Piper Isobel Ferguson will play a lament during centenary commemorations for the Tuscania at CWGC Kilnaughton Military Cemetery on Monday, February 5. Private Roy Muncaster is the only American serviceman still buried on Islay (Photo: WW100 Scotland)

Islay remembers 1918 troopship losses

Posted on centenarynews.com on 02 February 2018
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The Scottish island of Islay is embarking on a year of events to commemorate the sinking of the troopships Tuscania and Otranto in 1918, with the loss of around 700 American and British lives.

Both vessels were bringing US troops to Europe to support the Allies when they were sunk in separate incidents spanning the final year of the First World War.

Community remembrance services will be held this Monday (February 5) and again on October 6 to mark the respective centenaries. For details see WW100 Islay.

The centrepiece of the 2018 tributes will be a day of commemoration on May 4, hosted by centenary organisation WW100 Scotland in partnership with Argyll and Bute Council, honouring all those who died and Islay's contribution to the war effort.

WW100 Islay chair, Jenni Minto, said: “Every village on Islay lost men in the Great War but the SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto disasters brought the war directly to Islay’s shores.

"In addition to remembering the soldiers and crew who lost their lives in these two tragedies the Islay 100 programme recognises the contribution made by the local community to the rescue of survivors and its dedication to respectfully burying the casualties."

Tuscania, a converted liner, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the waters between Islay and Northern Ireland 5 February 1918 while carrying more than 2,000 American troops. Most were rescued - but around 200 US soldiers and British crewmen perished.

Ten months later, Otranto sank with the loss of 470 lives after colliding with another troopship on October 6 during a storm off Islay's west coast. 

Professor Norman Drummond, Chair of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, said: "One hundred years on from these terrible events, we will reflect on the lives lost as well as remembering the deeply respectful actions of the local community in caring for the survivors and giving the casualties appropriate burials."

Only one American now rests on Islay. Piper Isobel Ferguson will play a lament at the grave of Private Roy Muncaster during the centennial remembrance service for the Tuscania at CWGC Kilnaughton Military Cemetery on February 5.

After World War I, Private Muncaster's compatriots were reinterred at Brookwood American Cemetery, near Woking in southern England, or repatriated to the United States.

But a stone tower, commissioned by the American Red Cross, stands guard on the cliff tops of the Mull of Oa (at the southwestern tip of Islay) in permanent tribute to all those who died off these shores in the tragedies of 1918.

Read more about the loss of SS Tuscania here in Centenary News.

Source: WW100 Scotland; WW100 Islay

Images courtesy of WW100 Scotland

Posted by: CN Editorial Team