George Baba was born in Persia, (now Iran) in 1876. Some time before the outbreak of the Great War, he left his native land and settled in Chicago, in the United States of America, where he found work as a labourer. He was married, but nothing is known of his wife and family and it is likely that they remained in Persia.
At that time, there was a thriving Persian community in Chicago and in early 1915, disturbing news reached there of a reported massacre of Persian civilians by the Turkish rulers back home! As a consequence, nine Persians (and six others from other parts of America) decided to travel home to check the veracity of the stories.
At the end of April 1915, the nine set out from Chicago and travelled, presumably by rail, to New York, where they boarded the
Lusitania at Pier 54 in New York harbour, as third class passengers. George Baba was one of the party and he had his last ever glimpse of his adopted country just after mid-day, as the liner left there for the last time.
Her departure had been delayed, as she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia which the British Admiralty requisitioned for war work, before she could sail from the port!
Six days afterwards, six of the nine ‘Chicago Persians’ were dead, killed after the German submarine
U-20 torpedoed and sank the Lusitania, twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland and only about 250 miles from her Liverpool home port. George Baba was one of the six who died. He was aged 39 years at the time.
A member of the Chicago Persian community, Mr. Malik Hatam of 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 Persians resident in Chicago also named Baba, on the
Lusitania when she was sunk. Abraham Baba, aged 45 years was killed and Frank Baba aged 30 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.
1910 U.S. Federal Census, Cunard Records, New York Times, PRO BT 100/345, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Tragedy of the Lusitania, Graham Maddocks, Stuart Williamson, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly