Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Lusitania: 100 Years On

Mention RMS Titanic and most people know something of its fate. The tale of RMS Lusitania, however, is somewhat less well told. On Good Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting a new exhibition called Lusitania: life, loss, legacy (Figure 81.1). The story of the eponymous ship has been beautifully explained, in words, pictures, film reels and sound, at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool to mark the centenary of its tragic end.


Figure 81.1: The official poster, on display on the first floor of the museum

Copyright © 2015 Merseyside Maritime Museum

On 7th May, 1915, the ship, carrying 1,962 civilian passengers, was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland (Figures 81.2 & 81.3). 1,198 souls perished at sea. The attack drew fury throughout Great Britain and beyond, as the Lusitania was a passenger liner and not, therefore, a legitimate wartime target. It was one of the most infamous events of the First World War, and felt most profoundly in Liverpool, from where many of its passengers originated.


Figure 81.2: An artist’s depiction of the U-boat attack

Copyright © 2015 Merseyside Maritime Museum


Figure 81.3: A picture taken from the German Federal Archive

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The exhibition’s curator, Eleanor Moffat, provides a comprehensive account of the disaster, detailing the lives of those affected, including its captain, William Turner (Figure 81.4), whose grave, incidentally, lies in the same cemetery – Rake Lane, Wallasey – as those of several of my own ancestors.


Figure 81.4: Commander William Thomas Turner, OBE, RNR (1856-1933)

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My sons appreciated the exhibition as much as I did (Figures 81.5 & 81.6). Both enjoyed viewing the video footage, but recoiled at the realization that more than a thousand passengers were forced to experience a premonition of their own deaths, as the stricken vessel listed violently before being swallowed whole by a merciless ocean. Nothing, surely, could be more terrifying than having such prior knowledge.



Figures 81.5 & 81.6: A day at the museum

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

Our thanks go to Eleanor Moffat and the many other contributors for preparing this detailed portrayal, which serves as a poignant tribute to those who lost their lives a century ago.

Happy Easter week to all.

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

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