Remembering the Laurentic 101 years later

Reprinted from The Packet, January 25, 2018
by Lester Green

The HMS Laurentic in Halifax harbour. She sank after hitting a mine on January 25, 1917 off Lough Swilly, Ireland. Four sailors were from the Random area.

On January 25, 2018, the people of Southwest Arm will remember the tragic loss of the HMS Laurentic, a troop transport ship, carrying 22 sailors on leave to Newfoundland during the Great War. They were on furlough on their way home to visit their families and friends. Time however has many twist and turns. The Laurentic was about to experience its destiny.

Luke Smith

The ship struck not one but two mines while leaving Lough Swilly inlet. Onboard the ill-fated ship were four of our own young sailors. Two sadly never made it home. Seaman Luke Smith of Gooseberry Cove was eager to get home to his bride, Isabella Spurrell, who he married in May 1913. She had given birth to their only child, Viola May, shortly after he left for the war. Seaman Eldred Gosse of Queen’s Cove trained, travelled and served at the same base as Luke. He also served on the HMS Hiliary, and look forward to seeing his bride, Elizabeth Jane Butt. Their joy was short-lived. Just after leaving the docks at Lough Swilly, HMS Laurentic sank, taking both to a watery grave.

Edward John Green

Fate was kinder to Seaman Abraham Avery of Long Beach. Just after leaving his naval base at Chatham, a case of contagious fever had broken out. A telegraph was received by the HMS Laurentic requesting it to alter course and report to naval facility at Lough Swilly. Onboard were five men suspected of carrying the disease. Abraham was placed ashore along with four other sailors. Fate had spared his life. Seaman John Edward Green of St. Jones was not as fortunate to placed ashore but managed to survive that stormy, winter’s night. Robert C Parsons book Courage at Sea quotes the following words from Seaman Green who was the only conscious sailor in his lifeboat when it was rescued by a British Trawler:

“During the fifteen hours adrift my lifeboat capsized three times and fifteen bodies washed away, but the others, twenty-one in number was lashed to the thwarts and thus saved for burials after they died. The boat was kept afloat because it contained air tanks.”  Although weak and shivering he returned to the deck to help in getting unconscious men aboard.

Lest we forget this tragedy on January 25, 2018.