THE BURNING OF THE 'VOLTURNO' - PAGE 76
THE S. S. KROONLAND - 2ND PAGE
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The second page with data about the Kroonland, which as you know by now, was part of the Volturno rescue fleet and landed 89 Volturno survivors at New York, on Oct. 16, 1913.
Other pages devoted to the Kroonland, can be found 75, 77, 78 & 79.
THE FINE U.S.S. KROONLAND NAVY SITE
Do visit the U.S.S. Kroonland website maintained by the Naval Historical Centre - Department of the Navy of Washington, DC. It covers primarily the period of February 18, 1918 through October 1, 1919 in which the vessel served as U.S.S. Kroonland. And has a great many very fine images from that period, available from the page you come to & the links to additional pages at page bottom. Including, as an example, no less than 12 group photographs of the crew.
And this is as good a place as any to mention a book which I believe is entitled 'WarBook of the USS Kroonland "Empress of the Seas" 1918 1919'.
It has, per an e-Bay item in Mar. 2005, 117 pages of photos & articles. 8 1/4 x 10 3/4 in. in size. I understand that it covers the early history of the ship from 1902 to 1918 & her experiences during WW1. Has a cover of dark blue cloth & was published by Rogers & Company of Chicago & New York, I believe in 1919. The inside cover title page is at left.
A rare book indeed, it would seem. A copy sold on e-Bay in Jun. 2006 for U.S. $16.76. Another copy sold in Jan. 2008 for U.S. $216.50. That's inflation! A puzzle perhaps, since a 'Buy-it-now' copy had been available for many months at U.S. $85.00, with no takers. A fine looking copy sold via e-Bay in Aug. 2008 for U.S. $71.00.
It would be a pleasure to be able to show on a separate page on this site, that book 'cover to cover' in a fully legible form. So everyone who had family aboard her might read be able to read its content. If not the whole volume, at least the most interesting (text & images) of the pages. One day, perhaps!
TWO FINE KROONLAND POSTCARD IMAGES
Two images that you will enjoy, I know. The first one, dating from 1902, appears here thanks to Dan Murphy of Pennsylvania - thank you Dan! The second is part of a Jewish Welfare Board postcard dating from the first World War. That image appears here courtesy of Harvey Frankel of Toronto, Canada who sold the item, described as being unused but in poor condition, at U.S. $7.50 via e-Bay in Sep. 2003. The centre portion, which I show you here, is, however, just perfect for this page. The stamp box says, I understand, 'Soldier's Mail No Postage Necessary If Mailed On Boat Or Dock'. I have read that the Jewish Welfare Board, in the interests of economy, used the Kroonland image also on a similar card re the Finland.
A 1925 KROONLAND PANAMA CANAL POSTCARD IMAGE
A postcard of the Kroonland passing through Pedro Miguel Lock of the Panama Canal. I have seen a few of these cards sold via e-Bay. One was postmarked April 1, 1925.
MORE KROONLAND POSTCARD IMAGES
Next, I offer a two composite images of Kroonland postcards. Re the first image, all items that were for sale on e-Bay in 2003. They are all different and each is interesting in its own way. A slightly different version of the image at top right, is available here in large size, thanks to Dan Murphy of Pennsylvania. Below are two more fine Kroonland postcard images, again thanks to Dan Murphy.
More Kroonland postcard images
THE KROONLAND AND THE EARLY USE OF WIRELESS RADIO
An early postcard of the Kroonland is next. It sold in Aug. 2003 for U.S. $13.55 via e-Bay.
While the postcard is clearly different, the vessel image is very similar to one above.
I read with some interest that the Kroonland would seem to be the first ship that used its 'wireless' in an emergency broadcast. If you click here you will see that on Dec. 9, 1903, the Kroonland, en route from Antwerp to New York, broadcast via its 'Marconi' system that it was returning to Queenstown, Ireland, with a mechanical problem - her steam tiller was smashed and her steering gear disabled. Most interesting!
Maybe you can provide additional images?
A word about Reginald A. Fessenden (1866-1932), who perfected Guglielmo Marconi's radio theory & made it actually work with more than Morse code. He (Fessenden) used wireless to first broadcast the sound of the human voice on Dec. 23, 1900. While it was only between two points 50 feet apart in the middle of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., it was the very first time it had been proven possible. And at 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve in 1906, Fessenden broadcast to astonished ships on the Eastern Seaboard the very first radio program ever. Reginald Fessenden made a brief speech as to the program that was to follow. Then a solo voice singing Handel's Largo was broadcast. At that point Mr. Stein, an assistant to Reginald Fessenden, was supposed to speak. But he couldn't utter a word! So Fessenden grabbed his violin & fiddled 'O, Holy Night' & indeed sang the last verse as he played. Next was supposed to be some Bible texts, but two others who were supposed to speak were similarly tongue-tied. Fessenden wished his audience a Merry Christmas & said that the broadcast would be repeated on New Year's Eve. And it was! And better.
The Kroonland's involvement in all of this? It was, I read, the first ship to hear that very first radio program, as it steamed near the New England coast!
Now Reginald Fessenden was a Canadian, born in East Bolton, Quebec, in 1866. The story of Richard Fessenden, 'Radio's First Voice', was written by Ormond Raby and published in 1970. The work was long out of print until the Canadian Communications Foundation republished the book in 2001. You can, I am sure, acquire a copy of the book through that Foundation whose biographical page re Fessenden is here. You used to be able to acquire it here. By all means drop me a line, & I'll help.
On Jan Daamen's site there is a list of those members of the crew of the Kroonland who received Sea Gallantry Medals (Foreign Service) re the Volturno rescue - provided by Tony Jones of North Wales.
Here, with his kind permission, is Tony's complete list. 40 names in total. Thank you, Tony!
Paul H. Kreibohm Captain G. Borrenberg Seaman Frederick Mansfield 2nd Officer (sen.) Hermann Brandt Seaman Guiliaume Wynen 3rd Officer Leon Coppens Seaman E. Hirshschfield 4th Officer T. Fischer Seaman B. Kuemmel 5th Officer Ingoff Loode Seaman Alexander Sandilands 4th Engineer Gustav Maron Seaman F. Van Hymen 1st Boatswain O. Mueller Seaman Anthon Pederson 2nd Boatswain T. Roelants Seaman E. Jobman 1st Carpenter Louis Schryvers Seaman T. Konstaninoff 2nd Carpenter P. Stobbelaere Seaman E. Boehme Quartermaster Armand Van Drom Seaman Karl Meinjohannes Quartermaster T. Wesstroem Seaman Jacob Rumberg Quartermaster Gustav Ebling Fireman J. Svenson Quartermaster G. Herzog Fireman J. Fletcher Storekeeper Alphonse Roll Fireman Arthur Ingram Bar keeper Franz Qeudnan Oiler Frederick Becker Lookout man Heinrich Schaubs Trimmer Desire Coopman Lookout man P. Timmermans Trimmer Hiacke Petrus Janssens Lookout man Henri Guelinckz Steward E. Benecke Seaman A. Reckzuigel Steward
i) I think that all of the above were probably granted the Kroonland Medal issued by the United States Congress. A now long gone Dallas Library page indicated the officer names to be: Paul H. Kreibohm, (b. Belgium, 1861, d. Antwerp, Belgium, December 29, 1938), Bernhard Anton Heinrich Kummel, Frederik Mansfield, Erik Hans Hirschfeld, & Guillaume Jean Frederic Wynen. Re the last four names, dates of birth and death were not stated. And it stated that only 39 medals in total were approved by Congress for issue. The above list is of 40 names, but maybe only 39 medals were in fact issued? A New York Times article, of Apr. 11, 1914, when located, may answer the question. What I have so far read would seem to indicate that 40 medals were, in fact, awarded. There are a few spelling differences between the two sets of data.
Any other medals will be referenced in due course, I hope. It would seem that Belgium awarded medals to the Kroonland crew, as per another New York Times article dated Jan. 9, 1914, which I also need to better research. The brief reference that I have seen reads as follows:
ANTWERP, JAN. 8. - The Belgian Government has bestowed further honors on the crew of the Kroonland for the part they played in rescuing Volturno's passengers.
Third Officer Wynen has been decorated with the Third Class Civic Cross, and First Class Civic Medals have been awarded to six seamen and a steward.
For many years, this section about Erich Hirschfeld has referenced only an excerpt (below) from a Robert F. Brandt book that is yet to be published. That was all I could tell you about him. Today, in late Feb. 2014, thanks to Avner Shats, we can tell you a little more about Hirschfeld's life.
Avner advises that Hirschfeld is known for his role in the 1930s in the establishment of a merchant marine of what was later to become the State of Israel. He is, indeed, depicted on an Israeli 2012 postage stamp as Captain of Har Zion, a Palestine Maritime Lloyd Ltd. vessel which carried passengers & freight on the Haifa-Istanbul-Costanza route. Har Zion was sunk by U-59 in Aug. 1940. Hirschfeld died in 1945.
In 1944, Hirschfeld published his memoirs (now see below), in Hebrew, entitled, in rough translation, 'On stormy seas', in Hebrew transliteration, 'Bisearat Yamim'. The small book, which includes an account of his Volturno related role aboard Kroonland & particularly the rescue of Captain Inch & his dog, does not refer to his activities of behalf of Germany. It is, however, full of stories about Venezuela, about Juan Vicente Gómez, then dictator of Venezuela, & plenty more.
The 2012 Israeli postage stamp (upper) features Erich Hirschfeld, & Har Zion, a merchant ship that Hirschfeld commanded. Emanuel Tuvim, the ship's Engineer is shown at bottom right.
The following most interesting excerpt from an upcoming book has been kindly provided by Robert F. Brandt of St. Michaels, Maryland, U.S.A. We thank you so much Robert! In due course, when the book is published, we will provide here the final title, the ISBN number & the name of the publisher.
Those words were written a number of years ago. In Jun. 2015, Robert Brandt has been in touch to advise that such 'upcoming book' has now been published. Entitled 'Chameleon, the True Story of an Impostor’s Remarkable Odyssey', it is readily available at amazon.com. ISBN 1493509470, published by 'CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015'. It began printing in mid-April of 2015. Robert's website & blog can be accessed here - www.booksbybrandt.com.
Clearly Erich Hans Hirschfeld (for that is we believe the true spelling of his name rather than E. Hirschfield as above) played a significant role on behalf of German Intelligence during WW1. Robert advises that Hirschfeld is a brief player in his research & that his upcoming book is primarily about 'an American imposter who operated around Caracas from 1908 to 1944. He was a high society gent from New York who fled an indictment for a huge embezzlement, and popped up with a new name and vocation 6 months later in Caracas. He even went to work for the U.S. legation as a vice consul.'
Can you provide any images of Erich Hirschfeld? We do now have a modest image of him, at left in the image below - scanned by a kindly site visitor from a book about Israeli shipping.
Excerpt from Robert F. Brandt's book.
Chameleon, the True Story of an Impostor’s Remarkable Odyssey
Venezuela would not be spared the cloaks and daggers at work elsewhere in the world. The enemy had a head start and arrayed against the American minister’s “Citizens Army” stood a collection of professional spies and agents operating in a climate mostly favorable to them, where the dictator affected German ways and mannerisms and jailed editors who printed any material positive toward the Allies. The problem was separating the real from the not-so-real.
The most notorious and feared German agent in Venezuela was Capt. Erich Hirschfeld, a man with a storied past.
In 1917, he was placed in charge of the Venezuelan Navy Yard at Puerto Cabello by the dictator Juan Vicente Gómez, to supervise conversion of two war vessels into use in a Gómez-owned monopoly that carried river freight and passengers. Hirschfeld was also chief of the German secret service in Venezuela and Colombia.
He was no lightweight in the world of espionage. Before his arrival in South America, he was known to American military intelligence as a member of the German Imperial Navy with expertise as a mine layer. He previously had worked in New York with the even more notorious Capt. Boy-Ed. 
U.S. military intelligence had a line on Hirschfeld from his release from a British prisoner internment camp at Queensferry, Flintshire, where he had been interned after the Volturno fire and Kroonland rescue attempt. Among the exploits credited to him were that he was directly responsible for the sinking of the Lusitania,  and that he carried a letter from U.S. Commerce Secretary Redfield about a medal from the U.S. Congress that had been presented to him for his role in saving of the crew of the liner Volturno, which had caught fire at sea Oct. 9, 1913. Hirschfeld was the 4th officer of one of the rescue ships, the “Kroonland,” an American vessel of the Red Star Line. The congressional award was named after the ship. More than 100 perished in the accident.
In Venezuela, Hirschfield also carried a license as a wireless operator. He was described in intelligence reports as “strongly built; 175 pounds; fair hair; clean shaven; and very insolent, with a pro-German manner.” 
The American minister, Preston McGoodwin’s despatch of Nov. 3, 1917 convincingly laid out the frightening pro-German position of Gómez and cited a “remarkable announcement” that he had made on Oct. 30 in the presence of a U.S. Naval Intelligence agent. 
The good news was, of course, that the United States had an agent active inside Hirschfeld’s operation.
McGoodwin’s fantastic missive to Washington began:
Confidential—Referring to my April 5, 5 p.m. and the department’s April 7, 5 p.m. in regard to Doctor Alfredo Jahn and Herr von Bachler, Germans whose properties along the Caribbean coast eighteen miles west of La Guaira and thirty miles east of La Guaira, respectively, needed to be watched very carefully, I have the honor to report that the eighty foot schooner in which it was proposed to send to Germany eight German subjects, including two secret service operators from Colombia, friends and cetera, in charge of Captain Erich Hirschfeld (my October 4, 3 p.m.) was procured by Doctor Jahn. It is now at his property, in the bay of Ocumare de la Costa.”
McGoodwin assured the department that he had the properties being watched. “The voyage of the schooner,” McGoodwin reported, “was postponed almost at the moment set for its departure upon the order of General Gómez who required the services of Hirschfeld first to superintend the transfer of two additional war vessels into merchantmen, for use in his (Gómez) privately owned company which has a monopoly upon coastwise and river freight and passenger transportation, and secondly to construct and lay contact mines in the harbors and other points along the coast where Gómez actually believes there is danger of invasion by troops of the Allied governments, including the United States.”
Incredible as it may seem, Gómez has decided that if he is to be ‘dragged’ into the war, he will take sides with Germany. This decision was reached on Saturday, October 27th and was communicated to Hirschfeld and a group of influential Germans by Doctor Rebolledo, minister of War and Marine, at Puerto Cabello. This remarkable announcement was made (my October 30, 5 p.m.) in the presence of an operative of the United States Intelligence Office, who has succeeded in gaining the confidence of Hirschfeld and associates to such an extent that he is to be given a commission by General Gómez as Hirschfeld’s successor in charge of the Navy Yard.
Diagrams of proposed mine fields and plans for blowing up the highways which connect Caracas with La Guaira and Valencia with Puerto Cabello were taken to Gómez at Maracay Wednesday. It was arranged (words out) Herr A. von Prollius, the German minister, four influential German friends and advisers of General Gómez, Hirschfeld and three Venezuelan naval and army officers, (two of them Germans) at the remote retreat called San Juan de Los Moros on Friday, November second. The meeting took place as scheduled, Herr von Prollius having motored from the health resort of Los Teques and from the best information obtainable, the plan as regarded the mines was decided upon. Hirschfeld was to have proceeded immediately to the Puerto Cabello Navy Yard if Gómez approved his scheme; otherwise he had arranged to return to Caracas. This much is certain. He went directly to Puerto Cabello, accompanied by practically all of the conferees except, of course, Gómez.”
 Capt. Karl Boy-ed, second-ranking German intelligence officer operating in the United States before World War 1. He was eventually expelled with von Pappen.
 After its sinking, the Germans claimed the Lusitania was armed. Hirschfeld was credited in German intelligence and diplomatic circles as the man who either informed the Germans before the sailing that he had proof of its arming, or actually supplied such proof to Berlin.
 ONI, (U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence) Dec. 3, 1917, 6730-130; MID, (U.S. Military Intelligence Division i.e. Army) 9140-457, April 18, 1918; the license from the Venezuelan government had been seen by U.S. intelligence agent John Duhn.
 State Dept., 862.20231/104.
Thanks to Avner Shats we provide next, translated into English from Hebrew, some pages from the memoirs of Erich Hirschfeld. Avner notes that Captain Hillel Yarkoni, who has researched the life of Hirschfeld, met two other captains who knew him in person. They said that Hirschfeld did not speak any Hebrew. Captain Yarkoni's impression is that Hirschfeld dictated his book, speaking in German, to someone who wrote it in Hebrew. The translator's name is not mentioned. Hirschfeld, not knowing Hebrew, could therefore not edit the resulting text & particularly could not correct any misspellings of names etc. One of the captains who knew Hirschfeld is still alive, living in Haifa, Israel. According to him, Hirschfeld lived in what was then 'Mountain Road' in Haifa, & had a wife & no children. When he became ill in late 1944 or in early 1945, he asked to return to sea, believing that that would cure him. However those were war times and it couldn't be done. Hirschfeld's grave is in Giv'atayim (or Givataim), east of Tel Aviv. We thank Captain Yarkoni also for his interesting comments.
Upon returning to Antwerpen I was ordered to join as fourth officer to Finland’s sister ship - Kroonland, whose captain was a Belgian-American named Kreibohn [sic], the finest of all captains I have served under. The ship’s luxuries were unparalleled, including the officers’ cabins. As for me, this time I received a newly built cabin on the boat deck. The ship had six officers, as well as deputies, assistants etc.
On October 4th, 1913, We set sail from Antwerpen on our way to New York, with about 2000 passengers on board. On October 7th we were already in the North Atlantic. A north-westerly storm broke. Our well-built ship lost some speed, but even so we crossed half of the way to America by October 9th, meaning we were south of Newfoundland. At 7 o'clock the captain summoned all the deck officers to join him at the chartroom and announced as follows: “Gentlemen, I have just received a telegram regarding a ship in distress on the high seas. It's the English Volturno, affiliated to the Dutch Uranium Line, with 589 people onboard. The ship is on fire, and she is about 160 miles behind us. We will lose a day if we turn back to try and rescue her. Of course there is also a possibility that we will arrive too late. The Cunard steamship Carmania and the German North Lloyd ships Zeidlitz and Grosser Kurfurst already sailed and will arrive there before us. What is your opinion - should we head that way, or not?”
We unanimously agreed to return. The captain ordered us not to say a word to the passengers in order to prevent unnecessary excitement. He changed course without any of the passengers noticing. However it was naturally unavoidable to inform the Doctor and the Ship’s purser, to prepare for caring for survivors or wounded. Almost every hour we received telegrams from the burning ship, and the situation was gradually becoming more dangerous.
We were very surprised to see a short while afterwards isolated groups of passengers joining up and whispering excitedly. As it turned out, all on board very quickly became aware of our intentions. The secret was exposed in two ways: a. The ship’s doctor explained the situation to several people, asking them to keep it secret; and b. A clever passenger, a mathematician, noticed the sun, which was rising behind us every morning, changed position on this morning, indicating a reversal of the ship’s course. Officially nothing was said, but the whole crowd quietly argued about the ongoings.
Us officers obviously didn’t sleep a wink on that night, as it was vital to determine the location of the burning ship every 30 minutes in order not to pass her by. In the afternoon, the telegraph connection between us was lost. At six p.m. we arrived at the presumed location of the disaster. The storm subsided and the wind speed dropped, but the sea was still very high. It was foggy with very poor visibility. There was no sign of the burning ship or of the other ships. We sailed up-and-down for about an hour without a result.
The captain was already on the verge of commanding the continuation of our voyage when we noticed heavy smoke clouds ascending on our side. Immediately afterwards we could observe the outline of the 20,000 ton Carmania, situated behind the Volturno. In front of the burning ship was the Grosser Kurfürst and on the side the Zeidlitz. Volturno was half burnt, with huge smoke clouds rising to the sky and very little flames. Burning debris was constantly blown off the ship's stern, as the ship was positioned sideways to the waves.
To evaluate the situation, our captain steered his ship to the narrow gap between the Volturno and the Carmania. It was an extremely difficult manoeuvre, perfectly accomplished. As we passed by the stern of the burning ship, just a few yard away, passenger were screaming in despair “Come to the stern side”’ - which was not possible due to the sea conditions. We could see the deep disappointment on the passengers’ faces when we did not comply with their request. The whole manoeuvre could have failed as the Carmania suddenly blew a warning sign with her horn, and we thought that there was already a line between the two ships and we were passing right through it - but, thank goodness, it was a false alarm.
Having completed the manoeuvre we stopped at the side of the Volturno to plan the rescue operation. Meanwhile evening fell. We learnt that two other ships had arrived at the scene, the Czar, a Russian ship, & the American Oiler Narragansett, carrying 10.000 tons of crude oil.
Our captain announced he would launch a lifeboat to try and get closer to the burning ship. He [called for] volunteers to man the boat, because we learnt that earlier a lifeboat from the Volturno, carrying 50 passengers, tried to row towards the Carmania, but the boat was sucked towards the burning ship’s propeller with all souls lost - and so none of the ships arriving later dared to initiate new rescue attempts. The fifth officer of our ship, Kummel, asked the captain for command of one of our boats. He got the permission and chose eight sailors, the strongest on board (all sailors volunteered to join the rescue attempt), and we lowered the boat with a crew of nine from the stern.
To protect the boat from the high waves, we constantly manoeuvred the ship and had to constantly signal the other ships to make way. However in the storm there was little we could do and the boat quickly disappeared in the dark and among the waves. After two hours, we nearly gave up hope to see our men alive again. Then suddenly we heard a voice calling on the other side of the ship. Our boat had returned, All eight rowers were alive, tired to death from their almost inhuman efforts - but without results. There was no way to approach the Volturno. Kummel demanded eight other sailors to try again. The captain complied, & the boat sailed again.
This attempt was successful. Kummel approached the ship, but could not get close due to the burning debris flying incessantly towards the stern, and eventually he told the Volturno people to jump to the water and fished them out one by one. He managed to rescue 8 people, 7 of them passengers, and the second telegraph operator, who fell to the water and was discovered thanks to a flashlight he had held.
There was no chance of any renewed rescue attempt since by now it was pitch dark. Also, our captain determined that the burning ship could last till dawn. We postponed any further rescue operation til morning. Ours was the only ship that lowered boats to the sea. It could easily have ended in collision. The fast French steamer La Toraine passed just yards away from us, not knowing we had boats in the water. As a result of the strenuous manoeuvres, one of engines malfunctioned, and our manoeuvrability was further hindered.
The next day at 5 a.m. the number of ships arriving at the scene rose to 11, and only then did the real rescue operation begin. The Narragansett emptied half of her fuel cargo into the sea, to smooth and calm the sea. All ships lowered their life boats and so did we, three boats commanded by the second officer, by Kummel and myself. Now at daylight we dared get closer alongside the Volturno, and it was high time as on the top deck there was a benzine supply which could catch fire. This would endanger the life of anyone on board. Each boat made two trips, and we managed to rescue 97 survivors. On my last trip I managed to find the Volturno’s captain, Linch [sic], who handed me a sack with a living creature thrashing within, saying: “Boys, take my baby first.” Only afterwards did he leave his ship, being the last to do so. He was badly burnt in his hands and eyes and immediately was moved to the hospital on our ship. We soon discovered the living creature in the sack was a dog. As to us, we were like sardines in a can.
Of the 580 passengers on board the Volturno, 152 were missing, drowned or killed by fire. As women and children were rescued first, it was impossible to gather whole families, & family members were scattered among the ships, and, following the rescue, were forced to sail to all corners of the earth. There were heart breaking scenes, and on our side we made every effort to find the location of missing family members, who were perhaps on other ships, by telegraph. It was particularly awful when it was finally determined that one or more family members were not to be found on any of the rescue ships, and so they were presumed to be lost forever.
Tired to death, we went to bed and the voyage to New York continued, this time very slowly because of the malfunction of one of our engines. There was a great commotion on board: countless telegrams arriving from all over the world, from private people seeking information about relatives, as well as governments and especially newspapers looking for scoops. However our captain, as well as the Volturno’s, were not in any hurry to respond, in order to abide by the prevailing laws in such cases.
A help committee for the survivors was established among the passengers, and a fund was established to buy all sort of presents to the rescuers, to be ordered of course from Tiffany’s, the best jewellers in New York.
On the twelfth day of our departure from Antwerpen we arrived at New York. All manner of honours were awaiting us there, as we were the one American ship at the scene and the first to attempt a rescue operation. While at the quarantine, reporters waited for us with photographers, along with managers and clerks of our company, to flood our ship as soon as the medical examination was over. Volleys of questions and photo shooting ensued. There was no way of checking things, we were forced to answer six people at one time as well having our pictures taken in all sorts of poses, smiling or sad, to shake strangers’ hands, to let shoulders be tapped by friendly hands, and the heart longed to be, for a few hours at least, some kind of Robinson Crusoe, to get rid of all this, but to no avail.
All ships and boats along the Hudson or at the shipyards saluted us. The salute was very uplifting, but the whistles and blows were deafening, so we couldn't hear each other speak. As we approached our dock, we saw thousands of people crowding the dock, extremely excited. The joy was indescribable. If we were the saviours of the whole nation the happiness and joy could not have been any greater. In the evening papers we found the pictures of our faces near lengthy articles: “Fifth officer Kummel in a lifeboat”, “Fourth Officer Hirschfeld saving the wounded captain and his dog”’ etc. etc.
After all the passengers had left the ship, we were informed of a visit of the management of our shipping company at noon. The captain, officers and crew gathered on the promenade deck and general manager Franklin gave a speech, thanking all those taking part in the rescue operation, and in recognition of appreciation announced a general vacation to the whole crew, and an extra payment of two months wages. The representative of our passengers gave the captain a golden cigarette box, silver boxes to the officers and other gifts to the sailors, each inscribed with a dedication in memory of the event.
The next day, the managers of the insurance company appeared and gave us all honorary awards - golden to the captain, silver to the officers and bronze to the others, with appropriate dedications.
The German Theatre in New York put on a special show of “The barracks life” to which the whole crew of the ships Zeidlitz and Grosser Kurfurst were invited as well as myself and Kummel of the Kroonland. We sat in the private boxes while the sailors were in the orchestra box; the cream of the crop of New York high society, all dressed up, came to the show, and wherever we looked we saw fancy dressed gentlemen, medals and awards and beautiful women. Afterward we were invited by the theatre manager and all actors to the famous German beer house “Lichov” to spend a nice evening and have a glass of beer. At that time, the law prohibiting alcohol was not yet in force in the U.S.
In the coming days the governmental awards were arriving. Congress in Washington honoured the captain with a gold watch, apart from the gold medal which us officers received as well. The sergeants received silver awards and the sailors bronze. Later a telegram came from the Belgian King (The ship belonged to the Belgian Red Star Line) nominating our captain as member of the “Ordre de la Couronne”. The peak of it was receiving the King Albert award with the accompanying ribbon, the highest British award given for “heroism and humanism” by the ruler of Great Britain.
Not a day went by without celebration. We could barely keep up with the many invitations. There were also endless receptions on board. We were introduced, gazed and gawked at. Whatever we have done stood in no proportion whatsoever to the honours we were showered with. At times we were filled with shame recognizing we were pawns in a game played by others. Nevertheless it was quite interesting. We used our voyage back to rest and relax upon this American enthusiasm.
On the prior Kroonland page, I indicated that 'the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled' recognised the Volturno rescue efforts of the Captain and crew of the Kroonland and granted some special medals. Here, thanks to Tony Jones of North Wales, is an image of one of the crew medals, granted to Arthur Ingram the barkeeper.
A Kroonland crew member who did not keep his medal very long!
An interesting item relating to one of the Kroonland crew listed above, a part of Tony Jones' research & here with his kind permission. If a visitor to this site knows anything more about the matter, Tony Jones would very much like to hear from you.
Hiacke Petrus Marinus Janssens, a Dutch seaman aboard S. S. Kroonland, was one of 152 foreign seamen who were awarded the Board of Trade Sea Gallantry (Foreign Service) medal, for their part in the rescue of the crew & passengers of the Volturno. Sadly (or maybe not so sadly!) Janssens enjoyed his award for less than two years. In 1915, whilst travelling through England supposedly as a cigar salesman for a Dutch firm, he was arrested in Southampton & charged with espionage. He protested his innocence & since he had earned a medal for saving seamen’s lives from a burning English ship, how could he possibly be a spy.
Following his court martial & conviction at Westminster Guildhall, he confessed to spying for Germany. He sent his information by the use of a simple code, based on the various brands of cigars. So, a telegraph from Portsmouth to an address in Holland ordering 1,000 Rothschilds, 3,000 Coronas and 10,000 Cabanas & a code letter would indicate that a Battleship, three Cruisers and ten Destroyers had arrived at Portsmouth. As daylight dawned on Jul. 30, 1915, Janssens, who asked not to be blindfolded, was executed by firing squad at the Tower of London.
Kathryn Atkin has been in touch to advise that this history was covered in a number of pages of 'Queer People', written by Basil Thomson & published back in 1920. The name was however spelled by Thomson as 'Jannsen' rather than 'Janssens'. At pages 135 thru 137 here. You can read the book on line via that link. And can download it, if you so wish.
Thanks to Don and Marlene Schuld, of New Jersey, we now have data about Frederick (spelled Frederik in the Senate Report related to the Congress medal, it would appear) J. Mansfield, Second Officer (senior) of the Kroonland at the time of the Volturno disaster.
Second Officer Mansfield was, I am advised, the uncle of Don Schuld's mother. A native of Germany, he came to the United States, lived on Cator Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey, for 37 years, & owned a stationery store at that location. As you can indeed read below in an article that was published in the 'Jersey Observer' (date of publication not known, but on a Wednesday!) - of an interview with Captain Fred J. Mansfield some time following the Volturno disaster.
In the near future, we will hopefully be able to present on this page images of the three medals that were granted to him re the Volturno rescue (the U.S. Congress Kroonland medal in gold, the Sea Gallantry Medal (foreign service) & the medal of The Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York.
It would seem that Captain Mansfield's medals may soon be on public display, along with his Masters Licence. Will advise you exactly where, once it is confirmed.
At left above is an undated image of Captain Mansfield, who was issued his 'Masters Licence' on Mar. 22, 1922. The image is provided, as is the other data, by Don Schuld whom we thank. A larger version of the image can be seen here.
"Volunteer Hero Has Exciting Career"
Few men in Jersey City have had a more interesting career than Captain Fred J. Mansfield of 192 Cator Avenue, who is now serving as a member of the petit jury panel at the Court House.
For sixteen years he was before and aft the sailing mast of sailing ships, and then put in nineteen years in steamers, working his way up from deck boy to captain.
Captain Mansfield was awarded a Congressional gold medal for heroic work in rescuing the crew and passenger of the British steamer Volturno, which during an easterly gale caught fire 800 miles from the Irish coast while on her way from Holland to New York. Captain Mansfield was then chief officer of the Kroonland of the Red Star Line.
Captain Mansfield was not particularly anxious to tell much about his career or the rescue, being modest like most heroes, and looking on the rescue as all in the day's work in the line of duty. At any rate, he was awarded the Congressional medal as well as two others - silver- by the British Government and the Life Saving Association in New York, as well as a pair of binoculars from the British Board of Trade. The passengers of the vessel also presented him with a handsome tobacco pouch.
Captain Mansfield, who has made his home in Jersey City thirty-seven years, is a native of Germany. He is married and conducts a stationery store at the Cator Avenue address. He says that the Volturno was sighted ablaze at 9 o'clock at night October 9, 1913. The Kroonland stood by while it launched its boats under the command of Chief Officer Mansfield. All that night and until 7 o'clock the next morning, the boats plied back and forth from the Volturno to the Kroonland. The passengers on the blazing ship had to jump into the sea as the boats could not get near enough to take them direct from the vessel owing to the heat and the heavy seas. At last the last man, Captain Inch of the Volturno, was safely aboard the Kroonland, which resumed her voyage. Captain Inch was in Chief Officer Mansfield's boat.
Serving in many vessels, Captain Mansfield has many interesting documents attesting to his long service at sea. He served in the Army Transport Service during the war with Spain in 1898, and only a physical injury prevented him from service in the World War. At one time he commanded the yacht Idler owned by Sloane, the well-known carpet man.
Captain Mansfield can tell many interesting yarns, but it is a hard job because of his modesty to get him on that tack.
Thanks to Dirk Bulens of Antwerp, Belgium, we learn that the cabin passengers of the Kroonland recognised the bravery of the Kroonland crew members involved in the Volturno rescue by giving them engraved pocket watches. Most likely the passengers contributed to a fund for that purpose, as was done re Carmania.
The watch awarded to Karl T. A. Meinjohannes, quartermaster of the Kroonland, was a 'Waltham' pocket watch, & while I think that you can read in the image below every word of the inscription on its exterior rear, I set out that inscription here:
Karl T. A. Meinjohannes
From Cabin passengers
For heroism in rescue of
89 lives from S.S. Volturno
October 9-10, 1913
Dirk Bulens advises that he inherited the pocket watch from his grandfather, Stan Wens (1908 - 1977), a house painter & paint store owner of West-Malle, Antwerp. Stan Wens was married to Maria Melis, Dirk's grandmother. Now Maria, was the only child of Frans Melis & Colletta Caels, & Colletta Caels was first married to a Mr. Bresseleers who died very young. Dirk believes that the pocket watch was owned by Mr. Bresseleers, a businessman who travelled extensively, it would appear. And the watch was passed down through the inheritance chain to Dirk today.
The relationship between Karl T. A. Meinjohannes & Mr. Bresseleers is unclear at this time. It is hoped that the Bresseleers family tree, currently being assembled, might help in that regard. Karl Meinjohannes was, as you can see above, quartermaster on the Kroonland at the time of the Volturno disaster. Dirk, thank you so much! Perhaps a site visitor will read these words & help with the watch's history & with data about Karl Meinjohannes.
In Jan. 2013, the Sea Gallantry medal that was awarded to Alphonse Roll, a fireman aboard Kroonland, was offered for sale via e-Bay, by Canadian vendor 'camidohi', whose e-Bay store is here. You can see the item here. It sold, on Jan. 17, 2013 for Cdn. $631.07 or U.S. $612.63. The medal listing images follow.
A site visitor is trying to find information about John Bradshaw, who was the captain of the Kroonland in 1912 when the visitor's grandfather immigrated from Antwerp. Do please drop me a line if you have any data additional to that now available below.
OTHER CAPTAINS OF THE KROONLAND
1) I read from an e-bay item that on a Sep. 20, 1902 voyage from New York to Antwerp, H. D. Doxrud was the Captain. And he was Captain also on a voyage from New York to Antwerp on Apl. 16, 1904 & also on a voyage from Antwerp to New York via Dover on Sep. 12, 1908.
2) John Bradshaw (1862/1929), born in Liverpool, England & became a U.S. citizen in 1895, was the Kroonland captain in the period of roughly 1907 through 1912. That 1907 date looks suspect, however, in view of the 'Doxrud' reference above. He certainly was in command re the Jun. 22, 1912 voyage from New York to Antwerp, via Dover, as per 1st & 2nd Class passenger lists ex e-Bay items, now long gone. Decorated re two wars & for life saving at sea. He retired from Red Star Line as Commodore in 1926. That information comes, (as does the image next below), from the files of Timothy Bradshaw of New York, who is a great grandson of Captain Bradshaw.
Can Timothy Bradshaw of New York be back in touch please - your e-mail address of 6 or so years ago is, alas, no longer operative. Christopher Molinar of Los Angeles has kindly written in to advise that he has found a very old postcard addressed to John Bradshaw at Antwerp - when he was the captain of Finland. And being of an enquiring nature, Christopher found this page via a Google search. The postcard may well be of interest to you, Timothy.
And here is Captain John Bradshaw, in dress uniform, in a photograph believed to date from 1899. Can anybody help with the significance of the uniform flashes? He was, it is believed, the Captain of S.S. Finland in 1903/4. And in late 1898 he was chief officer of S.S. Paris. But his role in 1899 is unclear. I seem to be straying from the purpose of this site, i.e. the Volturno, in presenting this image, which will however, be of great visual interest to site visitors.
I thank Ramon Rivero of Venezuela, naval historian, for his guidance as to Captain Bradshaw's uniform. Ramon believes the uniform to be that of a U.S. Navy first lieutenant, Junior Grade - and the sword an M-1852.
3) Thomas G. Barman, was commander of Kroonland re a voyage which commenced on May 22, 1915, from New York to San Francisco via Los Angeles. From a passenger list referenced at a long expired e-Bay listing. Thru the Panama Canal - the first voyage of Kroonland thru that canal.
The next data originates with both Werner Lyssens of Belgium & Johan Renders, I believe of Antwerp, Belgium :-
Thomas Gustav Barman was born either i) in Hiltra, Norway, in 1860 or ii) in Hitteren (Christiansund), Norway, on Jun. 19, 1861. On May 22, 1887, he married Mathilde Bolette Gleditsch (or Gleditschatat), born May 2, 1866 in Overhalla, Norway. It would appear that he died at Mortsel in Belgium on Jul. 24, 1928.
Thomas Barman was in command of Red Star liner Vaderland from 1908 to 1911. On Dec. 1, 1909, Vaderland effected the rescue (1 & 2) of Captain Edgar E. Bigelow, the captain's wife & child & 4 members of the crew of the 270 ton Rockland, Maine, schooner Eugene Borda, in difficulties (with mainmast broken off 30 ft. from the deck) in a 'terrific northeast gale' when 45 miles SE of the Nantucket Lightship (at 40.20N/68.34W), i.e. off the coast of Massachusetts, U.S.A. Both the Vaderland lifeboat crew & the rescued were given a standing ovation from the liner's passengers when they safely returned to Vaderland. The rescued enjoyed an ocean voyage to Antwerp & were presumably later repatriated. And Eugene Borda, which had been en route from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada, to Philadelphia with a cargo of timber? A danger to shipping, 'the United States derelict destroyer Seneca has been sent out to blow her up'.
This page, or since it is now quite large, a later page, will, hopefully, track additional data about the Kroonland as it comes to hand, hopefully as it specifically relates to the Volturno tragedy.
If any visitor can clarify (or correct) or provide more information about any of these matters, I would truly welcome their help.
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