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Dyddiad: 31 Mawrth 1915


136 MlSSING.
Two Passengers with local connections

Surely the crowning crime of the German pirates in pursuance of their policy of hate, was that perpetrated on Sunday almost at the entrance of the Bristol Channel, when the outward bound Elder Dempster liner "Falaba," 1,800 tons, was torpedoed with but little chance of escape being afforded the 1260 passengers and crew. On Sunday night there were rumours at Milford Haven that something untoward had happened outside, and the local Red Cross nurses were summoned to prepare for an emergency. It was nearly 11 o'clock when the reality of the terrible catastrophe was brought home, by the arrival at the mackerel stage of the Government tug boat "Atlanta," which had taken a cargo of survivors off a, destroyer and landed them. There were but few people about except Dock and Naval officials, indeed the affair was comparatively unheard of till Monday morning and when it became known a sense of horror ran through the town. Immediately on arrival the survivors were escorted to the Bethel, when Mr Simpson and his staff had a busy time, and also at the Fishermen's Institute the rooms were thrown open to them, whilst in other places accommodation was found for the night. There were several injured in one way and another. Blankets were sent down from Fort Hubberston and when our representative looked in at the Bethel the floors were strewn with bedding and hot meals were still being prepared, 83 were lodged there during the night, the last lot arriving at 2 30 a m. The Red Cross detachment rendered splendid service to the injured and worn-out people. Six women survivors were taken to different houses.

About 9 o'clock a sad sight was witnessed when the bodies of eight men were conveyed from the Docks to the mortuary in the ambulance van, these included the captain of the Falaba, Fred J. Davies, a Lieut. Blakeney and Corpl. Wallace, R.A.M.C.

Never was a story more difficult to compose, but it appears that the "Falaba" left Liverpool at 6 p.m. on Saturday bound for the west coast of Africa, and at 1.15 on Sunday was torpedoed, sinking in a very short time. The chief officer was amongst the saved, but at the George and Dragon Hotel refused to see the reporters. Members of the crew and survivors were everywhere to be seen in the street, and spoke freely, if in a somewhat incoherent manner, of their experiences. They said that three whistles were given by the submarine as a signal for the liner to stop and get the boats out. Before this could be successfully done she let go her deadly missile, and in a short time the "Falaba" sank. The first boat was blown into the air by an explosion, some say from a second shot, the second and third boats were smashed, and the fourth got away. Several survivors say without reserve that the Germans actually laughed at them struggling against death in the waters. The story of the part played by the steam drifter, "Eileen Emma," of Lowestoft and her skipper, is worth telling. His name is George Wright, and our representative saw him in the Mackerel Market during the morning. He said that on Sunday about 12.15 he sighted a submarine and realising that she was up to mischief, he followed her in the hope of running her down. An hour later the liner came along, and realising her danger he made an effort to get closer to the enemy in order to save the steamship if possible. The Germans evidently also saw his object and when 200 or 300 yards away from the ship, fired. He saw the torpedo strike the liner, and he also was 200 yards from the submarine in another direction. The pirates stood by till the ship was about sinking, and then steamed off in a south-easterly direction, afterwards turning west. He at once commenced to rescue the people in the water and was so engaged for 2 1/1 hours, getting 116 aboard, 6 of these afterwards died, including the captain. He met a destroyer 30 miles away and transferred most of the people, and he himself came into Milford at 12.30 midnight. Other drifters also came on the scene and picked up others.

Most of the survivors left by the morning train for their homes. T


The inquest on the eight victims of the tragedy was opened at Milford Sessions House on Tuesday morning. Mr H. J. E. Price, Coroner for South Pembrokeshire, conducted the inquiry. Mr W. H. O. M. Bryant, solr., Pembroke, acted on behalf of the Admiralty, who were also represented by Lieut Com. de Crespigny. Mr R. T. P. Williams, Haverfordwest, represented the Elder-Dempster Company. Chief Inspector Morgan, Metropolitan Police, Pembroke Dock, was also present. Mr Charles Whicher was foreman of the jury.

The names of the eight victims are:—Fred Davies, Liverpool, Captain of the Falabar [sic] [sic], Thomas Evans, Liverpool, steward, J. Dawson, Lieut. Leslie Blakeney, Corporal Walter Ernest Wallace, Frank Ellison, Liverpool, steward, John Meyer, trimmer, and a man unknown.

The Coroner, addressing [sic] the jury said that the Falabar [sic] left Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, outward bound for West Africa. All appeared to have gone well until about mid-day on Sunday, when what ultimately proved to be a German submarine was sighted some 35 miles South West of the Smalls. Some sort of warning appeared to have been given, but before the people were able to get clear of the ship a torpedo was fired and the result was that these eight people, among a good many others, lost their lives.

Mr R. T. P. Williams, on behalf of the owners, expressed their deep sympathy with those who lost their lives and also with the survivors, who had gone through a very trying and distressful time. Any assistance the owners could give was at the disposal of the court.

Mr Bryant, on behalf of the Admiralty, associated himself with Mr Williams' remarks.

Evidence of identification was then given. Chief officer Baxter identified Capt. Davies, and a steward identified two of the crew. Captain Harrison, Loyal Lancs. Regiment, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Gold Coast Colony, identified Lieutenant Blakeney, who he said, was about 27 years of age. He was a 1st lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and attached to the West African Frontier Force.


Chief officer Baxter said they left Liverpool about 6 p.m. on Saturday. The Falabar [sic] was of 3,011 tonnage and outward bound for the West Coast of Africa. The crew numbered about 100. They carried 150 passengers, and a general cargo consisting of government stores, he thought. All went well till 11.40 on Sunday. The 3rd officer and witness were on the bridge. The 3rd officer said there was a submarine about 2 points abaft the starboard beam about 3 miles off. The captain was in the chart-room. They made out an English flag flying from her, then this was pulled down. The 3rd officer called the captain who altered the course and put on full speed. He ordered the crew to stand by the boats. The submarine overhauled the Falabar [sic] in 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour. She was doing 18 or 19 knots, and the Falabar [sic] was only doing 13 knots. A German ensign was run up and the submarine signalled, "Stop, abandon ship." It was quite close.


The Falabar [sic] did not obey the signal at once, so the submarine hoisted another signal, "Stop, or I'll tire into you." The captain asked witness's advice and he said that with so many passengers aboard they had better obey as they had no chance. They stopped and got out the boats. The Germans did not speak to them. Five boats were swung out. The first capsized, full of people, but they got the others away as fast they could and threw everything overboard they thought would float. The submarine then steamed over from the port to the starboard quarter, and fired a torpedo.


She gave no warning whatever. She could not help but see that the boats were not all out, and that the Falabar [sic] was still full of people. The submarine bore no number and was hardly visible, being painted the same colour as the water. All the men came up from the submarine to have a look at the Falabar [sic]. The majority were dressed in khaki. They made no attempt to help and the submarine went off almost at once. Witness stopped aboard until the Falabar [sic] sank, which was in about 10 minutes. The last time he saw the captain was when he came along and brought a lady, who he said was the last lady on board. He put her in the gig. The torpedo struck the Falabar [sic] opposite the wireless room.


There was a tremendous explosion. Witness was about 2 hours in the water. Most of the crew were English. The torpedo was tired five minutes after the Falabar [sic] stopped.

By Mr Bryant: The submarine was 150 yards off when she fired. They saw the torpedo travel from the submarine to the Falabar [sic]. He thought the torpedo killed several of the passengers. The submarine had a gun forward and one aft. He believed she submerged immediately after firing the torpedo. There were about 11 men on deck, and as they fired the torpedo they moved the forward gun off the deck.

By the Coroner: The crew were in khaki, not in yellow oilskins.

John Thomas, a negro, the chief fireman on the Falabar [sic], then identified Meyer. The assistance of the Chief Officer had to be enlisted as interpreter.


P.S. Treharne gave evidence of having searched some of the bodies, and produced papers found on Dawson and Corporal Wallace, who was in the uniform of the R.A.M.C. The unknown man was about 25, 5ft. 7in. in height, brown hair, and had no marks on him. He was dressed in a grey flannel suit and a grey overcoat. He had £10 18s 2d in money on him, a gold pin, horse-shoe shape, silver match-box, and a silk handkerchief. None of the passengers or crew could identify him.


George Wright, skipper of the trawler, "Eileen Emma," of Lowestoft, said he was steaming over the fishing grounds on Sunday with nets up. He saw the Falabar [sic] and the submarine. They were 6 or 7 miles apart. He first saw the conning tower come up about half-a-mile ahead of him. She was about three-quarters of an hour before she came up with the passenger boat. He saw the torpedo strike the steamboat. That was about an hour after he first sighted the submarine. The Falabar [sic] remained afloat about 10 minutes at the outside. Witness was about 300 yards away, and after firing the torpedo the submarine steamed south-east, and laid there while the steamer sank, when she made off south-west. Witness then made for the steamer and picked up about 50 people from the water, irrespective of those he got out of the boats. He picked up six of the deceased people. They were all alive but pretty far gone. Witness made for Milford as soon as he picked up all the people he could find, starting about 3.20. The torpedo was fired about one o'clock. There was a good sea running and it was fairly choppy. Among those he picked up was the captain and the chief officer.

By M. Bryant: The submarine made no attemp [sic] whatever to pick up any of the people, but simply steamed away. Four more drifters came up about an hour after the accident.

By a Juryman: They did not see any patrol or Government boats at the time, but met a destroyer about 25 miles out of Milford, to which they transferred some of the people.

Dennis Randleton, skipper of the Wenlock, Lowestoft, said he did not see the submarine. Some of the crew heard a report and came on deck. He proceeded to the spot and saw the small boats and wreckage, and people floating in the water. He picked up about eight, two of whom were dead. One boat, which he understood had 12 or 14 people in it, was wrecked.

Dr. Rice, Milford, said he saw the bodies that morning. All the bodies had scratches or slight injuries. None had sustained injuries that would cause their death. He should say that exhaustion following the exposure and immersion in the water caused their deaths. He should say the age of the unknown man was about 26.


The Coroner, summing up, said the jury were now in possession of all the facts of that distressing case. There could, he thought, be no question as to what the verdict should be. The ship was struck by the torpedo and as a result, from the cold and exposure, these unfortunate men met their death. As to how they framed their verdict would require some little consideration. If it were in ordinary circumstances he did not think they would hesitate to say that this German submarine had committed what was clearly an unlawful act. Here was a boat, leaving England—not going to England—which they said was the object of their blockade. An enemy's boat appeared and, without any pretence at examination, without giving time to all on board to clear away, discharged a torpedo in the most cold-blooded fashion, and if that was not piracy and murder on the high seas, he was sure he did not know what constituted such an act. Still, he thought perhaps, in all the circumstances of the case if they brought in a verdict that the deceased men met with their death owing to being struck by a German torpedo, they could leave it there. The authorities might, if they were fortunate enough to capture the boat, although they had been unable to identify it, he hoped they would mete out such measures to them as would be commensurate with the dastardly deed committed by this ship. They all deplored the death of those unfortunate people and hoped it would be brought home at the end.


Mr R. T. P. Williams said he thought he was right in saying that the officers and crew of the Falabar [sic] seemed to have acted up to the best traditions of British seamanship and the services rendered by the Eileen and the other drifters were extremely valuable in saving the lives they did. Without doubt the loss of life would have been greater but for the service they rendered.

The Coroner said they all knew that the seamen fishing out of Milford were ready at all times to expose themselves to danger and to do all they could to assist their unfortunate fellows in distress.

Mr Bryant, on behalf of the Admiralty, said he would also like to express very high appreciation of the conduct of the skipper of the Eileen and also the other steam trawlers. They all behaved in a most creditable manner.

The jury found that the deceased had met their deaths from exposure consequent on the ship being torpedoed by a German submarine. They endorsed all that had been said with regard to the conduct of the rescuers.


Mrs J. Hyde, sister-in-law of Mr W. N. Hyde, of the London and Provincial Bank, was a first class passenger on board the ill-fated liner. She was going out to Calabar, West Africa, to join her husband and did not book her passage on the Falaba. The boat was changed, however, at the last moment, consequently Mr and Mrs Hyde were unaware that their sister-in-law was on the lost liner. Their suspicions were aroused by the fact that it was extremely unlikely that two Elder Dempster boats would be leaving for West Africa the same day. Considerably distressed they hurried to Milford to make inquiries, and here found that Mrs Hyde had travelled by the Falaba, but was among the five women saved. She was too distressed and shocked to realize in what part of the country she was and did not understand how near Haverfordwest was until she was told at the station, after she had booked to Paddington. Mrs Hyde was entertained by Mrs Howell, who was able to assure her friends that apart from the terrible shock, she was none the worse for her trying ordeal.


Among the missing passengers is Mr Jack Thomas, sou [sic] of Mrs Thomas, Major House, Newport Pem., and the late Rev. Morris Thomas, L.M.S. Missionary, South Africa, and first cousin to Mr H. E, H. James, clerk to the Pembrokeshire Education Committee, with whom he had been staying quite recently. He was 25 years of age and had been employed as assistant engineer on the Nigerian Railway, and this was his first furlough home from Nigeria. He had been in South Africa for some time and once had a very narrow escape from death through a bad explosion. Mr Thomas was returning to Nigeria on the Falaba as a saloon passenger, and left Newport last Thursday. He wrote home before leaving Liverpool, but nothing has been heard of him since. He was a keen athlete, played a good game of football and was a very strong swimmer.


One of the survivors of the steamship Falaba (named Blair, an engineer) was interviewed in passing through Swansea from Milford, and said that the Germans on board laughed and jeered at them as they launched the boats. Their wireless operator tried hard to get communication with Land's End and afterwards said he had done so, and that two destroyers were being despatched. When the boats were being lowered the submarine torpedoed the vessel. Some of the boats fell into the water. The captain was on the bridge at the time, and jumped into the water and was picked up, but died afterwards.

'Liners Sunk off the Smalls.' Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph. 31 Mawrth 1915. 2.

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