Memorial held on Islay for US soldiers lost in sinkings

Day of Rememberance to remember the US servicemen who died after the sinking of the SS Tuscania off Islay.  Picture: Lenny Warren
Day of Rememberance to remember the US servicemen who died after the sinking of the SS Tuscania off Islay. Picture: Lenny Warren
0
Have your say

A service has been held at sea to remember around 700 First World War soldiers who lost their lives in the sinking of two ships carrying US troops off the coast of Islay.

The SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto sank off the island within eight months of each other in 1918.

Jennifer Jones from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC alongside the flag on show at the Museum of Islay Life. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Jennifer Jones from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC alongside the flag on show at the Museum of Islay Life. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The Tuscania had almost completed its transatlantic voyage, carrying 2,500 British and US troops, when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat.

Most on board were rescued by the Royal Navy but more than 200 men were lost at sea, with many swept up on the shore of Islay.

Another tragedy followed shortly after when the Otranto sank on 6 October . Amid a strong storm, the ship crashed into HMS Kashmir while travelling in convoy.

Many US troops were saved by HMS Mounsey but those that could not escape the Otranto were swept toward an Islay reef that wrecked the ship. Around 470 men died.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY MAY 4''(left to right) Nick Hide, Lynne Vandertie, John Roberts, Morvern McPhee and Mark Jabbusch, direct descendants of the crew and survivors from the HMS Otranto disaster, which sank in 1918 off the coast of Islay, walk along Kilchoman beach on the island where many bodies were washed up. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 3, 2018. A service has been held at sea to remember around 700 First World War soldiers who lost their lives in the sinking of two US ships off the coast of a small Scottish island. The SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto sunk off the coast of Islay within eight months of each other in 1918, with almost 700 people dying. See PA story MEMORIAL Islay. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY MAY 4''(left to right) Nick Hide, Lynne Vandertie, John Roberts, Morvern McPhee and Mark Jabbusch, direct descendants of the crew and survivors from the HMS Otranto disaster, which sank in 1918 off the coast of Islay, walk along Kilchoman beach on the island where many bodies were washed up. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 3, 2018. A service has been held at sea to remember around 700 First World War soldiers who lost their lives in the sinking of two US ships off the coast of a small Scottish island. The SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto sunk off the coast of Islay within eight months of each other in 1918, with almost 700 people dying. See PA story MEMORIAL Islay. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Almost a century on, the British, US, French and Germany navies paid their respects to the dead in a ceremony above the wreck of the Tuscania.

Aboard HMS Raider yesterday, Rev Dr Karen Campbell, national chaplain of the Royal British Legion Scotland, led a service while a wreath was laid at sea by Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen, whose grandfather was the police sergeant on Islay and dealt with the aftermath of the sinkings.

HMS Raider was joined at sea by the USS Ross, FS Andromede and FGS Lubeck, the ships providing the backdrop to First World War commemorations being held on Islay with the Princess Royal and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to attend.

Legion Scotland’s national chairman Charlie Brown said: “We stay true to our commitment and the words ‘We will remember them’ by ensuring that the sacrifice of over 700 US servicemen and British crew members is never forgotten.

“We also pay tribute to the bravery and selfless actions of those on board the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Mounsey, who went alongside to save over 1,800 US servicemen who otherwise may have perished.

“It is heartwarming that in times of great tragedy and loss of life that the human spirit of comradeship and sense of belonging joins nations as one in the hope that peace will prevail over the loss of life.”

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, said he will remember the heroism and kindness of Islay residents at the time of the tragedy as well as those who died.