Percy was on board SS Cameronia, one of the more modern of the four ships in the convoy. Built in Scotland, she sailed the Atlantic from Glasgow to New York for the Anchor line from 1911, carrying 1700 passengers; after four years, she was refitted to reduced the overall number of passengers, taking space from both second and third-class accommodation to increase the number of first-class passengers.
We can be sure that the Cameronia’s meals in peace-time were better than those faced by the 12th and 14th Brigades: lunch today was a hash which bore a striking resemblance to the meat the men had rejected twice the day before. “It smelt [sic] like —,” said Wills. (2)
You and I know that the Cameronia was in service as a troop ship in the fall of 1916, but some printed sources state that she was in commercial service until January 1917. Cameronia was apparently requisitioned for troop service in late April 1915, because she transferred her passengers at the last minute to another ship leaving New York, while she sailed for Halifax. The new ship on which those unlucky passengers embarked was RMS [Royal Mail Ship] Lusitania, whose departure on May 1st was delayed a couple of hours by the transfer. It was Lusitania’s final voyage, for she was torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7th. The Germans argued she was a legitimate war target, as she carried munitions; Britain and the United States argued that she was a civilian craft and should not have been attacked. The death of American passengers contributed in part to their nation’s eventually joining the war against Germany.
(1) HMS Drake, Logbook. September 18, 1916
(2) Wills, Archie. Diary. 3: 26. September 18, 1916. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”