RMS Lusitania

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Lusitania book image1.jpg
Ship data
flag United KingdomUnited Kingdom (Service Flag at Sea) United Kingdom
Ship type Passenger ship
home port Liverpool
Shipping company Cunard Line
Shipyard John Brown & Company , Clydebank
Build number 367
Keel laying June 16, 1904
Launch June 7, 1906
Commissioning July 29, 1907
Whereabouts Sunk on May 7, 1915
Ship dimensions and crew
239.3 m ( Lüa )
broad 26.75 m
displacement 44,000  t
measurement 31,550 GRT
crew 802 men
Machine system
machine Steam boiler
4 × Parsons turbine
76,000 PS (55,898 kW)
26.7  kn (49  km / h )
propeller 4 × fixed propellers
Transport capacities
Permitted number of passengers 1st class: 563
2nd class: 464
3rd class: 1,138

The RMS Lusitania was a passenger ship of the British shipping company Cunard Line (RMS means Royal Mail Ship ). The ship, named after the Roman province of Lusitania , was used in transatlantic traffic between Liverpool and New York City from 1907 and was the largest ship in the world until its sister ship Mauretania was commissioned . The two turbine ships set new standards in shipbuilding in terms of dimensions, propulsion and equipment and represented a significant step in the development of the modern passenger ship.

During the First World War , the Lusitania was sunk on May 7, 1915 by SM U 20 , a submarine of the German Imperial Navy , off the south coast of Ireland , killing 1,198 people. The protests of the USA over the death of 128 US-Americans ( Lusitania affair ) led to the discontinuation of the unrestricted submarine war by the German Reich until February 1917. Measured by the number of fatalities, the sinking of the Lusitania was the greatest loss of a ship in World War I, the third largest loss in terms of tonnage after that of the Britannic in 1916 and that of the Justicia in 1918.

Prehistory and construction

The planning and construction of the Lusitania took place at a time when the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland - the leading maritime power since the end of the 17th century - faced growing competition from emerging countries such as the German Empire and the USA. In addition to the naval arms race, which began after 1898 with the expansion of the German navy, the British public saw two further points as symptomatic of this:

The latter also worried the British Admiralty . Because in the event of war she used to recruit merchant navy personnel for the Royal Navy - and therefore did not want them to be in foreign hands. She therefore supported a project by the Cunard Line, with which they wanted to improve their competitive position vis-à-vis Morgan: They planned to build the two largest, fastest and most luxurious ships in the world. However, since the shipping company could not finance the two projects on its own, it asked the British government for a cheap loan: 2.6 million pounds sterling at an interest rate of 2.75% per annum with a term of twenty years. The Admiralty approved the request, as this way they could get modern auxiliary cruisers in case of war. On August 13, 1903, the House of Commons decided to grant the loan; In the same year, the Admiralty and the shipping company Cunard signed a secret agreement that provided for the construction of two passenger ships that were also suitable for military purposes, the construction costs of which were borne by the Admiralty under the conditions that the ships reached a minimum speed of 24.5 knots, with twelve possible positions 6-inch cannons (15.2 cm) were provided, the engine rooms were arranged completely below the waterline and these were protected by coal bunkers arranged on the sides of the ship.

The launch of the Lusitania on June 7th, 1906. In this picture, the white paint on the uppermost slab corridor , which the Lusitania only wore during her equipment and during her test drives, is clearly visible. In service for the Cunard Line, the entire hull - in accordance with the shipping company's conventions - was then painted black.

Cunard commissioned the ship's designer Leonard Peskett to design the ship. This should also provide for gun substructures and deck reinforcements , which could have carried ship guns in the event of war . After the plans were in place, the John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank was awarded the contract to build the first ship, which would later become known as the Lusitania . The construction of the Mauretania was Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson in Newcastle upon Tyne commissioned. The Lusitania was laid down on June 16, 1904 and June 7, 1906 by Lady Mary Inverclyde, widow died the previous year Cunard president baptized . Their name referred to the ancient Roman province of Lusitania , which included what is now Portugal and parts of Spain.

At the time of her completion in the summer of 1907, the Lusitania was by far the largest ship in the world. It exceeded the previous leader, the German Empress Auguste Viktoria of HAPAG , by almost 30 m in length and around 7,000 GRT; In addition, she was the first ship with a volume of over 30,000 GRT. In addition, the Lusitania and her sister ship , which was completed a little later, were, in the opinion of the New York Times, "as unsinkable as a ship can be". This was supposed to guarantee a complex division of the underwater hull into watertight compartments, the bulkheads of which, however, had 69 openings that had to be sealed by doors. Only 35 of these doors were operated hydraulically, the remaining 34 had to be closed by hand. As a potential auxiliary cruiser, the Lusitania was  - unlike other contemporary passenger ships - not only equipped with transverse but also longitudinal bulkheads. This classification should offer better protection in the event of a shell hit, but meant a higher risk of listing in the event of a leak, since the flooding would be limited to one side of the ship. This in turn would make boarding and lowering the lifeboats much more difficult. In addition, the stability of the ship was inadequate for this bulkhead system: Even if only three coal bunkers were flooded on one side, the initial metacentric height could become negative.

The structural stability of the ship, however, reached a very high level, so the ship was held together by a total of four million rivets. For comparison: "Only" three million rivets were used for the hull and superstructure of the significantly larger Titanic . Apparently, the Lusitania had significantly higher demands on the structural load-bearing capacity of the hull than the Titanic, which was intended for purely civilian purposes .

Since the Lusitania was considered unsinkable, she was initially only equipped with a total of 16 lifeboats with a total capacity of about 960 people; it followed the legal regulations, which, however, originated in 1897 and did not take into account the enormous growth in size of passenger ships since the turn of the century.

Testing and technical details

A major reason for building the Lusitania was to reclaim the Blue Ribbon. The shipping company therefore required the shipyard to have a speed of at least 24.5 knots. This point was so important to Cunard that every tenth of a knot the ship was supposed to make under this speed was penalized with an enormous penalty of £ 10,000. The first test drives of the ship were therefore carried out in secret, in order to keep the embarrassment as low as possible in the event of failure. However, the sea trials allayed all concerns: the Lusitania circumnavigated Ireland and covered the route Dumfries and Galloway - Cornwall twice , reaching a top speed of 26.4 knots. During the following, now public test drives in the Irish Sea, she clearly exceeded this value again with 26.7 knots.

The Lusitania was the first large four-screw steamer

A special technical feature of the Lusitania was its drive: its four 17,000 hp steam turbines each drove one screw, and another turbine was connected to each of the two central screws for reversing. The turbine drive was a risk, as this type of power generation was still in its infancy and had never been used for a ship of this size. The turbines obtained their energy from a total of 25 boilers, each 5.3 m in diameter in four boiler rooms, which required around 1,000 t of coal per day. To cool the total of six turbines, 250,000 liters of water per minute were required at high speeds. The turbine system with its 76,000 hp maximum output clearly outperformed the extremely powerful but technically outdated piston steam engines of the German competition (in particular the express steamers of the Norddeutscher Lloyd of the Kaiser class and the Germany of HAPAG). The Lusitania achieved her absolute best during a crossing in a westerly direction in December 1912 with 28 knots, which she lasted for about an hour.

The rudder of the Lusitania met the requirements that were placed on the maneuverability of a warship. She was therefore significantly more manoeuvrable than other ships of comparable size. The 240 m long Lusitania required a turning circle of only 870 m, while the 270 m long Titanic , which was equipped with a conventional rudder, was 1,175 m.

The Lusitania had fully met the expectations in terms of speed , but another massive problem arose during the test drives: At high speeds, the stern vibrated so violently that it was hardly possible to stay there. The ship verholte therefore back to the dock where struts, shelves and extra blankets columns were confiscated in the entire area of the Second Class. This finally resolved the problem.


Deck plan of the Lusitania


(Detailed deck plans of the Lusitania and pictures of some of the interiors can be found on the web links.)

Naval architect David Millar was responsible for the interior of the Lusitania .

Although Lusitania and Mauretania were outwardly quite similar and identical in the general room layout, the two sister ships differed significantly in the type and design of their equipment: On the Mauretania , the installation of dark wood paneling resulted in a rather conservative, classic design that is similar to that on board other Atlantic liner adapted. In contrast, the interior of the Lusitania was entirely based on the color white.

First class

Color drawing of the 1st class dining room from a contemporary Cunard brochure. The enormous height of the room is clearly visible here.
The 1st class lounge with the arched glass roof. Some of the elaborate stained glass fields are easy to see.

Almost all of the first class public rooms on the boat deck of the ship had huge, cylindrically arched glass roofs the full length of the room, which created a light-flooded atmosphere and in this form was a complete novelty on ships. On the boat deck there was a veranda café, a smoking salon, a lounge (also known as a music salon), a spacious entrance room as a foyer for the large staircase of the ship and a reading and writing room. The glass roof in the lounge was particularly elaborately designed; it was divided into twelve sections, in which stained glass allegories of the twelve months were incorporated. One deck below, a so-called observation room was set up, which allowed an unobstructed view of the sea forward through portholes. Although this “room” was actually only a somewhat widened cabin corridor, the concept was completely new and introduced the tradition of such observation rooms, which can still be found on many passenger ships today. The core element of the first class of the ship was a Louis XVI style . Dining room in white and gold, which was surmounted by a stucco-decorated dome and comprised a total of three deck heights. The best cabins on the ship were the two "Royal Suites", which included two bedrooms, a bathroom and separate toilet, a private salon and a dining room. Smaller suites, which consisted of a bedroom and living room and some of which also had a private bathroom and toilet, complemented the luxury class of private accommodation on the Lusitania . There were a total of ten private living rooms on the ship (i.e. cabins that did not offer any sleeping accommodation, but were only intended for the passengers to stay ); an unusually large number for the time ( there were only four such rooms on the Titanic , which was completed five years later ). These particularly expensive cabins had their own telephone network that residents could use to communicate with one another. If the ship was at the pier in New York or Liverpool, it could even be connected to the respective city telephone network, so that the passengers could also use their devices for landline connections; a particularly remarkable technical innovation for the time. The large stairwell of the ship connected a total of five decks (boat deck to E-deck) and was equipped with elaborate wrought-iron balustrades with gold-plated elements. Two elevators running in parallel were installed in the stairwell. The lavish and lavish furnishings of the first class on the Lusitania caused a sensation among passengers on her maiden voyage in 1907. The US Senator George Sutherland gave an eulogy for the ship shortly before arrival, in which he uttered the famous words: She is more beautiful than Solomon's temple and large enough to hold all his wives and mothers-in-law. ( She [the Lusitania ] is more beautiful than Solomon's temple and large enough to house all of his wives and mothers-in-law. )

Second grade

The second class was also relatively luxurious for the time. Your passengers had a dome-crowned dining room, which, however, was much more unadorned than its counterpart in the first class. There was also a lounge, a so-called ladies' salon (reading and writing room) and a smoking salon. The second class rooms were located in the rear of the ship and were housed in a separate deck structure, which was located behind the main mast of the ship.

Third grade

The third class had a large dining room as well as a smoking room and a lounge for women in public spaces. The latter two rooms were, however, also used as dining rooms in the event of a correspondingly high number of passengers. The third class cabins were spartan, but compared to the mass dormitories on older and smaller ships, they significantly improved travel comfort and hygienic conditions. Most of them were 4- and 6-bed cabins with their own washbasin. The third class was housed in the front part of the Lusitania .

Mission history

The imminent first departure of the Lusitania caused unprecedented press coverage in Great Britain. The public interest in the new ship was so great that Cunard decided to open the Lusitania, lying in the roadstead in front of Liverpool , for five hours on September 3, 1907. At the price of half a krone , around 10,000 visitors crossed over to her in a tender during this time; the proceeds went to charities in Liverpool. When the Lusitania left Liverpool on the evening of September 7th on its maiden voyage, around 200,000 spectators had gathered in the port. The ship was fully booked, leaving 200 passengers who had hoped for a last-minute passage during a stopover in Queenstown, Ireland , had to be left behind. Even on arrival in New York, the ship was cheered frenetically by the general public: Until the return journey to England on September 21, she was viewed by around 5,000 onlookers every day. Among them were celebrities like the writer Mark Twain , who was particularly interested in the technical systems and at the end of the tour said enthusiastically: I guess I'll have to tell Noah about it when I see him. (I think I'll have to tell Noah about this when I meet him.)

The Lusitania arrives in New York at the end of her maiden voyage on September 13, 1907

Due to bad weather conditions, the Lusitania was unable to regain the Blue Ribbon on her maiden voyage to New York, she was 30 minutes behind the existing record of Germany . In October 1907, however, she was successful with an average speed of just over 24 knots; this made it the first ever liner to cross the Atlantic to the west in less than five days. Already in September 1909, the Lusitania lost this record in a westerly direction to her sister ship, the Mauretania , which held the coveted trophy until 1929.

In November 1907, the Lusitania made headlines when she transported 20 tons of gold worth around 2.5 million pounds sterling (about twice the value of the ship itself; as of April 2011 around 654 million euros) on one crossing; to date the largest amount of gold that has ever been transported on a ship. After her departure from Queenstown on Sunday, September 8, 1908, it looked as if a new record voyage was to be expected, since the ship had covered 625 nautical miles in one day, but on Tuesday morning there was a failure of a boiler, what led to the Lusitania arriving late in New York. On this voyage, the steamer had 1,872 passengers, 899 of whom were traveling first class, on board. One of the most famous celebrities of this trip was the lawyer, politician and millionaire Samuel Untermyer . A sensational incident occurred after an Atlantic crossing on January 2, 1909, when a murderer wanted since December 21 in Glasgow, Scotland , who was under false names in the second class on the steamer, was in New York by two US marshals and two Pinkerton -Detectives could be arrested on board. When the Lusitania arrived in New York on February 15, 1909, she was two days overdue. The cause had been a persistent bad weather front that had appeared before the departure in Great Britain. Due to the bad weather, the captain could not enter the port of Queenstown and had to anchor in the open sea. In the storm, the starboard anchor, which was then $ 600, was lost and had to be replaced before the journey could continue. In the further course of the voyage, the Lusitania , like the Lloyd express steamer Kronprinz Wilhelm a few years earlier , was confronted with monster waves up to 25 m high . The breakers caused damage to the navigation bridge and the superstructure; the wind destroyed the wire antenna of the Marconi radio station on board . Despite the damage, the ship demonstrated extraordinary resilience, which further enhanced its reputation as a reliable and safe liner. At the end of January 1910, the Lusitania got into a particularly violent storm again, in the course of which first-class passengers were injured. A woman who was traveling as a tween deck passenger in the belly of the ship had to be disembarked in a hysterical state upon arrival. After the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912, the number of lifeboats on board was increased; Even the Lusitania had so far carried too few boats for everyone on board. On August 1, 1914, she was surprised by the outbreak of war in New York, but started her return trip to Liverpool as planned.

The Lusitania in the First World War

David Dow resigned in March 1915 from his position as long-time captain of the Lusitania because he no longer wanted to lead the ship under the circumstances.
Newspaper advertisement from the German Embassy in the USA dated April 22, 1915, warning of travel on the British passenger ships Lusitania, Transylvania , Orduna and Tuscania to the war zone around the British Isles, which the German Reich had declared.

For the shipbuilding engineer Leonard Peskett, the Lusitania and her sister ship the Mauretania had been the greatest challenge of his life. The ships had to be convertible into warships; substructures were provided for a dozen 15.2-centimeter rapid-fire guns. Their warlike use was questionable because of the lack of armor and the high coal consumption. When the ship was christened on June 6, 1906, Charles MacLaren, deputy chairman of the board of John Brown & Company , declared that the ship could be converted into the “fastest and most powerful cruiser in the world” by “slight” changes. As early as 1907, construction drawings of the Lusitania with the projected armament of twelve 6-inch (15.2 centimeter) rapid-fire guns (four on the promenade deck and eight on the shelter deck ) were published in British trade journals .

In February 1913, the First Lord of the Admiralty (Minister of the Navy) Winston Churchill had declared in a letter from the Cunard Line that the ships paid for by the Admiralty would soon have to prove their worth, because “the war against Germany is safe - it will break out in September 1914 at the latest . ”In reality, during a lengthy overhaul in 1913, only four gun rings were attached to the deck so that four 6-inch guns could be quickly installed in the event of war .

The Lusitania was in New York at the time the war broke out and was scheduled to leave for Liverpool on August 4, 1914. In view of the acute threat from German auxiliary cruisers, the ship's command was unsure how to proceed. After the British consulate in New York had given instructions to start the crossing, the Lusitania left the port with only around 200 passengers on board. The ship was darkened throughout the voyage; On August 5th, the first day at sea, the chimneys, the superstructure and the hull were painted a light gray to make it difficult to identify. On August 11, 1914, the steamer reached Liverpool without incident.

The RMS Aquitania , which is very similar to the Lusitania , was actually armed after the outbreak of war and used as an auxiliary cruiser and troop transport. Contrary to all expectations, the Admiralty did not requisition the Lusitania as an auxiliary cruiser. The reason for this was the situation on the world's oceans, which was rapidly developing in favor of the British naval power, and the rapid elimination of the danger posed by German auxiliary cruisers. In addition, the extremely high vulnerability of such ships in combat against regular warships had proven. It was therefore decided to keep the Lusitania as a regular passenger ship in liner service. However, both the Lusitania and her sister ship Mauretania were listed in the 1914 edition of the Brassey Fleet Manual as the intended "auxiliary cruiser of the Royal Navy Reserve". Since such manuals were used by submarine commanders as a basis for identification, both ships were in danger of being attacked without warning. In Jane's Naval Recognition Book, however , the Lusitania was not listed as part of the war fleet, but, just like other civilian ships, to identify with its silhouette.

The Lusitania was neither armed nor placed under the direct command of the Admiralty, but due to the fact that the ship was in fact majority owned by the state through the government loan, the management of the Royal Navy reserved certain rights of participation in its operations. This concerned in particular the transport of war-essential goods which - according to the British definition, which was applied to the blockade of the German ports - were actually not allowed to be imported from neutral countries. The Lusitania transported but during the war at all crossings east ammunition and other clearly in breach of the blockade rules goods. Although these transports were subject to strict secrecy, the ship actually became a “ blockade breaker ” from the German point of view and since the German declaration of British waters as a war zone on February 4, 1915, it was a legitimate target for an attack by Germans from the point of view of German naval warfare Naval forces (see also the official German reaction to the sinking of the Lusitania shown below). In this context, the German Foreign Ministry issued a note to the USA on February 5 that “in view of the misuse of neutral flags” by Great Britain “mistakes cannot always be avoided”. Immediately before the sinking of the Lusitania, on the morning of May 7th (the day the Lusitania was sunk), British Foreign Secretary Edward Gray asked Colonel House, the US President's advisor sent to England, “What will America do if the Germans hit an ocean liner? sink with Americans on board? ”House replied that the US would then enter the war.

The Lusitania was the last remaining large passenger ship on the North Atlantic route from autumn 1914, as all other comparable ships were either laid up for the duration of the war or used as troop transports or hospital ships. Nevertheless, the total of 18 crossings that she carried out between August 1914 and May 1915 were not very profitable, as travel traffic had generally fallen sharply due to the war and potential passengers were deterred from crossing the Atlantic by the submarine danger.

In order to save money, the crew was reduced by 258 men (in the engine room by 83 men), so that one of the ship's four boiler rooms had to be taken out of service. This saved 1,600 tons of coal and 1,325 pounds sterling in wages per crossing . But it also reduced the top speed from 26 to 21 knots and the cruising speed from 24 to 18 knots. The crew suspected sabotage by German agents. 25 fully qualified seamans and 45 stewards were no longer hired for the first trip in an east-west direction. However, the shipping company confirmed that it was a question of austerity measures.

On the third to last voyage, two merchant ships were sunk ten miles from the Lusitania by SM U 30 . The freighter Bengrove was torpedoed on the return voyage by SM U 20 when the Lusitania was just entering the St. George's Canal . The previous captain David Dow then refused to take responsibility for passengers and cargo of the Lusitania, and was replaced by captain William Thomas Turner . Its later demands for the elimination of technical defects in the ship and life-saving equipment were largely met. His demand for an increase in the number of manning and training levels could not be met, however, as a large part of the more experienced people had been drafted into the Royal Navy . The shipping company also pointed out that if the captain and chief engineer wanted to bunker more coal, the drinking water supply would have to be reduced.

The reduced speed was kept secret, as many passengers were reassured with the reference to the enormous speed of the Lusitania - no submarine was able to overtake them. In fact, until the sinking of the Lusitania, no ship had been torpedoed that had run faster than 14 knots.

During the war, various attempts were made to make it more difficult for German submarines to recognize the Lusitania . This included changes to the paintwork (for example, in addition to the gray camouflage on the return trip from New York in August 1914, the ship also had a completely black paintwork in February 1915, after the danger was apparently estimated to be lower around the turn of 1914/15 and the chimneys were put back in had painted the bright red and black Cunard colors) as well as driving without a flag or on a single crossing in February 1915 under the American stars and stripes. Waving the US flag resulted in little protests from the American government, while Germany vigorously objected to this abuse of the symbols of a neutral state. In general, it was hardly to be expected that any kind of "camouflage" of the Lusitania would be successful - with its unmistakable lines, she was one of the most famous ships in the world at the time. On her last voyage she had a rather weaker camouflage paint scheme: the hull and superstructure were painted in classic black and white, the funnels were either painted in red and black Cunard paint or painted in black and dark gray, and there was a wider one between the superstructure and the hull light brown stripe has been painted on.

On April 22, 1915, the Imperial German Embassy published a warning in the 50 largest American newspapers, which was placed right next to the departure times of the transatlantic steamers:

"ATTENTION! Travelers intending to cross the Atlantic are reminded that Germany and its allies and Britain and its allies are at war; that the war zone also includes the waters around the British Isles; that in accordance with the formal announcement of the Imperial German Government, all ships flying the flag of Great Britain or one of its allies run the risk of being destroyed in these waters, and that travelers traveling in the war zone on ships from Great Britain or its allies, do so at your own risk. IMPERIAL GERMAN EMBASSY, WASHINGTON DC, April 22, 1915. "

On the day of departure, an advertisement appeared in the New York Times warning the German government of a crossing. In addition, the New York Times reported in their May 8, 1915 edition and the Washington Times as early as May 1, 1915, of anonymous telegrams to individual passengers warning that the ship would be torpedoed. One of the recipients is said to have been Alfred Vanderbilt . However, the latter reports were denied as rumors by the British.

The last crossing


On Saturday, May 1, 1915, the Lusitania ran at 12:20 p.m. from New York with 1258 passengers and 701 crew members (a total of 1367 men, 463 women and 129 children) to Liverpool. There were 4,200 boxes of rifle ammunition on board, weighing a total of 173 tons. For reasons of secrecy, the boxes had been declared as hunting rifle ammunition, which did not fall under the contraband regulations . There were also 1248 boxes of bullet shells, weighing 51 tons, as well as some other military supplies on the loading list.

Although passengers from the anchor line steamer Cameronia , whose departure had been canceled, were taken over at the last minute , the Lusitania was not fully booked on this voyage, but it was the largest number of passengers on board since the outbreak of war. Although the warnings from the newspapers and the mysterious telegrams to prominent passengers had made many travelers feel unsafe, the Lusitania , which was known for its descent safety and high speed, was still considered by most passengers to be the safest ship on the North Atlantic route. The ship's captain, William Thomas Turner , was also an experienced seaman. However, the recall of the longest serving and most experienced crew members for military service had led to a deterioration in the quality of the crew's skills.

The ship had only 290 passengers of the first and 367 of the third, but 599 passengers of the second class on board, which was due to a price reduction for this class for advertising reasons. The first class passengers included a large number of well-known personalities from culture, business and politics: the 37-year-old US millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt was on board, as was the English opera actress Josephine Brandell , the Consul General of Cuba in the United Kingdom Julián de Ayala and the Chicago industrialist Charles Plamondon . They were joined by the writer Justus Forman , the American politician Ogden Hammond , the American architect and spiritualist Theodate Pope , the New York businessman George Kessler and Lady Marguerite Allan, wife of the Canadian shipowner Sir Montagu Allan , with two daughters. With the suffragette and author Lady Margaret Mackworth and the art collector Sir Hugh Lane , the British nobility was also represented. Undoubtedly the most famous personality was the New York theater impresario Charles Frohman . What was noticeable during this trip was the large number of mothers with young children. This Atlantic crossing saw the largest number of children on board since the beginning of the war.

Shortly after departure, three male stowaways were discovered with a camera and locked in a holding cell below deck. It could have been German agents with the task of photographing the four guns allegedly seen on board by the retired steward and agent Charles Thorne (Curt Thummel), but this could never be clearly clarified. Nothing is known about their whereabouts, but they are almost certainly among the victims of the downfall.

During the voyage, lifeboat exercises were carried out in which crew members, under the supervision of an officer, swung out one of the boats, climbed into it and donned life jackets there. According to the observing passengers, the exercise time lasted barely five minutes and raised doubts about the seafaring qualities of the simple sailors.

In the war zone

The crossing was uneventful until reaching the war zone around the British Isles on the evening of May 6, 1915; although with the increasing duration of the journey, a growing unrest among the passengers became noticeable. On the last night of May 6th to 7th, many travelers stayed in the public rooms on the boat deck or in the open air so that they could be closer to the lifeboats in the event of a torpedo. The Lusitania drove in radio silence ; only telegrams from the ship's command were sent. As early as April 1915, Captain Turner had received a series of directives from the Admiralty describing behavior in waters at risk of submarines; this included steering a zigzag course, avoiding headlands , driving at top speed, swinging out and keeping the boats ready and providing additional lookouts . When the war zone was reached, the boats were swung out in accordance with these guidelines and additional sentries were posted on the bridge nocks and the forecastle.

A zigzag course, however, fundamentally contradicted the maxim that time was money. "Every officer had been instructed to strive for the fastest possible crossings with minimal coal consumption." The confidential memorandum of the Admiralty to all captains of the merchant navy stated in this regard: "A zigzag course should always be driven if submarines are suspected." And "A zigzag course is only useful immediately before an attack and when the submarine is submerged. A ship that is being pursued by a submerged submarine should not zigzag, but run ahead at full power and only change course to keep the submarine aft. "

The radio warnings

The Lusitania received several radio messages from the Admiralty on May 6 and 7, warning of submarine activities south of Ireland. The first of these sayings was received on May 6th at 7:52 pm and contained a general warning; the next followed at 8:05 pm, which explicitly described the area around Fastnet as particularly endangered; an area into which the Lusitania steered directly. In the same radio message, it was again clearly pointed out to drive at the highest possible speed and to keep away from the coast. Startled by the warnings, the chairman of the Cunard Line, Alfred Booth, went to the responsible naval officer in Liverpool on the morning of May 7th with the request that the Lusitania be given another clear warning. The request was complied with, on May 7th at 11:02 am the steamer received a coded saying that consisted of only one word: "Questor". This word was an encrypted query as to which radio code the Lusitania was using; a clear sign that more confidential messages would follow. The "Questor" request has often been interpreted by older authors as an encrypted instruction to call at Queenstown instead of Liverpool; this conclusion has now certainly been refuted. At 11:52 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., the ship actually received further radio reports in which not only the areas of the submarine activities were more precisely defined, but also of a specific submarine sighting near Cape Clear Iceland was reported. The ship's command of the Lusitania therefore had to assume with a high degree of probability that there was a threat from submarines directly on the ship's course.

The torpedoing

Drawing for the British magazine "The Sphere" of the sinking of the Lusitania
The sinking of the Lusitania in a German representation. A rescue ship is already shown in the background.
The lighthouse on the Old Head of Kinsale as seen from the north. The wreck of the Lusitania lies in the sea area that can be seen to the right of him . The sinking of the steamer was observed by several people from here.
Lusitania Memorial in Cobh (ex-Queenstown), Co. Cork

On the morning of May 7, 1915, the Lusitania reached the south coast of Ireland. She had been in thick fog since 8 a.m., which made navigation much more difficult. Due to the weather conditions, Captain Turner decided to reduce the speed to 18 knots and shortly afterwards to 15 knots and let the fog horn sound every minute ; he feared a collision in the water, which is heavily frequented by fishing boats. The low speed, which was clearly contrary to the instructions, had another reason: Turner wanted to reach Liverpool when the tide was favorable - i.e. later than planned - in order not to have to stop and take a pilot on board. He feared that his ship would make an ideal target for submarines if left unmoved. In order to find his way in the fog better, he also steered the Lusitania close under land in order to be able to orientate himself on the Irish coast. Around 10 o'clock the fog began to dissolve around them, the outlines of the land became visible in the haze.

The captain of the British cruiser Juno had received a warning at 07:45 that there were submarines in these waters and hurried back to Queenstown. After 11:02 am, the Lusitania must have received the following new warning from Valentia Station: “Submarines active in the southern section of the Irish Channel; last message 20 miles south of the lightship Coningbeg ”.

At 11:50 a.m., the Juno passed U 20 , which had previously been submerged because of a small fish liner sighted in the fog . His subsequent pursuit was unsuccessful because of the high speed and zigzag course of the cruiser. The Juno disappeared in the direction of Queenstown .

Shortly before noon, the Lusitania spotted a headland ahead port, which Turner believed to be Brow Head. Around noon the Lusitania's engines were running at 120 revolutions, which was enough for 18 knots. Attention was paid to increased steam pressure in order to be able to increase the speed if necessary. The visibility was now good, the last remnants of the morning mist had disappeared and the sea was as smooth as a mirror. At about 12:40 p.m., Captain Turner received the following new warning: “Submarines 5 miles south of Cape Clear , when sighted at about 10 a.m. heading west”. However, the Lusitania must have passed this position a long time ago.

Decoding the radio message took some time as a new code was used. Turner took a course 67 ° East because of the submarine warning to stay close to land. Until the end of his life he stuck to his statement that he had been instructed by the radio message to call at Queenstown. The Admiralty denied at least until 1972 (publication of Colin Simpson's Die Lusitania ) in 4 courts of law that any radio message had been sent to the Lusitania at that time .

U 20 reappeared at 12:45 p.m. The view had become excellent, the sea calm.

At around 1:00 p.m., a point of land was sighted from the Lusitania which Turner believed to be Galley Head . At around 1:40 p.m., the Lusitania Old Head of Kinsale with its distinctive lighthouse was fairly clearly identified, thus clarifying its approximate position. It then turned right back onto its original course of 87 ° East. However, Captain Turner was still unsure of his exact position.

He decided to set course for the lightship Coningbeg to take a time-consuming Vierstrichpeilung make the lighthouse Old Head of Kinsale on the port side and so determine its exact location. In order to be able to carry out the nautical maneuver, the ship had to steer parallel to land for about forty minutes. It was therefore not possible to keep to the prescribed zigzag course. According to the unanimous opinion of experts, however, a simple cross bearing over 3 minutes would have been sufficient. The ship was now about twelve miles from land and traveling at a speed of 18 knots. Aiming at the lighthouse began at around 1:50 p.m. The lightship Coningbeg was about 4 hours away.

U 20 made out the cloud of smoke from the Lusitania at around 1:20 p.m. (14:20 CET), coming from the west, at an estimated ten or eleven kilometers and then recognized a large passenger steamer with 4 chimneys and two masts. The now initiated attack on the ship basically complied with the guidelines of the German naval command. In “Clues for the submarines during the conduct of the trade war”, issued by the Admiral's staff on February 12, 1915, it is stated: “It is in the military interest to make the submarine war as effective as possible. It is therefore not appropriate to shrink from destroying undoubtedly enemy passenger steamers. Rather, their loss will make the greatest impression. "

While U 20 tried to get into firing position again at a speed of 9 knots, the ship, which had been quickly identified as Lusitania or Mauretania on the basis of the British ship 's manuals Jane's Fighting Ships and Brassey's Naval Annual , initially seemed to close after a change of course two miles away to deviate far from the course of the submarine in order to still be able to be attacked. However, the Lusitania changed course again and was now on the most favorable course for U 20s in a firing position. After a short, rapid approach, U 20 waited and the commander, Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger , gave his officer on watch , Raimund Weisbach , the order at around 2:10 p.m. to release a torpedo at a distance of 700 meters. He had determined the ship's speed to be around 22 knots, the torpedo speed was 38 knots, around 19.5 meters per second. Reports of an alleged refusal of orders by one or more crew members of U 20 in connection with the torpedo launch are unreliable.

The approaching torpedo was quickly spotted by one of the additional lookouts on the bow of the Lusitania and reported to the bridge by shouting, but this warning was not heard and the lookout left his post to warn his brother, who was below deck. Since the air bubbles of the torpedo, set at 3 meters running depth, took 6.5 to 8 seconds in calm seas to rise to the surface of the water, it had to hit the ship's wall 9 seconds before the point in time that its bubble trajectory visually indicated on the water surface. When another warning was issued to the bridge from the crow's nest , it was too late to take an evasive maneuver. The torpedo hit the starboard side of the Lusitania at a precarious point between "boiler room one" and its adjoining transverse bunker. Sea water penetrated the orlop deck and the coal bunkers. As a result of this “extremely unfortunate hit”, the effect of which was intensified by a presumed “coal dust explosion”, the entire structure was so badly deformed that the ship sank.

Since the water fountain rose only perhaps 18 meters high after the torpedo explosion before it fell down again, smashing lifeboat number 5, most of the eyewitnesses and even the commander of U 20 , based on the actual ship speed of 18 knots, asked about the actual position of the torpedo hit below the ship's waterline. The torpedo is said to have hit the ship at about the level of the command bridge and tore open coal bunkers for boiler room no. 1 on an area of ​​about 18 m². According to Captain Turner, the ship got a list of 15 ° within 10 seconds, which made it almost impossible to stand on deck. A short time later there was a second, much stronger explosion that accelerated the ship's sinking process.

The sinking of the Lusitania

Contemporary drawing of the situation at the sinking site shortly after the sinking of the Lusitania

The ship was in chaos after the explosions. The force of the torpedo impact hurled a column of water into the air, which carried lifeboat No. 5 with it and caused a flood of debris to rain down on the deck. Glass was hailing inside the ship; Furniture and small objects were thrown through the air, people fell down stairs. The passengers rushed to the stairs, pushing and trampling each other. The ship quickly developed a starboard impact side of 20 °, as a result of which this side of the ship was almost level with the water surface after a few minutes, while the port side protruded high into the air.

The children's situation was desperate. According to the customs of the time, the children were not allowed to take part in meals in the dining rooms. They were fed by stewardesses in separate rooms. On this Friday , shortly after 2 p.m., most of the children were below deck, eating their meals, while some of their parents had already finished and were strolling on deck. The strong flip side , it was no longer possible to most parents to bring their children out of the ship's interior. The children who got onto the boat deck were crushed there in the crowd or died in the icy Atlantic waters. 94 of the 129 children were killed.

Passengers who reached the deck of the boat rushed in panic towards the boats, which were cleared only with great difficulty by the inexperienced crew. On the port side, due to the inclination, some boats tore themselves out of the davits and hit the superstructures inboard, crushing waiting passengers on the boat deck. The explosions had caused such damage inside the ship that its voyage could not be stopped. This made it even more difficult to lower the boats and resulted in the Lusitania pushing itself under water. The boats, which could be swung over the edge of the deck, rumbled down the riveted outer skin of the ship, overturned, threw the occupants into the sea and shattered on the surface of the water. Many of the lifeboats also fell unmanned from the ship.

In addition, the power went out after around five minutes, which meant that the cabin aisles were in the dark, elevators got stuck and trapped passengers. The collapse of the electrical systems had other serious effects: the bulkhead doors in the ship's hull, which could have locked the watertight compartments, could no longer be closed. The rowing machine fell out, so that the Lusitania was unable to maneuver and was sentenced to control the sinking ship towards the coast and set due to an attempt Captain Turner, to failure. Only two emergency calls could be made, which were picked up by the radio station in Queenstown. They asked for immediate help and reported the big list, but the torpedo was not mentioned at all.

The few lifeboats that reached the water manned and unharmed were swept away by the forward movement of the sinking Lusitania and fell into boats and floating debris behind them. In the meantime, the ship lay down more and more on the starboard side. Just 18 minutes after the two explosions, the Lusitania sank at 2:28 p.m. at position 51 °  N , 9 °  W Coordinates: 51 °  N , 9 °  W The ship slid under water at a very shallow angle, so that the last, what survivors could see of him were the towering chimneys and the two masts. When the chimneys went under, they sucked in whatever was nearby. Numerous people floating in the water were also sucked in and ejected, blackened with soot, which only a few survived. Other passengers were pushed under the water by the suction of the portholes and sucked back into the ship. Capsized lifeboats and countless corpses floated in the water. Oliver Bernard made a series of drawings of the ship's sinking for a British newspaper.

A desperate battle ensued for life jackets and places in the few boats that could survive. Only after 6 p.m., almost four hours after the sinking, did the first rescue ships arrive at the scene of the accident; predominantly it was smaller fishing vessels and auxiliary units of the Royal Navy. Most of them were only able to rescue the dead, including many women and small children. The last survivors were rescued after dark. A total of 1,198 people were killed, including 94 children and 287 women. There were 128 Americans among the fatalities.

The 761 survivors, some of whom were injured and hypothermic, were taken to nearby Queenstown and housed in various hospitals , hotels and private households. The town hall became an improvised morgue that filled up very quickly and had to be expanded to include a shed in the harbor and the back rooms of the local Cunard office. Bodies were still being recovered days later. In terms of the number of victims, the sinking of the Lusitania is considered to be the largest shipping disaster in the First World War.

The second explosion

The survivors and U 20's war diary unanimously report that there had been two explosions in quick succession. According Schwiegers statement that from Room 40 decrypted radio messages and the war diary of U 20 was, however, only shot a torpedo.

The second explosion was so powerful that it hit the keel of the steamer. The question of the cause of the second explosion was therefore of central importance in the past. The information on this diverges. In the literature, an ammunition explosion in the front cargo hold, an explosion of aluminum dust transported there , a coal dust explosion and a steam boiler explosion are each cited as the most likely causes.

Investigations of the wreck in this regard did not provide any clear results. Much of it lies on the starboard side, where the torpedo hit, and is slowly disintegrating. Access is hampered by hooked fishing nets . The Irish government has also prohibited touching or lifting the wreck. The exact position of the torpedo hit has not yet been established with certainty.

Victim of doom

The American millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt was one of the most famous victims of the downfall
Lusitania lifebuoy in the Imperial War Museum , London

There were numerous well-known public figures on board the Lusitania , who at the time enjoyed great status and were internationally known. The representatives of the British aristocracy, American high finance, show business and the business world who were killed in the disaster included, among others:

  • Lindon Bates (1883–1915), American engineer, economist, and author
  • Albert Bilicke (1861–1915), American building contractor and investor
  • Alexander Campbell (1871–1915), Scottish distiller and manager of Dewar's
  • William B. Cloete (1851-1915), British businessman and economist, founder of The New Sabinas Company
  • Paul Crompton (1871-1915), President of the Booth Steamship Company
  • Robert E. Dearbergh (1867–1915), English scientist and Vice President of the Earp-Thomas Farmogerm Company
  • Marie Depage (1872–1915), Belgian diplomat and founder of L'École Belge d'Infirmières Diplômées
  • Justus Forman (1875-1915), American writer and playwright ( The Hyphen )
  • Charles Frohman (1860-1915), American theater producer ( Peter Pan )
  • Edgar E. Gorer (1872–1915), British businessman and art dealer, founder of the London company Gorer
  • Amelia Herbert (1856-1915), American stage actress ( Jane Eyre , Three Wives )
  • Albert L. Hopkins (1871-1915), American shipbuilder, President of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company
  • Alice Moore Hubbard (1861–1915), American women's rights activist and author, wife of Elbert Hubbard
  • Elbert Hubbard (1856–1915), American writer and satirist, founder of Roycroft
  • Carrie Kennedy (1862-1915), American fashion designer
  • Charles Klein (1867-1915), English actor and playwright ( The Lion And The Mouse )
  • Sir Hugh Lane (1875–1915), Irish patron of the arts, founder of the Dublin City Gallery
  • Basil Maturin (1847–1915), British Catholic clergyman, author, and former rector of St. Clement's Church in Philadelphia
  • Frederico G. Padilla (1880–1915), Mexican politician, Consul General for Mexico in the United Kingdom
  • Frederick Pearson (1861–1915), American contractor and manager, builder of the Medina Dam
  • Charles Plamondon (1856–1915), American industrialist
  • Mary Crowther Ryerson (1860–1915), wife of Major General George Ryerson , founder of the Canadian Red Cross
  • Anne Shymer (1879–1915), American chemist and President of the United States Chemical Company
  • Joseph Foster Stackhouse (1873–1915), British polar explorer and explorer
  • Herbert Stone (1872–1915), American editor and publisher, chairman of the publishing house HS Stone & Company, founder of the magazines The Chap Book and The House Beautiful
  • Frances Stephens (1851–1915), widow of the Canadian Minister George Washington Stephens
  • Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877–1915), American millionaire and horse breeder
  • Lothrop Withington (1856–1915), British historian, genealogist and writer
  • Catherine Dougall (1891–1915), niece of the writer Eugène Marais

About 280 bodies were recovered in the days and weeks after the sinking. Most of the dead were buried in three large mass graves in Clonmel Cemetery in Cobh (then Queenstown). Identification of many of the recovered dead was no longer possible. There was great unrest around many missing passengers. The family of New York millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt offered a million pounds to find his body. Still, it was never found.

A chapel is dedicated to the American Leslie Lindsey Mason, daughter of millionaire William Lindsey, in the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston .

Survivors of doom

Among those rescued were many contemporary celebrities such as French actress Rita Jolivet , Welsh politician David Alfred Thomas , American architect Theodate Pope Riddle , American automobile manufacturer Charles Jeffery , American businessman George Kessler , British set designer Oliver Bernard and the 15- year old Virginia Loney , sole heir to the Loney fortune. The last survivor of the Lusitania sinking, Audrey Lawson-Johnston , who had lived in Melchbourne, Bedfordshire, England, died in January 2011. Before that, the American Barbara McDermott (* 1912, then Barbara Anderson) died on April 12, 2008 in Wallingford , Connecticut .

Impact on US Foreign Policy

Propaganda: A British recruiting poster calls for revenge for the sinking of the Lusitania .

The conservative Democrat and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Lansing had sympathized with the Entente since the beginning of the war . This differentiated him from acting Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan , who took a balancing act. After 1914, Lansing's behavior towards German protest notes condemning arms sales by the neutral United States to Great Britain was corresponding. After submitting the German compromise offer on this matter on February 16, 1915, he declared that the impression created by the Germans that the United States would treat the British preferentially was to be interpreted as a sign of the inferiority of the German Navy and that it was not for the USA is to stand up for equal opportunities for the warring parties. He saw the German threat to start an unrestricted submarine war as a deception. Rather, Lansing's opinion of the German submarine weapon was that the Germans did not believe in its success either. After the sea blockade was tightened by the Entente, Lansing also used this opportunity to prove his “benevolent neutrality” by declaring that now that trade was made impossible for German ships, all German activities at sea would serve war purposes. All German ships lying in the USA should now only be allowed to set sail with the permission of the American government.

After the sinking of the British steamer Falaba on March 31, 1915 by a German submarine, which also killed an American passenger, Lansing spoke of war crimes and murder. US President Woodrow Wilson now vacillated between Bryan's stance, which was intent on compensating, who declared that Americans had to stay out of the war zone, and Lansing, to which he agreed in principle. As a result, Lansing began openly attacking his line manager, Bryan. His influence on foreign policy decisions grew. He now believed in a threat to American security and feared a German-Japanese alliance. Lansing saw the warning issued by the German embassy to American citizens a few days before the Lusitania to stay out of the submarine war zone as confirmation of his assessment that the Germans would seek a break with the United States.

With the sinking of the Lusitania and the death of 124 US citizens, Wilson withdrew his foreign secretary's confidence and adopted Lansing's position. He immediately began to adopt a sharper tone towards Germany. Bryan and other politicians who opposed this path were very quickly isolated by their cabinet colleagues. On the evening of the sinking, the Foreign Minister had commissioned a commission to investigate long-standing suspicions that the British had loaded military ammunition. The very next day, after checking the loading papers, it was clear that the Lusitania had 4200 boxes of ammunition and around 1250 boxes of bullet shells on board. Wilson himself ordered that a corresponding report should be kept under lock and key in the secret archives of the US Treasury, and had logs with statements from surviving sailors and passengers removed.

Shortly after the sinking, the German government issued a notice in which it regretted the loss of life, but stated that it could not accept any responsibility for it. Great Britain would have forced Germany through the sea blockade ("starvation plan") to such behavior. The Lusitania was also "equipped with dangerous artillery power", as the British press reported. In addition, it is known that the fast British Cunard steamers Mauretania and Lusitania “were regarded as particularly protected against submarine attacks due to their speed and were used with preference for the transport of war material.” In Germany, commemorative medals were minted on which the sinking Lusitania could be seen armed . The first Lusitania medal designed by Karl Goetz erroneously bore May 5, 1915 as the date of the torpedoing . When an illustration published in the New York Times caused a sensation, the British government decided to use this medal for counter-propaganda and to circulate replicas. Due to the early date, the sinking should be represented as a planned attack. In response to the large number of British medals minted, the German side issued versions with corrected dates.

With regard to the verified ammunition charge, Bryan told Wilson that it was the right of the Germans to fight contraband and that it was not acceptable to use passengers, women and children as shields. The American population saw it similarly, and despite the tragedy, saw no reason for involvement in the European war. Lansing disagreed. The reference to the loaded ammunition was also irrelevant to him in this matter, and he threatened to break off relations with Germany if it did not meet all American demands. Lansing's position was no longer compatible with a policy of neutrality. Won after a sharp debate during the cabinet meeting on 11 May 1915 at the Bryan no majority for his balancing views, he agreed, contrary to his belief in the "First Lusitania - touch " one, however, called for a weakening statement on this note in to reveal to the press what Colonel Edward Mandell House , then Secretary of War, and other politicians foiled during an intervention at Wilson. Wilson therefore asked Bryan on May 13 to withdraw the statement. On May 15, the Lusitania note was sent without any additional information.

The note assumes that it is the right of American citizens to travel anywhere on a ship of their choice and not be endangered in the process. The German warning a few days before the Lusitania's departure , which would restrict these rights due to the journey through war zones, was interpreted in the note as an announcement that an unlawful act was to be committed. However, this announcement could not be regarded as an excuse or mitigation of the act.

After a Second Lusitania note sharply portrayed the attack by the German submarine as a crime and resembled an ultimatum that could have plunged the United States into war, Bryan resigned as foreign minister.

Even so, the US hesitated to take an active part in the world war. Only after the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, the sinking of the Laconia and the news of the Zimmermann dispatch , the USA declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917 - almost two years after the sinking of the Lusitania .

Conspiracy theory

Some non-fiction and screenplay authors, journalists and also revisionist historians advocate the conspiracy theory that the British Admiralty under Minister Winston Churchill deliberately piloted the Lusitania in front of the German submarine and / or neglected its protection. You have consciously factored in American casualties in order to stir up resentment against Germany in the US public and to win your support for the USA's entry into the war on the side of the Entente . The thesis is based on inconsistencies in the conduct of the Admiralty. For example, she could easily have avoided the loss of the Lusitania if she had recommended the course around the north coast of Ireland, for which there were again good reasons.

There is evidence that the British Admiralty succeeded in decoding the encrypted radio messages of the German Navy in December 1914 . This work was done by the cryptological department called Room 40 . Since February 1915 a chain of radio listening and direction finding stations set up around the coasts of England and Ireland enabled the British naval intelligence service not only to overhear almost every radio message, but also to give good estimates of where it came from.

On May 5, 1915, two days before the sinking, according to the conspiracy theory, a briefing took place in the British Admiralty , in which the position of U 20 was also an issue. The German submarine was near the position at Fastnet where the British cruiser Juno was to take over the escort for the Lusitania . After the entry, according to which Vice-Admiral Henry Oliver declared that the waiting cruiser could do little to counter a German submarine attack without a destroyer escort, the Admiralty's war diary breaks off. Shortly after noon on May 5, the Admiralty radioed the Juno to abandon its escort mission and return to Queenstown without notifying Captain Turner. The primary responsibility for this lies with Churchill and the First Sea Lord Fisher .

The Lusitania was then headed for the now abandoned meeting point without changing direction. Only after the U 20 sank two other British ships at Fastnet in the morning on May 6th did the naval station in Queenstown explicitly warn the Lusitania about submarines on the south coast of Ireland on May 6 at around 8 p.m. Their captain had unwaveringly adhered to the course prescribed by the Admiralty, as it was his orders - with destination Liverpool.

Documentary evidence for the premeditation thesis has not yet been produced. The records of the incident at the British Naval Intelligence Department remain secret. Other documents and evidence such as Lord Mersey's records or Cunard Society files have disappeared today, radio messages have been replaced with blank sheets, and there is evidence that U 20's war diary contains forgeries. However, the factual situation speaks for the most part in favor of the less spectacular explanation that bureaucratic clumsiness and a serious misjudgment were the reasons for the failure to take protective measures. A study by Keith Allen flatly denies that the aforementioned briefing took place on May 5th, that it was an invention ("almost certainly a fabrication") in Simpson's book. Diana Preston concludes on the fault on the British side that "the Lusitania was not the victim of a conspiracy, but of complacency and negligence". However, there is clear evidence of attempts by the British government and its admiralty to scapegoat Captain Turner for not following the prescribed zigzag course and to divert public attention from the second explosion.

The wreck of the Lusitania and its exploration

The remains of the Lusitania are located around 18 km south-southwest of the Old Head of Kinsale headland in southern Ireland at a depth of almost 90 meters. The ship is on the starboard side, which is why the damage caused by the torpedo or the second explosion cannot be seen. Over the decades, the hull has lost much of its structural integrity, the superstructure has slipped due to the ship's lateral position and forms an extensive field of rubble, which also includes the remains of the four funnels and the two masts. The hull is broken in several places, only the immediate bow section is slightly bent upwards and is still in relatively good condition. In contrast to other shipwrecks of similar size, such as the Titanic or the Britannic , the Lusitania has almost completely lost its original shape. Like many ships lying in relatively shallow coastal waters, the Lusitania is also shrouded in many places by lost fishing nets. The well-known marine painter Ken Marschall made several detailed pictures of the wreck (see web links).

In 1935 the exact position of the Lusitania was determined by the salvage ship Ophir , and the diver Jim Jarrett descended to the wreck. No further dives were made until 1953, and from 1960 to 1966 the American professional diver John Light carried out a comprehensive investigation of the wreck. At that time the ship was still in relatively good condition. Since 1982, both professional research expeditions and dives by private individuals have been carried out regularly; Probably the most important expedition was carried out in 1993 by Robert Ballard , the discoverer of the Titanic , together with Ken Marschall and the Lusitania experts Eric and Bill Sauder. Over the years - aided by the shallow water - a large number of wreckage has been recovered, including three of the four propellers (one of which was melted down to be cast into 3,500 Lusitania commemorative golf clubs; see also web links), a ship's bell, several fragments of the propellers Ship walls as well as crockery and cutlery. Since January 1995 the wreck of the Lusitania has been classified as a war cemetery under the protection of the Irish government and may only be dived with their permission.

In 2008, divers found .303 British Lee-Enfield rifle cartridges from the US manufacturer Remington Arms in the wreck . They estimated the total of these cartridges to be four million.


  • Thomas A. Bailey, Paul B. Ryan: The Lusitania Disaster: An Episode in Modern Warfare and Diplomacy. Free Press / Collier Macmillan, New York / London 1975, ISBN 0-02-901240-6 .
  • Robert Ballard, Spencer Dunmore: The Secret of Lusitania. Ullstein, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-548-25078-5 , original: Exploring the Lusitania. Probing the Mysteries of the Sinking that Changed History. Warner Books / Weidenfeld & Nicolson, New York / London 1995, ISBN 0-297-81314-5 (report by diver and documentarist Ballard about the deep diving expedition to Lusitania, which is about 100 m deep in 1993).
  • Robert D. Ballard , Ken Marshall : Lost Liners. From the Titanic to the Andrea Doria. Glory and decline of the great luxury liners. Heyne, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-453-12905-9 , original: Lost Liners. From the Titanic to the Andrea Doria. The ocean floor reveals its greatest lost ships. Translated by Helmut Gerstberger.
  • Gary Gentile: The Lusitania Controversies. 2 volumes, Gary Gentile, Philadelphia:
    • Volume 1: Atrocity of war and a wreck-diving history. 1998, ISBN 1-883056-06-3 (on Lusitania especially in this volume).
    • Volume 2: Dangerous descents into shipwrecks and law. 1999, ISBN 1-883056-07-1 .
  • Des Hickey, Gus Smith: Lusitania. The chronicle of the last voyage of the ocean liner. Scherz, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-426-03761-0 .
  • Willi Jasper : Lusitania. Cultural history of a disaster. be.bra verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-89809-112-1 .
  • Erik Larson: Dead Wake. The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. Crown Publishing, New York 2015, ISBN 978-0-307-40886-0 .
  • J. Kent Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor. Lulu Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4303-1962-7 .
  • Diana Preston: "Were torpedoed, send help." The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-421-05408-8 . Original: Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the Lusitania. Doubleday, London 2002, ISBN 0-385-60173-5 ; as paperback by Corgi books, London 2003, ISBN 0-552-99886-9 .
  • David Ramsay: Lusitania. Saga and Myth. WW Norton & Company, New York 2002, ISBN 0-393-05099-8 .
  • Eric Sauder: RMS Lusitania. The Ship and Her Record . Stout, Gloucestershire 2009, ISBN 978-0-7524-5203-6 .
  • Alexander Sedlmaier: Images of Germany and Germany Politics . Wilson Administration Studies (1913–1921). Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-515-08124-0 .
  • Colin Simpson: The Lusitania . Translated by Hermann Stiehl, S. Fischer, Frankfurt 1973, ISBN 3-10-074401-2 .
  • Patrick O'Sullivan: The Lusitania: Myth and Reality. Mittler , Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-8132-0681-5 .


  • The Sinking of the Lusitania animated propaganda film, 1917
  • The Lusitania case ( Who Sank the Lusitania? ). Documentation by Nicholas Tomalin, 1972.
  • The sinking of the Lusitania - tragedy of a luxury liner ( Sinking of the Lusitania: Terror at Sea ). Documentation by Sarah Williams and Christopher Spencer, 2007, DVD


  • SOS Lusitania - The cruise of the arrogant . Comic series by Kevin Kiely, 2014.

Web links

Commons : RMS Lusitania  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Information about the ship

Information on the history and the consequences of the sinking

Individual evidence

  1. List of the largest ship losses due to submarine attacks in World War I. Retrieved March 20, 2015 .
  2. a b Janusz Piekalkiewicz : The First World War . Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf / Vienna / New York 1988, ISBN 3-430-17481-3 , pp. 272 f .
  3. ^ Lev Semenovic Schapiro: Fast ships . 2nd Edition. Military publishing house of the German Democratic Republic, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-327-00713-6 .
  4. a b c Ballard / Dunmore: The secret of Lusitania . 2000, p. 27 .
  5. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 52 f .
  6. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 40 .
  7. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 55 .
  8. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 67 f .
  9. ^ Sauder: RMS Lusitania. The Ship and Her Record . 2009, p. 26 .
  10. ^ Sauder: RMS Lusitania. The Ship and Her Record . 2009, p. 20th f .
  11. ^ Sauder: RMS Lusitania. The Ship and Her Record . 2009, p. 28 .
  12. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 110 .
  13. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 31 .
  14. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 15 .
  15. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 20 .
  16. ^ Layton: Lusitania: An illustrated biography of the ship of splendor . 2007, p. 83 .
  17. ^ Sauder: RMS Lusitania. The Ship and Her Record . 2009, p. 39-63 .
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