Bygone news: 7th May 1915 – Tom Adamson rescued from the Lusitania

News from the Macclesfield Courier and Herald of Saturday 3rd July 1915.

A Macclesfield Man’s Story of the Loss of the Lusitania


An American paper states that Tom Adamson (son of the late Captain Adamson, of Macclesfield), whose home is at 70 Leggett Avenue, Long Island, USA is among the survivors from the S.S. Lusitania which was sent to the bottom of the ocean by two German torpedoes in May last.

Mrs. Adamson, Tom’s mother, and his sister have received letters from their son and brother in which he described the sinking of the ship and his own miraculous escape.

In telling of the sinking of the ship young Adamson, who was a steward in the first saloon, says:

“We were just busy with the lunch when we got the first shot, we knew they had got us. There was a general rush for the stairs to get to the lifeboats. The Lusitania immediately listed to starboard to such an extent that it was almost impossible to get up the companionway. It was terrible to see the people trying to struggle to their feet. We did not get a minute’s notice, for immediately there was another shot, which came almost on top of the other. When we got to the boat deck, the forward part of the ship was completely under water.

I did my best to get as many women and children in the boats as I could. Captain Turner and the staff captain were on the bridge giving orders, “women and children first,” and not until the water was over the bridge did either of them desert the old ship. When they jumped into the sea, there was no further work to do, as the ship was almost completely submerged. I then jumped as I saw no one around me. As I went over the side one of the life-boats, fastened to a davit, swung over against the side of the ship, catching me in between, right across my legs, crushing them terribly. As the ship went down I was drawn under by the suction, which seemed to draw me down and down; I felt sure that my end had come, as I kept going further and further down, and was gulping mouthfuls of water. Fortunately I saw a rope which I grabbed and after several seconds was able to drag myself to the surface. The rope I discovered was attached to a lifeboat which had been overturned by the suction of the sinking ship. All the women and children in the boat were probably drowned.

I grabbed a floating box which kept turning over and over beneath me; I kept hold first underneath, then on top of the water. Looping the loop is child’s play compared to it. The water was very cold, and although I went in about ten minutes after two I was not picked up by the trawler Bluebell until after eight o’clock.

All I could see around me all these hours was nothing but human beings struggling in the water, many with lifebelts, shouting and crying for help, but none came from the shore for some time. We could plainly see the smoke from the two torpedo destroyers and some trawlers in the distance. When help eventually reached the scene those aboard had an awful job and hardly seemed to know where to start as there were poor creatures, alive and dead, strewn all over the water. It was terrible to hear the cries from the poor little kiddies, I saw quite a number just on their last effort to save themselves, but I was powerless to help them, as I hadn’t even a lifebelt to help me float with my two mangled legs. I kept hold of one saloon passenger who asked me to save him. He was terror stricken, and cried like a child. I saved the poor fellow, but it was some job, even though he had on a life belt, as each time I came to the surface after being bowled over on my box by the waves, he carried on and I would scramble to get hold of him, as the waves would toss him over too, even though he wore a life belt. I had the satisfaction of seeing him saved, but never knew who he was, as we were separated. He asked me for my name in the water, but I didn’t manage to give it to him.

The crew of the Bluebell were very kind to us, they gave us hot tea and took what clothes we had on and dried them for us. They brought us to Queenstown and I was carried ashore on a stretcher. The place was crowded when we came ashore, everybody busy attending to the survivors. It was 11 o’clock at night when we landed. A military doctor examined me, called an ambulance and sent me to the General Hospital. Besides being crushed, my right leg has a compound fracture. The left leg is not quite so bad. I expect to be able to leave here soon.”

Mr. Adamson tells of his friends who were not so fortunate as he, and were drowned, and also tells of the bravery displayed by the officers and crew of the Lusitania, who, although given practically no time in which to act, managed to launch most of the boats and get the women and children into them. The ship went down so soon that many who otherwise would have been saved, were carried down by the suction, before they could get away from the ship.



Thomas Adamson was not deterred by the sinking of the Lusitania and returned to work as a first class waiter on her sister ship, the Mauritania, for many years.


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