People's Stories

Everyone on the Lusitania's last voyage, including passengers and crew.

John Davies

John Davies

About John

John Davies was born in Hollingsworth, Lancashire, England in 1879.  He lived at 2 Green Lane, Blundellsands, Liverpool, Lancashire.

He signed on as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915 for her last return trip across the Atlantic, at a monthly rate of £6-0s-0d, and he received £1-0s-0d of this on engagement. Five days later, he sailed out of the River Mersey on board the liner as she left Liverpool for the last time. 

Three weeks later, on the afternoon of 7 May he survived her sinking and having been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown, he gave an interview concerning his experiences to a reporter of 'The Cork Examiner', which was published on Monday 10 May. It stated:

"They had had a splendid voyage but coming near to the Irish Coast, a sea fog sprang up and the engines were rung down for half speed.  At about 8 o'clock on Friday morning the ship was off the Fastnet, and here the haze lifted somewhat.  The Lusitania was then put to about 18 knots a hour.

About five minutes past two in the afternoon, full speed was rung for and the vessel commenced to zig zag but an instant afterwards, there was a powerful but rather dull form of explosion.  The torpedo had got home and about 1,000 lbs of explosive had entered and exploded on the port side.  'I may mention,' said the informant, 'that the bunkers are divided in sections, Nos. 1 to 4 being forward of the ship and of course well below the water line.  The torpedo entered the second section and owing to its frightful power, the divisions of the section were torn aside and the coal hurled through all the adjacent sections.

I then heard a second explosion and that, in my opinion, expended itself on the fourth bunker section.  The second section is beside the saloon entrance on the main deck, and had the entire of the partitioning division given away at once, there is no doubt but the total destruction of both passengers and crew would have been accomplished.  The vessel took on a big list to starboard, but her captain - Captain Turner - tried to swing her round so as to face land, but she filled rapidly.'

Davis (sic) and many others said that the order on board the Lusitania was perfect - there was  no-one alarmed - and the only thing that could be heard were the exclamations of surprise at the fiendish nature of victimisation of an unprotected and inoffensive people, many of whom were subjects of a State for which Germany professed friendship and esteem.  As men looked on their wives for the last time, or parted from their little children, they uttered curses on the heads of those who had given them such a bitter chalice to drink.

The parting scenes, said our informant, were worse to see even than the sufferings which came later - the desperate cry for life and the despairing cry of the drowning one.  'No more sea for me,' said Davis.  'I have finished with it.  My place in the future is in the trenches to find and punish the race of hell hounds who were responsible for the most cruel, cowardly, and most dastardly outrage on record.' His sentiments were heard and shared by others about his table and from yesterday's work, there will be many new soldiers in the ranks.

'We were ordered on deck and when we came there we found the passengers already assembled, and attempts were made by the sailors to lower the starboard boats.  These owing to the great list, would naturally swing far over the water, whilst the port boats were useless owing to their falling inwards towards the ship, and the fact that they would have to slide down the steep side of the hull.'  Davis said he got into a boat which would hold 50, and he and Wm. Colwell, a day man, helped to pick up several from the sea.  To his knowledge, five boats were lowered, and they should hold about 50 each, but the one in which he was, when a census was taken, had 64 survivors in it, 14 of them being children."

Wm. Colwell, was Trimmer William Colwell from Liverpool, who also survived the sinking and the lifeboat was probably No. 13. If it was, then both Trimmer Davies and Trimmer Colwell were later picked out of the sea by the Queenstown harbour tender Flying Fish.

"Two of the children had been separated from their father, who was drowned, whilst a mother had her three babies with her.  On pulling away a little bit from the ship, they noticed her settling fast by the head, the list to port still increasing.  At the same time, the great hull was rising into the air and assuming an angle which would soon bring it to the perpendicular, but as the stern of the vessel arose, she seemed to shorten and just as a duck dives, so disappeared the Lusitania.

'She went almost noiselessly.  Fortunately her propellers had been stopped for had these been going, the vortex of her four screws would have drawn in many of those whose lives were saved.  She seemed to divide the water so smoothly as a knife would do it.  There was no plunging or rocking and to this fact may be attributed the circumstances that many who were on the decks or hanging on to her rails as she took her final plunge were not buffeted or drawn down to an extent that might otherwise be expected.'"

Further information about Trimmer Davies’ part in the sinking was also published in 'The Bootle Times' on Friday 21 May 1915:

Mr. John Davies of Green Lane, Blundellsands, was amongst the saved, and has arrived safely home.  Mr. Davies was instrumental in rescuing a number of people, whom he took into his boat, including several children.

He was aged 36 years at the time the liner went down.

References

Cork Examiner, Bootle Times, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345.

Name:
John Davies

Outcome:
Saved

Type:
Crew

Age at time of sailing:
36

Address at time of sailing:
2 Green Lane, Blundellsands, Liverpool
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