Thursday Doors – Secret Cargo

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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.

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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.

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Image source; John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Public Domain.

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?

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About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
This entry was posted in boats, History, Thursday Doors and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Thursday Doors – Secret Cargo

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Cool photos (love the bell) and interesting history. Murder on Thursday Doors, I think that’s a first, Jean. Good job!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. msgt3227 says:

    Ships…. murder….. cannons…. ?!? Can it get ANY better??!!!!! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ianbcross says:

    Fascinating stuff, Jean

    Like

  4. Certainly an interesting museum, Jean. I didn’t know that about Dr. C. You never know what you’ll learn on Thursday Doors!

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mel & Suan says:

    Intriguing story about the demise of the ship mixed in with a murder (well not mystery though)…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Vicky says:

    Lovely! I knew little of that history, great to learn something new. I can understand why grand-daughter returned!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jesh stg says:

    Does your (beautiful) grand daughter look like you in liking mysteries? Wow, immediately i thought this story of this ship would be an awesome plot for a book that would be for a book:).
    Thank you for your comment:If you ever come this way, from Los Angeles – about midway onto Santa Barbara – is one of the most scenic roads, because from the car one can see the ocean (the whole time). That is,when everything is green!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scenic coastal roads are so lovely to travel on. If you come off the motorways in Ireland there is usually a coast road you can take, a lot slower but the view is worth it if you’re not in a hurry. 🙂

      Like

  8. Susi Lovell says:

    Great story about Dr. Crippen. My grandparents went to Canada on the Lusitania in 1912.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. slfinnell says:

    This ship sure had a colorful history. Such a tragic end.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love Dan’s comment, and I always enjoy a good mystery. 🙂 Your granddaughter is a beautiful young lady. I’m also glad I get to read more about Ireland every week on your blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting history! I’d never heard of this ship. The murderer and lover trying to get away is interesting. Might make a good TV movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Joanne Sisco says:

    Great story, and of course I had to go read the account of his wife’s murder. A bad marriage that went from bad to worse.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. joey says:

    Great post! I’d never heard any of this, and so I was relieved to learn. I was afraid I’d need to Google to appreciate it, so thank you. I read that article, because who doesn’t love a good murder story, safely 100 years gone?
    Truly fascinating. I hope they find the gold. I love that sorta thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Norm 2.0 says:

    Awesome post Jean! Some interesting detective work and some high-tech (for the times) law enforcement techniques. I had no idea that maritime law allowed for someone to be arrested and brought back to face trial while in what I assume would have been international waters. Fascinating story – I’m off to read more about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. sydspix says:

    My husband had actually heard of the boat. What an interesting blog! It is amazing what is hidden history. Even using the Marconi signaling device was fascinating. Okay, I am a history geek!

    Liked by 1 person

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