Modern liner’s Lusitania tribute

Published: Thursday 7th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Passengers on a modern-day Cunard cruise liner will today mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of another Cunard ship – the Lusitania.

Having docked in the Irish port of Cobh (formerly Queenstown), the passengers from the Queen Victoria will attend a memorial service this afternoon.

At 2.10pm Queen Victoria’s whistle will blow. This was the moment that the Liverpool-bound Lusitania was torpedoed by a U-Boat off the Irish coast on May 7 1915.

The whistle will sound again at 2.28pm – the time the 31,000-tonne Lusitania sank with the loss of 1,201 lives.

There will also be a memorial service at Our Lady and St Nicholas Parish Church in Liverpool. This will be followed by a walk of remembrance to the Lusitania propeller – located on the quayside near Merseyside Maritime Museum – at 2.10pm.

Among the 1,266 passengers and around 696 crew, there were 129 children of whom 94 perished as the ship, sailing from New York, sank in just 18 minutes.

Built at the John Brown shipyard on the River Clyde in Scotland, the Lusitania was also carrying 159 Americans, of whom 128 were killed.

The ship’s captain William Turner, who survived after the ship went down, had received messages on the morning of the disaster that there were German submarines in the area and he altered course.

But a German sub, U-20, captained by Walther Schwieger, spotted the Lusitania 14 miles (22.5km) off the Old Head of Kinsale in Ireland and fired a torpedo that hit the vessel.

There had been time to send out an SOS and the Courtmacsherry lifeboat launched at 3pm.

By the time they arrived, other rescue craft were on the scene and they were only able to pick up dead bodies.

The Wanderer, a fishing boat from the Isle of Wight, managed to pick up about 200 survivors.

A formal investigation, headed by Wreck Commissioner Lord Mersey, started in Westminster in June 1915.

The Germans were blamed, and Captain Turner cleared, with the action described as having been undertaken “not merely with the intention of sinking the ship, but also with the intention of destroying the lives of the people on board”.

The outrage sparked international fury, with demands that America should immediately come into the war, although it was not until 1917 that the US finally entered the conflict.

One hundred years on, controversy still surrounds the sinking. The Lusitania had been carrying ammunition so could be described as a legitimate target. Also, the Germans had earlier warned that they would attack any Allied ships.

Published: Thursday 7th May 2015 by The News Editor

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