The sinking of RMS Lusitania
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 rmslusitania.info. 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