The British, American, French and Germany Navies paid their respects at sea off the coast of Islay, remembering around 700 US servicemen and British crew members who lost their lives when SS TUSCANIA and HMS OTRANTO sunk in 1918.
A ceremony was conducted on-board Royal Navy patrol boat HMS RAIDER by Reverend Dr Karen Campbell, National Chaplain of the Royal British Legion Scotland, with Captain Chris Smith of the Royal Navy and Legion Scotland’s Chairman (Charlie Brown) and CEO (Kevin Gray) in attendance. A wreath was laid by Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen – whose grandfather was the Police Sergeant on the island when both ships sunk.
HMS RAIDER was joined by warships HMS MONTROSE (British), USS ROSS (American), FS ANDROMEDE (French) and FGS LÜBECK (German) over the wreck of SS TUSCANIA for the service. The British, American and German ships provided the backdrop to WW100 Scotland National Day of Remembrance commemorative services being held on the island.
Carrying over 2000 US Army personnel to join the battlefields in Europe, SS TUSCANIA was on its way from New Jersey to Liverpool when it was torpedoed by German submarine UB-77, sinking between Islay and Northern Ireland on 5 February. On 6 October, HMS OTRANTO sank near Machir Bay, on the west coast of the island, after a collision with HMS KASHMIR.
Many lives were saved after heroic rescue missions, not least by the Royal Navy who on the fateful night of the sinking of SS TUSCANIA rescued some 1,800 US Servicemen. However hundreds of American troops and British crew members still perished – around 210 from the TUSCANIA and 470 from the OTRANTO, with many washing up on Islay’s shoreline. HMS OTRANTO itself had earlier in the month come to the aid of the French three-masted schooner CROISINE, part of a fishing fleet returning to Brittany with 37 on-board.
Rear Admiral John Weale OBE, Royal Navy, said:
“It is a great honour to be here as Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland representing the Royal Navy in this, the WW1 100 year. We are gathered on Islay to commemorate all those who lost their lives defending the ideals that have stood the test of time. To remember, not only those who lost their lives but also to remember those lives saved on this island due to the heroic actions of service personnel and Islanders. The shared sacrifices and commitments made by both the UK and US Armed Forces are particularly evident here as we commemorate the heroic actions of HMS MOUNSEY.”
U.S. General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, USEUCOM Commander, commented:
“During the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I, we commemorate America’s sons and daughters who defended peace—many of them descendants of European immigrants who came to America seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life. Today, the European and western ideals they fought and died for are being challenged in a new way.
Although attrition warfare has been replaced by terrorism, state-sponsored aggression and malign influence, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to strengthening trusted relationships, forging new ones and continuing to develop the capabilities required to meet these emerging challenges. U.S. European Command stands together with our NATO Allies and patterns to ensure a Europe that is whole, free prosperous and at peace. ”
Legion Scotland’s National Chairman, Charlie Brown, commented:
“Legion Scotland is proud to once again take a prominent role in remembering those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our freedoms. We stay true to our commitment and the words “We will Remember them” by ensuring that the sacrifice of over 700 US Servicemen and British Crew members is never forgotten.
“We also pay tribute to the bravery and selfless actions of those on board the Royal Navy Destroyer HMS MOUNSEY who went alongside the SS TUSCANIA to save over 1,800 US Servicemen who otherwise may have perished. It is heartwarming that in times of great tragedy and loss of life that the human spirit of comradeship and sense of belonging joins nations as one in the hope that peace will prevail over the loss of life.”