These Thursday Doors lead into the Tower museum in Derry, Northern Ireland. The Laurentic exhibition is on there at the moment and my granddaughter had just been on a school trip to see it. It must have been interesting if she came along for a second viewing.
25th January 2017 was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the HMS Laurentic by a German mine in Lough Swilly, county Donegal. The luxury liner was carrying, what was valued at the time, £5 million worth of gold. Sadly, 350 of the 500 crew drowned and they are commemorated in a memorial in a churchyard on the banks of Lough Swilly.
99% of the gold was recovered by a British naval salvage team. But what happened to the remainder of the gold? The 1% still missing today is valued at approximately £2 million.
The HMS Laurentic was owned by the White Star Line, which was among the first of the shipping lines to fit out passenger ships with inexpensive accommodation for third-class passengers, along with berths for higher paying first and second class. On its last voyage the Laurentic was scheduled to deliver a very important cargo to Halifax, Nova Scotia, but at the time, the captain was unaware of what he was carrying. The secret cargo was a payment to America and Canada for supplying Britain with munitions and other machinery for the war effort. This was in the form of 43 tons of gold bullion, consisting of 3,211 bars. Today’s value would be in the region of £300 million. This last fatal voyage made the Laurentic famous, but not quiet as famous as other liners, such as the Lusitania and the Titanic.
Some of the items on display at the exhibition
Another interesting story associated with the Laurentic was its involvement in the capture of the murderer, Dr. Hawley Crippen, in July 1910. Having killed his wife, Dr Crippen fled with his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, to the port of Antwerp in Belgium, where they boarded the SS Montrose for Canada. They planned on crossing the border into the USA to begin a new life together. He traveled under the name of Robinson and Ethel posed as his teenage son. But they they were a bit too ‘friendly’ and their suspicious behaviour came to the attention of the captain. He sent a report off to Scotland Yard, making this the first time the new Marconi signalling device was used in a murder case. Chief Inspector Walter Dew, leading the investigation, gave chase by booking a passage on the fastest ship available, which happened to be – the Laurentic. Because of its speed compared to that of the older ship, he arrived ahead of them. Disguising himself as a river pilot, the inspector boarded the Montrose, arresting Crippen and his mistress. They were brought back to England to stand trial.
I’ll spare you the gory details of Mrs. Crippen’s untimely demise but if you’d like to read more, here’s the link on History Today.
It was lovely having you on board the blog today, why not sail on over to Norm’s for an interesting collection of Thursday Doors?