Sunday, October 29, 2023

Surviving on the Lusitania


In 1915, the Lusitania was the largest and fastest passenger in the world. It belonged to the Cunard Steamship Company and regularly sailed between Liverpool and New York, taking about a week each way.  

Edward (known as Teddy) Bond, then aged 40, was a cabin steward on the Lusitania, having worked on Cunard ships since he was a boy, and by then, he had worked his way up (via being a waiter) to the 1st class cabin section, as had his father (also Edward) before him. Teddy had married his wife Mary in 1909, and the Bonds had, a few years before 1915, moved with their family into 29 Donaldson Street, a nice street with a Welsh chapel (now Crete Gospel Hall) at one end.


The Lusitania had nearly 2,000 passengers and crew on board. It had set off on Saturday, 1st May, on its transatlantic crossing from New York to Liverpool and, by the morning of Friday, the 7th of May, was 14 miles south of Kinsale, southern Ireland, and within a day’s sailing of Liverpool. Teddy was no doubt looking forward to going home to Donaldson Street at the end of the voyage with a good number of generous tips from his first-class passengers!


Britain was then at war with Germany, and the German submarine U-boat U-20 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Schwieger happened to be in the vicinity of the Lusitania. Just before 2 in the afternoon, Schwieger was looking through the submarine’s periscope and, from a distance of about 700 metres (770 yd), noted a large ship with four funnels and two masts, and although grey-painted for camouflage, himmediately recognised her as the Lusitania. Without giving any warning, the U-20 fired off one torpedo, and it struck the Lusitania in the forward cargo hold. It exploded, but a huge second detonation also occurred, and the Lusitania was soon listing badly to starboard (right). Within five minutes of the torpedo hitting, electrical power had failed, steam pressure was all but gone, and Lusitania’s Captain Thomas ordered that the ship be abandoned. It sank 300 feet (91 m) to the bottom in just 18 minutes after being struck by the torpedo. About 1,200 men, women and children died in the disaster. However, several people had miraculous escapes, Teddy Bond of Donaldson Street being among them. 

Teddy had ended up in the sea, but as the ship went under, he was sucked into the huge number 2 funnel as it went under the waves, along with Detective-Inspector William Pierpoint, a Liverpool police detective, and two others, Margaret Gwyer, and Harold Taylor. They were all blown out of the funnel back into the water when, at that very moment, the boilers below the funnels exploded. Although covered in soot and oil, they all escaped and were picked up by fishing boats.


Teddy spent the rest of his working life onboard ships sailing out of Liverpool and died in 1954, aged 79. 


P. S: Schwieger was killed in action on 5 September 1917. During his wartime career, he captained three different submarines, sailed on a total of 34 missions, sinking 49 ships overall.


Teddy Bond’s wonderful escape brings to mind one of the most important questions in the Bible, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?’, Hebrews chapter 2 verse 3. 


The helpless and hopeless Teddy Bond had done nothing and could have done nothing towards his wonderful escape. Salvation is just like that. It is not a matter of what we can do, but whom we trust. In the New Testament, when a desperate man asked ‘what must I do to be saved’, the apostle Paul immediately answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’. Putting your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as your saviour. The answer to our need for salvation is that ‘when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly’, Rom. 5. 6. If you do nothing about this matter, you are neglecting such ‘wonderful salvation’. If you admit that you are a helpless and hopeless sinner and Jesus Christ as your saviour, you will be saved!

Written by Howard Barnes


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