Many people will be aware of the tiny Isle Of Islay, famous for its unique brand of single malt whisky, but what is known of the hundreds of graves of America's Great War heroes.

The Tuscania was sunk just off the coast of Islay

The troopship, Tuscania, a converted British passenger liner from the same shipyard as the Titanic, was part of a larger convoy carrying American troops to cross the Atlantic as part of the war effort. Onboard were 2500 soldiers and crew, heading through the narrow channel between Ireland and the UK.

It was late afternoon on February 5, when two torpedos struck the vessel from the German submarine UB-77.

It didn't take long for the Tuscania to sink to the bottom of the murky brine and at 9.40 PM she disappeared for good. In all, 266 men lost their lives that day.

The locals were very brave

The Islanders rallied, with the local police sergeant, Malcolm MacNeill, and his three constables co-ordinating the documentation of the disaster, and identifying and burying almost two hundred American victims. For an island with no electricity, no emergency service and very few vehicles, it was a massive shock to the community.

The community didn't have an American flag

The locals decided to make their own stars and stripes to fly over the graves as a mark of respect. That flag is currently kept in the Smithsonian Institute but will be returned to the island in time for a commemoration of the 100th year since the disaster.

Princess Anne will attend a special ceremony on May 4, marking the sacrifice of those young men and giving thanks to the community that showed the best of humanity in the darkest of hours.

The ceremony will also commemorate another disaster that occurred less than eight months later

HMS Otranto was carrying US troops in a separate convoy some eight months later when she was rammed in ferocious storms by HMS Kashmir, tearing a huge gash in the hull of the vessel. Under orders not to stop and assist, the Kashmir sped on, leaving the beleaguered ship to the mercy of the wild ocean.

HMS Mounsey saves the day

Luietenant Francis Craven, commander of Hms Mounsey, sped to their rescue even though there was the ever-present threat of a sculking U-Boat, and saved many from certain death. 600 soldiers jumped into the sea, but many were crushed between the two ships in the violent storms. Sgt MacNeill and his constables spent the next few days collecting dead bodies that had washed ashore.

Again he carefully documented the scenes and identified the bodies.

The disasters have created a close bond between Islay and the US. Woodrow Wilson, the then President, sent a commemorative plaque to be placed on the large memorial on the Mull of Oa.

According to the BBC, most of the dead were from Georgia, and the state plans its own commemoration of their lost sons later this year