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The Drowned and the Saved

When War Came to the Hebrides

Les Wilson George Robertson

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Paperback

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Birlinn Ltd
01 April 2018
Next morning at about 6 o'clock my mother wakened us to say there had been a shipwreck and bodies were being washed ashore. My father had gone with others to look for survivors ... I don't think any survivors came in at Port Ellen, but bodies did.

The loss of two British ships crammed with American soldiers bound for the trenches of the First World War brought the devastation of war directly to the shores of the Scottish island of Islay.

The sinking of the troopship Tuscania by a German U-Boat on 5 February 1918 was the first major loss of US troops in in the war. Eight months after the people of Islay had buried more than 200 Tuscania dead, the armed merchant cruiser Otranto collided with another troopship during a terrible storm. Despite a valiant rescue attempt by HMS Mounsay, the Otranto drifted towards Islay and hit a reef, throwing 600 men into the water. Just 19 survived; the rest were drowned or crushed by the wreckage.

Based on the harrowing personal recollection of survivors and rescuers, newspaper reports, and original research, Les Wilson tells the story of these terrible events, painting a vivid picture which also pays tribute to the astonishing bravery of the islanders, who risked their lives pulling men from the sea, caring for survivors, and burying the dead.
By:   Les Wilson
Foreword by:   George Robertson
Imprint:   Birlinn Ltd
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 195mm,  Width: 130mm,  Spine: 20mm
Weight:   255g
ISBN:   9781780275437
ISBN 10:   1780275439
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   01 April 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Les Wilson is a writer an award-winning documentary maker who specialises in Scottish historical subjects. Among his film credits is the 30-part series, Scotland's War, an oral history of World War Two, and the 13-part series The Real Tartan Army, a TV history of the Scottish regiments. He is the co-editor of Islay Voices (Birlinn, 2016) and lives on the island of Islay. Lord Robertson of Islay (George Robertson) was born in Port Ellen, Islay. He was UK Defence Secretary from 1997 to 1999 and Secretary General of NATO from 1999 to 2004.

Reviews for The Drowned and the Saved: When War Came to the Hebrides

'a model publication... Scottish history at its best, making a local episode visible in its national and international dimensions' -- Professor Chris Whatley, Chair of the Judging panel, Saltire Society History Book of the Year (WINNER) 'A well-researched account of loss and tragedy' * Oban Times * 'excellent from every point of view - the narrative is clear and gripping, the research is of a high, indeed exhaustive, standard, and the work is imbued with an intangible but deeply felt humanity for the plight of the men involved in these two catastrophes. The description of the actual shipwrecks and of the powerlessness of mere men in face of the forces of nature at their most pitiless is magnificently conveyed, and the descriptions of the storms at sea reaches almost Conradian levels' -- Joe Farrell


  • Winner of Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year 2018 (UK)

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