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