The sink­ing of RMS Lusi­ta­nia

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At around 2pm on the 7 May 1915, the Cu­nard liner RMS Lusi­ta­nia was hit by a Ger­man tor­pedo off the south­ern coast of Eire. The mis­sile was fired by U-boat 20 un­der the com­mand of Wather Sch­wieger.

The Ger­mans had warned pas­sen­gers at New York not to board the ship. They re­minded trav­ellers via news­pa­per ad­verts that Euro­pean wa­ters were part of a war zone and that the Lusi­ta­nia was con­sid­ered a le­git­i­mate tar­get. Yet many peo­ple be­lieved that Ger­many wouldn’t dare to at­tack an un­armed pas­sen­ger ship – es­pe­cially such a large and fa­mous ves­sel car­ry­ing so many Amer­i­cans.

The un­for­tu­nate pas­sen­gers and crew had barely any time to aban­don ship be­cause the Lusi­ta­nia sank in only 18 min­utes. None­the­less some of the lifeboats were launched and it is sur­pris­ing in the cir­cum­stances that as many as 764 peo­ple sur­vived. How­ever, around 1,200 peo­ple died in the tragedy.

Phoebe Amory, who sur­vived the sink­ing, re­called her dis­tress at the sight of so many bod­ies float­ing in the wa­ter, es­pe­cially those of chil­dren. Mar­garet Gwyer and three other pas­sen­gers swim­ming in the wa­ter were sucked into one of Lusi­ta­nia’s enor­mous fun­nels as the ship slipped be­neath the waves, only to be fired out of it again a few mo­ments later, like can­non­balls.

The Lusi­ta­nia’s cap­tain, Wil­liam Turner, who du­ti­fully stayed on board un­til he was washed over­board, was found alive float­ing amongst the wreck­age.

An on­line data­base pro­vided by the Lusi­ta­nia Re­source web­site has de­tails of all the pas­sen­gers and crewmem­bers on board rm­slusi­ta­ Click on the left-hand or­ange box marked ‘Peo­ple’.

The sinks af­ter be­ing

struck by a tor­pedo from a Ger­man sub­ma­rine on 7 May 1915

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