Thursday, June 18, 2015
Nellie Huston was one of the 1,198 people who died when the ocean liner was
sunk by a German U-boat as the liner from off the coast of Ireland and sank
within 18 minutes on May 7, 1915.
She told of her fears in a seven-page letter to a relative during the
crossing from New York to Liverpool and in it she described passengers' fear
of being attacked.
Germany had declared the seas around the UK a war zone and the German
Embassy in the US had placed a newspaper advert warning people of the risk
of sailing on the Lusitania.
Nellie’s seven-page, water-stained letter was discovered in her handbag
floating in the Atlantic six days after the sinking. It has been in her family ever since and is now being sold at auction in London.
The letter, written on Lusitania-headed notepaper, is a rare first-hand
account of life onboard the ill-fated ship and Nellie’s final words penned
the day before the sinking reveals the sense of fear.
She writes: “If it wasn’t just for the worry I could say we’ve had a lovely
Written like a diary to “My dear Ruth”, Nellie wrote about her trip each
day, including amusing anecdotes about needing a steward to help her into
her top bunk and seeing some of the distinguished first class passengers.
But the letter also hints at a more ominous atmosphere.
Nellie wrote: “I feel rather twichy [sic]. We’ve had three days on the boat
and we’re just about half way over.”
In her final entry on she said: “We’ve had a splendid passage up to
now... This morning we have all the lifeboats swung out ready for
“It’s awful to think about but I guess there is some danger.”
The line about the lifeboats was later cited in the press to help exonerate
the ship’s captain, William Turner, from charges of negligence as evidence
that they were readied for an emergency.
Nellie also mentions that the liner was crowded after taking on passengers
from the Cameronia - a ship taken over by the British government as it was
about to leave New York on - which also hampered attempts to escape.