The Sinking Of The Lusitania Essay

1095 words - 5 pages


On May the 7th 1915 the Lusitania sank, taking with it the lives of one thousand, two hundred and one people including ninety-one children and thirty-one infants. Despite the fact that it was the largest and fastest ship at that time, the German torpedo still found its mark off the South Coast of Ireland while the ship was travelling between the United States and England. The failure to prevent the tragedy despite the warnings given, the actions (or lack thereof) of the Admiralty and the neglect in ensuring that the lifeboat system and the ship itself would offer maximum protection; puts the primary blame unto the British Admiralty and the Cunard Company.
Firstly, there had been enough warning given for the authorities to take preventative measures. But despite the fact that war had been raging for six months, and a warning from the Imperial German Embassy that was published in the papers (See Document 8) cautioning those travelling in the Atlantic on British ships that they were at risk, the ship still took passengers and sailed. Although the Germans are not to be excused from their part in the tragedy the authorities still had time to take action to protect lives, either by cancelling the voyage or providing adequate protection when reaching the warzone. On top of that British Intelligence had intercepted the recent German code and was able to decipher the messages sent from the submarine to the German head-quarters, which enabled them to know where the U-20 was. There had also been recent attacks on British ships in that area, on the 6th of May the Candidate at 7am and the Centurion at 1pm. (See Document 22 g.)

Moreover, despite the warnings and information gathered nothing was done by the British Admiralty. As mentioned previously, information was intercepted and yet, even though other British ships vulnerable to torpedos were sent out of the area, the Lusitania remained on course. Although the Juno was ordered to meet with it at Fastnet it was an old type cruiser vulnerable to torpedos. More effective escorts, such as a destroyer Flotilla stationed at Milford Haven, remained in port. In fact the Juno was ordered back to Queenstown, before reaching Fastnet and without the Lusitania being informed. Actions taken beforehand also made the Lusitania’s trip careless. The New York Tribune reported “…but Cunard officials acknowledged to the Tribune correspondent today that the greyhound is being equipped with high-powered naval rifles in conformity with England’s new policy of arming passenger boats.” 19th June 1913. Arguably the biggest risk taken by the Cunard officials (by order of the British government) was transporting boxes of cartridges addressed to the Royal Arsenel at Woolwich and 1,248 cases of shrapnel. (See Document 12) Although it has been proved that this did not cause the explosion, (see Reference 1) it wouldn’t be hard for the Germans to find out about the cargo, and carrying weapons that...

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