07 February 2018

Islay marks 100th anniversary of the sinking of SS Tuscania

A service of remembrance was held at the CWGC’s Kilnaughton Military Cemetery on the Scottish island of Islay this week to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the British vessel the SS Tuscania.


The 14,000 ton ocean liner was carrying more than 2,000 American soldiers and crew to Europe when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Islay on 5 February 1918.

Many of the soldiers on board were rescued by naval escort vessels, however some 200 men were lost. Tuscania was the first ship carrying American troops to be sunk and represented the United States’ highest number of military casualties on a single day since the US Civil War.

Two commemorative events were held on Monday (5 February) in memory of those who died, and those who cared for the survivors. The first was on the Mull of Oa where, in 1920, the American Red Cross built a memorial on the headland overlooking the site where the Tuscania sank.  

The second service was in the CWGC’s Kilnaughton cemetery near Port Ellen where six Tuscania casualties are buried – five men of the Mercantile Marine and Roy Muncaster of the 6th Battalion, 20th Engineers, US Army.  

In 1920, more than 80 American graves from the loss of Tuscania were repatriated to the United States or moved to the American Military Cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey. However, Roy’s family decided he should remain on Islay.   

Another tragedy struck the island on 6 October 1918 when HMS Otranto, also carrying American troops to France, sank off Islay after a collision in a storm with another ship in the convoy. More than 400 men lost their lives.  

The British crew members of the Otranto are buried in the CWGC’s Kilchoman Military Cemetery on Islay’s western coast overlooking the Bay of Machir where the ship went down. The island will host a commemorative event for the Otranto on 6 October. There will also be a large commemoration in May to remember the men lost on both ships.   

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