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.

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