Mr. Percy William Rogers

Percy Rogers, 46, a British national from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was part of the Canadian National Exhibition.  He was on the Lusitania enroute to England in connection to the Toronto Fair.  Rogers survived the Lusitania sinking and owed his life to his swimming skills.  His ticket aboard Lusitania was 6928 and he stayed in cabin D-44. In several Lusitania accounts, he is often confused with Richard Rogers, editor of Jack Canuck and boss of war correspondent Ernest Cowper. The following is Percy Rogers' account:
It had been a splendid crossing with a calm sea and fine weather contributing to a delightful trip.  The Lusitania made nothing like her maximum pace.  Her speed probably was about five hundred miles daily, which, as travelers know, is below her average. Early Friday morning we sighted the Irish coast.  Then we entered a slight fog, and speed was reduced, but we soon came into a clear atmosphere again, and the pace of the boat increased.  The morning passed and we went as usual down to lunch, although some were a little later than others in taking the meal.  I should think it would be about ten minutes past two when I came from lunch.  I immediately proceeded to my stateroom, close to the dining-room, to get a letter which I had writte.  While in there I heard a tremendous thud, and I came out immediately. There was no panic where I was, but the people were aghast.  It was realized that the boat had been struck, apparently on the side nearest the land [sic, the Lusitania was actually stuck on the starboard side, which was away from the land].  The passengers hastened to the boat deck above.  The life-boats were hanging out, having been put into that position on the previous day.  The Lusitania soon began to list badly with the result that the side on which I and several others were standing [port side] went up as the other side dropped.  This seemed to cause difficulty in launching the boats, which seemed to get bound against the side of the liner. It was impossible, of course, for me to see what was happening in other places, but among the group where I was stationed there was no panic.  The order was given, 'Women and children first,' and was followed implicitly.  The first life-boat lowered with people at the spot where I stood smacked upon the water, and as it did so the stern of this life-boat seemed to part and the people were thrown into the sea.  The other boats were lowered more successfully. We heard somebody say, 'Get out of the boat; there is no danger,' and some people actually did get out, but the direction was not generally acted upon.  I entered a boat in which there were men, women, and children, I should say between twenty and twenty-five.  There were no other women or children standing on the liner where we were, our position, I should think, being about the last boat but one from the stern of the ship. Our boat dropped into the water, and for a few minutes we were all right.  Then the liner went over.  We were not far from her.  Whatever the cause may have been -perhaps the effect of suction -I don't know, but we were thrown into the sea.  Some of the occupants were wearing life-belts, but I was not.  The only life-belts I knew about were in the cabins, and it had not appeared to me that there was time to risk going there.  It must have been about 2.30 when I was thrown into the water.  The watch I was wearing stopped at that time.
From Percy Rogers' description, it seems that the lifeboat Rogers was in was #14, the only one to be lowered on the port side, and then subsequently capsized when water entered it.
What a terrible scene there was around me!  It is harrowing to think about the men, women, and children struggling in the water.  I had the presence of mind to swim away from the boat and made towards a collapsible boat, upon which was the captain and a number of others.  For this purpose I had to swim quite a distance. I noticed three children among the group.  Our collapsible boat began rocking.  Every moment it seemed we should be thrown again into the sea.  The captain appealed to the people in it to be careful, but the boat continued to rock, and I came to the conclusion that it would be dangerous to remain in it if all were to have a chance.  I said, 'Good-by, Captain; I'm going to swim,' and jumped into the water.  I believe the captain did the same thing after me, although I did not see him, but I understand he was picked up.
A scene from this collapsible boat that Rogers did not relate in this passage is that he had seen fellow Toronto resident, George Copping, in an exhausted state clinging to a rope. Copping's last words to him were, “My wife is gone and I can’t hold out much longer.”
The scene was now terrible.  Particularly do I remember a young child with a life-belt around her calling, 'Mamma!'  She was not saved.  I had seen her on the liner, and her sister was on the collapsible boat, but I could not reach her.  I saw a cold storage box or cupboard.  I swam towards it and clung to it.  This supported me for a long time. At last I saw a boat coming towards me and shouted.  I was heard and taken in.  From this I was transferred to what I think was a trawler, which also picked up three or four others.  Eventually I was placed upon a ferry boat known as the Flying Fish, in which, with others, I was taken to Queenstown. It was possible that some people went down while in their cabins, because after lunch it was the custom with some to go for a rest.  A friend of mine on the liner has told me he saw Alfred G. Vanderbilt on deck with a life-belt and observed him give it to a lady.  It seemed to me the seriousness of the situation scarcely was realized when the boat was torpedoed.  It was all so sudden and so unexpected, and the recollection of it all is terrible.
Contributors: Michael Poirier

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