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RMS Lusitania

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RMS Lusitania liner launched in 1906, history and images.




June 7th 1906


John Brown & CO / Clydebank / Scotland


31,550 Tons


762 Feet


87 Feet


25 Knots


4 - 3 Blades


4 - Steam Turbines - 68,000 HP

The British Government and Cunard began talks about building two large liners in 1902. By 1903, they had reached an agreement the government would loan Cunard £2,600,000 to build the two ships. Part of the agreement was both liners would be capable of 24 - 25 knots, fast enough to win back the Blue Riband for Britain, and, had to be larger than the 24,581-ton Kaiserin Auguste Victoria that entered service for the Hamburg Amerika Line in May 1906.

  Lusitania launch image  

Their design also had to allow them to be easily converted to armed merchant cruisers in times of war. Lusitania’s seven passenger decks were designed to carry 563 1st, 464 2nd and 1,138 3rd class passengers. After completing her sea trials in the Firth of Clyde, she set out from Liverpool - Queenstown / Ireland and New York September 7th 1907.

Lusitania took the Blue Riband from the Hamburg Amerika Line’s Deutschland on her second westbound voyage from Liverpool - New York by crossing between Queenstown and Sandy Hook (east coast of America) in 4 days, 19 hours and 52 minutes, increasing the average speed from 23.15 to 23.99 knots. She took the eastbound record from Kaiser Wilhelm in October of that year by increasing that average from 23.58 to 23.61 knots. Lusitania was returned to John Brown’s in 1909 to be fitted with new four blade propellers and broke her last westbound speed record between Liverpool and New York in August of that year by averaging 25.65 knots.

RMS Lusitania liner image

Although the British Admiralty decided against using Lusitania as an armed merchant cruiser at the outbreak of World War One, they retained her at Liverpool for their convenience. The Admiralty allowed Lusitania to be used on two trips as a passenger ship between Liverpool and New York in October 1914. With German submarines not targeting passenger ships at that time, Lusitania was then allowed to provide a monthly service on the Liverpool - New York route.

After setting out from Liverpool bound for New York January 16th 1915, she encountered heavy seas between Liverpool and Queenstown. Her captain raised the American Stars & Stripes flag at that time as he had concerns about being attacked by submarines in the treacherous conditions. As America was not involved in the war at that time, he knew submarines were less likely to attack an American flagged ship.

  Lusitania Docking image  

The use of the American flag soon made world news. This led to the German Embassy in Washington sending a warning to New York newspapers in April 1915 stating “passengers traveling on Allied ships would be doing so at their own risk”.

On May 1st 1915, Lusitania set out from New York’s pier 54 with 1,959 passengers on board. It is thought she could also have been carrying a cargo of ammunition supplies. On May 7th, when approximately 10 to15 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale/Ireland, Lusitania was attack by the German submarine U-20. After one torpedo slammed into her side, a second mysterious explosion, inside the ship, caused so much damage she sank within 20 minutes.

Many of the 1,198 lives lost with the ship were American. This outraged the American public so much, many people believe it had an influence on the United States decision to join the war against Germany in 1917.

Lusitania Memorial Queenstown (now Cobh) Cemetery.
Lusitania Memorial

Lusitania Memorial Queenstown Cobh Cemetery image
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