The Armin Grewe Homepage
Towards the end of World War I the Isle of Islay witnessed two disasters with troop ships in 1918. On 5 Feb 1918 the HMS Tuscania was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank seven miles of the Mull of Oa. On 6 Oct 1918 the HMS Otranto was involved in a collision with the HMS Kashmir and sank in Machir Bay on the west coast of Islay.

Two places on Islay remember the dead, the Military Cemetary near Kilchoman overlooking Machir Bay and the American Monument on the Mull of Oa.

A view over Machir Bay with waves coming in Entrance to Kilchoman Military Cemetary
One of the 43 unidentified gravesThe Otranto was originally built as a passenger liner in 1909 but was requisitioned as an auxiliary cruiser and troop ship during the war. In October 1918 it was part of a convoy transporting US soldiers to Glasgow and Liverpool. On 6 Oct 1918 the Otranto was involved in a collision with the HMS Kashmir, -> The cemetary with Kilchoman Church in the background another passenger liner converted to a troop ship during a heavy storm. The Otranto was badly damaged and once the engines stopped unable to navigate. With over 1000 soldiers on board it was drifting towards the cliffs of Machir Bay while SOS signals were given on order of Captain Davidson. They were picked up by the destroyer HMS Mounsey whose commander Lt Craven decided to go for a daring rescue: Due to the weather conditions the only possible option to save anyone was to go alongside the bigger ship and transfer
The cemetary with Machir Bay in the background the crew and soldiers to the destroyer. Through skillful handling the Mounsey managed to take off several hundred soldiers and crewman in several attempts while using the lifeboats of the Otranto as fenders. Still 431 people died in the disaster and only 16 managed to swim to the shore once the Otranto sank after the Mounsey had to leave for Belfast. 75 of the victims are buried in the cemetary at Kilchoman, of which 43 are unidentified. They include the cook and the captain, who has his own much larger gravestone.
Many thanks to Carl Satter who sent me a lot of information about the HMS Otranto from his research, the material has been very helpful to prepare this page.
On 5 Feb 1918 the HMS Tuscania, a troop transporter with over 2000 people on board, was torpedoed by the Germany submarine UB77 under Commander Wilhelm Meyer. Despite rescue efforts 266 soldiers drown when the Tuscania sinks 7 miles offshore of Islay, several of them when their lifeboats are struck against the cliffs of The Oa.
In 1920 the American National Red Cross erected the American Monument on the Mull of Oa in memory of those who died when the Tuscania and the Otranto sank. The memorial is inscribed with the following metaphor: "On Fame's eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread, while glory keeps with solemn round, the bivouac of the dead"
Looking up to the American Monument on The Oa View of The Oa with the American Monument
Picture of a plaque on a monument

The full text on the plaque reads:

to the
Immortal Memory
of those
American Soldiers and Sailors
Who Gave Their Lives
Their Country
in the
Wrecks of the Transports
'Tuscania' and 'Otranto'
February 5th 1918 --- October 6th 1918
This Monument was Erected by
The American National Red Cross
near the spot where so many of
The Victims of The Disasters
Everlasting Peace

On Fame's Eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread
While Glory keeps with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead

Picture of the American Monument on The Oa Picture of rocky cliffs
Further external links with information about the sinking of the Tuscania and Otranto: