Survival and Rescue
The Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank on Friday 7th May 1915 off the southwest coast of Ireland. There were 1959 passengers and crew on board, of these only 764 survived. In all 289 bodies were recovered and 169 of these were laid to rest in the Old Church Cemetery, in Queenstown (now Cobh), Co. Cork.
A small exhibit shows the part played by local man, Thomas Brierley, Captain of the tug Flying Fish in the rescue of victims of the Lusitania disaster.
Captain Thomas Brierly and his pipes
There are many poignant stories about those who survived this tragedy. One such story is that of the Mitchell family, from Ballylesson - located between Belfast and Lisburn in Northern Ireland.
Walter Mitchell was returning to Ireland after living and working in America for almost two and a half years. Travelling on board with him were his wife Nettie (Moore), his 9-month old son Walter and his wife's brother, John Moore. When the ship was struck by a torpedo Walter and Nettie had finished lunch and returned to their cabin where their son was being cared for by a stewardess.
As the ship sank Walter, holding his young son in his arms, and Nettie found themselves in the water, clinging to a capsized lifeboat. The baby died from exposure and soon afterwards Walter slipped away when he could no longer hold on. Walter's body was found and taken to Queenstown and from there it was returned to their home town of Ballylesson, for burial with his family. The baby's body was never recovered.
Nettie & Walter Moore & Baby
Walter Mitchell & Baby
When the Lusitania sank Nettie's brother, John Moore, also found himself in the water clinging onto the keel of an upturned boat. He was rescued by a tugboat and brought to Queenstown. On arrival he searched for his sister and her family. It is said that he found Nettie among the dead on the quayside. He noticed that her eyelid fluttered and miraculously he was able to resuscitate her.
Nettie returned to Ballylesson and went on to become a midwife and to marry again and have two sons. This story of her survival was told to Cobh Museum by her granddaughter, Coleen Frew.
Copyright Cobh Museum 2012