A survivor from the Lusitania

The Gazette front page from May 15, 1915.
The Gazette front page from May 15, 1915.

The above picture shows the front page of the Alnwick and County Gazette from May 15, 1915, and, as was customary then, it is covered in adverts.

But contained within is the fascinating account of Cyril Wallace, son of Major J Wallace, of Swansfield Park Road, Alnwick, who was one of the survivors of the Lusitania, which sank 100 years ago this month. The British ocean liner was torpedoed by a German U-boat, causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew, on May 7, 1915.

In part of his account, Mr Wallace said: “The first person I met on deck was Mrs Fife, a Glasgow lady, whose son I had promsied in New York that I would see into a Glasgow train. She was a feeble old lady, about 65 years. She clinging by one hand to the mast rope. She got hold of my arm and begged me to give her my lifebelt. For once I was a coward and would have denied her, but it was only temporary.

“It flashed across me that I was a good swimmer and might have a good chance of being saved. I gave the lifebelt to her and said goodbye, then ran along till I reached the first cabin deck. I dived overboard. My pyjama jacket worked above my shoulders and retarded me, but I turned on to my back and tore off my jacket in the water.

“I continued to swim away as rapidly as I could. While swimmimg on my back, I saw the Lusitania go down, being about 30 yards away at the time. Her first funnel fell on the starboard side, and, snapping, it just missed me by about five yards.”

Upon returning to Alnwick, he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers and was later attached to the Royal Flying Corps. It is believed he died in France in 1918.