Articles, Lecture Series, Maritime History

Women And Children On The RMS Leinster Restored To History

Renowned, maritime historian Philip Lecane, author of Torpedoed! The RMS Leinster Disaster has just written a new book to be published by Elm Books in October to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of RMS Leinster by German submarine UB-123.

His exhaustive research over a quarter of a century has uncovered previously unknown accounts and photographs of the virtually forgotten 122 women and 27 children aboard RMS Leinster on her final voyage from Kingstown to Holyhead on 10th October 1918. Of the over eight hundred souls onboard that fateful morning, seven out of every ten would be dead by nightfall. The death rate was higher for the women and children of whom only 36 in total survived.

The author skillfully narrates the enormity of the stricken ship’s plight as background to the traumatic fates of RMS Leinster’s women and vulnerable children. And what emotionally compelling stories they are, replete with unforgettably descriptive imagery for readers to absorb and contemplate how they might have reacted in similar circumstances.

The story of fifteen-year old Gerald Palmer from ‘The Cripples Home’ in Bray en route to Doctor Barnardo’s Home in London, who was never found nor had his obituary published, is immensely sad. Twenty–two year-old Holyhead born Second Stewardess, Louisa Parry, heroically sacrificed her life assisting a woman and her child to abandon ship when their cabin door jammed shut condemning all three to a lonely death by drowning. Elizabeth Costello’s narrow escape and fortuitous rescue while unconscious from a life raft and her revival through artificial respiration and whiskey on HMS Mallard echoes with pathos and hilarity amongst overwhelming catastrophe.

Philip Lecane has managed to vividly convey the horrors of war at sea while sensitively preserving the memories of the 149 women and children of RMS Leinster for posterity. A tragedy of the magnitude of RMS Leinster involving six nationalities on a Dublin registered ship only 12.25 nautical miles (22.7 km) from the National Maritime Museum of Ireland in Dún Laoghaire 100 years ago should never be forgotten, as indeed it was for many years.

This book and its illustrious predecessor by the same author will stand the test of time and serve to revive interest whenever and wherever in the world people gather to commemorate the RMS Leinster tragedy in a dignified and respectful manner.

Richard Mc Cormick,

President of the Maritime Institute of Ireland