was a 12,531 gross ton vessel built in 1901 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast
for the Dutch company, Holland America Line. Her details were - - length
550.3ft x beam 62.3ft, one funnel, two masts, twin screw and a speed of
15 knots. There was accommodation for 286-1st, 292-2nd and 1,800-3rd class
passengers. Launched on 28/9/1901, she sailed from Rotterdam on her maiden
voyage to New York on 1/5/1902. On 17/10/1914 she was damaged by a mine
in the North Sea, but repaired and resumed sailing on 26/3/1915. On 3/8/1917
she was again
damaged by a mine and was then laid up for the duration of the war. She
resumed service between Rotterdam, Plymouth, Brest and New York on 9/3/1919,
and commenced her last voyage between Rotterdam and New York on 24/1/1923.
She then went to the Swedish America Line, who refitted her to carry 478-cabin
class and 1,800-3rd class passengers and renamed her "Kungsholm".
On 15/3/1923 she started sailings between Gothenburg and New York, and
on 7/11/1924 between Gothenburg, Halifax
and New York.
On 6/10/1926 she went
back to her previous name of "Noordam" and resumed sailing between
Rotterdam and New York and in December of that year, became a third class
passenger ship only. She commenced her last voyage on this service on
16/4/1927, was then sold and scrapped at Hendrik Ido Ambacht (The Netherlands)
S. S. LUSITANIA
or "Queen of the Seas" as her advertising brochure portrayed
her, was the pride of the Cunard line along with her sister Mauretania.
She held the Blue Riband for being the fastest ship on the Atlantic run.
At 785 feet, she was 5 feet short of her sister who was 790 feet long.
Both her and her sister had a displacement of about 40,000 tons. Both
ships were powered by the largest and most powerful marine steam turbines
and driven by four props. All this power gave both ships a speed in excess
of 25 knots, and with a capacity of over 2000 passengers and about 850
crew were fine ships indeed. One way you could tell the two sisters apart
was by the difference in the vents. The Lusitania's looked like oil drums
with a vent that opened on top, where the vent on the Mauretania were
curved at 90 degress at the top with a circular opening.
Her keel was laid in Scotland's Clydebank on June 16th 1904. The Lusitania
was the first of the two to be launched on June 6th, 1906. Unlike the
White Star Line, Cunard did christen her ships, and while 20,000 spectators
looked on she was launched. The owners and builders were sure that the
two sisters would capture the Blue Riband for Britain from Germany.
About one year later the Lusitania was finished, and only required her
sea trials before Cunard was to take ownership. There was a big problem
though. It was found that at high speed her stern vibrated very violently.
Investigation showed they had no choice but to remove an entire section
including over 140 second class cabins. Extra pillars, brackets, strengthening
or any form of bracing was used to repair the fault. These modifications
took well over a month and were very costly.
Finally in September 7th, 1907 she set of on her maiden voyage to New
York. She sported thirty four electrically closing water-tight compartments,
and like the Titanic was declared to be virtually unsinkable.
The story of the
Lusitania's last voyage. - The Long Version
She made many crossings and in October she did win back the Blue Riband
for Britain from Germany. On Friday 30th April, 1915 she was docked in
the port of New York on Quay 54. 700 men were loading the magnificent
liner, getting her ready for her 202nd crossing. She was due to leave
the following morning. Her chief engineer Archibald Bryce, had a problem,
number 4 boiler room was shut down so he could only heat 19 of her twenty
five boilers due to a lack of sailors caused by the war in Europe and
to save on coal. This meant that the crossing would be much longer than
the one in 1907 when she had crossed in only 104 hours. Even with only
19 boilers she could still attain a respectable 21 knots, this made her
six knots faster than the best of Germany's submarines.
She was carrying a cargo of meat, fat, medical supplies, bacon, oysters,
cars, copper, cheese, oil products, equipment, chickens, machinery, bicycles,
all valued around three quarters of a million dollars. She was also carrying
$6000 in gold which was not mentioned in the Bill of Landing nor on any
Saturday May 1st 1915, on schedule she left New York on a rainy day. Passenger
were reminded that as a state of war existed between Britain and her allies
and Germany and her allies, all ships sailing under the flag of Great
Britain or her allies were at risk of being attacked, and all passengers
travel at their own risk. Most passengers ignored this as they considered
her to be an American vessel, and as America was not at war, they would
be safe. Commander Turner continued to tell everyone that the ship could
attain a speed of 27 knots and therefore could escape from any attack,
and said that no-one would "dare" attack the Lusitania.
The whistle blew at half past eleven, exactly on schedule. On board were
1959 people, 159 of them American citizens and 123 children. The
orchestra played "Tipperary" followed by the American National
No one on board realised that on the evening of 30th April, 1915 a German
U-Boat U-20, under the command of Chief Officer Schwieger, a 32 year old,
had left the port of Emden, with a mission to search and destroy troops
and provisions leaving Liverpool and Bristol for the North Sea via the
By 4th May, Lusitania had reached the half way mark and U-20 was situated
of Kinsale on the Irish coast. There he waited for the Trans-Atlantic
flotilla. On the 5th May he attacked and sank a schooner and later that
evening attacked a Norwegian cargo boat, but missed and the cargo ship
escaped. By this time the sub was running short of diesel, but as he had
3 torpedoes left, he decided to wait and make full use of them. The next
day on the 6th, he attacked and sank the 6000 ton Harrison line ship Candidate,
with one shot, with little or no loss of life. A few hours later he attacked
and sank the Centurion with no loss of life.
On the 7th May, U-20 was off the coast of Ireland and Commander Turner
of the Lusitania was warned by the British Admiralty that U boats were
in action along the Irish coast. Thirty miles from Cape Clear the liner
ran into thick fog. The Commander reduced his speed to 18 knots. It would
now be possible to cross the last few miles of the Irish Sea in obscurity
and reach Liverpool on Saturday morning at 4:00am. U-20 was sitting in
the same water waiting to pounce on its prey.
At around 8:00am Captain Turner ordered a reduction in speed to 15 knots.
At the same time the Commander of U-20 noted in his log book that he was
heading north in search of better weather. At 10:30am the Lusitania passed
Fastnet at a distance of only twenty miles from the coast. Half an hour
later the radio picked up a message from the British Admiralty. Once more
she was warned about enemy subs in the area of southern area of the Irish
Sea. Captain Turner changed course slightly and brought her in close to
the Irish coast. At 11:30am the Irish coast was visible from the deck.
At 1:45pm she returned to her normal course. Several minutes later look
out spotted a periscope and raised the alert but it was believed that
the look out was mistaken.
U-20 watched this approaching ship and realised it was the Lusitania then
at 2:12pm he fired one torpedo. Immediately the lookout spotted the trail
of bubbles and sounded the alarm. The Captain heard the alarm and went
to check for danger himself, when the explosion occurred, which shook
the ship violently. He hoped to save the ship by grounding it on the beach,
the speed was 18 knots, but the intercom was not working at his orders
we not heard. Distress calls were sent out informing anyone that she was
listing. Officers had already started lowering passengers into the lifeboats
when the order from Turner to cease was given. One officer ignored this
and continued. The speed of the liner caused the lifeboats to be shatter
as it hit the water (or possibly the props) and all in the lifeboat were
drowned. Another attempt was made to launch on the other side. The ship
listed heavily and the lifeboat was smashed against the side of the ship.
They realised that escape in lifeboats was useless, but despite this,
there was no panic on the ship. The ship continued to send distress signals,
when power failed and the radio operator switched over to battery supply.
It was only minutes since the torpedo hit the ship.
Numerous ships had picked up the distress signals, including the Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company tanker Narrangansett situated about 35 miles away. Her Captain,
Commander Harwood acted immediately and set course for the stricken ship.
Other ships the Leyland Line Etonian, and the Ellerman's City of Exeter
both changed course and headed for the scene. Tugs from Queenstown were
also sent out, Juno an old cruiser and several trawlers. A flotilla of
small craft from fishing villages along the coast all raced to the area.
Commander Turner was still at his post, he tried to turn the ship to starboard
but found the ship would not respond, the rudder jammed and then he ordered
full astern, once more the bow pointed to the coast. He believed that
he could steam ahead and reach the shore. The ship continued to take on
water, the communication system was not working and the turbines broke
down. Panic finally happened and the third class passenger rushed the
lifeboats, once again the lifeboat failed and its occupants were thrown
into the sea. Commander Turner attempted to restore order by telling the
passenger that everything was alright.
Lusitania rolled slowly on to her side, some passengers remained on board,
others jumped into the sea. One woman Madame de Page, kept calm and helped
children into the boats. 35 children were saved and most owed their life
The Captain of U-20 watched all of this happen through his periscope,
and he had noted the torpedo hit in his log book. He also noted a second
large explosion followed by smoke. He noted two explosion, and believed
that either the cargo or boilers had exploded. He noted the ship began
to immediately list and the prow was sinking beneath the water. His log
also stated that several lifeboats had overturned. After this he dived
and made his escape to open sea.
The Lusitania continued to sink further as more passengers jumped into
the sea. It was 2:30pm, eighteen minutes had passed since the torpedo
hit. Believing he was the last on board, Captain Turner climbed down the
ladder and jumped into the sea. Looking back he saw the stern high in
the air and the four props were visible. He saw a human clinging to the
stern. By this time the bow would have been resting on the sea bed. For
a few moments the scene remained the same then with a deafening sound
and clouds of spray, the Lusitania disappeared beneath the water. The
pride of the Cunard White Star Line was gone. Around him were hundreds
of survivors, or bodies floating head downward, lifeless children bobbed
up and down on the waves. Unknown to most at that time 1198 people had
remained on the ship, including 785 passengers. 94 children had died and
35 of them were under 4 years old.
The entire world was shocked at this "act of piracy". Most Americans
who had believed that America should remain neutral in this war changed
their minds and ten days later President Wilson sent his first note to
Berlin. He told them that neutral shipping should be left in peace. The
Germans had realised the anormity of the act and agreed to abide by the
statement. But as can be seen from later events, this promise was not
One year later Captain Turner lost another ship by torpedo, the Invernia.
He also escaped with his life but fifty soldiers and sailors died. Captain
Schwieger went on destroying shipping and sunk a total of 190,000 tons
of shipping. In September 1917, returning from defeat his submarine struck
a mine field off the Danish coast and he perished along with his crew.
In April 1917, America declared war on Germany. A few weeks prior, German
subs had destroyed three American cargo ships and with the thoughts of
the Lusitania still firmly implanted in their minds, these latest attacks
were the straw that broke the camels back.