Islanders mark 100 years since war ship sank, leaving more than 200 dead

An island community has paid its respects to hundreds of soldiers and crew who lost their lives when a ship sank off its coast a century ago.

British vessel SS Tuscania was carrying American troops when it was torpedoed by a German submarine in waters between Islay and Northern Ireland on February 5, 1918.

Despite efforts from the Royal Navy and islanders, about 210 of those on board did not survive.

On Monday, a special ceremony was held on the Inner Hebridean island to mark 100 years since the event.

WW100 Islay chairwoman Jenni Minto said: "Today was a very fitting local tribute to those lost in the SS Tuscania disaster.

"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.

"At the time, Islay had a population of around 6,000, approximately 1,000 of whom went to war. Sadly over 200 did not return and the impact on the community was significant.

"Our aim is to leave a lasting legacy that can be revisited by individuals and communities in the future.

"Today's event has set the tone nicely for the rest of the island's programme of commemorations."

Carrying more than 2,000 US Army personnel to join the battlefields in Europe, SS Tuscania was on its way from New Jersey to Liverpool when it was torpedoed by German submarine UB-77, sinking between Islay and Northern Ireland.

Many lives were saved, with the Royal Navy rescuing some 1,800 US servicemen.

However, around 210 troops and crew members perished, with many washing up on Islay's shoreline.

In 1920, most of the bodies of the US soldiers buried on Islay were exhumed and repatriated to the US or buried in the American Cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey.

The UK and American flags are flown as a piper plays next to the American Monument on Islay (Lenny Warren/Warren Media)
The UK and American flags are flown as a piper plays next to the American Monument on Islay (Lenny Warren/Warren Media)

However, Private Roy Muncaster's family's asked that their son and brother remained where the people of Islay buried him with respect.

The island is hosting a year-long programme of events marking the community's contribution to World War One and the loss of two British troop ships carrying American soldiers to fight alongside the Allies.

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