S.S. Ausonia

 

S.S. Ausonia was built as the S.S. Tortona by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson in Newcastle in 1909 for the Thompson Line. She was renamed Ausonia after being purchased by Cunard in 1911.
 
'Deaths at Sea' records the names of two other local man who died whilst serving aboard the Ausonia during the war period but who are not officially war dead.  
Boilermaker James Gallagher of 18 Anglesey Road, Walton was born at Walton. He drowned at New York on the 7th January 1916, aged 25.
Cook George Marriott was born at Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire was resident in Liverpool. He died of Influenza at St.Vincent Hospital, New York on the 9th May 1918, aged 43.
 
On 30th May 1918 she was en route from Liverpool to New York when she was sunk by a torpedo when 620 miles west of Fastnet. Forty-four lives were lost as a result of the incident.
 
An account of the sinking of the Ausonia can be found in 'A Merchant Fleet At War' (1920) by Archibald Hurd which is available on-line at archive.org
 
The Ausonia was another of the fine Cunard vessels which the enemy succeeded in destroying. In February, 1915, she had taken over 2,000 refugees from Belgium to La Pallice, being afterwards employed as a Troopship from February to May, 1916, working to Mediterranean and Indian ports. She was then returned to the Cunard Company's service, and was sunk on the 30th of May, 1918. Once before, this ship had been struck by a torpedo, off the south coast of Ireland, in June, 1917, while on a voyage from Montreal to Avonmouth. In this case she was fortunately salved, and her valuable cargo of food stuffs safely discharged. On the second occasion, while sailing from Liverpool, she was less fortunate. The Ausonia was some 600 miles west of the Irish coast at 5 p.m. on May 30th, when a torpedo struck her, causing a terrific explosion. As her Commander, Captain R. Capper, afterwards said, he saw rafts, ventilators, ladders, and all kinds of wreckage coming down as if from the sky, falling round the after part of the ship.

Torpedoeing of the "Ausonia" (from 'A merchant fleet at war')

Captain Capper who, at the moment, was at the entrance of his cabin, at once went to the bridge, put the telegraph to 'Stop'—' Full Speed Astern ' but received no reply from the Engine Room. All hands were at once ordered to their boat stations, and the wireless operator tapped out the ship's position on his auxiliary gear. Ten boats were lowered, and, within a quarter of an hour after the ship was struck, they had safely left her. When about a quarter of a mile astern, Captain Capper mustered them together and called the roll. It was then discovered that eight stewards were missing, having been at tea in a room immediately above the part of the ship struck by the torpedo.
   Half an hour after the vessel was torpedoed, a periscope was sighted on the port bow, and an enemy submarine came to the surface and fired about 40 shells at the ship, some of these dropping within fifty yards of the boats. After the Ausonia had sunk, the submarine approached the boats, and Captain Capper, who was at the oars was ordered to come alongside. Upon the submarine's deck several of her crew were lounging, laughing and jeering at the shipwrecked survivors. After enquiring as to the Ausonia's cargo, the submarine commander ordered the boats to steer in a northeasterly direction ; in callous disregard of the peril which confronted the Ausonia’s crew the submarine herself then made off northwards. 
   Captain Capper gave orders to the officers in charge of the boats that they were to keep together, and endeavour to get into the track of convoys, the weather being fine at the time. Until midnight the boats were successful in remaining in each other's company, but the wind, having risen in the night, two boats, one of them in charge of the first officer, and the other in charge of the boatswain were, on the following morning, not to be seen. Captain Capper had assembled the survivors in seven boats, and he now gave orders to the remaining five that they should make themselves fast together. In this formation, they continued throughout the following day and night, when the ropes began to part. They were also retarding progress and were therefore cast off, the boats, however, still continuing to remain pretty well together. 
   On Sunday, January 2nd, to add to the misery of their occupants, the weather became bad, heavy rain falling and soaking them all to the skin. On Monday and Tuesday, conditions improved a little, but on Wednesday a storm broke, and by mid-day a heavy sea was running, and a gale blowing from the north-west. The boats were now running before this, with great seas breaking over them and saturating everybody on board. These conditions continued until Friday the 7th, when land was at last sighted, turning out to be Bull Rock. A wise and strict rationing had been enforced, only two biscuits a day and one ounce of water having been allowed for the first two days, and one biscuit and a half and four tablespoons of water the subsequent ration. The crew were approaching the extremities of exhaustion when hope of deliverance was awakened in them. Fortunately, on sighting land, the wind fell a little, but it was another fifteen hours before the unhappy survivors were picked up by H.M.S. Zennia, an American Destroyer also assisting. Captain Capper's boat had only 25 biscuits left together with half a bucketful of water—but one day's meagre supply when the terrible ordeal ended. The little boats, it was calculated, had covered 900 miles since the Ausonia disappeared before their eyes. Under these conditions the conduct of the Cunarder's crew was of the highest order, that of the stewardess, Mrs. Edgar, of Orrell Park, Aintree, the only woman on board the vessel, being particularly courageous. 
   Special mention must also be made of the butcher's boy, Robinson. At the moment of the explosion, together with the pantry boy, Lister, he was in one of the cooling chambers, and the explosion made it impossible for the two boys to get out. Robinson had several wounds on his hips and thighs, and his left arm was lacerated. Both boys, in addition, had both legs broken above the ankle. Robinson, however, managed to crawl out on both his hands and knees and secure a board and place it across the gaping hole in the deck, thus enabling Lister also to reach a place of comparative safety. The two boys then crawled on hands and knees up two sets of ladders to the boat deck, and were placed in the boats. The doctor attended to the boy Robinson's injuries, as far as was possible, but it was not for 30 hours that Captain Capper was able to transfer him to the boat in which Lister was lying, so that he also might receive medical aid. In spite of their experiences and injuries, both boys remained calm and cheerful, and indeed in high spirits, but it is sad to record that Robinson subsequently succumbed in hospital, as the result of his injuries. 
   More, however, to Captain Capper than to any one man, was the salvation of the live boat loads due, and it was in recognition of his dogged determination and splendid seamanship that his Majesty the King afterwards bestowed upon him the Distinguished Service Cross. 
Local Crewmen lost
OBIT RANK FORENAME SURNAME BURIED or COMMEMORATED
view Joiner THOMAS ALDERSON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Boots ALFRED BIRD TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Greaser JOHN BUGGLE TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Greaser JOSEPH BURNS TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Fourth Engineer Officer LAWRENCE CURTIS TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Bellboy WILLIAM EDGAR TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Assistant Baker WILLIAM EDWIN EVANS TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Seaman DANIEL HARRIS PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL
view Pantry Steward JOHN HOLT TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Greaser WILLIAM JAMES HOPSON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Quartermaster WILLIAM KELLY TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Greaser FRANCIS KENNEDY TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Sailor OTTO LARMAN TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Fireman JOHN McBRIDE TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view 7th Engineer HALLIWELL McDONALD TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Trimmer HECTOR RONALD MACDONALD TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Scullion SAMUEL SCOTT PIPER TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Trimmer MICHAEL ROACH TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view 2nd Steward WILLIAM ROBERTS TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Scullion MATTHEW ROBINSON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Able Seaman REGINALD SMITH SULLIVAN TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Able Seaman RICHARD HENRY TRAPNELL TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Third Cook JAMES VERNON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
Other Crewmen lost
OBIT RANK FORENAME SURNAME BURIED or COMMEMORATED
view Waiter REGINALD CHARLES ADEY TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Boatswain THOMAS BARTHOLOMEW TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Bed Steward HENRY BATT TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Seaman R CARSON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Quartermaster P DOVES TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Butcher 3rd Class WILLIAM THOMAS EDMONDS TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Storekeeper FRANK GOULDING TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Refrigerator Greaser JOHN GRANT TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Sailor G GRATTON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Waiter THOMAS WILLIAM HENRY HAYES TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Steward JOSHUA JOSEPH TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Linenkeeper MALCOLM MCINTYRE MACKIE TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Trimmer MICHAEL McNAMARA TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Assistant Cook CHARLES HENRY MILES TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view First Officer RICHARD RAYMOND NEALE TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Officer's Steward ERNEST WALTON PEARSON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Assistant Baker GEORGE HENRY PRICE TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Refrigerator Greaser JOSEPH PURVIS TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Sailor CHARLES FREDERICK UPTON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view Seaman E WALSH TOWER HILL MEMORIAL
view 2nd Butcher W WILSON TOWER HILL MEMORIAL