erched high on the very tip of the Mull of Oa, the American Monument looks out over the Atlantic Ocean to the West. The monument itself is a moving tribute to the American Servicemen who sadly drowned when their ships sank off the coast of Islay during WWI. On 5 February 1918, the American troopship Tuscania was en route to the UK, carrying over 2,000 US soldiers, when it was hit by a German torpedo fired by U-boat UB77, 7 miles off the Islay coast. The loss of life was horrific; 200 American soldiers were lost, with 60 British crew either drowned or dashed to death on the jagged rocks. The ship’s bell from the Tuscania is on display at the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte.
That same year, on October 6th, just 5 weeks before the Armistice that would end hostilities, the HMS Otranto sank near Kilchiaran in Machir Bay after a collision with the troopship HMS Kashmir in appalling weather. The Otranto sank within sight of shore, and a further 351 American servicemen died, with 80 British crew. The American and British dead were buried in a military cemetery atop the cliffs at Kilchoman. The Americans were later repatriated, but the British dead remain, many of their grave stones marked simply with ‘Known unto God’.