Falaba steward

J

Jane O'Sullivan

Guest
My great uncle Frank Ellison was a steward on the SS Falaba. My father was always told that he was one of the first people to be shot in the sea by the Germans and that his cuff link was shot into his body - does anyone have any info on Frank?
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Jane,

I don't know a great deal about your great uncle - except for his age, and that he was listed as the chief saloon steward on the Falaba. I am afraid my research up to date has been mostly about the passengers on the Falaba.

However, I have read quite a number of accounts by survivors, and none of them mention the crew of the submarine shooting passengers. The crew did surface and were accused by survivors of jeering and shouting taunts at those struggling in the sea.

I can also tell you that a second torpedo was fired at the Falaba. This happened as the ship was being evacuated, and while the ship was sinking from the first impact. Most passengers and crew had been evacuated, and a boat was being lowered when the second torpedo hit. This boat was destroyed. According to Hubert Blair, the boat simply disintegrated, and the force of the explosion threw him into the sea. The force of the blast was enough to break the ribs of another passenger, Lieutenant Toller. Perhaps your great uncle was in the lifeboat, and was killed in the explosion. That may explain the story of how his cufflink was shot 'into his body'. I must add that I have no proof of this, it is just a thought that occurred to me.

I hope this helps
Craig
 
J

Jane O'Sullivan

Guest
Craig & Michael - thankyou so much for this. It is interesting to hear that he was the Chief Saloon Steward - his marriage certificate from 1913 simply states that he was a steward. I think the theory about the 2nd torpedo would certainly make sense. Frank left no direct descendents so I am so pleased to have found out about him. I hope to visit the Tower Hill memorial where he is remembered. One other thing - do you know how I would go about obtaining his death certificate - would it have been registered in Liverpool do you think or elsewhere? Many thanks again for your help.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Jane,

The National Archives at Kew have records of deaths at sea. BT99/3146 is the record for the Falaba. Frank Ellison is listed with other lost crew members. He is also mentioned on a telegram from the Naval Dockyard at Pembroke Dock, South Wales, in a list of bodies recovered after the sinking, and that can be found in the admiralty records at ADM137/3117.
best wishes
Craig
 

Lorne W. Rae

Member
May 19, 2008
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Just acquired on ebay deutschland a photo of the torpedoing of the Falaba taken from the bridge of u-28. It shows that the sub was on the surface and heading away from the Falaba when it fired 2 torpedoes from its stern tubes. They hit simultaneously. Unless U-28 circled around again I doubt they were ever within 300 yards of any British seaman or passenger in a lifeboat or otherwise. The photo casts doubts about much of the eyewitness stories given by survivors. For example, the dispersal pattern of the smoke rising from the Falaba funnel suggests either she was stopped but pointed into a stiff breeze or that she was still underway (explains why no lifeboats in the photo). The latter behaviour may have prompted the attack. I have more research to do on this to be certain. Hope this helps somewhat to explain what happened. Lorne