30 December, the SS Persia in which Ted was sailing to India to rejoin his regiment, was torpedoed in the eastern Mediterranean at 1 p.m. while the passengers were eating lunch.
Here is what my mother wrote about it in the 1980s:
Casualties were heavy, and Ted’s name was not on the … list of survivors published. Nell’s reaction was to go up to her room and write him a long letter. ‘I know he’s all right,’ she said firmly when she came down. Perhaps the fortune teller’s prediction that ‘your man won’t ever get killed or drownded’ gave her confidence, but her sisters could not stand the strain as time went by with no news and they went to consult this same fortune teller, the gardener’s wife. Mrs Ridler put out the cards, shaking her head. ‘It’s all black, all black – ‘ ….
The photograph below was taken a few weeks earlier and includes two of Nell’s sisters, Gladys and Belinda. Left to Right it shows: Gladys Fielding, Ted Berryman, Nell Fielding, Jane Berryman and Belinda Fielding.
The sinking of the Persia was a war crime because she was a merchant ship and she was torpedoed without warning. Her most famous passengers were Lord Montagu of Beaulieu who survived because he was wearing a patent life jacket and his mistress Eleanor Thornton who drowned. She was the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot on the Rolls Royce. The Persia was carrying gold and jewels belonging to Maharaja Jagatjit Singh who disembarked at Marseilles feeding conspiracy theories that he had been warned about the attack. The wreck was discovered in 10,000′ of water off Crete in 2001 and some of the jewelery was salvaged but not the gold.