The Geneva Historical & Genealogical Society, one of the earliest community partners of the Regional Initiative for Collecting History, Experiences and Stories (RICHES), held a memorial service on October 10 to honor the centenary of the death of Roderick “Perry” Taylor. Taylor, a native of the small rural community in east Seminole County, died when a World War I German submarine torpedoed the ship, the R.M.S. Leinster, in the Irish Sea near the coastal town of Dun Laoghaire.
The Leinster, a mail ship owned by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, left the port of Dun Laoghaire at 9 a.m. in clear weather, but heavy seas on a voyage to Holyhead. Aboard the ship were 771 passengers and crew. Many of the passengers were soldiers and sailors on leave or returning from leave. Around 10 a.m., sixteen miles from port, the Leinster was hit by two of three torpedoes fired by the German submarine, UB-123. The ship sank and 565 passengers and crew died, including Taylor. On October 18, the submarine UB-123 struck a mine in the North Sea and all aboard were lost.
The sinking of the Leinster occurred at a critical moment in World War I. On October 4, President Woodrow Wilson received a communication from Germany asking him to assist in negotiating an armistice. On October 14, four days after the sinking of the Leinster, Wilson responded to the appeal, saying that no peace could be negotiated until submarine attacks on passenger vessels ended. On November 21, Admiral Reinhard Scheer order all German submarines to return to port. The ensuing armistice ended fighting at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918.
The memorial for Perry Taylor was part of a world-wide commemoration for the men, women and children who died with the sinking of the Leinster, but the only such memorial in the United States. The memorial service was scheduled to take place at the Geneva Cemetery where Taylor is buried, but concerns about weather conditions resulting from Hurricane Michael moved the commemoration to the Geneva Community Center. The event also honored Charles S. Lee of Oviedo, Taylor’s friend who had sailed on an earlier ship. Lee dictated an account of his WWI experiences in the U.S. Navy in 1991 at age ninety. The memoir, My Experiences in World War I, was dedicated to Perry Taylor.