I hope you got my cablegram saying I had been saved from the poor old Persia – I sent it as soon as I possibly could, as I was sure the news would be sent home pretty soon & I do fervently hope you got the cable before you saw anything in the papers, but I’m half afraid you saw the bald announcement of the Persia’s loss in the papers first. I have written as comprehensive an account as possible, & am sending it to Nell & she will send it on to you. I expect lots of people will want to see it, poor though it is. Don’t let it go near any papers or reporters please; promise me that.
Well, now it’s all over. I can only thank God that I was saved. I went over the side into the water just before she sank, & was not picked up for about ½ an hour. But I’m as right as rain now, though feeling the mental & physical strain somewhat. It was a terrible thing; & I really think I’ve had enough of this war by land and sea. Of course I lost everything, except Nell’s little miniature, which is ruined, my clothes I stood up in, & the cigarette case Nell gave me, also ruined, & my pipe!
Unfortunately my cigarette case, the silver one I had on my 21st birthday, was in the pocket of another coat I had been wearing in Malta, & my flask, money & other treasures all locked up in my attaché case. There was no time for anything, except to grab a lifebelt & dash on deck. She sank, as you have probably seen in the papers (the Reuters for the last 2 days here have been full of the “Persia” show & nothing else) in 5 minutes. 3 of the boats that got away were hacked clear by the first officer of the ship with a hatchet, the other one was launched in the ordinary way. Others were launched but either turned turtle or were overcrowded & sank. It is too awful to think about.
Poor Jack Lodwick is lost I’m afraid, & Col Swiney, & we are only 11 officer survivors out of 30 or 40! We were picked up by H.M.S. MALLOW, a mine sweeper which was out looking for mines & submarines. It was quite a chance, she picked up one of the 4 boats, & then came on to look for us. We landed here at Alexandria, & are now staying at this hotel at the P & O Co: expense of course. I have made a few necessary purchases, & we are all awaiting orders. I expect they will send us on to India soonish; I’m not keen on crossing the Mediterranean again just yet!
Don’t worry about me, I’m quite all right now. Dolly Lyell & I are sharing a room here. He is very well. He was rescued in another boat & when he saw me he said he felt so relieved he did’nt know what to do. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to see him. Of course none of us knew who was saved & who was’nt till some hours later.
I hope poor old Nell was’nt too worried. I cabled them too, & of course if they got my cable first, before the news, they must have wondered what on earth I was raving about.
It’s been raining here today, heavy thunder storms & lightning, very unusual I believe.
I suppose we shall get compensation for our loss of kit. It is an expensive job refitting entirely. Thank goodness I had’nt much on board, still one has collected several little treasures in the years gone by, & they are all gone! Also several things I had carried all through the campaign last winter in France & which I valued very highly in consequence. Never mind, I have got my life, & am more than content with having that. I will write again when I know what they are going to do with us. Tons of love to all from your loving son
Write here if you like but I don’t suppose we shall be here long but I’ll leave my address. Cox & Co Bombay will still find me. But praps better not write here till you hear from me again.
Site in French about the sinking of the Persia, with list of passengers
Memorial to Colonel Swiney, Christ Church, Cheltenham
John Lodwick’s son, born 2 months later