On May 7 1915, during World War I the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by German U-boat U-20.
She was a British cargo and passenger ship en-route to Liverpool from New York. She left New York on May 1st 1915 and when she was off the Old Head of Kinsale she was torpedoed by U20. The ship sank within twenty minutes of being hit. According to the official analysis of the Cunard Steamship Company on 1st March 1916, 1,195 passengers and crew were missing. Of the 22 lifeboats, six reached land and only 200 bodies were recovered. 764 were saved by those vessels responding to the ship’s SOS and of those saved 290 were crew members. This meant that 404 crew members lost their lives.
Several members of the crew who perished were from the Newry and Mourne and Dundalk area including:
Patrick Loughran ,Queen Street, (trimmer),
Michael McGuigan, Monaghan Row, (trimmer)
Patrick Campbell (fireman)
Bernard Cassidy (fireman)
Frank McAteer (trimmer)
Edward Ryan (fireman, Burren) served as Edward Rice.
Among the survivors from the Newry area were:
Andrew McKindrey and
Patrick McKenna (Mary Street) (both firemen).
It was reported that Andrew Mc Kindrey when asked how he survived replied that he did not know but
‘I owe my life to learning how to swim on ‘the track line’ in Newry when I was a boy’.
He went on to say that the saddest part was going through the various morgues looking for a friend of his who had been his shipmate on the outward and homeward voyages but he could not find him and assumed that he had perished.
Patrick Loughran from Queen Street was a very young boy when he died. No age is given but it can be assumed that he was a teenager.
From the Dundalk area those who died were:
Patrick Markey (trimmer), a well known footballer in Dundalk
James Hoey (trimmer)
Bernard McKenna (trimmer)
Owen McCann (trimmer)
James Larkin (greaser) and
Owen O’Hare (engineer/engineer’s helper).
He is interred at Cobh, body no 193 common grave A.
Among those saved were:
O. Slevin who, because of serious injury, had to have an arm amputated
John Farrell, and
John McEvoy ( Jonesbourough).
Mr McEvoy was asleep in his cabin when he was awoken by the explosion of the torpedo hitting the ship. A sailor called Griffith (he was one of the missing) rushed into the cabin and gave him a lifebelt. He got dressed and went up on deck and rushed to the starboard side. The lifeboats were swung out but could not be lowered because of the list of the ship. He then ran to the portside but the ship sank and he was dragged down with it. He thought he was going to drown but he saw a light through the water and the next thing he found himself floating to the surface. He found a plank of wood which he and a young American girl held on to for two and a half hours until they were rescued. On being congratulated on being rescued he said that he could only thank Almighty God for being one of the survivors.
Another Dundalk man who was returning to his home after being away for thirty years was among those who perished. Captain Dow, who was the captain of the Lusitania, was a Warrenpoint man and was on home leave at the time of the sinking. Another Warrenpoint man had a lucky escape. He was William O’Hagan who resided in Liverpool and was chief bedroom steward of the Lusitania since she was launched. His wife pleaded with him not to go as she had this premonition that the ship would sink and so he did not go on the last voyage. She probably saved his life.
The sinking of the Lusitania was condemned internationally and the Kaiser ordered U-boats captains to refrain from surprise attacks on merchant ships and passenger liners.
In 1917 all ships were ‘fair game’ again. It must be remembered that at this time Britain was blockading Germany by sea. In fact so bad was it that in 1916 over 121,000 Germans died of starvation-related diseases.
Although it made a great impact on American public opinion, the sinking of the Lusitania did not bring America into the war.
It would be two years before that would happen.
… Great Bank Robbery …
… more shipping losses ? …
… more shipping losses ? …