The sinking of the luxurious liner Lusitania just off the Old Head of Kinsale in Ireland in 1915 by a German submarine resulted in the loss of 1,201 lives. A significant turning point during World War I, the doomed vessel sank in just eighteen minutes, but this year the curator of The Leece Museum in Peel, Roy Baker, will be speaking at the annual commemorative service for the first time about the heroic involvement of a Manx fishing boat, PL11 The Wanderer, in the rescue of passengers and crew.
Organised by the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, the commemoration takes place alongside the ship’s salvaged propeller, on the dockside between the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Museum of Liverpool, where a wreath will be laid on the 7thMay to remember all those who perished.
Deputy Head of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Ian Murphy, said, “Lusitania was Liverpool’s most famous ship and her sinking sent shock waves around the globe and influenced America’s entry to the war. It is particularly poignant to hold the service alongside the propeller which is one of the most iconic objects in our collection.”
It was to be two hours before rescuers heading from the Irish mainland would reach the disaster, but a lugger from Peel, The Wanderer, was fishing a few miles away when crew member, Thomas Woods, on watch duty, sounded the alarm after he saw the Lusitania listing. The skipper of The Wanderer, Stanley Ball from Jurby, is reported to have said to Woods ‘Go for her, be British’, so, undeterred by the danger of enemy submarines, these brave Manxmen headed for the scene of the disaster where they took on board 160 men, women and children.
The skipper and crew of The Wanderer spared nothing for their pitiable passengers, gifting their clothes, blankets, food and drink as they sailed back towards the Old Head of Kinsale with their precious cargo, towing two boat loads of survivors besides.
Two miles from land The Wanderer was intercepted by an Admiralty tug, The Flying Fish, into which were transferred the devastated survivors who then sailed for Queenstown (now renamed Cobh).
It was difficult for some of the crew members of The Wanderer to come to terms with this atrocity, reinforced by extracts from surviving letters, but believing that these men deserved recognition for their services, the Manchester Manx Society arranged for Mr F. S. Graves to design a special medal, which was presented to each of the rescuers by the Lieutenant Governor, Lord Raglan, on Tynwald Day.
This year’s service will also include a welcome by Ian Murphy, Deputy Director of Merseyside Maritime Museum, an historical overview by local maritime historian Dave Roberts and the Act of Remembrance led by Father David Baverstock.
© May 2014
(Courtesy of Manx Tails)