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The View from the Land

While the site has many account from survivors who were on board the Lusitania, for the 90th anniversary here is something different: testimony from someone on land who saw the survivors pour in to Queenstown. The following is from Amy FitzGerald, who happened to be in Queenstown that day.


It has just occurred to me that I would try and write down a short account of the one small part it was my fate to play in the Great War. I had been very ill and was ordered by the doctors down to Queenstown for change and rest, and had been there about a fortnight and was just recovering my health and strength. Besides myself there were in the hotel my Father and Mother. He, 81 years of age, had also gone there for his health. My brother Major Hugh Biddulph, who was stationed at Spike Island, was also there, together with his wife Vi, and my sister Mrs May Pease. The Queen’s Hotel was at that time run by a naturalised German, Humbert by name. I had my little girl Geraldine aged five with me, my brother his little girl, and my sister her two children. For several days we had been hearing of a submarine just outside the Harbour and everyone talked of it as waiting for the Lusitania, but some of the Naval Officers living in the Hotel calmed our fears and assured us she had been warned not to come near Queenstown.

Friday the 7th May

Such a glorious day, with nothing to indicate the awful tragedy about to be enacted within a few short miles of the shore. That morning I felt so much better that I went with my sister to see the “Wayfarer”, a very large transport ship that had been torpedoed a few weeks before and had only got in after great difficulty and the loss of seven men. Curious to say all the horses on board (of which it was full) were landed safely though half the side of the ship was torn away and it was still half full of water when I saw it, and the iron deck like a switchback railway. Part of the iron plating from the bottom had been torn off and lay in the upper deck where it had been blown to by the force of the explosion.

On our return to the Hotel we were at once greeted with the dreadful news. The Lusitania had been torpedoed about 10 miles from Queenstown. Every one had a different story. Some said she was coming in under her own steam and all safe. Others said she had gone to the bottom, but all too soon we knew the truth. We were a sad party at dinner that night, and we had scarcely begun when the Adjt. General Col. Du Croix, who was at our table, told us we might expect 50 of the survivors into our Hotel. So my sister and myself at once offered to help to get things ready for them, and set to work with a will. We had got ready the 50 beds when we were told to prepare for 100 more, but though all the other ladies in the Hotel joined us and helped we had not them finished when they began to arrive. In they came, dripping pale exhausted, some unconscious, others on stretchers, injured in every possible way. Children crying for their mothers; husbands looking with anxious eyes for their wives and families; wives looking for their husbands who they would probably never see again. And almost every nationality was represented there - Jews, Greeks, Americans, Belgians, French, a Cuban, they all came under my notice, and many others. As quickly as we could we got their names registered in the Hotel book and hurried them up to their rooms. Once there we tore or cut their dripping clothes off them (most of them had been in the water from two to four hours and then on the fishing boats for four hours more so were in a deplorable condition), rolled them in blankets and put them in bed with hot water jars, while my mother ran round with a bottle of brandy and gave every one she came across a little, and I think this was the means of saving a good many lives.
The original testimony is (or at least was) on display in the Maritime Museum, Dun Laoghaire, co. Dublin, Eire. Contributors: Peter Colquhoun

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