Navy fliers’ tribute to World War 1 US troop ship

A helicopter crew of Royal Navy submarine hunters laid a wreath to remember those lost after a US troop ship was torpedoed during the First World War.

The crew from 814 Naval Air Squadron – the Flying Tigers – flew to a monument on the Isle of Islay, in the west of Scotland.

The lighthouse-like memorial remembers two tragedies from 1918 when more than 600 people, mostly American soldiers, were killed.

On February 5, the troop ship Tuscania, a converted luxury liner, was carrying more than 2,000 American troops to Liverpool. In darkness, she was torpedoed by a U-boat around seven miles from the coast. The ship began to sink over the space of four hours and around 230 people died in the incident.

Eight months later on October 6, another converted liner, HMS Otranto, was carrying US soldiers from New York to Glasgow when she collided with another troop ship, HMS Kashmir, during a storm.

The Otranto was critically damaged and lost all power. Despite heroic efforts to rescue those onboard, the stricken ship was blown ashore and ran aground off the island. More than 400 people drowned.

The Royal Navy helicopter, the squadron’s Barracuda Flight, flew over to the Isle of Islay and lowered a couple of crewmembers to lay a wreath at the memorial.

This memorial stands as a poignant reminder of the loss of life that can be caused by submarines and reminded all of us of the importance of our work in protecting the fleet from such a threat.

Lieutenant James Shrives

Lieutenant James Shrives, one of the pilots, said: “As an anti-submarine unit we felt it was pertinent to pay our respects and lay a wreath at the monument. 

“The task was made more difficult by the soft ground. We had to abort the plan of landing-on, and instead go to our plan B, which was to winch the personnel down to the site using the rescue hoist.

“This memorial stands as a poignant reminder of the loss of life that can be caused by submarines and reminded all of us of the importance of our work in protecting the fleet from such a threat.”

The Flying Tigers specialise in anti-submarine warfare and work closely with Royal Navy frigates to protect UK waters and safeguard the UK’s submarine nuclear deterrent. The squadron is based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall and also operates from Prestwick near Glasgow.