100 years on: ship tragedy that cost 1,200 in­no­cent lives

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE - STU­ART GREER

THE an­niver­sary of the most shock­ing at­tacks on civil­ians dur­ing the First World War which claimed the lives of two Macclesfield women is be­ing com­mem­o­rated.

RMS Lusi­ta­nia was tor­pe­doed by a Ger­man U-boat 11 miles off the Ir­ish coast on the af­ter- noon of May 7, 1915, as it sailed from New York to Liver­pool.

Al­most 1,200 men, women and chil­dren died in the tragedy, with the liner sink­ing in just 18 min­utes.

Among them was Florence Wal­lace-Wat­son, 49, from Sut­ton, who was re­turn­ing home to cel­e­brate her par­ents’ golden wed­ding an­niver­sary. Cissie War­dle, 22, from Mac- cles­field, was also among those who drowned.

How­ever, two sis­ters Agnes and Eve­lyn Wild, and Tom Adam­son, a stew­ard on the first class part of the ship, who all came from Macclesfield, mirac­u­lously sur­vived the tragedy.

In the days af­ter­wards sur­vivor Agnes Wild spoke to the Macclesfield Courier, the pre­cur­sor to the Ex­press.

The sis­ters, daugh­ters of Mary and James Wild, a silk designer, had em­i­grated to Amer­ica in 1912 and were re­turn­ing home on the Lusi­ta­nia to help with the war ef­fort.

Agnes de­scribed a peace­ful jour­ney rocked by a ‘tremen­dous ex­plo­sion’ when the tor­pedo hit.

She

re­mem­bered

a stam­pede of pas­sen­gers which be­came a crush as peo­ple bat­tled to get to safety.

Agnes said she was able to steer her sis­ter to an­other stair­well to the main deck.

She de­scribed the boat ‘list­ing fear­fully’ and af­ter al­most fall­ing into the sea find­ing her­self in a lifeboat.

In a mo­ment of drama Agnes said that as she watched the ves­sel rapidly sink­ing, one of the 38 pas­sen­gers on the lifeboat re­alised that the lifeboat was still at­tached to the stricken ship.

Agnes de­scribed the ter­ri­fy­ing few mo­ments as the boat was cut free from the Lusi­ta­nia just be­fore it sank.

The sis­ters then helped row the boat for three hours be­fore they were res­cued by an Ir­ish fish­ing boat and towed to safety.

Agnes, who died in 1950, kept a re­mark­able sou­venir, a wrist­watch bro­ken as she climbed into the res­cue ship. The hand re­mained at the time, a few min­utes af­ter two o’clock, that the ship sank.

For more lo­cal peo­ple in­volved in the First World War visit mac­cles­fiel­d­reflects.org.uk.

Na­tional Mu­se­ums Liver­pool

●● The Lusi­ta­nia at dock in Liver­pool

●● A sketch in the Daily Record por­tray­ing the dis­as­ter de­scribed the sink­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia on May 7, 1915, as Ger­many’s ‘grand coup’ in crime

●● The vic­tims were buried in mass graves. This one con­tained 66 coffins

●● Florence Wal­laceWat­son’s grave at St James Church, Sut­ton

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