Frank Baba was born in Persia, (now Iran) in 1885. Some time before the Great War, he had emigrated to the United States of America and settled in Chicago, Illinois, where there was a well established Persian community.
By the spring of 1915, however, rumours began to circulate amongst that community that the Turks, who controlled Persia at that time, had carried out one of their periodic massacres of the civilian population. Naturally frantic with worry and wanting to check on the veracity of the rumours, nine of them, including Frank Baba determined to go back home to confirm or deny the stories!
As a result, they booked third class passage on the May sailing of the Lusitania and at the end of May they left Chicago and all travelled to New York on the first part of their journey to the Middle East.
They arrived at the Cunard berth, at Pier 54, in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May 1915 in time to board the liner, whose sailing was then delayed until the early afternoon, because she had to take on passengers, crew and cargo from the recently requisitioned Anchor Liner Cameronia.
Six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Chicago party was decimated when the
Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of southern Ireland, by the German vessel
U-20. Six of the nine Chicago Persians were killed as a result, although the liner only hours away from her Liverpool destination. Frank Baba was one of the three who were lucky enough to survive, however, and having been rescued from the sea, he was eventually landed at Queenstown. He was aged 30 years at the time.
A member of the Chicago Persian community, Mr. Malik Hatam 63, West Grand Avenue, Chicago, said later of the losses: -
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.
There were three other Chicago Persian also named Baba, on the ship when she was sunk. Abraham Baba, aged 45 years was killed and George Baba aged 39 years and John Jacob Baba aged 33, both survived. It is likely that they were all related.
In the New York Times for 9th May 1915, it was reported: -
The following cablegram was received by Ohan Stevens 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, PRO BT 100/345, Tragedy of the Lusitania, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Stuart Williamson, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly