Address: 51 Vicarage Road, Hastings
Other Info: The text reads: ‘… who was going to the Gold Coast on the “Falaba” when that vessel was torpedoed. He swan for three quarters of an hour, and was picked up by the trawler “Ellen Emma”. He is a man of fine physique.’
The SS Falaba was sunk near the Pembrokeshire coast by German U Boat U-28 on 28th March 1915. Of the 242 on board, 104 people died in the incident. The vessel had come to a stop on the orders of the U-28, and the Captain was ordered to abandon the ship before it was torpedoed. The U-29 fired a torpedo before the evacuation was complete. The ship sank within 8 minutes of being hit.
The water was freezing and a number of passengers who made it off the ship succumbed to hypothermia. This puts Mr Culver’s feat into some perspective.
The sinking of the Falaba is notable for being the first unarmed passenger ship to be sunk during unrestricted German submarine warfare. One of the casualties, Leon Thrasher, was the first US citizen to die in these attacks. This incident, and the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, were contributory factors in the USA declaring war against Germany.
An excellent article with more detailed information and, remarkably, photographs of the incident both from the deck of the Falaba and U-28 can be seen here.
Published: April 1915
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