News from 1914 Olympics's First Wartime Arrival in New York

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 5 August 1914

Cruiser Essex Sends Her a Wireless and Escorts Her Here
The Olympic of the White Star Line, which left Southampton on July 29, reached Quarantine here last evening, escorted by the British cruiser Essex. According to a passenger on the ship, the Esex [sic] got into touch with the Olympic by wireless at 9 o'clock yesterday morning and warned the liner to make all speed for this port, as the war situation was menacing and German cruisers were thought to be near.

The Essex went closer to the Olympic later in the day and accompanied her at distance until a few miles of New York. The cruiser stayed so far from the liner, however, that the passengers did not know they were being escorted for their own protection. It was only after the Olympic had dropped anchor at Quarantine that Capt. Haddock gave this information. He added that he had good reason to believe that at fewest two German cruisers were in the region of Sandy Hook.

The passengers on the Olympic, among whom were Ogden Mills, William Faversham, Norman W. Harris, James Simpson, and others of note, received no real war news until they reached Quarantine. They did not even know that the New York Stock Exchange had closed. There was much speculation about the situation throughout the voyage, but discussions ran at fever heat after the wireless warning was received from the Essex.

Of the trip a passenger who spoke to THE TIMES reporter said:

"All the way across the Atlantic we knew absolutely nothing of the war. We did not receive a wireless until this morning, and then it contained no news. But it served to excite us. All of us wondered what had happened. When we reached Quarantine the New York papers put aboard were eagerly grabbed and questions were fired at every one who came aboard. Things were even worse than we thought. We had feared much when the wireless came this morning, but we were not prepared for the news that greeted us. The only item in the news that had a reassuring effect was President Wilson's declaration of neutrality. This was praised by every one on board for its promptness and its wisdom."

The passengers presented to Capt Haddock a written testimonial, signed by Norman W. Harris, James Simpson, Robert H. Mainder, William Faversham. O. W. Drewer, Ogden Mills and Lord Nundurnholme. It read:

"Off Ambrose Lightship.
"On Board R. M S. Olympic.
"Aug. 4, 1914.
"Whereas, The voyage of the Olympic starting from Southampton on July 29, 1914, was made under difficult and dangerous conditions. We the undersigned passengers desire to express our deep gratitude to Capt. Herbert J. Haddock for the thoughtful consideration and constant care which he exercised during the entire voyage for the benefit of the passengers. He missed no opportunity to make the minds of the passengers as easy as possible under the circumstances, and each and every one of us owe him a debt of gratitude therefor. He has the heartfelt wishes of all for his safe return and success in his future command.”

On board the Olympic were Mrs. Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit Thaw. They met several times, it was reported.

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