Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
978-1-4422-1342-5 • Hardback • June 2012 • $56.00 • (£43.00)
978-1-4422-1344-9 • eBook • June 2012 • $50.00 • (£38.00)
R. Neil Scott was professor and user services librarian at Middle Tennessee State University until his death in 2012. His prior publications include Flannery O’Connor: An Annotated Reference Guide to Criticism (a Choice Outstanding Academic Title in 2002) and Flannery O’Connor: The Contemporary Reviews, as well as numerous scholarly articles.
Foreword by Rt. Hon. Lord George Islay MacNeill Robertson of Port Ellen, [Isle of Islay, Scotland], KT, CMG, HonFRSE, PC
Chapter 1: Pride of the P&O Line
Chapter 2: America Joins the War
Chapter 3: Convoy HX-50 Leaves for England
Chapter 4: Prelude to Disaster
Chapter 5: Collision with the Kashmir
Chapter 6: The Mounsey to the Rescue
Chapter 7: The Sinking of the Otranto
Chapter 8: The Families Back Home
Chapter 9: The Aftermath
Chapter 10: The Rest of the Story
Appendix 1: HMS Otranto American Casualties
Appendix 2: HMS Otranto American Survivors
Appendix 3: Soldiers Reported AWOL (Absent without Leave) from HMS Otranto in New York Harbor
Appendix 4: HMS Otranto British Casualties
During WWI, German U-boats struck fear into the hearts of sailors aboard Allied vessels traversing the Atlantic Ocean. Yet the HMS Otranto, a British troop transport ship carrying more than 1000 men, was sunk by one of its own, the HMS Kashmir, after the two vessels collided during a storm in October of 1918. Here, the late Scott, formerly a professor and librarian at Middle Tennessee State University, offers a gripping account of this calamity and the events surrounding it. After picking up Europe-bound American soldiers in New York, a series of mishaps plagued the boat, leading some to believe the Otranto was "jinxed:" days after setting sail, the ship rammed a French fishing boat, and shortly afterwards many of the men fell violently ill with Spanish influenza. Relying on contemporary accounts, Scott provides graphic details of these and the final tragic accidents off the coast of Scotland, as well as the chilling three-hour aftermath, during which time a British destroyer braved the waves and saved nearly 600 men before the Ontrato was finally shattered against the reefs. How the tragedy affected the nearby islanders (some of whom helped to rescue those who made it to shore alive) and the American families awaiting news of their loved ones provides a grim denouement to this beautifully written and heartrending story.
— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
HMS Otranto was a merchant cruiser converted to a troopship during World War I. In October 1918 she was transporting over a thousand servicemen—including 701 American soldiers newly headed to the Western Front—as part of a convoy off the coast of Scotland, when brutal storms knocked the ships out of position, with HMS Kashmir ramming Otranto. Scott, an academic librarian who died earlier this year, delivers a gripping tale based on scrupulous and accessible use of primary sources and amply quoted memories of survivors, to tell the full story of the ship, her heroic crew, and the noble work of the destroyer Mounsey in rescuing as many men as possible. VERDICT Highly recommended to all who love crackerjack sea chronicles and can bear the heartbreak; and all readers of wartime naval histories.
— Library Journal, Starred Review
In a maritime disaster that occurred one month before the WWI armistice, a troop transport, HMS Otranto, sank with hundreds of American soldiers and British sailors aboard. Discovering that an ancestor survived the catastrophe and that no complete account of it existed, the late Scott resolved to research and write the story. The ship, which escaped destruction in the 1914 Battle of Coronel, was four years later the flagship of a convoy carrying doughboys to Europe. Those on the Otranto came from Georgia. After chronicling the men’s enlistment, training, and embarkation, Scott meticulously chronicles the fateful voyage, which was beset by a hurricane-force storm. Blown off course, the convoy found itself in sudden peril of grounding on the Hebridean island of Islay. The convoy commodore ordered an emergency turn to port, but one ship turned to starboard and collided with the Otranto. Gathering survivors’ testimonies, Scott grimly narrates the ensuing foundering, burial services for the victims, and monuments to the tragedy on Islay and in Nashville, Georgia. Scott’s final work is itself an apt commemoration of the Otranto.
An MTSU librarian and author of several books, [Scott's] latest book tells the story of the collision between the HMS Oranto and HMS Kashmir off the coast of Scotland near the end of World War I while ferrying hundreds of American soldiers from New York to various British ports.
— The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, TN)
Great naval battles, terrible privation, and mind-boggling acts of heroism flow through Scott's book, which successfully blends the characteristics of a page-turner with meticulous, scholarly research. The charmed life and tragic sinking of the troopship HMS Otranto under the cliffs of a Scottish island resulted in America's heaviest loss of life at sea during World War I, but it could have been so much worse. This was one of the terrible but ultimately uplifting tragedies from which the 'special relationship' between Britain and the United States has been forged. Scott issues a timely reminder. We must never forget.
— Carl Reavey, editor, The Ileach (Islay, Scotland)
Professor Scott tells a well-researched, fast-paced story of one of the most dramatic and courageous sea rescues in modern history, tempered by the tragic loss of so many young American troops. Working with detailed firsthand accounts, historical documents, and private letters, Scott recounts a gripping and heart-rending story of heroism and horror. In the absence of public monuments to the worst maritime disaster to befall American soldiers during World War I, Many Were Held by the Sea serves as a memorial and in itself a monument to the 470 men of HMS Otranto who lost their lives on that unlucky day.
— Irwin H. Streight, Royal Military College of Canada
Scott’s book brings to light a long-neglected tragedy from America’s role in World War I and reveals the personal losses as well as the courageous actions of many. More importantly it should go far to ensure that the sinking of HMS Otranto is not forgotten.
— Naval History Book Reviews
Much of Scott’s source material is from published works, but it is evident that he scoured the major archives in the United States and the United Kingdom for primary documents. A number of photographs from his personal collection are included. Scott also provides an impressive set of appendices listing casualties and survivors. Many were Held by the Sea is a grim reminder of the inherent danger of naval operations.
Neil Scott’s monograph is a well written and thoroughly researched account of one of the final disasters of World War I.
The main characters appear to be handled fairly, the prose is clear and the narrative is complete in every way
— Naval History Magazine