Friday, 5 May 2017

Luton Men Lost at Sea

RMS Arcadian, c.1910 [Wikimedia]

Saturday 5th May 1917: Two Luton men are now believed to have died when the SS Arcadian was torpedoed and sunk while carrying troops from Salonika to Alexandria.[1]  Little hope is left for Private Cyril Scoats of 70 Burr Street, and Private Stanley Glenister of Adelaide Terrace. The parents of both young men have received telegrams from Aldershot stating that they are believed drowned. Both were just twenty-one years old and were serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps.
There is better news of brothers Private Archie Holdstock and Bugler Robert William Holdstock of 4 Holly Walk Luton who both survived the disaster. Archie has written to his mother as follows:

“On April 15th we were nearing some islands, and it was fifteen minutes to six when we were torpedoed. Only just a quarter of an hour before that we had a boat parade. In this case every man has to stand by the boat he has to make for in case of alarm. We had not long had tea when the Arcadian was hit, and at the time I was fortunate enough to be on deck. A service was going on at the time as it was Sunday, and most of the men, I think were gathered round. The first thing I did when she was hit was to make for my boat, and I had a good deal to do to get through the rush. I managed to get to the boat and I met Bob. By this time, the boat was sinking fast, and we managed to lower the small boat. Everyone seemed to be making for this one boat, because other boats had turned head first in lowering, and, of course, not many rafts had been lowered. Well, our boat was nearly full when I and Bob slid down the ropes into it. In doing this I tore my hands nearly to pieces, but Bob managed to get only slight injuries. It was soon after we got into the small boat that we pushed away from the torpedoed ship. We saw terrible sights, but it has surprised me since to see the large number saved in such a short time. The boat we were in was only supposed to carry 50, and the number we had in it at the time was 70. The nearest land was some considerable way off. We were rowing away very well, taking our turn in rowing, but some, of course, like myself, were unable to because of the state of our hands. Bob was a good lad. He was rowing for a period of four hours, so you see everyone who could was eager to do something. It was just six hours after the Arcadian had sunk that we reached land.”

Sources: Leighton Buzzard Observer 15th May 1917; Luton News, 28th June 1917

[1] The Arcadian sank within six minutes of being hit with the loss of 279 lives. 

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