On the eve of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, Nov. 10, a memorial program was held at Tybee Post Theater to commemorate the loss of the HMS Otranto on Oct. 6, 1918, off the Scottish coast.
The ship carried 580 soldiers from Fort Screven. In an accidental collision in storm-tossed seas, 130 young men from Georgia were lost. But through the bravery of British rescuers, many were saved.
Thirty-one descendants of survivors and casualties were among about 200 people who filled the theater for the program. The timeless story of duty and sacrifice was told by Jan Will of the Tybee Historic Preservation Commission, John Calvert of the Tybee American Legion Post, Stan Freedman, the grandson of the lieutenant who led the Fort Screven soldiers, and Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman.
Tybee Harmony sang “God Bless America,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “It Is Well with My Soul,” and “The Parting Glass.” Students from Tybee Maritime Academy sang “Away from the Roll of the Sea” and “America the Beautiful.” A BBC documentary on the Otranto was shown. The names of the 11 Chatham County men who perished were read. And in the uniform of a WWI doughboy, Vinnie King read from the diary of Joseph Hewell, a survivor who described the Atlantic crossing and the disaster.
The benediction by Rev. Jamie Maury and the bugle playing of “Taps” at the close of the program crossed an ocean of time and history to bring a healing message and hope for peace.