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LAST* SONG ON DOOMED
NURSES' REQUEST TO SHABS
Over 100 members of the crew of tlie transport Aragon, which was sunk in the i Eastern Mediterranian on December 30, with the. loss of 610 Jives, reached their i homes at Southhampton on February? 10 |'Many had thrilling and inspiring stories to j tell . of the disaster, of the wonderful brav ! ery of the soldiers, a'nd the magnificent com posure of the 160 nursing sisters on board.
The vessel disappeared within seventeen 'minutes of being struck, and one member of the crew said he attributed the swift ness of the disaster to the fact that cargo hold was practically empt3r. He said that
j the torpedo caught the vessel aft of the I engine-room department, shattering the ahaft. Had the vessel been loaded witr* ' cargo the, progress of the torpedo might j have been arrested, but as it was it crash
ed into the bowels of the ship, and sent woodwork and iron flying in all directions.
"But even then we did not think the end was so near as it turned out to be," he added. "Most of us on deck thought we should have plenty of time to get all the soldiers away. When the crash came every man was at his post of duty in a moment, arid whilst we struggled with the/lifeboats the soldiers were drawn up on the lower deck. ' \
CREW UP,, TO WAISTS.
' 'The vessel had taken a very decided list, when I tell you that some of the crew were up to their waists in water whilst they, were launching * the boats you will realise that the work was carried on under great "diffieulties. : Oue/of the lifeboats was smashed; in the explosion, but we managed tot get one set away.' It was not possible to* launch all -.the -boats "because of the ship's heavy list.' .• -
... 1^1 .shall 'never' forget the'"magnificent 'courage of the -nurses; It ' was a case of • wbmen first, but' those nurses ' would gald
,ly; have ; given up their places to the sol diers. > ;Two or . three "of them- made a pro tect as we \wero hurrying > them ' into . the boats. '• Let us take our. chance with the Tommies,'? said; one sister.;;>,but of course we! had our, orders, and the nurses were first. • They showed; no sign- of fear, and the soldiers gave them a hearty "cheer as we got thpm safely away in the boats. If the crew are proud of nothing else they pride themselves on the . fact . that 160 nursing sisters were not only saved, but also that not any of them even got her feet wet.
HOW THEY SANG !
. "The other fact that: will .remain in my memory, is the; remarkable-behaviour.'of the troops—men from all parts of the country, Northerners as well as: Southerners, w.ho seemed to • defy death. How they sang ! I have heard .the chorus, ' Keep the Home Fire Burning,' on many occasions, but I don't think I have ever heard it given with so
" And what ■ a tragedy, to think that so
many - of them went down. There are two I
reasons-for it. *In .the first • place, the ves sel sank quite unexpectedly,,,and the second reason is that so many of the men who liad been picked up by a destroyer went down when slio was torpedoed, as mentioned in the Admiralty communique." ,
, (What one of the seaman called "the last act" occupied only a minute and a half. "Suddenlj'," he said," the ..vessel gave a tremendous lurch. It.. was the spasm ot death.. At that time many; soldiers were still drawu up, at attention on deck, arid Captain Batemah, who remained on the bridge, shouted, .'Now, then,', every man for himself, and may; God help you all !' With in two minutes the great vessel had gone below, and those, who had not thrown them selves overboard were "sucked down by the
Another man, who was among the last to , leaye,.,the j^lilp, ^pi^>1thAf.xlTChett,^}}e,,pp^ai2i, gave "his'finals command• lie."dived''.'intotfre . .pater.'- f.'I 'swam hard to get clear of' the , ship,"'he said, S'but; it jwas a terrible time.
Hundreds of nien lwere iri^ the water,'and' .pieces of wreckage strown about'-in vaist '' numbers'; 1 lAlf t ei1'' -nViinrfiin;'d b&i t1 'fc/r anllong:
time I was picked up, but I think I owe my life ,to the fact that I was without boots. Many of the fellows liad all their clothes oil as well as heavy boats, and they 'must havefound it very, difficult to remain
' - TWICE' IN THE WATER. • f .
.Another- , survivor* told how- lie jumped from.' the Aragon and was rescued by *the destroyer,. only to 'find himself in the .water the-second time when that ship went under. "I believe," he > said; "that the second torpedo which sent the destroyer to the bottom; had "been saved for, tlie Aragon, be cause it was not until the - Germans . \Vert satisfied that the troopship was doomed that th<ey attacked the* destroyer. There must have been 300 to 400 men on the destroyer, for it had done excellent work in hauling men. out of the water, and some of them must _liave been■ killed or drowned as this result of thesecond attack.''
It is stated of one sailor who lost both legs in the explosion on the destroyer that on being transferred to. a trawler he only, spoke oncej'Vwhen he asked for a cigarette. Within; five minutes he died in great pain, but no complaint or murmur came from liiin. '.- '
The arrival of -„the sur.vivors among the crew had hecu anxiously awaited at South ampton; ^particularly in view Of the fact that for over a month nothing, had been known of their whereabouts. Some of them travelled all the way by steamer, but the majority came by the overland route. Amoiig the former the chief topic of con versation was the manner iii which the ship on which they travelled managed to throw off the. attentions of , a persistent submar^ ine, and thoy paid, a warm tribute to the
seamanshin and "skill which brnuwlit tVifWi I
i.safely to port.—
London "Daily Chronicle