Medals awarded to the captain of the ill-fated Lusitania during a long and distinguished career will be auctioned in England next month, with a £25,000-plus (€34,270) guide price.
Liverpool-born Commander William Turner OBE stayed on the liner until the last minute after it was struck by a U-boat torpedo off the south coast in May 1915. He was later rescued from the water.
Of the 2,100 souls on board, 1,197 passengers and crew perished, including 128 American citizens which influenced the US in its decision to enter the First World War in 1917.
The Admiralty sought to blame Turner, citing navigational decisions which were made in the hours before the torpedo attack. Such was the impact of the tragedy on his life, that Turner lived for a time in seclusion. But he was exonerated by the Mersey Inquiry and the Mayer Hearings.
James Sadler, the auction manager with Martlesham Auctioneers Lockdales, who are selling Turner’s medals on behalf of a private collector in Suffolk on September 12, said being asked to handle the sale “sends a shiver down the spine” given that this is the centenary anniversary of the disaster.
“Although the various inquiries exonerated Commander Turner, the sinking of the Lusitania haunted him for the rest of his life. But he deservedly got full medal entitlement and was, without doubt, an honourable man.”
Turner went on to captain a troop carrier with 2,400 people on board which was torpedoed off the Greek coast on January 1, 1917.
That ship sank quickly with the loss of 36 crew and 84 troops. Turner stayed on board until the end, ensuring as many as possible escaped in liferaft, before jumping into the water and swimming away as the sink sank. He was rescued from the water.
While serving on the Cherbourg, Turner gained recognition for personally rescuing a man and boy from the water. He later rescued a young boy from Liverpool’s Alexandra Dock. He died from intestinal cancer in 1933, aged 58.
Among his medals going under the hammer are a 1917 OBE, a Transport Medal with South Africa clasp for his role moving troops to South Africa during the Boer War, A ‘Star Trio’ of First World War medals and a Liverpool Humane Society Medal for his role rescuing the crew of the West Point in 1910.
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