Benjamin Ameraiof was born in Persia, (now called Iran) in 1878. Some time before the Great War, he had emigrated to the United States of America and settled in Chicago, Illinois, where there was an Iranian community. Once there, he obtained work as a labourer.
By the spring of 1915, however, he and some of his fellow Persian nationals had heard rumours that the Turkish forces occupying Persia had massacred many of their people and as a result, they decided to return home to investigate. Accordingly, at the end of April 1915, nine of them travelled to New York, where they had booked third class passage on the
Lusitania for England, on the first part of their journey to their homeland.
Having boarded the liner, Benjamin Ameraiof must have had his last sight of his adopted country just after mid-day on 1st May 1915 as the Anchor Liner left her berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour and slipped into the North River and then the Atlantic Ocean.
Just six days out of New York, she was torpedoed and sunk within sight of the southern Irish coast and only 250 miles away from her Liverpool destination. Benjamin Ameraiof did not survive this outrage nor was his body ever recovered and identified afterwards. As a result, he has no known grave. He was aged 37 years.
Of the nine Chicago Persians on board, six were killed and only three survived.
After the sinking, a member of the Persian community in Chicago, a Mr. Malik Hatam 63, West Grand Avenue, Chicago, said of the losses on the
It is a terrible blow to the Persians in Chicago, for on those lost, we depended for news of the wives, mothers and sweethearts imperiled
(sic) at home.
In the New York Times for 9th May 1915, it was reported: -
The following cablegram was received by Ohan Stevens (sic.) of 713 North Clark Street, (Chicago) from his son Thomas, who sailed on the Lusitania with a party of twelve other Persians to visit his grandparents: “Father am safe, Son Thomas“.
Thomas Ohan Stephens was one of the three Persians who survived out of the nine that set out from Chicago.
Cunard Records, New York Times, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, Tragedy of the Lusitania, Graham Maddocks, Stuart Williamson.
Copyright © Peter Kelly