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100th Anniversary: One of the Most Famous Ships in Maritime History Has Hungarian Roots

Gábor Sarnyai 2018.07.18.

Historically, Hungary wasn’t considered a shipping nation, but before the First World War, the country had a connection to the Adriatic Sea in the form of a famous ocean-liner. The ship, Carpathia, and its Hungarian crew secured their places in history.

The Titanic’s world-famous rescue boat, RMS Carpathia, was a steamship owned by the Cunard Line shipping company which shared many ties with Hungary; between 1909-1915, it served the line from Fiume to New York and carried immigrants from Greater Hungary to the new world.

Due to the increasing level of migration over the last century, Hungarian legislation created a specific law regulating the process of movement. Wanting to ensure that Hungarians traveled comfortably to America, the government signed an exclusive contract with Cunard Line, a Canadian-registered British shipping company established by Sir Samuel Cunard.

Carpathia at Fiume's port Via: titanicgazette.com

Carpathia at Fiume’s port. Via: titanicgazette.com

Cunard viewed the agreement with the Hungarians as a promising business opportunity and decided to build three more units for precisely the same purpose. The ships were given Hungarian-like names: Pannonia, a Slavonia, and Carpathia. Due to the migration wave, the demand for tickets was so great that the Carpathia needed to be refurbished to accommodate an additional 700 places.

The Hungarian Royal Ministry of Interior also made it clear in its contract with the company that Cunard is obligated to employ Hungarians in the ship’s crew.

The staff included a significant number of Hungarians, such as János Bóni, Antal Boris and István Boris, Candriles Jozefin, Fanni Stern, Etelka Cservenka and Júlia Cservenka, Gáspár Curatolo and Mihály, and Attila Fábián. They all served as either stewards, nurses, or maids. As a result, they took an active part in one of the most famous catastrophes in shipping history. Two Hungarians also worked in the deck department: dr. Árpád Lengyel a naval doctor, and Gusztáv Ráth, a professional maritime officer from the Naval Academy of Rijeka.

Carpathia’s Officer in Spring 1912. At the right of the first line, is Dr. Árpád Lengyel Hungarian ship physician, Captain Arthur H. Rostron is sitting in the middle. Via: Origo.hu

Boltonian Arthur Rostron, captain of the Carpathia, was asleep on the night of April 14 when a wireless operator alerted him to the distress signal resulting from the Titanic’s damaging contact with an iceberg. The captain ordered the ship, which had been heading to Austria-Hungary from New York, to change course; Rostron raced the Carpathia towards the Titanic at speeds faster than it had ever gone before. Dodging icebergs, the ship reached the survivors in three and a half hours and continued to search the ocean for another four and a half hours, before taking 20 lifeboats and 705 people onboard.

During the rescue operation, Rostron instructed the staff to take immediate action by gathering and carrying the shipwrecked. At that time, the Carpathian had three doctors on-board: Dr. Frank E. McGhee in first class; Italian Dr. Vittorio Risottiwrites in second-class, and Hungarian Dr. Árpád Lengyel in third class. Doctor Lengyel played an essential part in the rescue efforts, as he was the only doctor with experience as a paramedic officer. He served at the entrance of the Carpathia’s deck and tended to the shipwrecked.

Dr. Árpád Lengyel Via: Origo.hu

Dr. Árpád Lengyel Via: Origo.hu

Mult-kor.hu writes that the tragedy Lengyel experienced during the sinking of the Titanic thoroughly changed his life. For him, it was a spiritual trauma, and he chose to never share his story again or return to the sea. Lengyel was primarily acknowledged abroad, however, there were a few articles published in his honor at home. Archduke Joseph and Archduchess Augusta even invited Lengyel to dinner, and he was just awarded the iron merit–regarded as the most prominent acknowledgment in his profession–by the ambulance of Hungary.

The sinking of Cunard's RMS Carpathia by U-55 off the Irish coast on 17th July 1918

The sinking of Cunard’s RMS Carpathia by U-55 off the Irish coast on 17th July 1918 Via: Pinterest

On July 15, under the command of Captain William Prothero, the ship set sail as part of a larger convoy. Tragically, the Carpathia met its untimely end at 9.15 am two days later, sunk by a German submarine south-west of Ireland. The U-55 submarine fired two torpedoes into the once great ship’s side, killing five crew members.

Via: Origo.hu/theboltonnews.co.uk/Múlt-Kor

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