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Chapter 5

Help of ‘The Grand Old Lady’

At 10:30 in the evening of the 2nd September the men, now resigned to their fate, spotted a light on the starboard bow.  Great excitement followed and the signal rockets were quickly launched.  The light appeared to slow, change direction, and headed towards them.  This proved to be the “Mauretania”. The leviathan approached the tiny lifeboat, manoeuvred and eventually stopped its engines. A line was thrown to the small boat and one of the seamen placed it round Captain Pinkham.  However, the Captain immediately took the rope from himself, placed it round the second officer, Mr Gaze, who had suffered from severe burns, and insisted that he should be pulled on board the “Mauretania” first. The passengers of the “Mauretania” crowded to the rails to see the work of the rescue and cheered at this brave act.  They witnessed a distressing sight as the weak and cold men climbed up the rope ladder, most of them being deluged with the water as they made their way up the side of the hull to the deck.  The sea was still tempestuous and the small lifeboat rose and fell by as much as 30 ft and 40 ft. Captain Pinkham, not withstanding his severely injured shoulder, assisted everyone off, and as he left he cut the lifeboat adrift.

The last man was hauled aboard the luxurious liner less than an hour after the stricken crew had spotted their rescuers. The passenger liner then proceeded at full speed. From the time the lifeboat was sighted by the “Mauretania” until she was under way again only 48 minutes had elapsed, the engines being stopped for less than forty minutes. The short time the “Mauretania” spent on the diversion was obviously important to its owners, Cunard, as a special mention was made in the ‘Cunard Daily Bulletin’ published the next day. Wireless messages were immediately dispatched to England, so that the families of the rescued crew could soon hear the good news

Dr. Sidney Jones, the surgeon of the “Mauretania”, assiduously attended to Captain Pinkham, and his men in surroundings quite unlike like those the men were used to. The “Mauretania” was not only the fastest passenger liner, but also competed in every luxury to be found afloat. Fine gilded Edwardian elegance graced the public rooms. The decoration boasted a rich assortment of fine woodwork. The interior appointments included a sweeping Grand Staircase, electric lifts for first class passengers, a two storey dining saloon panelled in straw-coloured oak and featuring a domed ceiling decorated with signs of the Zodiac. The lounge was appointed with warm mahogany panelling with gilt carvings.

Whilst Captain Pinkham was being attended to, the “West Point”’s cat, “Omar”, a white Persian kitten, leapt from his overcoat. Like the men, it had also suffered from the cold and rain. It had spent most of the time tucked inside the captain’s shirt. The bedraggled cat scampered and skidded around the highly polished floor of the saloon, much to the delight of the wealthy passengers who petted and played with her. One young lady, who was much taken with the kitten, looked up at the Captain and offered him 5 for the cat. Mr. Craig, on hearing of this, offered him 20 and bought it for his little girl who was at home in Cheshire.  The proceeds of the sale were added to a collection of over 70 made by both the first and second-class passengers of the “Mauretania”.  The funds were divided among the crew of the ill-fated vessel.

The day before the “Devonian” arrived at Boston the “Mauretania” arrived at Fishguard, her usual port of call, before proceeding to Liverpool where the rescued men disembarked into the arms of their anxious families.

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