Hamburg to Hull, 1914 Sep 25, Hull Daily Mail



Definite news of two Wilson liners and their captains and crews, detained in Hamburg now for seven weeks, has been brought to Hull by the wives of two of the officers, who have pluckily succeeded in getting through to their homes at Hull. The two ladies are Mrs Duncan, wife of the second officer of the liner York. They bring the news that the Wilson liners Hull and Castro—the latter the first English vessel to be detained on the outbreak of the war—are safe in Hansa Haven, Hamburg. Captain Ford, who is in charge of the Hull, has his wife with him, and the chief officer is Mr Atkinson. The Castro, which was intercepted by a German warship in the Kiel Canal, is in command of Captain Armstrong, with Mr Jackson as mate. Mrs Jessop says there were three Grimsby steamers, and two belonging to Goole, also anchored near the Wilson liners, but as she was not certain of the names, we do not give them. When the two ladies left for Hull all aboard the Hull liners told them to be sure and call at the “Mail” office and say that the crews were quite safe, and that there was no need for anxiety amongst their relatives.


The “Mail” found Mrs Jessop at her home in Goddard-avenue, Newland-avenue, looking the picture of good health, after her enforced detention in Germany, and from her experience there should be no anxiety for the others. As her husband was then in the Hull-Hamburg service, Mrs Jessop went with him, travelling on a steamer from Grimsby. She was to have left on the eve of war, but though the York was successful, the Hull was not so successful. “We did” she said, “get as far as Cuxhaven, and were close to the oil steamer, which, you will have read, was blown up by a mine. There were scores of naval boats with men in uniform all over the place, and several times were ordered up and down the river, till eventually a naval officer gave the order, “Get back to Hamburg”—to Hansa Haven. The cook facetiously called out, “Is the German Fleet outside?” “No, the English,” replied the officer. Any number of gunboats and torpedo boats, with coal all over their decks, were rushing out, and I thought something terrible was going to happen. Straightway the Hull was escorted to the Haven, and anchored in mid-stream, and for five weeks we had to amuse ourselves as best we could. There were hundreds of steamers laid up, and near us we had Russian, English, and German steamers. A gangway was placed across the Hull and the Castro but some awful German came aboard and ordered it to be removed.”


Mrs Jessop added that she was bound to say the Germans treated them exceedingly well, and in this part of Germany there did not seem a bitter feeling towards the English. The Germans were under the impression Paris was taken and flags were hoisted to celebrate the event. “In the German papers,” said Mrs Jessop, “the impression given was that Germany was winning all along the line, but the people didn’t seem so confident when I left. The Germans we got friendly with all said they did not know why England had stepped in; they were spoiling Germany’s plans. The pictures and cartoons in the papers are striking. One I saw represented a battlefield with King George as a ghost surveying his fallen soldiers, and the Kaiser standing triumphantly near by. I was convinced that a large proportion of the German population did not want to fight, and some of the Germans known to us in peaceful times, and now called up, remarked: ‘We have feelings the same as you English.’ They seem to have called upon everyone. An old watchman, with white hair, on a German steamer next to ours, came aboard one morning and shook hands, saying he had been called up. In the streets I saw youths of seventeen, who had been summoned, and some of their eyes were red with crying. There is no doubt the German women are making sacrifices like those in England. In travelling home I was impressed with the way the womenfolk waited at all the stations the soldiers passed through with hot drinks and refreshments. The soldiers I saw did not impress me as a smart set of men by any means; the recruits to be seen marching through the Hull streets already look much better. Everybody in Germany seems to wear uniforms, and some of them are most elaborate. Even the dustmen are in uniform.


“Life in Hamburg is now very dull, and there is little trade doing. In one well-known cafe, usually filled with young life, on one night there were only three old men. The fine city is difficult to picture by those who knew it in normal times.” After five weeks in the steamer the chief of the police gave them permission to go ashore to purchase clothing. Mrs Duncan and herself availed themselves of the opportunity of calling on the American consul, who told them that no British people were allowed to leave. He eventually made out for the two ladies passports—most elaborate documents they are—and told them they could attempt to get through at their own risk. Arriving at Hamburg, they stopped the night at an English hotel, and afterwards, with a Scotch lady and a Dutchman, travelled safely to the frontier. Eventually, after many weary hours in trains, they got through to Rotterdam, although the Dutchman was detained en route. The English Consul at Rotterdam helped the ladies to get passages on a steamer on the Batavier Line, and they arrived safely in London and afterwards at Hull.

1 Comment

  1. Catherine Haynes - May 14, 2021, 1:34 pm Reply

    Great to find this website. My grandmother was Captain Ford’s daughter Ivy who was with him and his wife Adelaide when the SS Hull was detained by Germany in 1914. As a child I remember her telling me the story every time we went for our weekly visit to see her. She and her mother and younger sister Doris escaped on American passports. It was several years before she saw her father again.

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