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Andrew Kay Robertson

Civilian RMS Lusitania

(d.7th May 1915)

Andrew Kay Robertson lost his life in the sinking of the Lusitania on the 7th May 1915. Robert is remembered at St. Mark's Church, Jarrow. Consulting the RMS Lusitania crew and passenger lists establishes that Andrew Robertson was a second class passenger on the ship as a British National but resident in New Orleans, USA. So it looks as though he may have emigrated to the USA. No. Found passage to USA on board SS Caledonia from Londonderry to New York 18th March 1913 bound for SS Ceiba in New Orleans as sailor. SS Ceiba was completed by Swan Hunter Low Walker yard in April 1911 for Emerald SS Co. Belfast and moved in 1913 to Vaccaro SS Co. in Ceiba. So it looks as though he went out there in an engineering capacity to that vessel. Finished his work by the look of it and returning on the doomed Lusitania.

Andrew was born in Jarrow 1890, son of George and Helen Robertson of Jarrow. In the 1911 census the family lived at 55 Cobden Street, Jarrow. His father George(51)was a ship's caulker working at Middle Dock Ship Repairers and had been born in Kinghorn, Fife. His mother Helen(51)was also born in Gallatown, Fife. They had been married for 27 years and all 10 children survived with 7 still living at home. Andrew (21) was an engine fitter in the shipyard. George (19) and David(15) were both apprentice shipwrights. Helen(17) was the only daughter. The three youngest boys were all school age - Duncan(12) Hector(11) and Angus was 7 years old.

Lusitania Sinking. During World War I, Germany waged submarine warfare against the United Kingdom. Lusitania, which had been built with the capability of being converted into a warship, was identified as a target. The German submarine U-20 torpedoed and sank her on 7 May 1915; this was early in the war before tactics for evading submarines were fully developed. The ship suffered two explosions, the second one which could never fully be explained, and sank in 18 minutes. The Lusitania disaster killed 1,192 of the 1,960 known people on board, leaving 768 survivors. Four of these survivors died soon afterwards of trauma sustained from the sinking, bringing the final death toll to 1,196.

The sinking turned public opinion against Germany, particularly those in Ireland and the then-neutral United States. Previously the war was seen as being removed from their daily lives, but after the sinking they felt that the war now involved them. The United States joined the war on the side of the Allies (same side as the United Kingdom) and against Germany on 6 April 1917.

U20 Submarine. The SM U-20 was a German U-19 Type submarine built for the Kaiserliche Marine. She was commissioned on 5 August 1913. During World War I she sank 37 ships for a total of 145,830 tons and damaged 2 ships for a total of 2,643 tons. The largest and most famous ship sank by U-20 was the Cunard passenger ship RMS Lusitania in May 1915, that sinking being one of the major events leading up to America’s participation in the war in 1917. Later in the war, on 4 November 1916, U-20 ran aground at Vrist, near Thorsminde, on the Danish coast. Her crew detonated her bow torpedoes to destroy her the next day.

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