Lusitania

7th May 1915

The passenger ship Lusitania is sunk in the Atlantic by a German U-Boat. The casualties include 128 Americans.

The Lusitania was a luxury passenger liner. It was due to set sail from New York on 1st May 1915, travelling to Liverpool.

The German Embassy in America posted a warning in the newspapers reminding people that ships crossing the Atlantic were at risk from U-Boats. However the passengers did not believe Germany would sink a civilian ship.

On May 7th the Lusitania was spotted by the submarine U-20. Without warning U-20 fired one torpedo - a missile that travels through water. The torpedo hit the ship and caused a huge explosion, ripping off part of the front of the ship. The Lusitania was left leaning over to one side, making it difficult to launch lifeboats. It took just eighteen minutes for the ship to sink and 1,153 of the passengers and crew drowned. 128 Americans were among the dead.

The sinking of the Lusitania caused outrage in America and President Wilson condemned the attack. However he was still determined that America should stay out of the war.

Why such a large explosion?

It was a mystery why the Lusitania sank so quickly after being hit by just one torpedo. In 2008 divers on the wreck discovered thousands of rounds of ammunition inside the ship. This might explain the dramatic explosion that tore through the ship and caused the tragic loss of so many of the passengers.

Welsh Passengers

Among those who survived the sinking of the Lusitania was William Gwyn Parry Jones, a tenor in the Gwent choir. Jones was travelling in steerage (third class) but performed for the first class passengers aboard the ship.

Lady Margaret Mackworth was also among the survivors. Lady Mackworth was a suffragette and campaigned for women's suffrage across South Wales before the war. The suffragettes put a halt to their campaigning when war broke out. Lady Mackworth was travelling first class with her father, a coal mine owner, aboard the Lusitania. Both survived.

A postcard showing the liner Lusitania. The sinking of the Lusitania turned American opinion even more against Germany.