The RMS Lusitania was a British passenger ship constructed in 1906. It was hit by a German submarine as it was nearing its destination, Liverpool, and sank, leading to the death of 1,198 civilians. As 175 Americans were on board, and more than a hundred Irish passengers perished, this incident motivated many American and Irish people to voluntarily join the military against the German forces.
Size of the Lusitania
One of the most remarkable things regarding the Lusitania was its massive size. With a length of over 240 meters long, the Lusitania was the largest ocean liner in the world when it was made in 1906. For reference, RMS Titanic, constructed in 1909, had a full length of 270 meters.
The Lusitania’s Changing Colors
When World War I broke out in 1914, the Lusitania was repainted with a monochromatic color scheme so that it would be less detectable by German submarines. In spite of the dangers, the Lusitania was continuously used to ferry passengers back and forth. Ironically, the ship was painted back to its original colors a short period before it was sunk, as such attacks were very uncommon at the time.
Declaration of a War Zone
Germany was clear regarding its declaration of war in the seas surrounding Ireland and Britain. Three months before the sinking of the Lusitania, German forces made it official that any ships belonging to Allied forces could be struck if they were in the war zone. This was done as a counterattack to British forces that prohibited German ships from traveling to the English Channel and the North Sea.
German Forces Issued a Warning
The German Embassy in America issued a warning to be printed on 50 newspapers just nine days before the sinking of the Lusitania. The warning made it clear to American travelers that any vessels that bore the flag of Great Britain or that of her allies could be attacked by German forces when they entered the war region. Therefore, civilians intending to travel by the Lusitania had to bear the risk on their own.
The Lusitania Sailed Despite Warning
Even though German forces were clear in their warning, the Lusitania still left New York in May, 1915 and headed towards its destination, Liverpool. Many of its passengers did not think German forces would actually strike at an ocean liner carrying over a thousand civilian passengers, especially since there were also 159 neutral American passengers on board.
How the Lusitania Sank
On the fateful day of 7th May 1915, the Lusitania sank. While it was reaching Liverpool, it was spotted by the German submarine, U-boat U-20. It struck at the ship directly, and the huge ocean liner sank within 18 minutes. Despite Captain William Turner’s urgent request to turn to the Irish coast, the damage had been done and 1,198 passengers died out of the 1,959 civilians on board.
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