Mr. Archibald Douglas Donald

Archibald Donald, called Archie by his friends, was a Scotch-Canadian in his early twenties at the time of the Lusitania's sailing.  He had been a structural engineer working for the Truscon-Steel Company in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.  He was enroute to officers' training at Edinburgh University, Scotland. On board Lusitania, Archie Donald shared a room with John Wilson, his roommate at Cambridge, and George Bilbrough.  The ventilation system was not up to par, so Donald spent most of his time playing bridge.  Occasionally he would stop to eat, walk the decks, and socialize.  His group would begin dealing every morning at 10, take an afternoon intermission "to be with the ladies," such as Grace French, and then continue the cards into the wee hours of the night.  Donald's bridge partners included Wilson, Bilbrough, Thornton Jackson, and Reverend Herbert L. Gwyer. On the day of the disaster, Archie Donald was finishing lunch in the company of Reverend Gwyer, the reverend's wife Margaret, and Lorna Pavey.  Lorna was eating a grapefruit when the torpedo hit.  To Donald, there was no sound of an explosion, only a shattering of glass as if someone had fallen through a "glass house." Everyone in the dining room knew what had happened and got up from their seats.  Soon afterwards the lights went out.  Minor screams and people stumbling in the darkness ensued.  Reverend Gwyer put his hand on Donald's shoulder and suggested in a calm voice, "Let us quieten the people." The two men moved to the door of the dining saloon and yelled at the top of their voices that everything was going to be all right and there was no need for panic.  Donald and Gwyer didn't really believe what they were saying, but the crowd calmed down and filed out of the room quickly and orderly, like a "regiment of soldiers." Meanwhile, the list of the ship was worsening and china and tableware slid off the table and crashed onto the ground. One woman, who may have been Annie Gardner, fainted as she passed Archie.  Her husband was with her so he took her by the shoulders and Donald by the feet to carrying her up the stairs.  Coming out on deck, Donald saw stokers and cooks emerging from below.  He also heard the boat falls running though the davits. Donald saw a fireman swan dive into the water, outlandishly graceful at such an extraordinary time.  He then turned to see a lifeboat smash to pieces in the water and figured that the ropes were too short.  Donald saw several heads bobbing in the water.  He also noticed the fireman swim astern and be lost from sight.  Perhaps the "best policy" was to leave the ship as soon as possible. Nearby was an empty beer box with two handles.  He grabbed it, now possessing his own life preserver.  As Donald hurried up the companionway, he saw Dr. Ralph Mecredy wearing a lifebelt and holding another in his hand. "Where did you get the lifebelts?"  Archie asked. "Down in the cabins."  Mecredy explained.  The lifebelts in the storage locker on deck were all exhausted.  Mecredy also related that water was coming in through the porthole in his cabin. Archie continued down to his cabin in the darkness.  He searched the lockers on both sides and found the lifebelts gone.  He continued to search his disheveled cabin and finally found one last belt.  He then hurried up to the portside Boat Deck, realizing that if he didn't get out soon enough he'd be walking on the walls. On deck, he noticed Norman Stones telling his wife Hilda to strip down to her stockings before he could fasten a lifebelt on her.  Norman Stones then began ripping off the canvas off a collapsible boat, an action that should have happened long before.  Donald went over to help him.  Looking over the port side, Donald realized how high they were above the water.  He turned to see a lifeboat being lowered, bumping against the ship's rivets on its way down. Donald then headed to the first class section and helped load a boat, fending off stokers who were rushing for it.  Donald shouted, "The women must be put in first!" Twenty or so women were loaded into the boat and the seamen started to lower.  The aft fall wasn't going fast enough and someone cut the ropes that were holding it back.  It was too late.  The lifeboat went bow-first, perpendicular, throwing its complement into the sea.  Those in the water were now crawling up a rope netting on the side of the ship, instinctively struggling to get back on the sinking liner.  Donald recognized one in the water as stewardess May Bird.  Donald glanced back on deck to see Elbert and Alice Hubbard, holding hands, and refusing to be helped. With the lifeboats threatening to crash inboard, Archie Donald called for a steward to help him tie his lifebelt.  Donald then proceeded to stuff his money, about forty dollars, into his sock.  He was about to take off his shoes, but he realized that time was running out.  He jumped the remaining twelve feet into the water. After the initial shock of being in the water, he felt the lifebelt hold his head and chest high, giving him the illusion of skimming over the water.  Now all he wanted to do was get away from the ship that had been his home for the past six days.  A nearby collapsible held a group of men weakly singing "Tipperary." Donald then turned around to see the Lusitania's four propellers sticking out of the water.  A passing lifeboat (#11?) placed their oars against the forward, lower propeller and pushed themselves away from the ship.  What followed was a massive "explosion and rattling of all loose material leaving her deck" as the ship prepared for its final plunge.  Donald feared that the masts and wires of the ship would hit him.  The stay ropes missed him by about fifteen feet.  The millpond-calm water was now pitched into turmoil and Donald felt himself shot up by a three foot wave and then pulled down.  Donald swam against the current and when he surfaced and 8 inch by 8 inch post and a 2 by 6 inch plank shot up alongside him.  Had they been any closer Donald would have been decapitated.  Not bearing any grudge against the flotsam, he reached for the lumber and held on. A pile of collapsible boats drifted by and Donald swam for them.  He was helped aboard one by his roommate George Bilbrough.  They were soon joined by Angela PappadopouloOlive North, and Thirza Winter.  Thirza, despite the gashes on her head and back was well as being thinly-clad, went to give artificial respiration to others and saved several lives.  To Donald she was one of the bravest women he had ever seen. Their collapsible was damaged in the bow and after gathering thirty-four survivors they were afraid to take on more lest they be swamped.  Almost no one knew how to row or steer.  Another kept complaining about his bonds.  He annoyed everyone so much that Donald took an oar and hit the man on the head.  Afterwards the man only sulked.  Donald set course for the lighthouse on the Old Head of Kinsale, some twelve miles distant.  He wondered if they could ever reach it. They were picked up by the ship Juno. Reaching Queenstown, the sight of husbands looking for wives and fathers looking for children was too much to bear.  Donald stayed up until 4 a.m. searching the dead and looking for his friends. Archie Donald was one of among several survivors who corresponded with Adolph and Mary Hoehling for the book, The Last Voyage of the Lusitania, published in 1956.  He is also reported to have continued corresponce with Grace French until his death.  Archie passed away in Pasadena, California in 1959. Contributors: Margaret F. Winslow (cousin of Grace French, Second Cabin Passenger) References: Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002.

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