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Date: 23 February 1917

Content:

White Star Vessel Put Back
Badly Damaged, Report of Passengers.
KERR LINE PRESIDENT RETURNS FROM FRANCE

He is Satisfied the Rochester Will Make Trip Safely Through the Danger Zone.

Having passed in safety the Prussian submarine zone, the Philadelphia, of the American line, arrived here yesterday morning. The vessel, the first American passenger steamship to attempt to run the blockade, brought the news that the Celtic, of the White Star line, which steamed from Liverpool on the same day, struck a mine in the Irish Sea and was so damaged that she was forced to put back to port.

Captain Candy, of the Philadelphia, said the trip had been exceptionally pleasant for February, and that the Philadelphia did not sight any U-boats during the run through the zone. He would not make any statement regarding the Celtic’s accident.

The Philadelphia left Liverpool at midnight on February 14, and at the same time the Celtic and the Canada, of the Dominion line, also slipped down the Mersey to sea. The Philadelphia took the St. George’s Channel route, to pass to the south of Ireland, while the British vessels made for the north.

No report of an accident to the Celtic has been made by the German government, nor has the British Admiralty made any mention of it. It was surmised on board that the vessel struck a British mine.

Channel Crowded with Traffic.

Both officers and passengers on board commented upon the fact that as the Philadelphia passed through St. George’s Channel she met literally hundreds of vessels of all classes, all east bound, apparently fleeing from the submarine menace. Several officers of long experience said, they never had seen anything like it before. All up and down the channel the oncoming vessels dotted the sea—passenger vessels, cargo boats, wind jammers of all rigs. So many were they that the Philadelphia had to exercise caution in passing through the jam of maritime traffic.

On board the Philadelphia was Henry F. Kerr, president of the Kerr line, who returned after an extensive trip through France and Italy. Mr. Kerr had been negotiating with the French government for the turning over to his line of a French port, to be used as a mercantile port, which would be equipped by his company, with warehouses, rails and all necessary apparatus for a great marine terminal. The Kerr line was willing to take over the entire running of this port and thus relieve the mercantile blockade now in force at Bordeaux, where, owing to .the pressing needs of the military and naval forces, thousands of tons of merchandise are being held up.

Mr. Kerr said he was not worrying about the Rochester, as he believed that she would get through the U-boat zone in safety.

Kerr Line Keeps Busy.

He; called attention to the fact, that during the last twelve months the Ken line has made with its vessels more than 100 trips to French ports, and that during that time only four vessels had been lost—two through submarines and two from the ordinary perils of the sea.

Frank Benjamin, of Beaumont, Texas, who was third mate on board the British ship Belford when that vessel was destroyed by a Prussian submarine off Cape Clear on February 3, told of the encounter with the U-boat. He said that the Belford, Captain Davies, which left San Francisco on August 29 for Falmouth with a cargo of 5,000 bushels of barley, was becalmed on the morning of February 3. Two miles away was the British steamship Eastern, which was held up by a submarine. Mr. Benjamin said he saw the submersible signal the Eastern to stop. The steamship continued on her course, whereupon a shot was fired at her. The Eastern then stopped and the crew took to the boats. A torpedo was then fired into the Eastern and she sank. Mr. Benjamin said he learned that the captain and four of the crew were killed.

The U-boat then approached a Norwegian bark not far away, and, after inspecting her, left and made for the Belford.

All on board the Belford were ordered to the boats, and then a boat’s crew from the submarine placed a cluster of bombs about the mainmast. The fuses were lit and the Prussians left. The crew of the Belford were clearing out as fast ss they could during this time and had not got far from the vessel when the bombs exploded and she sank.

U-Boat Tows Victims.

The Belford’s boats were taken in tow by the U-boat for an hour and a half, but when the Irish coast was neared they were cut adrift and the submarine submerged. They were picked up by a Canadian steamship, he said, and later turned over to a British trawler.

Thomas B. Hohler, who was Chargé d’Affaires of the British government in Mexico after Sir Lionel Carden left, and B. T E. Holloway, representative of the Cowdray interests in the Mexican Eagle Oil Company, at Tampico, also were on board. They refused to discuss their business or their destination.

Robert Bowman, of Chicago, who has been with the American Ambulance Corps in France, was on board. Mr. Bowman, who was in uniform, wore the Croix de Guerre with an additional gold star for meritorious work. He is on his way to Chicago, on leave. Mr. Bowman served through the Verdun fighting and was not wounded, although his ambulance was riddled with bullets.

Thirty-five men of the crew of the American steamship Housatonic, which was torpedoed on February 3, near Bishop’s Light, were on board the Philadelphia, as were some horsemen from the Japanese Prince, which also was torpedoed.

The Philadelphia carried more than two tons of mail matter, among which is a great deal of official correspondence from American embassies abroad to the State Department.
With the arrival of the Philadelphia all American line vessels except the Finland now are in this port. While no official confirmation could be obtained, it is understood that the Finland now is on her way from Liverpool.


Source:
World War history: daily records and comments as appeared in American and foreign newspapers, -1926. (Germany) 19 Feb. 1917, p. 109. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2004540423/1917-02-19/ed-1/.

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