Where Once They Sailed

Tragic loss on ill-fated RMS Lau­ren­tic


Jan. 25, 1917 will be etched in the minds of the peo­ple from both Lough Swilly and South­west Arm re­gion, and will for­ever con­nect the two.

he Cap­tain of the RMS Lau­ren­tic had taken shel­ter at Lough Swilly, Co Done­gal, Ire­land where four sailors who had con­tracted the spot­ted fever, a con­ta­gious dis­ease, were re­moved from the ship.

The for­mer White Line lux­ury liner was con­verted to a troop trans­port ship and was sail­ing from Liver­pool, Eng­land to Hal­i­fax, Canada when the ves­sel pulled into port. The ship was car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers and un­known to most on­board, a se­cret cargo of gold bul­lion des­tined to help fund the war ef­forts in Europe.

Ac­cord­ing to Don McNeill, County of Done­gal, Ire­land: “In the gath­er­ing of dark­ness of late af­ter­noon on Jan­uary 25th, the RMS Lau­ren­tic nosed out of Lough Swilly to­wards the open sea.” The weather con­di­tions were de­scribed as a rag­ing, full blown, North At­lantic, snow­storm. A sur­vivor of the dis­as­ter later re­called: “It was dark and bit­terly cold with a black rolling fog .... ”

The ship struck not one but two mines which had been placed in the in­let by U-80, a Ger­man sub­ma­rine.

The Cap­tain gave the or­ders to launch the lifeboats and aban­don ship. In less than 20 min­utes, the liner slipped into its wa­tery grave.

There were 475 pas­sen­gers that ar­rived at Lough Swilly but 354 pas­sen­gers lost their lives that dark, gloomy night.

Among them were 22 sailors from the Royal Naval Re­serve that were trav­el­ling to New­found­land on fur­lough. Two of them El­dred Gosse from Long Beach and Luke Smith from Goose­berry Cove were from the South­west Arm re­gion.

El­dred, born July 6, 189 to Robert and Sarah Ann (Vey) Gosse of Long Beach, first en­listed in the Royal Naval Re­serve on March, 1908, but was found to be med­i­cally un­fit for the drills.

He re­turned to the HMS Calpyso dur­ing March, 1909, where he com­pleted sev­eral more years of train­ing. Be­fore the Great War, records in­di­cate com­ple­tion of 202 days of train­ing.

Sent over­seas on the SS Carthaginian, Nov. 18, 1914, he was as­signed to HMS Vivid I naval base for the next month. On Dec. 6, he was trans­ferred to HMS Hil­lary, where he re­mained for the next year. Dur­ing Jan­uary, 1917, he served at the naval base at HMS Pem­broke I. Sea­man Gosse was granted leave to New­found­land in late Jan­uary and ea­gerly booked a pas­sage on the RMS Lau­ren­tic.

Luke, born Aug. 7, 1886, to Joseph and Martha (Spurrell) Smith of Goose­berry Cove, first en­listed with the Royal Naval Re­serve on March, 1906.

He spent sev­eral years trav­el­ling to St. John’s, com­plet­ing two months of train­ing per year at the HMS Ca­lypso naval fa­cil­ity.

He com­peted 196 days of train­ing be­fore be­ing or­dered by Royal Procla­ma­tion to re­port to the Bri­tish Ad­mi­ralty at St. John’s on Aug. 3, 1914. Join­ing fel­low sailor, Sea­man Gosse, Luke trav­elled over­seas to HMS Vivid I. His as­sign­ment mir­rored Sea­man Gosse’s. Re­ceiv­ing fur­lough for the same time pe­riod, they boarded the doomed ship on Jan. 24 at Liver­pool, Eng­land.

Both men were trav­el­ling to spend time with their young brides.

Luke was ex­cited about see­ing his daugh­ter, Vi­ola May, for the first time.

Later that night came two loud ex­plo­sions, which caused nei­ther sailor to reach their des­ti­na­tion. Two wid­ows were left to mourn the loss of their hus­bands. Luke’s daugh­ter would never see her fa­ther.

The peo­ple of South­west Arm again felt the rip­ple of death and mourned the loss of their sons. This time lives were lost not in bat­tle, but on the high seas, on a lux­ury liner, try­ing to get our boys home.

One hun­dred years af­ter this dis­as­ter, the peo­ple from Ire­land, United King­dom, and Canada gath­ered to re­mem­ber this Great War tragedy.

The South­west Arm His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, on be­half of the fam­i­lies, re­quested that a wreath be placed in hon­our of El­dred Gosse and Luke Smith. This wreath was laid at the site of the RMS Lau­ren­tic by stu­dents from Crana Col­lage, Ire­land on Jan. 25, 2017.

Sea­man Alexan­der Ped­dle was one of the best-trained Royal Naval Re­servist from the re­gion.

He com­pleted 230 days of train­ing prior to the Great War. He was on­board the HMT Dirk when UC-75, a Ger­man mine-lay­ing sub­ma­rine, fired a tor­pedo that was fol­lowed by an ex­plo­sion. His story in next week’s col­umn, Where Once They Sailed.


El­dred Gosse’s in­for­ma­tion from the ship’s ledger.


The Roll of Hon­our for HMS Lau­ren­tic


Sea­man Luke Smith of Goose­berry Cove.

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