The American Monument, high on the cliffs of the Oa Peninsula, is a silent reminder of the soldiers who lost their lives in Islay’s waters in WorldWar I.
Sacred to the immortal memory of those American Soldiers and Sailors who gave their lives for their country in the wrecks of the transports Tuscania (feb 5th 1918) and Otranto (October 6th 1918). The monument was erected by The American Red Cross near the spot where so many of the victims of the disasters sleep in everlasting peace.
A Tribute from Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America. To the memory of his fellow citizens who gave their lives for their country in nearby waters, dated 1918.
It’s February 1918 when the American troopship Tuscania entered the North Channel on its way to Liverpool from New Jersey. In total darkness it was hit by a torpedo fired from a German submarine. It took several hours for the ship to sink and over 230 soldiers lost their lives in this terrible tragedy. Many drowned soldiers and also survivors ended up on Islay’s shores. The folk on Islay did everything they could to bury the dead with dignity and help the survivors in any way possible.
Eight months later disaster struck again! The HMS Otranto, a troopship on its way from New York to Glasgow, sunk during a heavy storm. This happened not far from Machir Bay, on Islay’s west coast. Well over 400 british crew and US servicemen lost their lives in this tragedy. Many victims were buried on the Military cemetery at Kilchoman which looks out over the ocean.
After the first world war, in 1920, the American Red Cross erected the lighthouse shaped American Monument. It was designed by Robert Walker. Built on a 131 metre high cliff it overlooks the entire north channel. On the 5th of February, 100 years after the first tragedy, a memorial service was held at the monument.
Walking up to the Monument
From Port Ellen it’s a 20 to 30 minutes drive up to the parking place at the Mull of Oa. From there a sign posted track goes up to the monument. The walk itself will take around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on fitness level and conditions. It can we wet and boggy in some places. Also the weather, already changeable in other parts, is even more changeable here. And it’s certainly windier than anywhere else on the island. Wearing proper footwear and a wind/rain jacket is not a luxury.
The last stretch of the walk is stunning. It’s here when you can really appreciate the height, the importance and the impressive location it’s built on. Find a sheltered space and reflect on the reason why this monument is here, as so many gave their lives for our freedom. We sometimes forget what earlier generations did for us and the sacrifices they made. Visiting the American Monument is a good reminder for us all to try and preserve our hard fought for freedom and democracy!
Walking back to the parking space is also possible when you head right from the monument along the cliffs. There is lots of wildlife to be seen and some amazing views too. Enjoy!