Hesperian Sinking: 0050.0896

LINER HESPERIAN SUNK BY GERMAN SUBMARINE – Allan Steamer Hit by Torpedo Off Irish Coast, Managed to Reach Queenstown, Where She Went to the Bottom – Twenty-six of the Passengers and Crew Supposed to Have Been Lost – No Warning Was Given.


LONDON,  September 6. – The Allan Line steamer Hesperian with 350 passengers and a crew of 300 aboard, bound from Liverpool for Montreal, was attacked without warning by a German submarine off the Irish coast just as darkness was falling Saturday evening.  Although the torpedo found its mark, the vessel remained afloat thirty-four hours after being struck, and it was hoped she could be towed into Queenstown, but she went to the bottom twenty-eight miles southwest of Fastnet, taking with her 3,545 bags of mail, much of it originating in neutral countries.

            Six second cabin passengers, six third cabin passengers and thirteen of the crew were unaccounted for last night, according to revised official figures issued by the Allan Line.  This brings the probable death list, including Miss Carberry, of St. John’s, Newfoundland, whose body is here, up to twenty-six.

            No submarine was seen, and probably it was too dark to observe the wake of a torpedo, but all the passengers and members of the crew, who arrived at Queenstown on the rescue steamers today, agree that the attack was made by a German under-sea boat, basing their opinion on the force of the shock and the great volume of water thrown back into the air.  This dropped back on the deck, drenching the passengers, who were taking an after-dinner promenade, feeling quite safe in the belief that they had passed the submarine danger zone.



            The force of the explosion was tremendous, and of the passengers landed at Queenstown, many of them scantily clad, about twenty were injured.  There were no American passengers aboard, so far as the American consul could learn tonight, but two members of the crew were American citizens, and they were both saved.

            About thirty Canadian soldiers, who were wounded in battle in Flanders, were going home to recuperate.  Most of the other passengers were Canadians, returning from a visit to England, or English people on their way to Canada to settle.

            The torpedo struck the Hesperian in the foreward engine room, and the ship immediately began to settle by the head.  Captain Main ordered the passengers and crew into the boats, but with his officers remained on the bridge, although at that time he must have felt sure that his ship would go down.

            The discipline was perfect, but one of the boats, the falls of which became jambed, capsized and those in her were thrown into the water.  In the darkness confusion naturally prevailed, but all were picked up, and, with other passengers and the crew, were transferred to the rescue steamers, which arrived in answer to wireless calls for assistance.  The Hesperian was about 150 miles to the westward when struck.



QUEENSTOWN, Sept. 6. – According to statements made by some of the Hesperian passengers who were landed here, the captain of the Hesperian and about twenty of his crew never left the steamer.  Although the captain appealed to many of his men who had taken to the boats to return, they did not respond.

            Among those who had to swim for it were several Canadians.  They were good swimmers and not only managed to keep afloat until picked up, but helped to save some of the women and children.  A choppy sea, added to the darkness, intensified the misery of those in the boats, many of whom were scantily clad.

            Among the soldiers returning to Canada was one named Chambers, belonging to Truro, N.S.  Through gas fumes at the front he had lost the sight of both eyes, but after the explosion he discovered to his astonishment and delight that he had regained the sight of one eye.

            Another Canadian officer who remained on board the Hesperian until the rescue steamers arrived said the liner was struck by the torpedo at half past eight o’clock in the evening, when she was well out of sight of the Irish coast and everybody on board thought they were out of the danger zone.

            With other officers, the Canadian says, he went below to assist in closing the bulkheads, which were quickly accomplished.  The torpedo, he says, hit the liner on the starboard side somewhere near the second bulkhead, and the ship went down by the bow to about thirty-five feet.



            The wireless, according to the officer, was put out of action as the result of the explosion, but a ship’s officer climbed the mast and repaired it, and calls for assistance soon were being flashed across the sea.

            The first rescue steamer arrived at half past nine o’clock and took survivors out of the lifeboats.  Two other steamers came up an hour later and one of them remained with the Hesperian until midnight, when Capt. Main reported that he would be able to keep the water down until the vessel reached Queenstown.

            Bugler A. Royle, a Canadian, said a concert was taking place in the saloon when a violent shock was felt and all the passengers were thrown from their chairs.  The officers of the steamer and the male passengers assisted the women and children into the boats.   One lifeboat was hanging in mid-air, with its bow up and stern down.  This was due to a fall having been jammed in the block.  Royle said that evidently all those who had been in that boat were thrown into the sea.

            Later, according to Royle, he saw another boat hanging the same way.  It’s only occupant was a baby, which he rescued.  The boat in which Royle put away from the Hesperian picked up two women who had been thrown into the water, and later two men.



QUEENSTOWN, Sept. 6 – Rescue boats with passengers and members of the crew of the Allan line steamer Hesperian arrived here yesterday and told of the torpedoing of the liner Saturday evening by a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland.

            The passengers were unanimous in declaring that the Hesperian was attacked in the gathering night without warning.  The only person aboard the steamer who actually saw the under water boat was a man on watch, who got a glimpse of it in the distance and reported the fact to Capt. Main.

            The passengers declare that the steamer was down by the head when they last saw her, but that she was making her way slowly to Queenstown under her own steam.

            Major E.J. Barre, a Canadian officer, and Lieut. Lewis, of one of the British rescue ships, assisted the Hesperian’s engineer in closing the bulkhead doors, so it was expected the water would be held forward, permitting the vessel to remain afloat.

            She was due to arrive at Queenstown at about 10 a.m. today.  Her course took her over the graves of the Lusitania and Arabic, and it is presumed that she settled within a few miles of the hulk of one of the other liners that fell victim to German U-boats.  The captain and members of the crew who remained on board all managed to escape.



            The injured number about thirty.  For the most part they were passengers in two of the boats which capsized in the darkness before they struck the water.

            Not more than two or three American citizens, these members of the crew, were reported aboard the Hesperian.  Queenstown despatches today say that no Americans were injured.  The American Embassy thus far has received only brief despatches relating to the attack on the liner.

            All the passengers landed at Queenstown are reported to be unanimous in their declaration that the Hesperian was attacked without warning.  One passenger, C.S. Blue, of Ottawa, Canada, a member of the Hansard Parliamentary staff declared he heard the cry: “submarines on the starboard quarter,” just before the steamer was struck.  Others said no submarine was sighted, that the Hesperian was ploughing along through the dusk, and that in all probability neither the periscope of a U-boat or the flash of an on-rushing torpedo would have been visible.



LONDON, September 6. – The Daily Telegraph this morning says: “The world will hear with astonishment and horror of the new outrage.  As the vessel was outward bound she therefore could not be carrying munitions.  We do not know whether more to reprobate German barbarity or to wonder at its appalling stupidity.”

            “What are we to make of criminal folly like this?’ asked the Telegraph, “and what sort of commentary does the sinking of the Hesperian suggest to the specious communications of Ambassador von Bernstorff to Secretary of State Lansing?  In view of the fact that the Hesperian is clearly a liner in the strictest interpretation of the phrase, the outrage affords a salient and damning illustration of the German method of conducting negotiations with neutral powers.”

            “The outrage,” says the Times, “emphasizes the difficulty of supposing that the pledges of Ambassador von Bernstorff’s note marked even the beginning of the end of Germany’s submarine campaign and the shock of the attack on the Hesperian can nowhere be received with a greater sense of disillusionment than in Washington.”



            “The Hesperian,” says the Daily News, “has thrust all minor issues aside.  Yesterday’s vital question whether Count von Berntorff’s ambiguous language intended to include or exclude merchantmen has already become a matter of no account.  Whatever the doubtful limits of his pledge the Hesperian at any rate, indisputably fell within them.  That pledge to all appearances was the last and sole alternative to war between America and Germany.  It was made public on Wednesday, and by Saturday it was ‘a scrap of paper’.”

            The Daily Express, in an editorial, takes a similar line.  Germany,” it says, “has torn up another scrap of paper.  The pirate clings to his piracy and America is again flouted.” 



WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 – Official Washington received news of the torpedoing of the Allan liner Hesperian by a German submarine with unconcealed surprise, though there was none of the grave anxiety that followed the sinking of the Arabic.  While comment was withheld at both the White House and the State Department pending detailed reports on the attack, it was learned that high officials regarded it as inconceivable that after the assurances given by the German Government last week, a German submarine commander had without warning launched a torpedo at a peaceful passenger vessel.  President Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing heard of the incident first today through Associated Press despatches.  Later cabled reports from Ambassador Page at London and Consul Frost at Queenstown announced the torpedoing of the Hesperian with the loss of about eight lives, none of them American.  Several Americans were said to have been among the surviving passengers.  The reports as made public by the State Department mark no mention of whether the vessel was warned or attempted to escape.

            The president tonight studied the brief official reports, remaining in his study all evening and seeing no callers.  Both he and Secretary Lansing took the position that there could be no comment until all details of the attack were known.



LONDON, Sept. 6. – The British steamer Cymbeline has been sunk.  Six members of the crew were killed and six were injured.  Thirty-one others were landed safely.

            The Cymbeline was a tank steamer, 4,505 tons gross, 370 feet long, owned by the Bear Creek Oil and Shipping Company of Liverpool.

            She was last reported as having called from Port Arthur, Texas, on August 13, and Norfolk, Va., on August 21, for Dartmouth, Eng.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 – The United States today ordered an investigation by the representatives abroad to determine whether the Allan liner Hesperian hit a mine or was torpedoed.  A long confidential preliminary report from Mr. Frost, U.S. Consul at Queenstown, said there is much doubt, and that it was not at all conclusive that a torpedo caused the loss.

            At the same time Mr. Frost sent a report delayed in transmission reiterating statements by Hesperian survivors that the ship was submarined.

            Under date of yesterday, Mr. Frost reported that the Hesperian sunk at 6:41 a.m. “near where torpedoed.”  He reported the rescue of two Americans, employed as stewards, Francis Dullas, of Buffalo, and Barner McMillan, of Grand Rapids.

            “Both were below when the torpedo struck,” says Mr. Frost.  He reported also that the Allan line officials believe there were no American passengers, and at the time of sending the belated report estimated the loss of lives at twenty.



            It was officially announced at the State Department that Ambassador Page had been asked to make a complete and detailed report on the actual cause of the Hesperian’s destruction. A high official admitted, however, that all information was coming from British sources, and that with the exception of two American stewards there were no American sources of information.

            In his report to the State Department today Mr. Frost settled the dispute as to whether a 4.7 inch gun was mounted on the Hesperian’s stern.  He said there was no question but that she carried this.  Allan line officials had previously denied that she carried any armament.

            The State Department announced that other affidavits are being secured from survivors and that Ambassador Page will report the British Admiralty’s conclusion.

            Ambassador Gerard, Berlin, has not yet been requested to inquire of the German Admiralty or Foreign Office concerning the circumstances of the Hesperian’s sinking.  Until the reports from Mr. Page and other officials are received and the exact cause of the Hesperian’s loss is definitely fixed, it was officially stated today that no action will be taken and no comment made.

            The presence of Canadian soldiers returning home wounded, it was stated, does not complicate the case and does not give the Hesperian the status of a troopship.



            Ambassador Page today advised the State Department that the British Admiralty refutes a German charge that the Hesperian was a warship.  “The Admiralty states,” Mr. Page reported, “that the Hesperian was sailing as an ordinary passenger liner and has never been in the government war service since the war began and that no troops were aboard except some wounded and invalided Canadian soldiers, traveling on individual tickets, just as other passengers.”

            Mr. Page added that the Admiralty had not yet made any announcement as to whether the Hesperian was torpedoed or blown up by a mine.

            From German sources came intimations that the Foreign Office, as soon as advised, would send all possible information.  An official statement from the British Admiralty is expected.

            There were intimations that Germany might pursue the course she took in the Arabic case – send formal or informal assurances, through Ambassador von Bernstorff, repudiating the sinking of the Hesperian without warning if it should develop that a submarine did the work.

            There was no indication that the Government intends asking Germany for any explanation of the Hesperian incident at least until the facts are more clearly developed.

            Ambassador Page advised the State Department that United States Consular offices and Embassy attaches, including Mr. McBride, naval attaché, were securing affidavits from both American and English survivors.

0050.0896: Hesperian Sinking

Hesperian hit by torpedo off Irish Coast, 26 passengers and crew supposed to have been lost.

Medium:  Newspaper - Text
Date:  September 15, 1915
Pages:  19
Publisher:  Family Herald and Weekly Star
Collection:  Columbia Basin Institute (0050)


hesperian german submarine steamer passengers crew torpedo vessel explosion soldiers wounded rescue wireless lifeboats injured munitions war


People arrow Carberryarrow
People arrow Chambersarrow
People arrow Mainarrow
People arrow McMillanarrow
People arrow Roylearrow
People arrow Barrearrow
People arrow Bluearrow
People arrow Lansingarrow
People arrow Lewisarrow
People arrow von Bernstorffarrow
People arrow Frostarrow
People arrow Dullasarrow
People arrow Pagearrow
People arrow Gerardarrow
Military arrow Wars arrow World War Iarrow
Transportation arrow Boats arrow SS Arabicarrow
Transportation arrow Boats arrow SS Cymbelinearrow
Transportation arrow Boats arrow SS Hesperianarrow
Transportation arrow Boats arrow SS Lusitaniaarrow


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