Thursday, February 11, 2010

The liner Tuscania was built by A. Stephen & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland, on the river Clyde.  The ship was delivered to the Anchor Line at the beginning of 1915 for service between Glasgow to New York via Liverpool.  Her maiden voyage was February 6, 1915.  In September of 1916, She began carrying Canadian troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool.  On January 24, 1918, She was loaded with 2,012 American troops and a crew of 384.  She joined Convoy HX-20 at Halifax and proceeded to cross the Atlantic for Le Harve.

On February 5, the German Submarine UB-77 sighted the convoy and at 5:40 pm the commander, Lt. Cdr. Wilhelm Meyer fired two torpedoes at the Tuscania.  The first missed, the second was a direct hit.  By 7 pm all the lifeboats had been launched by some 1,350 men remained on board.    Other ships joined in the rescue and by 10 pm the ship was sinking.  Just four hours after being hit the ship sank with 230 people being lost, 201 were American troops and rest were crew members.  This was the first ship carrying American troops to be sunk and the American people considered this an outrage.

This appeared in a Scottish newspaper as reported by the American press.

"Oban, Argyllshire - Many sad scenes have been witnessed in Islay, but no one can remember any tragedy of the sea which so deeply stirred the feeling of all as the internment of the brave young men from America, who lost their lives when coming to fight for us.  The people of this district did all that was possible to render assistance in the sad work of reverently disposing of the remains and showing all honor to the United States.  Plain coffins were made and a suitable piece of land for burial was given.  All together 50 bodies came ashore in Lochindaal.  Some were temporarily placed in the church at Porthaven, others housed at Port Charlotte and two at Bowmore."

"Port Ellen - The last week was one of mournful activity in this district.  Civilians of all grades took part in searching for bodies on shore, rock and islets, and aiding the survivors in burying the dead. The first internment took place at Killeyan in a wild, romantic spot, known locally as Portman Galon, an adjoining the Mull of Oa."

This dispatch came from London on March 20, 1918.  "Hugh Morrison, a Scotch land owner, who took a prominent part in the relief of survivors and burial of the dead from the steamship Tusscania, has sent to the Associated Press an American flag made by Scotch women and used at all Tuscanian funerals, with the request that it be sent to President Wilson for deposit in a museum to be selected by the President.  With the flag is this inscription:  An American flag made at Islay house, Feb.7, 1918, and hoisted with the Union Jack at all funerals of Tuscania victims on the Scotch coast.  The flag was made by Mary Armour, Florence Hall, Mary Cunningham, Jessie McLellan, Catherine MacGregor, and John McDougall and used at funerals at Port Charlotte, Kilnaughton, Killegas and Kinabus, all on the Island of Islay.  The flag measures 70X33 inches.  Islay house is the residence of Mr. Morrison, who gave the land for two of the Tuscania cemeteries."


  1. I don't think there is any relation between the sinking of the Tuscania and Oban, I've never heard of any bodies from the Tuscania being washed up in Oban. Oban is quite a distance from Islay, while not impossible it is fairly unlikely.

    The mentioned cemeteries on Islay are long gone, with very few exceptions all the bodies were transferred either to the American War Cemetery at Brookwood in England or back to the US. I believe one or two remained in Kilnaughton, just outside of Port Ellen.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Armin, thanks for the reply. I was first drawn to this story by an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune, dated March 20, 1918. Then, I discovered several web sites devoted to this story. You will note the article is in quotation marks exactly as given. Could it be that Oban was the source of the story and that the quotations are about the Island of Islay? Do you live in Scotland? Tomorrow, I was going to write about the removal of the bodies, with the exception of the one man. Do you know if the Red Cross Monument is still on the Island of Islay?

  3. Wayne,

    yes, quite likely that Oban was where the story was reported from. Not sure how it was back in 1918, but certainly today it is one of the largest towns in the general area and a key port and ferry hub on the west coast. The Oban Times is one of the bigger newspapers in the region, I don't think Islay had its own newspaper back then (it now has a community newspaper, called The Ileach).

    While I live down south in England I visit Islay several times a year so know the place very well. The Red Cross Monument is still there and I expect it to be there for many many years to come. It is standing on The Oa overlooking the area where many of the victims but also survivors of the disaster were washed to the shore of Islay.

    You might have seen it already, but I've got some pictures on the HMS Otranto and HMS Tuscania page.

  4. Thanks again for your help. Please notice that I have changed the article and deleted the references to Oban. I found an article on the Internet about the Red Cross Monument and will use that for a coming article. You would be welcome to submit a posting for out site, if you like. Please stay in touch. Thanks.