Jan, or John, Antila was born in Iron County, Michigan, in the United States of America, in 1911 or 1912, the son of Mr. Antila and Mrs Amoo ‘Anita’ Antila. Although nothing is known about his father, it is likely that he was employed as a miner in the local iron mines. He had an older brother named Carl, who was born in 1910 or 1911.
In July 1914, for unknown reasons, Jan and his mother and brother were deported from the United States of America. They arrived in Liverpool on the 7th August 1914 on board the Cunard liner
Carmania; and were to travel onward to Hull on the east coast of England to board another liner which was to take them to Hanko, Finland. However, instead of travelling to Hull, all three remained in Liverpool and boarded the
Laconia the following day to return to New York.
On arrival in New York on the 16th August, all three were detained at the hospital on Ellis Island to await deportation again. They remained at Ellis Island until they were all fit enough to travel and thus they were put on board the
Lusitania as third class passengers, in time for the liner’s sailing on the early afternoon of 1st May 1915.
When the vessel was sunk, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May by the German submarine
U-20, incredibly, all three survived, and having been taken from the sea, were landed at Queenstown. At that time, the liner was twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland and only 250 miles away from her Liverpool home port. Carl Antila was only four years old at the time.
A letter received by the Cunard Steamship Company from a sister of Mrs. Amoo Antila, writing from Oulu, Finland, in the days following the sinking, was replied to on 12th May. In their reply, Cunard stated that the Antila family departed from Hull for Hankö, Finland, on board the Finska Steamship Company vessel, Christiania. It is unknown if they actually boarded this vessel and nothing further is known about them.
UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878 – 1960, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, Liverpool Record Office, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. D92/2/8, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly