Anniversary of the Lusitania sinking
30 April 2015
On 1 May 1915 the Cunard liner Lusitania left New York for
Liverpool via Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland. Capable of carrying
over 2,000 passengers and at one point the fastest passenger ship
in the world, Liverpool-New York was her usual route.
Two months earlier, Imperial Germany had declared an "exclusion
zone" in the waters around Britain and France, stating that any
civilian vessel flying Entente colours could be attacked in the
zone without warning.
Lusitania arrived off the coast of Ireland on 7 May and was
spotted at 1.20pm by the crew of U20, a German submarine lurking
off the Irish coast near the Old Head of Kinsale.
At 2.10pm U20 fired a single torpedo at Lusitania hitting her
starboard bow, just beneath the wheelhouse, causing a small
explosion. Moments later a second much larger explosion ripped open
her bow. Lusitania began to sink, listing severely, which greatly
hampered the attempts of her passengers and crew to escape.
In all, only six out of 48 lifeboats were launched successfully.
Lusitania sank in just 18 minutes.
Of nearly 2,000 passengers and crew aboard, close to 1,200 were
lost despite valiant rescue attempts by local lifeboatmen and
fishermen. Among those who died were over 100 US citizens, and the
incident caused outcry in the press on both sides of the
In the days following the disaster, efforts were made to recover
bodies floating in the Irish Sea and washed up on the coast. The
dead - both passengers and crew - can be found in several
cemeteries and churchyards in Ireland and the UK. Killed by enemy
action, the crew of Lusitania are considered war dead and therefore
commemorated by the CWGC.
The bodies of 49 of her merchant marine personnel were recovered
from the sea or the shore. The largest group, 34 men and women, are
buried in Old Church Cemetery in Cobh.
Those Lusitania crew members missing at sea - some 353 people -
are commemorated by name on the CWGC's Tower Hill Memorial in London.
This memorial bears the names of the men and women of the
Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both world wars and
who have no known graves. The CWGC commemorates at least 16 women
from the Lusitania - stewardesses, matrons and a typist-
buried in Cobh and Belfast. Ten are recorded on the Tower Hill
Image: Sinking of the Lusitania. Engraving by Norman
Wilkinson, The Illustrated London News, May 15, 1915.