Sunday, October 5, 2014

52 Ancestors #40: Sinking of the HMS Otranto

Ancestor Name: Charles "Charlie" S RAILEY

The HMS Otranto was launched in 1909 and was a passenger liner, making the London to Sydney, Australia run. Soon after the start of World War I, the British Admiralty requisitioned the ship for naval service. In June 1918 she began ferrying American service men to the Western Front in Europe.

HSM Otranto during World War I; photo courtesy of

It was during one such mission on October 6, 1918, that she collided with the HMS Kashmir, another liner turned troop ship, in poor visibility and rough seas between the northeast coast of Ireland and the western isles of Scotland. She was holed on the forward port side, and in a heavy swell, began to list. The strickened ship then hit rocks and became grounded. The HMS Otranto eventually broke up and sank with the loss of 431 lives (351 American troops and 80 British crew members). Many of the dead were initially buried in the Belfast City Cemetery. The American servicemen were exhumed and repatriated to the United States in 1920.

Charles Railey's monument at the Mount Paron Primitive
Baptist Church Cemetery in Alapaha, Georgia; photograph by member searcher

One of the service men aboard the HMS Otranto was Charlie S Railey and he was killed in World War I before ever setting foot on foreign soil. Charlie was the young husband of Faithe (Tucker) Railey, my sister-in-law's third cousin three times removed. She was pregnant with their only child at the time of her husband's death and she never remarried.

Faithe (Tucker) Railey and her brother,
Jacob Tucker; photograph courtesy of member wire grasser

How did I discover the facts surrounding Charlie's death?  From his World War I service card:

Charlie Railey's World War I service card; courtesy of

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Charles "Charlie" S. Railey was born on 30 Apr 1891 in Irwinville, Georgia, to John H and Mary J Railey. He was single when he registered for the draft in 1917 but claimed his father, sister and brother as dependents. He farmed in Berrien County, Georgia. He was described at the time of the draft as being of medium height and build with blue eyes and dark hair. He was inducted into the Army on 16 July 1918 at Nashville, Tennessee.  He served overseas from 25 September 1918 until his death aboard the HMS Otranto on 6 October 1918. He was buried first at Belfast City Cemetery in Ireland, and exhumed and repatriated to the U.S. in 1920. He is now buried at the Mount Pharon Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Alapaha, Georgia.

Sometime before he was sent overseas he married Faithe Tucker, my sister-in-law's 3rd cousin three times removed. She was pregnant with their only child at the time of his death. Charles Railey, Jr., and never remarried.

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