File No. 841.857L97/27
The Consul at Cork ( Frost ) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 24.]
Sir: I have the honor to submit a brief review of the Lusitania situation up to midday of this day, unrevised and in haste to avail of to-morrow’s American mail boat from Liverpool.
At 3 p. m. on Friday, the 7th instant, we noticed tugs leaving the harbor, and almost immediately a street rumor confirmed our conjecture that the Lusitania was injured. The Cunard Company admitted on the telephone that it appeared probable that the vessel [Page 410] was sunk or sinking, and the Admiralty stated positively that it was gone. As the rescue crafts, all tugs and small trawlers, probably none over 50 tons register, had no wireless, no news could be had until they returned. Land observers at the Old Head of Kin-sale could not report effectively on a disaster ten miles out at sea, but stated that about twenty boats were floating. This statement I telegraphed to the Consul General, with the fact that the sinking occurred twenty-three minutes after the torpedoing, and that the survivors would arrive here at about 7 o’clock. My two telegrams to the Consul General were probably communicated to the Ambassador. At all events, he telegraphed that information be sent him direct, and this has ever since been done. I cabled the Department at about 6 o’clock, thinking it conceivable that the Consul General might not understand that I was hesitating to omit addressing the Department through him.
Meanwhile I had drawn out in gold my deposit account and had borrowed 200 additional pounds in gold. As it seemed probable that survivors, possibly the majority of them, would be landed at Kinsale, I sent Mr. Thompson, the Vice Consul, in a motor car with £100. Mr. Jenkins, Consul at Guadeloupe, detailed at Dublin, telephoned to know if he should come to Queenstown, and I urged him to do so at once.
At 8.10 the first tender with survivors arrived at the Cunard Wharf, Queenstown, with 134 survivors. These were ushered into the rear rooms of the Cunard offices, in no order, and their names were taken by volunteer members of the Cunard and customs staff, three or four in all. At first nationalities were not recorded, but I at once asked that they be so, and thenceforth I referred to each list from time to time as it was built up, and drew off the names of Americans. I also mingled among the survivors, who were wholly unmarshalled, and endeavored to locate Americans. The Cunard officials were also asked to direct all Americans to me or to the Consulate, where Mr. Dawson was in charge; but though this request was made repeatedly they were sufficiently flustered to pay little heed to it. There was infinite good heart displayed, but almost no organization, except on the part of the naval and military authorities. The tenders kept appearing at the wharf in close succession, and the Cunard offices remained thronged, although the survivors were taken out to hotels and lodging houses rapidly. I was at the wharf as each vessel arrived, and took the numbers from the captains, building up a total by one o’clock of over 600 survivors. The lists and figures thus built up I transmitted by wire in instalments to the Ambassador and Department. Mr. Thompson had found nothing of significance at Kinsale, and returned about 10 o’clock and aided. Every survivor was informed that clothing and lodging were provided for him, and was assured that funds would be loaned him—this last applying to Americans only. Nevertheless, I know that one or two cablegrams were sent by survivors stating hysterically that they were destitute, etc. As a matter of fact, most of them were fed and placed in bed without new clothes, as the morning was the proper time for that. The names as drawn from the volunteer lists were not always spelled correctly, and as the survivors rapidly left Queenstown, they cannot be checked up here at this time.[Page 411]
On Saturday morning, with the aid of Mr. Jenkins, then arrived, the Consulate was busy loaning money and taking details as far as possible. We tried to circulate in every way that Americans should come to us before leaving; and most of them did so. We suggested that the police make a hotel census of survivors, we arranged with the Cunard details as to how transportation forward was to be secured, and began the work of identifying corpses. A good number of survivors took the 12 o’clock train, and others the 3 o’clock train; and we were not able to detach a man to take the names of those departing, but checked up most of them on Sunday morning through lists the railway prepared for us, and thenceforth kept records of departing American survivors with addresses as far as possible.
We found it very difficult to secure an embalmer, but secured a professor from the University College Medical School, and he was at work before evening, and has been constantly at work since. The remains of Messrs. Frohman, Pearson, and other identified American dead of importance—now thirteen in all [sic]. The expense is £20 each, but in a number of cases the payment is guaranteed, and probably no expense will ultimately fall on the Department. American remains in the cases of which embalming did not seem warranted are being encased in lead for safe shipment, at a cost of £15 each—now six in all. As it was planned to bury unidentified dead on Sunday, there was danger that some Americans would be buried, and in large pits from which disinterment would be difficult. Accordingly it occurred to Mr. Jenkins to see that photographs were taken of all bodies before burial, and this he was able to effect, to the benefit of both nationalities. The burial in three large pits, however, took place, though delayed until Monday; and disinterment will be very awkward if identification transpires from photographs.
On Sunday noon Captains Castle and Miller, detached by the Embassy arrived; and they have been aiding constantly in visiting ill or incapacitated Americans, dealing with specific cases, etc. They represented the United States in the funeral procession for unidentified dead on Monday afternoon. On instructions from Department we are securing statements of survivors, but this has been secondary to relief of need and quieting uncertainty. About eleven intelligent statements have been secured; the two cabled are not altogether up to the average. They will be forwarded later.
On Sunday afternoon the two captains and Mr. Jenkins and myself paid a call upon Vice Admiral Sir Charles Coke, in command in South Ireland, and he read us the wireless messages sent to Captain Turner of the Lusitania on the 7th. The regular warning signal which has been sent all ships approaching the British Isles for some weeks or months past was sent, instructing to keep away from headlands, etc. This was almost routine. It was supplemented by two messages between 12.30 and 2 o’clock, one reporting submarines in south Irish Channel, 100 miles ahead, and one reporting a submarine off Cape Clear, 20 miles behind the ship. Bare facts only. No instruction or interpretation. It is true that Turner should have kept farther out; but to my mind it seemed that the Admiralty had by no means done their full duty by him.
As to the sinking of the ship, it appears that no warning was given. The torpedo hit amidships starboard, and the ship listed [Page 412] because of the longitudinal warship-character bulkheads, the port air spaces remaining intact. Later she righted. The sinking was in 60 fathoms, and Turner thinks her nose touched bottom before her stern disappeared, accounting for slight suction. Second torpedo dubious; probably boiler explosion. Sinking took eighteen minutes; occurred 2.23. Newspaper accounts of New York World and Tribune probably very good, as they have had good men here.
The search for floating bodies has been wretchedly managed, in my judgment. An Admiralty tug was cruising around the scene till midnight Friday night, rather ineffectively, as she returned with neither news nor bodies. No other vessel was sent until Saturday midnight, when a Cunard tug went out, but turned back after a few hours, and as I understand it did not reach the scene at all. Admiralty patrol boats pass not far from the scene, and are ordered to look out, but not to leave their beats. No other vessel was sent out until Monday at 4 p. m., when I represented to Cunard that diplomatic intervention would result if immediate steps were not taken. They then chartered a Dutch tug and sent her out. She is due shortly and has some bodies on board, but not many—perhaps a dozen. No other search of the scene is contemplated; and I have wired both the Department and the Ambassador twice on the subject. The Cunard people and the Admiralty each appear willing to shift responsibility to the other. The Admiralty protests that all their vessels are busy on regular patrols, though to my mind the importance of searching for the twelve hundred odd bodies would justify some modification of the patrols. The Cunard claim that the Admiralty has direction of all available vessels, and even Liverpool could not send an effective boat. I am frankly much dissatisfied with the course of events in this respect, but hope that through the Ambassador action may be taken. I do not feel called upon to adopt abrupt tone with Admiralty, as it would impair my usefulness here later, but have tried to give vigorous hints. I do not know whether fear, indifference, or financial considerations are controlling.
As I said before, there has been good will in abundance, but many human mistakes have been made—some, of course, by this Consulate, so that perhaps I should not criticize. I fear this despatch is of little service, but no opportunity for a better is present at this time.
I have [etc.]