915

Poem: 'The Inner Line', Church of Ireland Gazette, 11th September 1914.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Lusitania - The Inquest

Capt. Turner's Evidence

Captain William Turner giving evidence at the Lusitania Inquiry
Message from the Admiralty

At the inquest at Kinsale on Monday, Captain W. S. Turner was sworn by the Coroner as to the death of Captain Mathews and certain other unknown passengers. He said he left New York on May 1st. I received no personal warnings beyond what I saw in the newspaper. The voyage was without incident. I was fully aware that threats had been made that the ship would be torpedoed.

The Coroner -- Was she armed?

Witness -- No, sir.

What precautions did you make in connection with these threats? I had all the boats swung out and the bulkheads doors closed when we came within the zone. We passed the Fastnet about eleven o'clock. Between that time and the torpedoing I saw no sign whatever of any submarine. There was some haze on the Irish coast, and when near the Fastnet I slowed down to fifteen knots. I was in wireless communication with the shore all the way across.

The Coroner -- Did you receive any message with reference to submarines being off the Irish Coast?

Witness -- Yes.

What was the nature of the message?

Witness -- I respectfully refer you to the Admiralty for an answer to that question.

Did you receive any message as to the sinking of a ship off the Old Head of Kinsale? No.

Did you receive any special instructions as to the voyage? Yes, sir.

Are you at liberty to tell us what they are? No, sir.

Did you carry them out? Yes, to the best of my ability.

Tell us in your own words what happened after passing the Fastnet. The weather was clear and we were going at a speed of eighteen knots. I was on the port side, and I heard the second officer, Hefford, call out, "There's a torpedo." I ran over to the other side, and saw clearly the wake of the torpedo. Smoke and steam came up between the last two funnels. There was a slight shock immediately after the first explosion. There was another report, but that might possibly have been internal. I at once gave the order to lower the boats down to the rails, and I directed that the women and children should be got into them. I also gave the order to "Stop ship," but we could not stop it. We found the engines were out of commission. It was not safe to lower boats until speed was off. The vessel did not stop; as a matter of fact, there was a perceptible headway on her up to the time she went down. The moment she struck she listed to starboard. I stood on the bridge as she sank, and the Lusitania went down under me. She floated about eighteen minutes after the torpedo struck her. My watch stopped at 2-36¼.

A Juryman -- That exactly corresponds with the time of another watch.

The Coroner—It does.

Firemen and engine room staff on the deck of the Lusitania.


Witness continued -- I was picked up from among the wreckage, and was afterwards brought aboard a trawler. No warship was convoying us. I saw no warship. None was reported to me as having been seen. At the time I was picked up I noticed bodies floating on the surface, but no living persons. Captain Matthews was unknown to me. Eighteen knots was not the normal speed of the Lusitania. At ordinary times she could make twenty-five knots, but in war time her speed was reduced to twenty-one knots. My reason for going eighteen knots was I wanted to arrive at Liverpool Bar without stopping, and within two or three hours of high water.

The Coroner -- Was there a look-out kept for submarines, having regard to the previous warnings? Yes; we had double look-outs.

Were you going a zig-zag course at the moment the torpedoing took place. No. It was bright weather, and the land was clearly visible.

Was it possible for a submarine to approach without being seen? Oh, yes, quite possible.

Something has been said as to the impossibility of launching the boats on the port side? Yes, owing to the listing of the ship.

How many boats were launched safely? I cannot say.

Were any launched safely? Yes, and one or two on the port side, too.

Were your orders promptly carried out? Yes.

Was there any panic aboard? No, there was no panic at all, and it was almost calm.

How many persons were on board? There were 1,500 passengers and about 600 of a crew,

A Juryman -- Did you get a wireless to steer the vessel in a northerly direction? No.

Was the course of the vessel altered after the torpedo struck her? I headed straight for the land, but it was useless. Previous to this the watertight bulkheads were closed. I suppose the explosion forced them open. I do not know the exact extent to which the Lusitania was damaged.

The Coroner -- There must have been serious damage done to the watertight bulkheads? There certainly was without doubt.

Were the passengers supplied with lifebelts? Yes.

Were any special orders given that morning that lifebelts should be put on? No.

Was any warning given you before you were torpedoed? None whatever. It was suddenly done and finished.

If there had been a patrol boat about might it have been of assistance? It might; but it is one of those things one never knows. The submarine would have probably torpedoed both of us.

The Coroner -- We all sympathise with you very much in the terrible crime that has been committed, and we also express our appreciation to the high courage you have shown. You have proved yourself worthy of the traditions of the service to which, you belong. We are very much obliged to you for coming here to-day at considerable inconvenience to give evidence. (Murmurs of approval.)

The captain then retired from the witness chair.


The jury found -- "This appalling crime was contrary to international law and the conventions of all civilised nations, and we therefore charge the officer of the submarine and the German Emperor and Government of Germany, under whose orders they acted, with the crime of wilful and wholesale murder." The jury expressed sympathy with the relatives, with the Cunard Company, and with the United States.

Punch, 12th May 1915



Washington, Thursday. -- The Government Note to be sent to Germany to-day will demand a guarantee that no further submarine attacks will be made on merchantmen carrying non-combatants, and also gives notice that reparation will be sought for the loss of over one hundred lives on the Lusitania, and for other violations of the rights of Americans in the sea war zones.

Whilst no indication is given in the Note of the steps which the Government will take in the events of an unfavourably reply, Germany is informed in it that America will leave nothing undone, either diplomatically or otherwise, to obtain compliance.

More Impertinence to America.

Washington, Thursday. -- The German Embassy yesterday evening notified by letter and telegraph the newspapers, in all the large cities of the United States, to discontinue the publication of the advertisement warning Americans against Transatlantic travel in belligerent ships. No reason for the discontinuance was given, but it was stated by the Embassy that the warning was considered to have been sufficient.


Speaking at a meeting of the Sustentation Fund Committee on Tuesday

The Moderator said he felt that at that the first representative meeting of their Church since that most calamitous occurrence that had happened on the shores of Ireland he should say a word. In such a matter one felt, he said, to speak with calmness. (Hear, hear.) They were all greatly distressed when the Titanic, by an accident, went down, and when so many of their fellow-creatures were overwhelmed in the mighty deep. But he thought they had different feelings -- feelings of the deepest sympathy on the one hand, but also feeling of deep indignation at the barbarity and the brutality of a nation that claimed to be civilised at all. He would not further enter into that side of the question, but he wished to express the sympathy and sorrow they all felt with the relatives of those who had perished not only in this land, but in America. That feeling would be shared throughout the whole Church -- (hear hear) -- as it was fully shared by that committee. (Hear, hear.)

Text: The Witness, 14th May 1915

Thursday 7 May 2015

Cunard Liner Lusitania Torpedoed and Sunk of Irish Coast


The great Cunard liner Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off the Old Head of Kinsale, on the Irish coast, on Friday last, and the lives of almost 1,500 people, men, women, and children, British citizens and neutrals, were sacrificed.

The ship was struck by two torpedoes. Neither the captain nor his officers saw the submarine which fired them. The torpedoes entered the forward stokehold, and the engines were paralysed by the breaking of the main steampipe. The vessel was steaming at eighteen knots, and as it was impossible to reverse her engines, she made way for about ten minutes. The boats, accordingly, could not be lowered immediately. In any case, the starboard boats were useless, as there was a heavy list. Altogether between ten and a dozen boats and rafts got away. The Lusitania sank eighteen or twenty minutes after she was struck.

The United States is ablaze with indignation. Many distinguished American citizens have lost their lives. The death-roll includes, among others, Mr. A. G. Vanderbilt, Mr. Charles Frohman, Dr. F. S. Pearson, Mr. Justus Miles Forman, and Mr. Elbert Hubbard, authors of international reputation, and Mr. Charles Klein, the playwright. Sir Hugh Lane and Mr. J. Foster Stackhouse were also lost. Among the survivors were Mr. D. A. Thomas, Lady Mackworth, Lady Allan, and Captain Turner, who was in command of the ship.


Scenes on Board.

The last moments in the sinking vessel are described vividly by Mr. Oliver P. Bernard, scenic artist at Covent Garden Theatre, one of the four people who saw the torpedo discharged. "I saw the periscope of a submarine about 200 yards away (he says). Then I noticed a long white streak of foam. A woman and two men came up to me and exclaimed 'Is that a torpedo?' I felt too sick to answer and turned away, knowing too well that it was a torpedo. When the torpedo came within a yard or two I covered my eyes and corked my ears as I did not want to hear the explosion. Almost immediately there was a violent impact followed by the explosion. Fragments of material, dust, and water shot up in a great column. Hundreds of people must have been blown to atoms, including stokers and trimmers -- to say nothing of the men and women in the forward cabins, who were about to come on deck.

"A few moments after the explosion the vessel toppled over, and I was flung against the starboard rail. Recovering myself, I could see there was a frantic rush from the starboard entrances to the port side of the deck and from below. Women shouted wildly, 'What shall we do?' I struggled to the port side to get a lifebelt. There was great excitement, but no real panic.


"The last passenger I spoke to before the vessel went down was Mrs. Mason, a young American, who was on a honeymoon trip to England. She was the daughter of Mr. Wm. Lindsay, a well-known Boston manufacturer of military equipments. Mrs. Mason rushed up to me, exclaiming, 'Have you seen my husband?' I advised her to remain on the port deck, as I was certain Mr. Mason would come up there to find her. I then made for the funnel deck, and the last person I noticed particularly, because of his demeanour, was Mr. Alfred Vanderbilt. He was standing outside the grand entrance of the saloon. He looked quite happy and perfectly composed. He was chatting to a friend. In has right hand he held a purple leather jewel case belonging to a woman friend for whom he was apparently waiting.

"I reached the funnel deck and crossed over to look at the starboard side. There I came across the two Marconi operators. They were sending out their 'S.O.S.' The explosion had disorganised the main wireless room and they were working the emergency apparatus. I asked the wireless operators how they were getting on, and at that precise moment they received an answer to their call. A moment later the apparatus was smashed. One of the operators offered me a swivel chair to go down into the water. His colleague took out a pocket Kodak, and, going down on his hands and knees on the deck, which was now at an angle of about 35 degrees, took a solitary snapshot of the scenes forward. It would have been a wonderful photograph, but the film was destroyed in the water."


Mr. Bernard eventually got into a water-logged boat hanging from the davits. "Hundreds were trying to scramble into it. The funnels of the Lusitania were gradually sweeping down on us, and we had enormous difficulty to get the boat free. However, we succeeded in chopping through the tackle, and this released the boat. Not a moment too soon, for the great liner heaved over. One of the funnel stays caught us right in the middle of the boat. By a great effort we got the line clear, one of the funnels just grazing our heads as the Lusitania went down on the starboard side. In a moment the vessel disappeared amidst terrible cries from those who were caught. What I saw in the water I can hardly describe. There was floating debris on all sides, and men, women, and children clinging for life to deck chairs and rafts which littered the water.

"There were desperate struggles. Many were entangled between chairs, rafts, and upturned boats. One by one they seemed to fall off and give themselves up. One poor wretch was struck by the oar which I was sharing with the steward, but he seized and clung to the oar until we were able to drag him into the boat. Next we saw a woman floating quite near us. Her face was just visible above the water. We rowed alongside and pulled her in. The boat was by now packed to its full standing capacity, but the steward and I let her slip down between us, where she lay in about eighteen inches of water between my knees. And there she died. We could not help crying, but we had done all we could to save her."

Illustrated London News, 15th May 1915


Lowering of the Boats.

One of the survivors was Dr. Haughton, of Troy, New York State, who was proceeding to Belgium, accompanied by Madame de Page, head of the Belgian Red Cross Society. Dr. Haughton, who was interviewed at the American Consulate, Queenstown, was bleeding from a flesh wound under the right eye, received in falling upon a piece of wreckage. He said -- "I was in my state-room at 2-15 p.m., when the ship was struck a violent blow on the starboard side, which had the effect of at once stopping the engines. I at once rushed up the companion way, and jostled in my hurry several other passengers who were quite as eager as I was to get on deck to ascertain what had taken place. In truth I may say I had a dread foreboding that we would be torpedoed, and was not surprised when I got on deck to be informed by an officer that we had been attacked by a German submarine. By the time I reached the deck the vessel had a decided list to starboard.

I remained standing on the deck for a moment or two, and was joined by Madame de Page. Boats were by this time being lowered. It was not easy to do much in the lowering of the boats owing to the fact that those on the port side alone were available. An officer told us there was no reason to fear any danger. The vessel would be headed for Queenstown, and would be beached if necessary. Meanwhile other boats were being got ready for any emergency.

Then the liner was again struck – this time forward of the main bridge. The first struck us amidships. The second attack was evidently of a more deadly character than the first, as quite suddenly the big steamer began to settle by the head. Orders quickly came from the bridge to lower all boats. This work was at once commenced. Almost a panic then took possession of the women, who were terror-stricken, and they commenced to cry piteously. Children were clinging to their parents, and the whole scene was too bad to witness. The women and children were being rushed into the boats which were being lowered – some of them successfully, others not so, and many people were thrown into the sea.


I saw that the time had come to leave the ship, which was now well down by the head. I said to Mdme. de Page that we had better jump overboard and trust to be picked up by one of the rafts or lifeboats. This we both did, and as I struck the water my head came into violent contact with a piece of wreckage, which stunned me, and I commenced to sink. Happily I came to the surface again, and struck out for a damaged raft that was not far away. My first thought was to try and see Mdme. de Page, but no trace of her was to be seen, and I can only conclude that she was drowned. Quite a number of people were on the raft, and it was sinking under us, so several women and children were taken off by a lifeboat. I remained on the raft, in my wet clothes for three hours, but that did not give me any concern. I was alive at all events, with a chance of being picked up. I felt weak from loss of blood, but tried to cheer those who were with me. One poor fellow lost his reason altogether and jumped into the sea and was drowned. We were about 100 yards from the Lusitania when she foundered. It was an appalling sight to witness, as her decks were still crowded with passengers frantically rushing about in a frenzied state. The spectacle in the water was even worse. Scores of people were struggling to keep afloat, and some were shouting for help. But we could not give them any assistance. We were picked up by a trawler, and transferred to the tug Stormcock and brought to Queenstown. It was an awful experience, and I thank providence for my escape.



A vivid account of her experiences was given by Lady Mackworth, daughter of Mr. D. A. Thomas, the millionaire coalowner. "When I came up from my cabin," she said, "whither I had gone to put on a lifebelt, on hearing the explosion, the deck was inclined at a fearful angle, making it impossible to get about. Unable to get into a boat, I was still on deck when the ship went down and was sucked under for a great depth. When I rose to the surface I swam towards a floating board, and, having grasped it, offered a corner to a man, who gladly availed himself of it and held on for some time. He let go later, however. I was by this time feeling the effects of my immersion in the cold water, and must have lost consciousness for some time, for the next I remembered I was floating with a deck chair under me. How I got on to it I do not I know."


Wonderful almost beyond belief was the escape of a Lusitania passenger named Mrs. Gwyer, who, when the liner sank, was thrown out of a boat into the sea and sucked down into one of the vessel's huge funnels. The boat in which Mrs. Gwyer had a place was tossed high in the air, and waves crashed all round it, some curling high over it and breaking over the heads of the unfortunate passengers. Mrs. Gwyer was whipped over the side of the boat by one huge billow, and fell into the boiling waters. Then the Lusitania made her last plunge with her funnels flat on the water.

Torrents of water poured into the four smokestacks of the Lusitania, and Mrs. Gwyer was swept away on the flood, and, to the horror of all who saw it, disappeared down one of the funnels. A few seconds later, as from the mouths of a mighty volcano, there sprang back to the sea enormous jets of water, followed by vast clouds of steam. The Lusitania had gone, but had not taken Mrs. Gwyer with her. For she was shot out of the funnel. As the water poured on the furnaces such an enormous quantity of steam was generated that it blew back from the funnels the thousand tons of water that entered them. Mrs. Gwyer owed her escape to that.


Mr. Vanderbilt's heroism has come to light in a story told by Mr. Norman Ratcliffe, whose home is at Gillingham, Kent, and who was returning from a visit to Japan. Mr. Ratcliffe was saved after being in the sea for three hours clinging to a box. "I was having lunch down below at the time of the crash," he said, "and with others scrambled on to the deck. There was, of course, great excitement, but no panic. When I reached the deck several of the lifeboats were being lowered, and the ship was already heeling over. I jumped into one of the lifeboats which was already launched, landing fortunately on my feet right in the stern of the boat. There were several women and children in the boat, which soon afterwards capsized, throwing us all out into the water. I went underneath and when I came to the surface saw a box floating 100 yards or so away. I swam for this, and succeeded in getting hold of it. On this I kept afloat for three hours, at the end of which time one of the rescuing boats saw me, and I was pulled on board. I only heard the one explosion on the Lusitania, which remained afloat for seventeen minutes after being struck by the torpedo. One of the stewards who was among those saved told me that he saw Mr. Vanderbilt among the passengers on deck shortly after the ship had been struck. "The last I saw of Mr. Vanderbilt," the steward said to me, "was when he was in the act of giving his lifebelt to a lady passenger."


Warning to American Travellers.

The following advertisement appeared in American newspapers a fortnight ago. At the time it was regarded in Liverpool as merely a trick to prevent passengers travelling on British ships –
Travellers intending to embark for an Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her Allies and Great Britain and her Allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with the formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain or any of her Allies are liable to destruction in those waters; and that travellers sailing in the war zone in ships of Great Britain or her Allies do so at their own risk.
Imperial German Embassy,
Washington, April 22.
This action by the German Embassy caused some resentment in Washington, and was generally interpreted as a threat directed at the Lusitania. Indeed, a German in America expressed himself confident that "we shall have her." "We did it to ease our conscience lest harm should come to persons misinformed," was the explanation of the advertisement given by the German Embassy, who added they had acted in accordance with instructions from Berlin.

The Lusitania's passengers, however, for the most part treated the threat derisively, confident in the belief that the Cunarder's great speed would make her safe from submarine attacks, and the vessel left New York on Saturday with a record number of passengers for the time of year, not a single booking being cancelled.

It was stated in New York, although the captain subsequently denied it, that many of the leading passengers received telegrams, signed either "John Smith" or "George Jones," warning them to cancel the trip.

The following telegram addressed to Mr. Alfred G. Vanderbilt was stated to be typical of the rest –
"Have it on definite authority Lusitania is to be torpedoed. You had better cancel passage immediately."
Neither Mr. Vanderbilt nor any of the other passengers paid the slightest attention to the warnings, or to strangers who accosted them at the entrance of the pier and in German accents tried to frighten them with stories of big German submarines which, they [sic]


Among the passengers supposed to be on board Were the following well-known people --

Mr. Charles Frohman, the well-known theatrical manager, was born at San Dusky (Ohio) fifty-five years ago. His first connection with the theatre was in the box office at Hooley's Theatre, Brooklyn. He subsequently joined Haverley's Minstrels, bringing them to London. His first success as a theatrical manager was "Shenandoah," produced at Boston in 1888. At the Duke of York's, London, he has produced many notable plays since he acquired the theatre in 1897. Mr. Frohman, who was perhaps the largest theatrical business in the world, endeavoured to establish a repertory theatre at the Duke of York's in 1910.

Mr. Frederick Stark Pearson is an American engineer with a world-wide reputation. His name is associated with many railway, light, and power companies in various countries. Coombe House, Kingston Hill, Surrey, is his residence in Britain. Mr. Pearson was born at Lowell (Mass.) in 1861.

Mr. Elbert Hubbard, a well-known New York journalist (Editor of "The Era and Philistine Magazine"), and his wife were bound for France. Mr. Hubbard started life as a school teacher. He met William Morris in London in 1890, and when he returned to the United States started the Roycroft Press at East Aurora (N.Y.) on similar lines to the Kelmscott. The Roycrofters' Corporation has grown out of this venture -- a semi-communal institution giving work to 800 people. Mr. Hubbard has written about 30,000 magazine articles and a number of books, the latter including "Little Journeys," in twenty-three volumes.

Mr. Alfred Vanderbilt is the well known capitalist. He was a son of Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt, and was born in 1877.

Sir Hugh Percy Lane is hon. director of the Municipal Art Gallery, Dublin, and also director of National Gallery, Ireland, since last year. He was a member of the council, National University of Ireland. Sir Hugh was born in County Cork in 1875. He has taken a leading part in the revival of Irish art by organising winter exhibitions at the Royal Hibernian Academy and at Belfast. He presented a collection of modern art to the City of Dublin, and formed a collection of modern art for Johannesburg Municipal Gallery, also the Capetown National Gallery collection of seventeenth century Dutch pictures.

Mr. J. Foster Stockhouse, F.R.G.S., was the organiser of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1914, to determine the coast line of King Edward VII. Land.

Illustrated London News, 15th May 1915


A heavy bereavement has befallen the Rev. G. P. Mitchell, M.A., rector of Drumbo. His son, Mr. Walter Dawson Mitchell, accompanied, by his young wife and nine months' old baby, and Mrs. Mitchell's brother, Mr. John Moore (son of Mr. William Moore, Newgrove, Ballylesson), were coming home on a visit to their parents. The first list of survivors published contained the names of Mrs. Mitchell and her brother, and while no mention was made of Mr. Mitchell and the infant hope was still entertained until Sunday evening, when a wire was received by the Rev. Mr. Mitchell conveying the information that his son and grandchild had perished. The two survivors, Mrs. Mitchell and her brother, arrived at Lisburn at midnight by the same train as conveyed Mr. Mitchell's remains, and after these had been enclosed in an oak coffin, young Mr. Moore made a brief statement to a Press representative. The lifeboat he got into after the Lusitania was struck unfortunately overturned, but he got hold of a rope which was hanging over the ship's side and held on for a little time during which the passengers were jumping down in crowds, many of them striking him as they pissed and bruising his body. Subsequently he found himself struggling in the water and just managed to clutch the keel of one of the upturned boats, with which he supported himself until he was rescued by what he thought was a mine-sweeper. He had lost sight of his sister and her husband, and was despairing of seeing them again, when he observed them being taken out of the sea and brought aboard the trawler. Mrs. Mitchell was in a semi-conscious state and her husband was unconscious. Everything possible was done to restore him, but without success. As for the baby, he (Mr. Moore) did not see it after leaving the liner.

Mr. Moore served his apprenticeship with Messrs. Magowan & Ingram, Belfast, after which about four years ago, he received an important appointment in Newark, Connecticut.

Mr. W. D. Mitchell (who was a grand-nephew of the Rev. Canon Pounden) had been in the States for the past two years, holding a responsible position in the concern of Messrs. Marshall & Co., New Jersey. He served his apprenticeship with the Island Spinning Company's Mill, Lisburn.


Amongst the large number of those who, it is feared, have perished in the awful disaster is Mrs. Mary A. Hume, of New York (formerly Miss Elliott, of Belfast), who is a relative of Mr. W. S. Patton, 34, Yarrow Street, and niece of Miss Fleming, of Doagh, County Antrim. Four years ago she proceeded to New York to be married, and was on her way home to pay a surprise visit to her friends, who only knew that she was a passenger on the Lusitania when they received a wire from her husband asking was she amongst the survivors.

Mr. Robert M'Cready, a son of Mr. Wm. J. M'Cready, Oldpark Road, is also a victim. Mr. M'Cready, who was a photographer by profession, was returning home after a very successful period of business in the United States and Canada.

The chief baker on board the Lusitania was also a Belfast man named Pinkerton. His name as yet does not appear amongst the list of saved.


Mr. and Mrs. Burnside, who are natives of the Cullybackey district, Ballymena, were coming for a short holiday from Toronto. The name of Mrs. Burnside appears in the list ot survivors, but not that of her husband or children. Mr. Burnside was formerly an engineer at Ballyclare Paper Mills.

Amongst the passengers were Mrs. Murray, wife of an officer in the American Navy, and her brother, Mr. Patrick M'Ginley, sister and nephew respectively of the Rev. Father Harkin, Omagh, County Tyrone, and cousin of Mr. John Harkin, J.P., Strabane, County Tyrone. A telegram has been received that Mr. M'Ginley has been saved, but Mrs. Murray is missing.

Great anxiety is felt in Limavady owing to the fact that two well-known Limavady ladies, Mrs. Moody and her youngest daughter Miss Meta Moody, were on board the ill-fated liner. A measure of relief was felt when it became known that a wire had been received by Mr. John H. Moody, Wheatfield, Limavady, from his sister at Queenstown, stating she was safe and that she was waiting for her mother. Up to the time of writing no intelligence has been received as to the fate of Mrs. Moody, and her relatives are entertaining the gravest fears for her safety. Mrs. Moody and her daughter were returning from a visit of a year's duration to the former's brother, Rev. Dr Hemphill, of San Francisco, California. Mr. John H. Moody has gone to Queenstown to ascertain tidings of his mother.

Text: The Witness, 14th May 1915.