File No. 763.72/2078
The Ambassador in Great Britain (Page) to the Secretary of State
[Received 8.55 p. m.]
2716. Your 2035, August 28, 2 p. m.1 Henry Christy states that he is an American citizen born in New London, Connecticut, June 2, 1869, present address, care of his sister, Mrs. George Walters, at 416 Cook Street, Brooklyn, New York; that on August 19 he was a muleteer on the Nicosian leaving New Orleans August 2 bound for Avonmouth; that about three o’clock he saw a submarine about three miles to the starboard. When about two miles away the submarine fired one shot. The crew then took to the small boats and pulled away for a hundred yards. The submarine approached to within two hundred yards of the Nicosian firing continuously. At that time a ship approached from the starboard resembling a merchant vessel which was flying a small American flag at the stern and affiant thinks, though not positive, that she had a board on the side with a small American flag painted on it.2 When the Stars and Stripes were seen the Americans in the small boats cheered. This supposed merchant vessel came between the small boats and the Nicosian and fired from the stern at the submarine. The American flag was not seen after she fired but a red and White English flag was hoisted. The second shot hit the submarine and at the fourth shot its crew jumped overboard. These men swam to the side of Nicosian and boarded her. Nicosian’s crew then boarded supposed merchant vessel which was painted grey. Some of crew from the supposed merchant vessel, whom Christy was told were regular naval men, then boarded Nicosian and hunted down the escaped submarine crew; later the naval men returned to their own vessel and the Nicosian’s crew were ordered back to their own ship and told to remain forward while the captain and officers searched ship for the [Page 529] Germans. Later Christy saw the bodies four German sailors who had changed their clothes for some found on the Nicosian. He is not certain who killed these men. At nine o’clock their bodies were thrown overboard. Nicosian was towed part way to Avonmouth and finished the voyage under her own steam.
William Roberts states that he is an American citizen, born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, March 6, 1876, now residing 2482 Clayborn Avenue, New Orleans; that on August 19 he was a muleteer on the Nicosian; that the latter was fired on by a submarine at three o’clock same date from a distance at first of two miles. Crew got at once into lifeboats and submarine kept a steady fire until about two hundred yards away. Shortly afterwards a ship came near; Roberts saw no flag on this ship and was not sure what kind of ship she was. When she came near submarine she swung around the bow to Nicosian and fired on the submarine a number of times, the third shot sinking her. A number of submarine’s crew were in the water, three hanging on ropes of Nicosian were shot by the vessel that had just come up. Seven of the submarine’s sailors succeeded in boarding Nicosian but three of them put life belts on and went overboard, one of these being submarine’s skipper. All these men were shot in the water. Nicosian’s men in lifeboats had gone on board the new arrival before these men were shot. The other vessel then backed down to Nicosian and some of her crew went on board her and killed the remaining Germans. Roberts witnessed this act. When they were dead the muleteers and crew returned to Nicosian; that evening the four bodies were thrown overboard. Nicosian arrived at Avonmouth the following day.