Posts Tagged ‘first world war’

The Tragedy of the Sinking of the Lusitania

May 5, 2015

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This week marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great Cunard ocean liner, the RMS Lusitania at Queenstown (now Cobh) off the coast of east Cork. On the 7th May 1915 this once glamorous and famous ship was torpedoed by a German submarine with the loss of 1200 lives. This week the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren (and indeed great-great grandchildren) of the town will remember how their ancestors helped the injured and shocked survivors who somehow made it to the shores of their town. I recently listened to old voice recordings on the radio of people who had remembered this terrible tragedy, one of many during the First World War.

I was also fascinated to hear of the work of a modern day diver who explores such old maritime wrecks beneath the ocean. He was emotional when describing how he had seen some of the personal effects of those who had drowned, many of whose bodies had never been found. However, diving and exploring old wrecks is dangerous and intricate work, even though the explorers find it so fascinating.

I have an interesting (ex-library) book in my possession: “The Discovery of the Titanic” by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, who also dived to the Lusitania; this book shows many personal effects and furnishings which were discovered during exploration years later. Poignantly, one of the photographs shows a doll’s head lying on the ocean floor. I wonder did the little girl to whom it belonged survive? Reaching this legendary ship, the author (and diver) says became something of an obsession for him – and I can see why.

Many fascinating artefacts rest upon the ocean floor, some surviving the rigours of time and the elements but the human skeleton will naturally disintegrate. While I reflected on the tragedy of the Lusitania itself, I also thought on the diversity of its passengers.

The last survivor of the Lusitania died in January 2011 at the age of 96. Her name was Audrey Warren Lawson-Johnston (née Pearl) who was only 3 months old when she boarded the Lusitania with her parents and siblings. Unfortunately two of her sisters, Amy and Susan, just 3 years and 14 months respectively were lost. She had a little brother (Stuart: 5) who survived.

Apart from the tragedy of the children, I was intrigued by the many prominent people in public life who were lost in this terrible tragedy: the president of a company, a mining entrepreneur, an actress, a composer and conductor, a well-known assembly man, economist and engineer, the director of a steamship company, a British art dealer, an American writer, the president of a ship-building company, a playwright, Sir Hugh Lane, the renowned art collector, a fashion designer, an American pianist, politicians… the list goes on. People in all walks of life, many of them well-known, lost forever in the depths of the ocean.

Today the wreckage of the Lusitania still lies on the seafloor, some artefacts still being visible. However, of those passengers who lost their lives, many were never recovered and of the 150 victims who were buried in mass graves in the Old Church cemetery north of Cobh, 80 were never identified.

Reflecting upon this tragedy, somehow the words of Revelation 20 verses 12-15 came to mind: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

These are serious words of truth – and warning. Surely: “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom 14v12)

Just as the Lusitania maintained her Atlantic crossings, despite a war situation, leaving civilians open to terrifying danger, many people today, although they have been made aware of the eternal danger, continue to live outside of God’s grace to mankind. Eternity lies ahead of this short life. May those who read be prepared by repenting of their sins and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ to save them and may those who know Him “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1Peter 3v15)

Lest we Forget!

November 13, 2011

The following is a short extract from the end of one of my stories in “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year.” The story entitled: Wars, Rumours of War, Three Hostages… and the Prayers of the Saints (Matt. 21v22 & Matt. 24v6-8) tells of how a young woman, Annetta Flanagan from the small village of Richhill in Northern Ireland was taken hostage by the Taliban back in 2004. Many Christians in the Richhill area prayed fervently and I thank the Lord that Annetta and her two colleagues were released unharmed some weeks later…

“The dawn of Tuesday 23rd November 2004, brought that release of Annetta and her colleagues – almost a month after they were taken hostage on Thursday 28th October. The details of the release were vague – probably because no one wanted to jeopardise those who could be involved in possible future hostage situations. One of their captors is believed to have been shot dead, but the three victims were safe and well. Only those involved in this traumatic event knew how it was for them, and are able to tell their story. But from the moment that I heard that breaking news, I wanted to tell a story – a story of the great power of our wonderful Saviour, for whom all things are possible, and I wanted that story to have a happy ending. I thank God that it did!

With tears in my eyes, I looked at all types of newspapers on display that week, depicting the smiling face of Annetta as she headed home to be re-united with loved ones. A headline in one Dublin newspaper announced: “Town rejoices as power of prayer brings Annetta home.” (Irish Independent, Wednesday 24th November 2004).  Even the secular world was acknowledging the power of prayer!

It is interesting to note that during their time in captivity, three Afghan women offered to take the place of the three hostages! What a noble gesture – and yet on hearing of this I was immediately struck by the words of Romans 5v7… “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” No doubt the Afghan ladies saw the injustice in threatening to kill people who were merely helping with democratic elections. However, who would offer his or her life for someone whom, in his or her view, was evil and even deserved death? Nevertheless we read… “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5v8) The righteous Son of God laid down His life for all (1Tim. 2v5&6) in the knowledge that nothing less than this enormous sacrifice could ever redeem the human race. 

Valiant soldiers through the ages gave their lives, so that democracy would overcome the tyrants of this world.  Annually we remember the dead of two World Wars, and the sacrifices that were made. How much more then, should we acknowledge and honour Jesus, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9v6) who gave His life for the billions of souls throughout the ages, to redeem them to Himself? I have no doubt that he has spoken to souls through this and other traumatic events, and that He will continue to speak to them in the days that lie ahead – so that they may trust Him for eternity, escaping a worse situation than they have been involved in, upon this earth. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55v8&9). A short time after the event, I wrote to a local newspaper wishing the released hostages a full recovery after their horrific ordeal. My letter concluded with the words of Ephesians 3v20&21, which I feel is an apt conclusion to a story that must give God the glory. Perhaps, too, it may have even more joyful implications than we would ever have dreamed possible… “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen.”

Morning, noon and night our whispered anxious prayers,

Rose in silent anguish to the throne of He who cares.

Oh blessed Lord, we thank thee now, for thou hast said: “Believe…

For if ye are my servants… ye shall indeed receive!”