Date: 30 March 1915


How the Drifters Went to the Rescue.
Heroism of Soldiers.

(From Our Own Reporter.)
MILFORD, Tuesday Morning.

When I arrived here yesterday there were little knots of people gathered round the dock wall with saddened expressions that were sufficient evidence of the appalling nature of the tragedy which had happened to the Falaba. By the time I arrived most of the survivors of the liner, who had been comfortably housed over night, had returned to their homes, but I have seen those who are still here, and also crews of those vessels which took part in the work of rescue.

At about 11.30 on Sunday morning the submarine was first sighted by the steam drifter Eileen Emma, of Lowestoft, which immediately gave chase, hoping to run her down. The submarine kept ahead, and the pursuit had proceeded about an hour when the liner hove in sight, and the attention of the pirates was immediately turned upon it. A. flag—some say it was thewhite ensign—was hoisted, a rocket sent up, and the Falaba shut off her engines. As the submarine drew near she hoisted her own colours and signalled to the liner's captain that he was to abandon his ship. The order, from what I can gather, was very vague, and though the work of filling and lowering the boats was instantly commenced, few, if any, realised that the ship was about to be torpedoed.

Of what followed you by this time know a good deal (a full report is given on page 2), and the description of the horrible scenes I will leave to those whom I have interviewed, merely adding that those I have seen emphatically deny that the submarine hands laughed at the people struggling in the water, and that among the vessels who did fine rescue work were:
The Eileen Emman—105 saved.
Orient II.—I4.
George Baker—5.
Whenlock.—8, of whom two died.
The Emulete—5.

A Remarkable Escape.

I was fortunate enough to get into conversation with two Army officers and a friend, whom I found comfortably esconced in a snug little room of the Lord I Nelson Hotel. They bore little or no physical signs of the tremendous hardships they had endured. They were:—Captain M. C. C. Harrison, of the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment; Captain J. C. Sambridge, 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment; and Mr. W. A. Austin, of Mitcham, Surrey.

Mr. Austin had, perhaps, the most miraculous escape of the three, for he bad been in the icy water for some three hours, when he was dragged on to the Emulate in a seemingly lifeless state. For two hours he remained unconscious, and it was only the almost superhuman efforts of Captain Hawkes and his gallant crew. that ultimately revived him. The threeof them were among the last to leave the doomed ship in a lifeboat. There were about 40 persons in this small craft, and as soon as she pushed away from the Falaba she commenced to take in water. Despite all eflorts, she capsized in about half-an-hour. It was not until the proper handling of the oars was impossible that hope was given up and the boat left to its fate. When she overturned, the gentleman whom I interviewed assumed that 20 of the passengers were drowned outright. Others clung to the derelict craft aud any fragments of wreckage they could grasp. How many of them were saved it is impossible to tell.

Gruesome Scenes.

Gruesome indeed were the scenes around them. On all sides were dead, those who, like themselves, were making the great final bid for life. The cries for help that rent the air were poignant in the extreme, but who was there to answer the call?

Mr. Austin remembers being in the water for two hours and, next, regaining consciousness aboard the Emulate. The two officers battled with the raging see for 3 1/2 hours, being eventually picked up by a dinghey belonging to the Emulate, and landed in a thoroughly exhausted oondition. The incidents which preceded and immediately followed the sinking of the Falaba are ineffacably implanted in their memory[.]

"We had observed Ihe submarine some time previously," they told me, "but had so far eluded her manoevre. We kept altering our course trying to dodgeher. She circled us once or twice. When the signal came for us to stop she was flying a flag which, if not actually the White Ensign, had such a striking resemblance to it as to deceive us. We made special efforts to obtain the number of the vessel, but this could not be seen, even through our binoculars, and though it was at one time within 50 yards of us we were standing aboard the liner. She was obviously one of the latest type.

No Panic Aboard.

"When the captain received the order to stop he immediately shut off the engine. No specific warning was given and we certainly did not think he was going to torpedo us. The boats were immediately got ready, and the submarine remained 50 yards off. There was a total absence of panic, as few seemed to appreciate the peril in which they stood. The lifeboats were quickly filled, and were being lowered with all speed. There were certainly boats enough for all. Many peopleobviously not realising the danger, strolled calmly about the decks. The submarine, which all this time had been lying about 50 yards to port, now made to starboard, and at about the same distance discharged her torpedo. It struck just aft the engine, and the explosion was terrific. A column of spray and smoke went up as high as the wireless apparatus. A boat loaded with passengers which was about to take the water on the starboard side, was blown to pieces, and it is safe to assume that there' are very few, if any, of its occupants left. Such a boat would carry at least 70 passengers. At that time there were about fifty people on the poop of the Falaba. Very soon after the sinking, a boat which was leaking badly, capsized. They were struggling hard to keep her afloat, even after it was impossible to work the oars.

"We had seen, prior to taking to the boat, that there were no women on deck.There was not a person to be seen on the ship when she took her final plunge, those who had failed to secure boats, having jumped into the water. We saw one or two lifeboats swamped and another dropped into the sea through the ropes breaking."

"A remarkable feature was the entire absence of panic, due to the fact that no one had the vestige of an idea that the boat would be torpedoed. As an instance of this, one boat was lowered by the passengers, including a number of soldiers who were remaining one [sic] deck, a lot of them not having troubled to put on lifebelts.

Gun Turned on Boats.

As the vessel was sinking, and for some time after she had gone down, the submarine stood making no attempt to rescue anyone. They actually turned a gun on us, but, of course, did not fire. All the crew were lined up on deck, so close that one could have thrown and hit them with a biscuit.

"It was a pity we did not have a gun of any sort on board. If we had the Germans would have been the losers."

Mr. Austin here stated that he esti mated the number of lifeboats sunk as six, besidesthose which, fell from the davits. All these had full complements of passengers.

Brave Soldier's Fate.

Telephoning from Milford Haven this morning, our reporter says:—

Fifteen commissioned officers, in addition to a goodly number of non-commissioned, were on board the Falaba. One of their number, Lieut. Le Gros. had a wonderful escape. While he was struggling desperately in the water, acorporal of the R.A.M.C. went to his rescue, and, seizing him around the neck, swam with him to the Eileen Emma. They were both rescued, but the corpora!, who is probably the man mentioned in i the list of dead above, expired shortly afterwards. Lieut. Le Gros has recovered.

Eileen Emma's Skipper.

Captain George Wright, of Lowestoft, skipper of the Eileen Emma, is a modest hero. "I saw the submarine," he told me, when we were only 60 miles out from St. Anne's. She was then half a mile ahead of us. I decided to chase her with the object of running her down. Aer a chase of about half an hour, the liner hove in sight. I then decided to go full steam ahead for the submarine, as I preferred tu risk my own ship and crew to that of the liner and so many lives and so precious a cargo."

He was ahout 300 yards from the submarine when the torpedo was fired, and he estimated that the liner was about the same distance. He believed the torpedo was fired so soon because the pirates feared their vessel would have been run down by the drifter had it remained in the vicinity.

Captain Wright said they took on board 116 persons altogether, including six women. He assured me he saw quite a number of people in the water. He is practically certain that both stewardesses were among the dead, and so far as I can ascertain, the only of her women on board were the women in the Eileen Emma.

On board the drifter the survivors were treated with every consideration. The crew gave them all their belongings and spare clothes, and the sufferers were kept as warm as possible.

"Simply Murder."

Two officers, who refused their names, said, "It was murder—simply murder. They signalled for us to stop, but we made a bit of a run for it, hoping we would outdistance the submarine, but we could not for she was making 18 knots and we were only making 13.

"It was a large submarine," continued one of the officers; "it looked like one of the newest. We stopped at last, and I was, told she hailed us, but I heard no hail. Anyhow, we lowered the boats as quickly as we could, and there was considerable panic on board.

There, was a nasty sea running, and some of the boats were quickly swamped. I noticed that one of the boats fell into the water as it was being lowered, and scores or people were in the water, for some of the other boats had been swamped —in fact, all the ship's boats except three foundered.

"They gave us no time to get away, for they torpedoed us while there were people on board, and while one boat was actually being lowered. I tell you it was a murderous game they were playing. They made no attempt to save anybody, and there was only one trawler in sight—no cruisers nor destroyers."

"When the submarine disappeared a destroyer arrived on the scene, but by that time everybody who could be rescued had been rescued.

I wish you to specially mention the excellent work done by the trawler Eileen Emma, of Lowestoft, and the drifter George Baker (skipper, F. Self), of Yarmouth. They worked splendidly and risked their own lives in trying to save us.

"Probably 80 men were drowned, although we cannot say for certain."

Captain's Death.

Replying to further questions, the officers said they were about 60 miles from the coast when they sighted the submarine, and it was about ten minutes from the time it came alongside before they were torpedoed. They were supposed to be flying the white ensign, but they had a lot of flags. They were landed at Milford Haven on Sunday night, but the captain of their vessel, who had been in the water for a long time, died of exposure almost as soon he was placed on board the trawler.

Like a Greyhound.

Mr. W. McKelly, of London, gave a thrilling desrciption of the sinking of the ship. He said: "We were about 50 to 60 miles off The Smalls when a submarine was sighted on our starboard side. It was then about twelve o'clock noon. The weather was fine, but the sea was somewhat choppy, and we were going at the rate of about 13 knots an hour.

Naturally everyone on hoard became excited at the news that a submarine was so near, and all the passengers crowded on deck. Our skipper put on full steam, but very soon it apppeared that we stood no chance of getting away.

"The submarine came after us like a greyhound, and three-quarters of an hour after we sighted her she came within hailing distance.

"Judging from the photographs I have seen, the submarine was one of their latest and biggest boats. She carried a good-sized gun, and this was trained on the Falaba as soon as the pirate got neat us.

"The first thing the commander of the submarine did was to pend up a rocket. Then coming nearer he ordered our skipper to get every passenger at once into the boats, remarking in good English, 'I am going to sink yur [sic] ship.'

"Boats were lowered immediately, and passengers served with lifebelts, but no one was allowed to take any personal belongings.

A Horrible Scene.

"Then followed a horrible scene. Some of the boats were swamped, and their occupants were thrown into the sea, several being drowned almost immediately. One man, whose name I don't know, but whom I subsequently met, was in the water for over an hour before he was picked up.

"Barely ten minutes after we received the order to leave the ship, and before the last boat had been lowered, I heard a report, and saw the vessel heel over. The pirates had actually fired a torpedo at her at a range of 100 yards, when they could distinctly see that, a large number of the passengers and the crew, including the captain, purser, and other officers, were still on board. It was a dastardly thing to do. It was nothing but murder in cold blood.

The Falaba soon went to the bottom, and without waiting to see how we fared in the boats the submarine made off in the direction from which she came.

After we had been in the boats for a couple of hours we were picked up by the Eileen Emma, a Lowestoft trawler, and two other trawlers. About six o'clock in the evening a destroyer came along and took us all on board, and three hours later we were landed at Milford Haven.

"I cannot speak too highly of the treatment we received at the hands of the men in charge of the trawlers. They behaved in a most plucky manner, and if it had not been for their treatment to us on board I believe several of us must have succumbed."

Reuters Agency learns that the Falaba carried 92 first class passengers and 55 second class.

The passengers included six ladies, several doctors of the Nigerian Medical Service, and a number of officials of the various West African Government services.

The owners of the Falaba at Liverpool supply the following list:—
1st Class passengers .......... 52
2nd Class passengers .......... 34
Crew ........................................49

The Falaba is reported to have had 450 bags of mails on board.

For special report of inquests see Page One.

Twenty-Six People Missing.

The sinking of tho Aquila off Pembroke and of a Dutch steamer which struck a German mine, is also reported by the Admiralty. The official message says:—

Press Bureau, 6.40 p.m.
The Secretary of the Admiralty make, the following announcement:—

The British steamship Aguila, 2.114 tons, belonging to the Yeoward Line, when on a passage from Liverpool to Lisbon, was torpedoed off Pembroke at 6 p.m. on March 27. The vessel sank. Twenty-three of the crew and three passengers are missing. The master and nineteen of the crew have been landed at Fishguard.

The Dutch steamship Amstel, 853 tons, belonging to P. A. Vanes and Co., of Rotterdam, when on a voyage from Rotterdam to Goole, struck a mine at 4 a.m. on March 29 in the minefield off Flamborough. The crew have been landed in the Humber by the Grimsby trawler Pinewood.

The Aguila, a Liverpool steamer of 1.200 tons, was bound for the Canary Islands with a general cargo. Torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U 28 fifty miles off the Smalls, Pembrokeshire, on Saturday night. Of the, four boats launched three containing twenty members of the crew were picked up by the Grimsby trawler Ottillie and landed at Fishguard on Monday morning. The other boat, containing thirteen men, is missing.

Firing on the Boats.

A member of the crew, interviewed by a Press representative, said the submarine was sighted about five o'clock on Saturday. The skipper of the Aguila, Captain Bannerman, forced the vessel ahead full speed, and the submarine gave chase at eighteen knots, firing at the Aguila, which was being rapidly overtaken. When Captain Bannerman saw that further flight was hopeless he stopper [sic] and prepared to lower the boats. The submarine continued firing as the boats were being launched, and two men were killed and several others wounded. There were two lady passengers on board. One was killed, and the other was in the missing boat. The submarine continued firing for nearly two hours, and then sank the Aguila by a torpedo.

Seaman Crawley, of the Aguila, said the crew had a terrible experience whilst launching the boats, being under fire the whole of the time. Shrapnel flew in all directions, and several members of the crew were hit. Boatswain Anderson was killed whilst assisting to launch a boat, and Seaman McKirkan fell overboard after being shot, and was lost. The submarine gave the crew no chance to leave the vessel, but continued firing, and in the excitement one boat capsized, and a lady passenger, who had received a wound, was crushed against the side of the vessel and killed.

'Chased the Pirate.' The Cambria Daily Leader. 30 March 1915. 2.

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