The torpedoing of Lusitania - May 7, 1915

The position of Lusitania during its sinking Above: The position of Lusitania during its sinking

After the famous Titanic, sunk in peacetime, the sinking of the Lusitania remains one of the greatest maritime tragedies in history, whose consequences have been decisive as a triggering factor of the entry into the United States in the first world war war alongside the entente powers. Ten years ago, it was Europe's golden age, "La Belle Epoque". Large transatlantic companies competed with prestige and luxury ships, technical prowesses, and millions of pounds sterling in luxury items and accomodations worthy of a the most pretigious hotels, all under the incredulous gaze of the press.

Of these, two giant shines in passenger transport, the Cunard and the White Star Line. If the latter remains famous for having commissioned in 1911-12 three huge ships, the Britannic, the Olympic, and the Titanic, whose history is no longer told, its great historical rival had eclipsed these in the newspapers by the triumph of a new challenger, the Mauretania, from 1907. The latter came out three months after the Lusitania, taking the title of the world's largest ship, and adding the title of the fastest liner in the world, taking the legendary Blue ribbon and retaining it for 20 years, not a small feat. The Cunard wishing to keep three ships on its Atlantic line, like the White Star line, later launched the Aquitania.

Lusitanian by Norman Wilkinson

In 1914, the three giants were not requisitioned for future tasks (troop transport and auxiliary cruisers) but kept in their original role on the transatlantic line. On the other hand, later, the Mauretania was converted indeed as a troop transport. For economical and safety reasons, the ship saw her scheduling going from one trip per week to one per month and two boilers closed, her speed falling to 21 knots. From February 15, 1915, the Kaiser authorized unrestricted submarine warfare: His U-Bootes could now roam freely along the English islands, and off the coast of Ireland in the North Atlantic. The new models of oceanic submersibles built also allowed such range. On 18 February, this decision came into force and from then on all neutral ships likely to supply Great Britain would be torpedoed without warning. However, German commanders had two restrictions, concerning certain neutral ships, and concerning ships not carrying arms or ammunition.


Lusitania 1907

Torpedoing site From February 17 to 24, 1915, from Liverpool, the Lusitania made her 101st crossing to New York, which was celebrated as it should be. She stayed a week at the dock before leaving. In doing so, passengers with dual nationality (German and American) who were to board her consulted the German Embassy which advised against them to make the trip. The Embassy also made a note in English explaining that taking place on board could be done only at his/her own "risk and peril":

"NOTICE: TRAVELERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Official notices given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of its allies, are bound to be destroyed in those waters and up to the United States of America, at their own risk. IMPERIAL GERMAN EMBASSY, Washington, DC April 22, 1915."



The press got wind of this note and the agitation began to cause some cancellations. Confident however, Captain William "Bower Bill" Turner, continued to say that his ship was too fast for U-Bootes and "safer than a New York trolley". At noon, the ship cast off the moorings and retrieved SS Cameronia passengers and crew. Three German spies were discovered shortly after departure and sent to the bottom of the hold. 1257 passengers had taken their seats aboard, including - as was customary on the big transatlantic - celebrities and businessmen of the time like the millionaire Alfred G. Vanderbilt, the genealogist Whitington, the engineer Frederick Stark Pearson, the pianist Charles H. Knight, theater actors Julius Miles Forman and Charles Klein, impresario Charles Frohman, writer Ian Holbourn, architect T. Pope, a wealthy art collector...

Captain David Dow During her return voyage, far from the golden comfort of the lounges, the Admiralty offices received a dispatch from the coast stations intercepting a UFO radio message from Commander Walter Schwieger's U-20 who was operating west of Ireland and headed south. On the 5th and 6th of May, the latter was sinking three ships in the vicinity of the Fastnet, the final point of the line followed by the Lusitania. As a result, on the 6th, the Royal Navy issued a warning to all ships present that a U-Boote was prowling on the south-west coast of Ireland. The Lusitania received the message twice and Commander Turner decided to proceed with security measures: Closing the watertight doors, unlocking the canoes on the davits to launch them more quickly, partial extinction of the lights, and doubling the watchers.

On May 7 at 11 am he caught a new message from the Admiralty, and then decided to get closer to the coast rather than stay in the open sea, where he hoped to be safer. Commander Schwieger was running out of oil fast, but he still had three torpedoes left. He finally decided to return, and was sailing at full speed on the surface. The weather was clear. Suddenly, around 13:00, one of the watchmen reported a smoke on the horizon. The Lusitania was 70 km off the village of Old Head of Kinsale on the coast when it crossed the submarine path. Schwieger could not believe how lucky he was to be able to cross the liner, which was coming to the west, facing him. He could very well intercept her, but not pursue the ship as he would have been quickly out of reach. Around 14:10, at a good distance, he dives to avoid being seen, and orders the tube 1 to fire. The torpedo goes straight to the side, at the front of the huge black mass...


As a result of the opening immediately to port in the hull, a second explosion tore the latter over a great length. Testimonies spoke later of two torpedoes, but the official reports and the number of torpedoes remaining on board pleaded the opposite. Be that as it may, the giant offered a gaping wound at the bow, gushing tens of tons of seawater, sailing at full speed. Turner immediately knew what he was doing and launched an SOS while steps were being taken to have the passengers board the rowboats asap. But the list increased at high speed, including the pitch, because quickly, as the bow played a "plow share" effect, she still sank further as the ship plunged. Unfortunately her compartmentation technology dated before the Titanic, and she could not claim to be unsinkable. From then on, her fate was sealed much faster than the former (18 minutes). Turner, however, decided to try to go down the nearby coast to beach her giant ship. But the steamer was now too heavily loaded, and no longer answered. He ordered the speed to be reduced, and the trimmers began to evacuate the flooded rooms.



On the deck Turner and his crew could not stop the panic that had taken hold of the passengers, as the launching of the boats, though this time in sufficient numbers, was a nightmare: The Lusitania had been assembled with salient rivets, and with the important list, most of the lifeboats heavily loaded, scraped the hull down and consequently, arrived at the water with leaks provoked by these rivets. The handling of the davits proved difficult for the crew members, many of whom came from the Cameronia (an ironic timewarp wink at James Cameron?). By feverishness and lack of coordination, turned, either downhill, either with the water, still others fell brutally and crashed on passengers, were broken... In the end, out of 48 boats, only 6 managed to stay afloat, laden with women and children. The end of the giant was terrible and reminiscent of the Titanic, her bow twisted, the rear lifted, then the hull broke from the front. One of the chimneys exploded, and fell on the swimming survivors, followed by the other three. Finally, she capsized and sank, belly in the air at 2:28 pm, just 8 miles off the coast of Ireland.

Lusitania sunk

Lusitania vast hole In total there were 1198 victims, including 128 Americans. The shock was considerable, but it was only the first trigger that led the United States into the war. The question of whether the Lusitania carried arms and ammunition (the British fiercely denied this fact, and described Schwieger as a war criminal) remains controversial. Some believe that "cheese" stamped ammunition was on board, smuggled, and caused the second explosion on the torpedo impact. It remains that the famous undersea explorator Robert Ballard visited the wreckage during a campaign and found nothing convincing. For him, the "ammunition" was stored too far from the impact, but it was the coal dust residue of the affected compartment that would have detonated.

In any case, faced with the scandal provoked by this affair, the Kaiser ordered a "truce" for the big steamers, until September. A satirical medal was melted in Munich commemorating the sinking of the ship and the propaganda seized the case, reinforcing the hatred of the British against the "barbarians", and cultivating some deep resentment in the Americans press, which was added to German secret operations on US soil (like a fifth column trying to blew up ammo depots) and a secret cable to the Mexicans promising rewards if they attacked the border, intercepted by the British. For all what was wrote about it, books, movies, documentaries anc conspiracy theories which followed for 100 years, the sinking of the Lusitania was an historical event of first magnitude, staying well above the mass of unnamed freighters, coasters, ferries and tall ships that disappeared in this war in similar circumstances.



Sources, read more:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_the_RMS_Lusitania
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Lusitania


Documentaries:

Terror At Sea Sinking Of The Lusitania Documentary


The Sinking of the Lusitania

Naval History

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LCVP class LC
LCM(3) class LC
LCP(L) class LC
LCP(R) class SC
LCL(L)(3) class FSC
LCS(S) class FSC
British ww2 Royal Navy

WW2 British Battleships
Queen Elisabeth class (1913)
Revenge class (1915)
Nelson class (1925)
King Georges V class (1939)
Lion class (Started)
HMS Vanguard (1944)
Renown class (1916)
HMS Hood (1920)

WW2 British Cruisers
British C class cruisers (1914-1922)
Hawkins class cruisers (1917)
British D class cruisers (1918)
Enterprise class cruisers (1919)
HMS Adventure (1924)
County class cruisers (1926)
York class cruisers (1929)
Surrey class cruisers (project)
Leander class cruisers (1931)
Arethusa class cruisers (1934)
Perth class cruisers (1934)
Town class cruisers (1936)
Dido class cruisers (1939)
Abdiel class cruisers (1939)
Fiji class cruisers (1941)
Bellona class cruisers (1942)
Swiftsure class cruisers (1943)
Tiger class cruisers (1944)

WW2 British Aircraft Carriers
Courageous class aircraft carriers (1928)
HMS Ark Royal (1937)
HMS Eagle (1918)
HMS Furious (1917)
HMS Hermes (1919)
Illustrious class (1939)
HMS Indomitable (1940)
Implacable class (1942)
Malta class (project)
HMS Unicorn (1941)
Colossus class (1943)
Majestic class (1944)
Centaur class (started 1944)

HMS Archer (1939)
HMS Argus (1917)
Avenger class (1940)
Attacker class (1941)
HMS Audacity (1941)
HMS Activity (1941)
HMS Pretoria Castle (1941)
Ameer class (1942)
Merchant Aircraft Carriers (1942)
Vindex class (1943)

WW2 British Destroyers
Shakespeare class (1917)
Scott class (1818)
V class (1917)
S class (1918)
W class (1918)
A/B class (1926)
C/D class (1931)
G/H/I class (1935)
Tribal class (1937)
J/K/N class (1938)
Hunt class DE (1939)
L/M class (1940)
O/P class (1942)
Q/R class (1942)
S/T/U//V/W class (1942)
Z/ca class (1943)
Ch/Co/Cr class (1944)
Battle class (1945)
Weapon class (1945)

WW2 British submarines
L9 class (1918)
HMS X1 (1923)
Oberon class (1926)
Parthian class (1929)
Rainbow class (1930)
Thames class (1932)
Swordfish class (1932)
HMS Porpoise (1932)
Grampus class (1935)
Shark class (1934)
Triton class (1937)
Undine class (1937)
U class (1940)
S class (1941)
T class (1941)
X-Craft midget (1942)
A class (1944)

WW2 British Amphibious Ships and Landing Crafts
LSI(L) class
LSI(M/S) class
LSI(H) class
LSS class
LSG class
LSC class
Boxer class LST

LST(2) class
LST(3) class
LSH(L) class
LSF classes (all)
LCI(S) class
LCS(L2) class
LCT(I) class
LCT(2) class
LCT(R) class
LCT(3) class
LCT(4) class
LCT(8) class
LCT(4) class
LCG(L)(4) class
LCG(M)(1) class

British ww2 Landing Crafts
LCA
LCP
LCM

WW2 British MTB/gunboats.
WW2 British MTBs
MTB-1 class (1936)
MTB-24 class (1939)
MTB-41 class (1940)
MTB-424 class (1944)
MTB-601 class (1942)
MA/SB class (1938)
MTB-412 class (1942)
MGB 6 class (1939)
MGB-47 class (1940)
MGB 321 (1941)
MGB 501 class (1942)
MGB 511 class (1944)
MGB 601 class (1942)
MGB 2001 class (1943)

WW2 British Gunboats

Denny class (1941)
Fairmile A (1940)
Fairmile B (1940)
HDML class (1940)

WW2 British Sloops
Bridgewater class (2090)
Hastings class (1930)
Shoreham class (1930)
Grimsby class (1934)
Bittern class (1937)
Egret class (1938)
Black Swan class (1939)

WW2 British Frigates
River class (1943)
Loch class (1944)
Bay class (1944)

WW2 British Corvettes
Kingfisher class (1935)
Shearwater class (1939)
Flower class (1940)
Mod. Flower class (1942)
Castle class (1943)

WW2 British Misc.
WW2 British Monitors
Roberts class monitors (1941)
Halcyon class minesweepers (1933)
Bangor class minesweepers (1940)
Bathurst class minesweepers (1940)
Algerine class minesweepers (1941)
Motor Minesweepers (1937)
ww2 British ASW trawlers
Basset class trawlers (1935)
Tree class trawlers (1939)
HMS Albatross seaplane carrier
WW2 British river gunboats

HMS Guardian netlayer
HMS Protector netlayer
HMS Plover coastal mines.
Medway class sub depot ships
HMS Resource fleet repair
HMS Woolwhich DD depot ship
HMS Tyne DD depot ship
Maidstone class sub depot ships
HmS Adamant sub depot ship

Athene class aircraft transport
British ww2 AMCs
British ww2 OBVs
British ww2 ABVs
British ww2 Convoy Escorts
British ww2 APVs
British ww2 SSVs
British ww2 SGAVs
British ww2 Auxiliary Mines.
British ww2 CAAAVs
British ww2 Paddle Mines.
British ww2 MDVs
British ww2 Auxiliary Minelayers
British ww2 armed yachts

✙ Axis ww2 Fleets

Japan ww2 Imperial Japanese Navy
WW2 Japanese Battleships
Kongō class Fast Battleships (1912)
Fuso class battleships (1915)
Ise class battleships (1917)
Nagato class Battleships (1919)
Yamato class Battleships (1941)
B41 class Battleships (project)

WW2 Japanese cruisers
Tenryū class cruisers (1918)
Kuma class cruisers (1919)
Nagara class (1920)
Sendai class Cruisers (1923)
IJN Yūbari (1923)
Furutaka class Cruisers (1925)
Aoba class heavy cruisers (1926)
Nachi class Cruisers (1927)
Takao class cruisers (1930)
Mogami class cruisers (1932)
Tone class cruisers (1937)
Katori class cruisers (1939)
Agano class cruisers (1941)
Oyodo (1943)

Seaplane & Aircraft Carriers
Hōshō (1921)
IJN Akagi (1925)
IJN Kaga (1927)
IJN Ryujo (1931)
IJN Soryu (1935)
IJN Hiryu (1937)
Shokaku class (1937)
Zuiho class (1936) comp.40
Ruyho (1933) comp.42
Junyo class (1941)
IJN Taiho (1943)
Chitose class (comp. 1943)
IJN Shinano (1944)
Unryu class (1944)
IJN Ibuki (1942)

Taiyo class (1940)
IJN Kaiyo (1938)
IJN Shinyo (1934)

Notoro (1920)
Kamoi (1922)
Chitose class (1936)
Mizuho (1938)
Nisshin (1939)

IJN Aux. Seaplane tenders
Akistushima (1941)
Shimane Maru class (1944)
Yamashiro Maru class (1944)

Imperial Japanese Navy Aviation

WW2 Japanese Destroyers
Mutsuki class (1925)
Fubuki class (1927)
Akatsuki class (1932)
Hatsuharu class (1932)
Shiratsuyu class (1935)
Asashio class (1936)
Kagero class (1938)
Yugumo class (1941)
Akitsuki class (1941)
IJN Shimakaze (1942)

WW2 Japanese Submarines
KD1 class (1921)
Koryu class
Kaiten class
Kairyu class
IJN Midget subs

WW2 Japanese Amphibious ships/Crafts
Shinshu Maru class (1935)
Akistu Maru class (1941)
Kumano Maru class (1944)
SS class LS (1942)
T1 class LS (1944)
T101 class LS (1944)
T103 class LS (1944)
Shohatsu class LC (1941)
Chuhatsu class LC (1942)
Moku Daihatsu class (1942)
Toku Daihatsu class (1944)

WW2 Japanese minelayers
IJN Armed Merchant Cruisers
WW2 Japanese Escorts
Tomozuru class (1933)
Otori class (1935)
Matsu class (1944)
Tachibana class (1944)
Ioshima class (1944)
WW2 Japanese Sub-chasers
WW2 Japanese MLs
Shinyo class SB

⚑ Neutral

Armada de Argentina Argentinian Navy

Rivadavia class Battleships
Cruiser La Argentina
Veinticinco de Mayo class cruisers
Argentinian Destroyers
Santa Fe class sub. Bouchard class minesweepers King class patrol vessels

Marinha do Brasil Brazilian Navy

Minas Gerais class Battleships (1912)
Cruiser Bahia
Brazilian Destroyers
Humaita class sub.
Tupi class sub.

Armada de Chile Armada de Chile

Almirante Latorre class battleships
Cruiser Esmeralda (1896)
Cruiser Chacabuco (1911)
Chilean DDs
Fresia class subs
Capitan O’Brien class subs

Søværnet Danish Navy

Niels Juel
Danish ww2 Torpedo-Boats Danish ww2 submarines Danish ww2 minelayer/sweepers

Merivoimat Finnish Navy

Coastal BB Ilmarinen
Finnish ww2 submarines
Finnish ww2 minelayers

Nautiko Hellenon Hellenic Navy

Greek ww2 Destroyers
Greek ww2 submarines
Greek ww2 minelayers

Marynarka Vojenna Polish Navy

Polish ww2 Destroyers
Polish ww2 cruisers
Polish ww2 minelayer/sweepers

Portuguese navy ww2 Portuguese Navy

Douro class DDs
Delfim class sub
Velho class gb
Albuquerque class gb
Nunes class sloops

Romanian Navy Romanian Navy

Romanian ww2 Destroyers
Romanian ww2 Submarines

Royal Norwegian Navy Sjøforsvaret

Norwegian ww2 Torpedo-Boats

Spanish Armada Spanish Armada

España class Battleships
Blas de Lezo class cruisers
Canarias class cruisers
Cervera class cruisers
Cruiser Navarra
Spanish Destroyers
Spanish Submarines
Dedalo seaplane tender
Spanish Gunboats
Spanish Minelayers

Svenska Marinen Svenska Marinen

Gustav V class BBs (1918)
Interwar swedish BB projects

Tre Kronor class (1943)
Gotland (1933)
Fylgia (1905)

Ehrernskjold class DDs (1926)
Psilander class DDs (1926)
Klas Horn class DDs (1931)
Romulus class DDs (1934)
Göteborg class DDs (1935)
Mode class DDs (1942)
Visby class DDs (1942)
Öland class DDs (1945)

Swedish ww2 TBs
Swedish ww2 Submarines
Swedish ww2 Minelayers
Swedish ww2 MTBs
Swedish ww2 Patrol Vessels
Swedish ww2 Minesweepers

Türk Donanmasi Turkish Navy

Turkish ww2 Destroyers
Turkish ww2 submarines

Royal Yugoslav Navy Royal Yugoslav Navy

Dubrovnik class DDs
Beograd class DDs
Hrabi class subs

Royal Thai Navy Royal Thai Navy

Taksin class
Ratanakosindra class
Sri Ayuthia class
Puket class
Tachin class
Sinsamudar class sub

minor navies Minor Navies


The Cold War

Royal Navy Royal Navy
Sovietskaya Flota Sovietskiy flot
US Navy USN (1990)


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