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Islay Remembers Twin Disaster Centenary

Discussion in 'Military History' started by GRW, May 1, 2018.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    Absolutely horrific.
    "Two boating disasters off the coast of a small Scottish island during World War One saw hundreds of American military personnel buried by compassionate locals.
    In an act being commemorated on the island of Islay this week, nearly 700 people were buried with dignity, in two horrific events just eight months apart, BBC reported.
    In February 1918, American ship the SS Tuscania was torpedoed in 1918 by the German U-boat UB-77 just off Islay’s coastline.
    The island, with a population of just 6,000 at the time, were already reeling from the loss of 150 of their own when they pulled together to retrieve the bodies of American soldiers.
    The ship – formerly a cruise liner - was carrying about 2,500 – and many survived thanks to the Royal Navy, but those who had sought refuge in lifeboats found themselves shipwrecked once again on the rocky cliff face of the island’s Oa peninsula.
    Sergeant Malcolm MacNeill and his three fellow officers – the entirety of the town’s police force, recovered, identified and buried nearly 200 soldiers with the help of the islanders.
    Residents, feeling the men’s burials deserved an American flag, laboured for hours and well into the night to handcraft one from the available materials.
    It was made by Jessie McLellan, Mary Cunningham, Catherine McGregor, Mary Armour, and John McDougall - who worked through the night at Islay House to complete it.
    They finished the stitching around 2am just ahead of the first US funeral held on Islay.
    Almost exactly five months later, a navigational error in inclement weather saw the SS Otranto hit by a friendly British ship.
    Fearing a repeat of February’s fatal disaster, the British ship and the rest of the convoy continued on.
    British destroyer HMS Mounsey, commanded by Lieutenant FW Craven, was the first to respond to the SS Otranto’s mayday calls, and hundreds of those on board, most of whom were American, were able to leap overboard to safety, Islay Blog reported.
    But about 400 men remained on the warship, only 16 of who were able to swim to shore.
    The next day, Islay residents were greeted with the sight of dead bodies piled up on the shore, and Sergeant MacNeill once again set to work on honouring the dead."

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