File No. 841.857/26
The Consul at Cork (Frost) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 7, 1915, 8 a. m.]
Joint affidavit of the officers of the Allan Line S. S. Hesperian as to the torpedoing of the vessel on September 4, 1915.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Cork (Queenstown), Ireland.
We the officers of the S. S. Hesperian whose names are subscribed hereunto being duly placed upon oath do aver and say as follows:
The Hesperian left Liverpool at 7 p. m. on Friday, September 3, 1915, and by 8.30 p. m., Greenwich time, on September 4, had reached approximately latitude 50 north, longitude 10 west, about 88 miles southwest of the Fastnet Rock off the southern coast of Ireland. The sky was clear and the ocean perfectly calm, dusk was closing down rapidly at the time last specified and explosion took place against the starboard bow No. 2 bulkhead admitting the water into compartments Nos. 1 and 2, so that the vessel at once commenced to settle by the bow on an even keel sinking about ten feet within four hours. The explosion occurred within about eight feet of the surface and threw a mass of water and steel fragments on to the deck of the Hesperian which was severely jarred by the shock. From steel fragments preserved it is indubitable that the explosion was produced by a torpedo and not by a mine. The characteristic odor of high explosion was strongly noticeable. No warning of any description was received by the Hesperian and the track of the torpedo approaching the vessel was not observed by any of the ship’s officers, the present affiants. On account of the failing light it is doubtful whether the observation of the wake of the torpedo would have been a possibility. The submarine was not sighted by us either prior to the torpedoing or subsequently to it. The six-inch gun mounted on the stern of the Hesperian was painted a service-grey color and would not have been conspicuous even at short distance. It probably could not have been observed at all through a periscope. It is not possible to state [Page 535] whether the submarine had followed the Hesperian during daylight but our impression is to the contrary. Among the passengers were forty Canadian soldiers, including officers, air either invalided or in attendance upon invalided individuals. These soldiers were from almost every different Canadian division and were not organized or traveling as a unit. No American citizens were among the passengers to our best knowledge but one third-cabin steward, F. J. Pallas, was an American citizen. Only slight and transient panic or confusion existed and the ship’s boats and life-saving apparatus were in readiness and worked well. If the ship had sunk at once, however, there would have been heavy loss of life. Wireless signals, the siren and rockets brought a warship to the scene by 9.30 p. m. and two other Admiralty vessels before 10.30 p. m. but the Hesperian was not under convoy and had not spoken an Admiralty ship prior to the torpedoing.
Witness our signatures:
Wm. O. Main, Commander H. M. S. “Hesperian”
Alex Maxwell, Chief Officer
Chas. Richardson, First Officer
Wm. F. Reid, Second Officer
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 6th day of September, 1915, at Queenstown, Ireland.