Queenstown

Night was falling by the time the rescue vessels reached Queenstown.  At the wharf there was only enough space for one rescue vessel to come alongside at a time.  Stormcock docked at 8:10 p.m., the first rescue vessel to do so.  She was followed by Brock, Indian Empire, and Flying Fish.

Upon reaching Queenstown Harbour, the Flying Fish was ordered not to disembark its survivors until the captain had reported to the proper authorities.

Having been through such a tortuous ordeal, Charles Lauriat stood up for his fellow survivors and argued in “language that was decidedly to the point” to let the survivors land immediately.  Many of those on board were in urgent need of food, shelter, and medical help.  The captain remained obstinate and left to find a harbor inspector leaving strict instructions not to lower the gangplank.

As soon as the captain was gone, Lauriat and several others put the gangplank over the side.  A man on the dockside tried to stop them, but Lauriat told the man that he had three seconds to get out of the way.  Lauriat and others still able then helped the weaker ones ashore and called for medical help.  Fellow survivor Isaac Lehmann would recall that finally getting ashore was “just as hard and as difficult as it was to get saved from the Lusitania.”

Rescue vessels came into the harbor throughout the night, bringing in survivors, who were then whisked away to hotels such as the Queen’s and Rob Roy, hospitals, and even houses.

When Bluebell reached land at 10 p.m., her survivors disembarked, and saloon passenger Charles Bowring took out his glasses and saw that they were all covered with newsprint pulp.  Examining the paper more closely, he saw that on the paper was the German warning that had appeared in newspapers the morning the Lusitania sailed.

The next day, Saturday 8 May, five of Lusitania‘s lifeboats could be seen roped at the slipway below the roadside tea station.  Three impromptu morgues with the bodies of men, women, and children were set up in Queenstown for the living to identify the dead.  One was a shed on the Cunard wharf.  Another was at the town hall.  Trawlers carried in more bodies from the sea throughout the morning.

Exhausted survivors in various combinations of old, new, and borrowed clothes wandered the streets looking for loved ones.  Third class passengers George and Elsie Hook spent three days looking for the missing Frank Hook, finding him in Queenstown Hospital with a broken leg.  Third class passenger Lucy Taylor found her husband Harold Taylor in a borrowed sailor’s uniform.  Being able to be reunited with her husband made her feel as if she were “the happiest person alive.”

By Saturday afternoon American Consul Wesley Frost had compiled a list of identified bodies and had the list telegraphed to the relatives of the victims for instructions.  On Sunday morning Frost found a surgeon at University College in Cork to set up an improvised operating room in the rear of the Cunard offices to embalm the victims.  The enbalming process was apparently not practiced by the locals in Queenstown.  Frost decided that the bodies of identified saloon passengers would be embalmed.  Other identified United States nationals would be sealed in lead caskets to be repatriated to America.

The first survivors reached the British mainland via boat train on Sunday morning.  That same day, soldiers spent the entire day digging three large mass graves in the Old Church cemetery two miles outside of Queenstown.  When the undertakers in Queenstown and Cork could not make enough coffins, more were brought in by train from Kildare and Dublin.

On Monday, 10 May, from morning through the afternoon, makeshift hearses carried plain wooden coffins to the churchyard, accompanied by troops from the Connaught Rangers and Royal Dublin Fusiliers.  Thousands of mourners and locals arrived by carriages, by cars, and by foot to pay their respects.  One hundred and fifty four bodies were buried.

More bodies continued to wash ashore as far west as the Aran Islands and as far east as Barry, Wales.  These bodies were buried in private plots.  Few of the later bodies recovered could be identified, but on 12 July an identifiable body washed up on the shore of County Kerry, Ireland.  At first it was presumed to be a Lusitania victim, but later he was identified as Leon Thresher, the first American citizen to lose his life in the German U-boat campaign in the Falaba sinking on 28 March.

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