Loss of the Lusitania7 May 1915

The loss of the British passenger liner Lusitania is still one of the most remembered events of the First World War. Sinking quickly after being hit by a single torpedo from the u-boat U 20 whilst on passage from New York to Liverpool, 1,198 people were lost.

There have been any number of rumours surrounding these sad events, many based on various conspiracy theories. However, evidence from the wreck itself indicate that:

She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time - there is no evidence, and it is also highly unlikely that the British Admiralty and/or Winston Churchill actually encouraged the events which led to her loss. The following discussion, which took place on the WW1-L discussion list in December 1998, is a good summary of the facts and usual suppositions (all quotes appearing with the permission of the writer). The "Simpson book" referred to in various postings refers to: Lusitania, by Colin Simpson (copyright 1972).

The best reference to the loss of the Lusitania is probably: Exploring the Lusitania by Dr. Robert D. Ballard and Spencer Dunmore (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1995).

Within this extract, the post by Geoffrey Miller is a particularly good summation.

Date: Sun, 6 Dec 1998 16:17:00 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)

Coming back at this topic, the Simpson book [the poster is referring to What the book actually says is that it was Churchill who ordered the ship to be directed towards the U-boat which course was well known to the addmirality. The purpose would have been the torpedoing of the Lusitania carrying American passengers on board. Their death should cause great unrest in the USA and commit the USA Government to participate in the war. At first sight, this seems to fantastic to be true but after careful examination of Simpsons book there are to many undeniable facts which cannot be neglected. So, it would be worthwhile to put it at our debating list.

Date: 6 December 1998 16:15
From Keith Allen (KEACLA1@aol.com)

The Simpson book was "well received" by the many who treasure sensation and conspiracy-mongering above serious history, or who regard Winston Churchill as the source of all earthly evil. It was not well received by those who still believe that charges of that sort require a measure of truth and logic--such as Bailey and Ryan, who wrote an entire book refuting Simpson, which needless to say did not get a fraction of the publicity of Simpson's. LUSITANIA took the normal route for a steamer from the United States. She received several warnings of U-boat activity in the general area, which was in fact common. U-boats only occasionally sent radio transmissions, which were only sometimes intercepted and decoded, with an inevitable delay of many hours in the process. The idea that the Admiralty knew exactly where every U-boat was at every minute, and had the ability to steer a passenger liner directly into a U-boat's path---even if it so desired--is preposterous.

Tonight the History Channel will again trot out a documentary claiming that we were following the track of the Pearl Harbor attack force by its radio transmissions, when the Japanese in reality maintained absolute radio silence. Stories of this kind have an enduring appeal, impervious to logic and evidence.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 01:06:42 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)

Are you absolutely sure of what you said about the Admiralty not knowing the position of German submarines in that area or do you THINK that was not the case?

By the way, I only mentioned the fact that Simpson's book was well received, I was not aware that it was well received by idiots only . I read B&R also, not bad indeed but not entirely convincing either in my opinion.

Date: Sun, 6 Dec 1998 20:32:26 EST
From: Keith Allen (KEACLA1@aol.com)

Hans--I am not suggesting that the Admiralty did not have some intelligence of U-boat positions. But there is a difference between a knowledge of general locations, based on hours-old transmissions--which have to be decrypted in Room 40, reencrypted for transmission to British units, and then decoded in the receiving ship, all with 1915-vintage manual Morse and manual encryption--and the sort of immediate tactical intelligence that would allow a conspirator to steer a ship directly into a U-boat.

That being said, I confess that I have not read in full either Simpson or Bailey and Ryan, and I do intend to read them--along with Beesly's "Room 40"--before engaging in further polemics on the matter of Admiralty intelligence of U-boat movements. There is another book I do not have, "U- boat Intelligence" by Robert Grant, that would probably be valuable as well. I wonder if anyone on the list knows this book, and whether it provides any insights into the LUSITANIA matter?

[Another list member] asked for the ISBN of the Bailey and Ryan book. It is 0-02-901240-6; published in 1975 by the Free Press in New York and Collier Macmillan in London. Thomas A. Bailey was for decades one of the leading historians of American foreign policy; Paul B. Ryan was a retired naval officer.

Date: Sun, 06 Dec 1998 21:27:50 -0500
From: Marc James Small (msmall@roanoke.infi.net)

I HAVE read Beesley's ROOM 40 and Simpson and Bailey and Ryan. Simpson is the best writer of the bunch, but his "history" is so much improbably speculation.

I agree on this point with Keith Allen, unreservedly.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 01:41:56 -0600
From: Glen Dresback (maxim08@telepath.com)

I don't think it is necessary to look much beyond the facts to see that there was a conspiracy operating on the Lusitania- but it was a fairly open one, and it was most likely *not* to have it meet a U-boat. It was to ship arms and ammunition, contraband, or other articles of war aboard a large, fast, and likely tough to sink passenger liner that most U-boat officers might be loath to shoot at. Pretty straightforward, really.

The conspiracy was to deliver artillery shells, fuses, medical supplies, food, or whatever else was needed to England to enable British and Commonweath troops to kill German troops as effectively as possible. It was foiled by a German naval officer doing his duty and sinking an enemy ship in a war zone.

As I recall, one of the items about the sinking that surprised both the U-boat captain and the Lusitania's captain (or crew) was the speed with which the ship went down. After all, the Titanic lasted for hours, not minutes, and the Lusitania should have been overhauled & improved in regards to her safely after the Titanic's sinking. Does anyone else remember anything on that point? (not related to what caused the speedy sinking, but rather that they both remarked on it)

Regarding books about the Lusitania, I recently saw a coffee table type book for sale here in the US that is a compendium of photographs of the wrecks of the Great Ocean Liners, including the Lusitania. In it, there are numerous photographs of the Lusitania during the war, with her funnels painted over to give an appearance that perhaps she wasn't a British ship of her line. There are also some photographs of WWI British-pattern US made artillery fuses recovered from the wreck by modern divers, as well other contraband, as I recall. I believe it also mentions the admiralty instructions to fly the US flag (or other neutral nation's flags) rather than the British one, in order to attempt to fool U-boat officers. It also has some really fantastic illustrations of the ship sinking and being torpedoed, by the same artist who has recently made some fantastic Titanic illustrations.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 08:59:47 +0100
From: David Heal (David.HEAL@EUROSTAT.cec.be)

I haven't a clue whether or not the Admiralty 'knew the position' of all German submarines or not, but what I do know is that the only method they had of "knowing" their position was from radio interceptions (leaving aside occasional sightings, which for our purposes here can be ignored). When the occasional radio broadcast was occasionally intercepted, it had to be triangulated, decyphered and then the position sent out, all time consuming tasks (or just sent out as a broadcast position, but still time consuming). Assuming that a submarine on the surcafe was making about five knots, it could easilt be ten or fifteen miles from where it broadcast by the time its position was sent out. Now, draw a circe of ten miles circumference and then try to sight a submarine's periscope or even tower in it. If you don't fancy that, stand on your bed and cast your immaculate eyesight at the floor and try to see a flea which is the same colour as the carpet (and get your wife to jump up and down on the bed so that you get the flavour of being a lookout on a ship). Churchill could have sent all the signals he liked, seeing was something else entirely; the sea is a big place. See his own comments on the hunt for the Bismarck a few years later. Even in ww2, when all u-bpat traffic was being intercepted and read, they were never able to absolutely pinpoint one particular boat and guide a force on to it, just like that. I doubt if it is definitively possible even today.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 09:13:40 -0000
From: T. S. Powell (tspowell@glam.ac.uk)

Despite what the book says, I was always under the impression that the demise of said ship was due to ignition of combustible coal deposits left in the bunkers when it neared the old Head of Kinsale. The cause was initially a torpedo from U-20, but the Lusitania had used up her coal leaving the bunkers empty or nearly so -the coal vapours and dust, etc. being highly flammable stuff and was a subsequent explosion which was sparked of from earlier ones and which ultimately caused the final sinking. This theory was investigated by the team that dived to the Titanic (and others)and was the subject of a "Network" TV programme some time ago. I have been to Cobh Heritage Museum and to the nearby cemetery where Lusitania passengers are buried. I may be wrong but this was my impression hope it helps.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 11:24:10 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)

Yes, the Lusitania sunk within 20 minutes. During the subsequent court trial suggestions were made twice about the construction and bulkhead of Lusitania. However, the president of the inquiry, Lord Mersey, refused to discuss them and the item was dropped. Mr.Edwards, under who's responsibility the suggestions were made, made later on a formal grievance to the court. He complained that Lord Merwey's handling of the inquiry was quite without precedent and that he had continually frustrated every attempt that he or any other counsel had made to ascertain whether it had been the torpedoing that caused the ship to sink or some other cause. He finally accused the Board of trying to conceal material and relevant facts in their framing of Lord Mersey's terms of reference and their selection of evidence. It was a forlorn attempt for no newspaper was allowed by the government censor to publish it.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 12:16:06 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)


I don't concur.

I have been a naval officer myself for over 10 years I don't think your description concurs with reality. If you were right, i should wonder how in heaven any submarine ever would be able to hit a target. Given a certain cours and speed, navigation was not that difficult and interception quite possible, even in those days.What you also forgot is the fact that in those days, submarines were on the surface watching the horizon for smoke from the shipsfunnels. Those smokecolumns are clearly visible from vast distances. On top of that, the Lusitania was already, with considerable reduced speed. near the harbour. and Old Head of Kinsale was within eyesight and the U-20 was patrolling in that area and her captain reported in his logbook that he, at 1.20 hrs saw a smudge of smoke on his starboard at 14 nautical miles distance.So, from a strict technical point of view I don't sea a problem at all., ( If I do what you suggest, jumping up and down on my bed to see the flea, I most probaby don't see it but my question would be, does the fly sees me? I think you better consider the u-boat as being the flea)

Now, again, during my naval time, I was was responsible for the radio-communication department. Again, I think you overestimate the difficulties. At the time the Lusitania was torpedoed, the Royal Navy posessed already Marconi direction finding equipment and was able to intercept signals from u-boats and transformed them into bearings and thus into positions.As a matter of fact, due to the broadband used in those days for radiocommunication, one could harly miss an tranmitted signal contrary to the frequencybands in use nowadays which are not so easy to detect without very special devices) Secondly, German subs gave their position daily by coded radiomessages. The British naval intelligence, directed by captain Hall was, by the end of 1915 able to advise the admiralty of the departure of every U-boat as it left for patrol. On top of that, the British had a network of radio listening posts..

It had been a long time ago since I read Simpson's book and so, yesterday I again looked into it and again I was impressed by the enormous amount of sources and evidence he gives us. I do not say that his conclusions are right because I did not study the subject in its entirety but this is certainly not a book to dispose of without a more serious attitude. I am always surprised how fast people, in general, form an opinion, without even reading the subsequent evidence. (I certainly do not mean this to be personally David).

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 12:25:42 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)

Hi Terry.

Yes indeed, that is the official version and it mighrt be the right version. I think, the discussion goes on wether the Lusitania was wilfully sent on an interception course with the U-20 just to make sure that the ship, with American passengers on board, should be torpedoed in order to force the USA Government to participate in the European was. Simpson tries to establish that this was the case.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 11:50:40 +0100
From: David Heal (David.HEAL@EUROSTAT.cec.be)

I didn't mention a U-boat seeing a ship, which I agree is easier, but the original posting was about the Lusitania being sent in the path of the U-boat. Given that the U-boat was moving, the time it must have taken to receive any signal, decypher,move it through the bureaucracy, decide what to do, retransmit (and how did the admiralty know precisely, and I mean precisely, where the Lusitania was) the chances of them meeting were pretty small, although he could have met another U-boat!. Supposing the U-boat saw smoke on the horizon and the captain said to himself, "Ah, that must be a big ship", and set off for it, the ship would be moving much faster, so would get away, unless it was moving directly towards the U-boat. Yes, of course the U-boats sank an awful lot of ships, but I doubt whether any ship was sunk where the U-boat captain knew the name beforehand or where the admiralty knew there was a U-boat in that particular place. Even in ww2, the admiralty messages to convoys were always, "X in number U-boats believed your area" or "in front of you in box...", etc. Not "two U-boats are at position Y". The U-boats gave their position each day, yes, but didn't just sit on it, they patrolled. My point was quite simply that it is very naive to think that any politician could for nefarious purposes direct that a ship be sent straight to where a U-boat was waiting. Frankly, I doubt that the politicians even got a daily briefing of exactly where each U-boat (and incoming ship) was, and could then say "send a signal to that ship to head for that U-boat". If it had happened the Naval Staff would naturally have wanted to know, why, seeing that the opposite would be normal and automatic practice. In fact, if the naval staff had been so certain that there was a U-boat straight ahead they would probably have told the Lusitania to turn away, without further orders. What the conspiracy fiends are postulating really is that even before the Lusitania set sail it was decided to try to head her for a U-boat, and that gives a pretty big conspiracy. The problem with all these events is that it is always so simple to see a conspiracy. A friend of mine was recently knocked off her bike outside her house by a loose rope flailing from a lorry. How come the lorry passed at precisely the second that she emerged from her house? How come there justn happened to be a loose rope hanging from that particular lorry? I think it was her husband who arranged it all! Now, prove me wrong.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 06:28:34 EST
From: Keith Allen (KEACLA1@aol.com)
Hans Andriessen writes:

"I have been a naval officer myself for over 10 years I don't think your description concurs with reality. If you were right, i should wonder how in heaven any submarine ever would be able to hit a target. Given a certain cours and speed, navigation was not that difficult and interception quite possible, even in those days.What you also forgot is the fact that in those days, submarines were on the surface watching the horizon for smoke from the shipsfunnels. Those smokecolumns are clearly visible from vast distances. "

I believe David Heal was referring not to the difficulty in finding a submarine, but to the difficulty in pinpointing a submarine on the basis of radio intercepts.

"At the time the Lusitania was torpedoed, the Royal Navy posessed already Marconi direction finding equipment and was able to intercept signals from u-boats and transformed them into bearings and thus into positions."

Direction-finding yields an approximate position only if an intercept is obtained from two or more stations. If only one station intercepts the signal, all you get is a line-of-bearing.

"As a matter of fact, due to the broadband used in those days for radiocommunication, one could harly miss an tranmitted signal contrary to the frequencybands in use nowadays which are not so easy to detect without very special devices."

Radio signals in those days also were of much lower frequency than those of today or even World War II (when HF was standard), and hence less directional.

"Secondly, German subs gave their position daily by coded radiomessages. The British naval intelligence, directed by captain Hall was, by the end of 1915 able to advise the admiralty of the departure of every U-boat as it left for patrol."

The U-boat encoded its message and transmitted it. The intercept station detected the transmission, and sent it to Room 40 for processing. Room 40 decoded it. Room 40 then sends it to the Operations Room, or some similar entity, where it is put into Royal Navy code and transmitted to warships and merchantmen. Here it is decoded by the ship's radiomen. All this is done by manual Morse and manual encryption, without automatic ciphering devices like the Enigma of World War II. This takes a lot of time, and it does not allow for fine-tuning of encounters between ships and U-boats. Even in the Second World War, with far more sophisticated communications and encryption devices, Ultra was valuable mainly for general intelligence of enemy dispositions and plans, over a span of a few days or weeks, rather than for immediate tactical intelligence--contrary to a widespread impression that it was a magic elixir that ensured victory in every engagement.

"I am always surprised how fast people, in general, form an opinion, without even reading the subsequent evidence. (I certainly do not mean this to be personally David) "

Since this is directed at me, I note that the observations above are not dependent on a reading of books specifically on LUSITANIA, but on a general, common-sense knowledge of the workings of radio intelligence.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 08:59:10 EST
From: "Lannie" (GaGin1@aol.com)

This is anecdotal rather than in the books, but, one of our members from Kinsalla said it is local knowledge that the captain of the submarine which sunk the Luisitania backed into Kinsalla harbor that morning and warned all the fishermen out of the water, as there would be action there that day. After the war he returned to visit the graves of the Luisitania victims.

Also some years after the sinking, the Harbormaster in New York found the real cargo manifest for the Luisitania. He was scared silly and did not know what to do, so, as FDR was governor of NY at this time, he sent it to him: and it now resides in the FDR Library, Hyde Park, NY for anyone interested in a peek, which would certainly establish how many munitions were on board. However I think Ballard supports the coal dust theory of explosion--if I recall, this is one of the verdicts also on the Maine--and each had a great deal of "yellow journalism" attached to their sinkings.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 09:13:49 EST
From: "Lannie" (GaGin1@aol.com)

I am sure one and all recall the story that Charles Frohman received several messages not to embark on the Luisitania, one delivered to him right at dockside. Frohman was a member of the tight German/German Jewish community of NYC< represented by the newspaper STAATS ZEITUNG, to which Ambassadodr Gerard so much objected. Tracing the story of how these warnings appeared to members of the German community would be most interesting and probably shed some more light. Does anyone know about it? I think the paper ceased publication in 1964. It was started by Philip Opp, whose grandaughter, Julie Opp, was a well known American journalist and actress who married William Faversham.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 16:41:56 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)

One day I asked a friend wether he wanted a certain book for his birthday and he anwered, no, i have already a book. Well, I think what you realy meant to say is that all the evidence in a book is not enough, one should use his common-sense and in this particular situation also his knowledge of radio intelligence. Well forgive me that I act so stubborn but I think that's what I did and on top of that I also used my knowledge of radio-intelligence and radio-communication on board seagoing ships. Now, first of all I fully agree with the procedures you described in your post. So, there is no misunderstanding about that at all. But I would like to take you a little bit further .

The responsibility for marking the map of that particular marine area with the up to date positions of hostile forces was that of Naval Intelligence.. It was admiral Oliver and his staff who marked the Allied warship positions and Capt.Webb, the director of Trade Division marked the positions of all merchantships. Since sept.1914 the admiralty had been in posession of the German naval codes and from febr 1915 a chain of direction finding stations were established around the English and Irish coasts which enabled the admiralty not only to read almost all German signals but, by means of cross- 4 point and/or five-point bearings , also to pinpoint were it came from. The admiralty marked those positions on a asmap and changing as each fresh signal was intercxepted, located and decoded, were the approximate positions of almost every German navy units together with the ships of the Allied navies and allied merchantships. I am sure you call these maps a "Plotting table" and so we do in our navy intelligence dept.

Each ship was marked by a pin with a circular head. The diameter of the xcircle corresponded to the field of view from the highest vantage point of the particular ship. (radar was not yet invented at that time) There was an exeption. U-boats were marked with a red square which covered an area of 32 miles square together with an arrow indicating the directrion in which they were believed to be heading. Last, the plot showed red squares which represented a suspected or unconfirmed sighting of an U-boat, usually from shore watchers. This system was not watertight but worked reasonably and at a glance the plot showed the reasonable up to date position of all the ships in the area and admiralty's operational decissions depended on its accuracy and regular maintenance.

Now, it is an acknowledged fact that admiral Olivir pointed out the red saueares marking the U-30 and U-20 in the Western Approaches, the former heading north, the latter, sighted shortly at 9 am a few miles to the northwest of Fastnet. He, at his own initiative, altered the course of some of the cruisers because of the U-20 activities. He cancelled the departure of the Devonport and the Colossus, out on station in the north atlantic had had her recall cancelled as she would have been likely to have crossed the path of either of the two U-boats then to the west of Ireland.

Now, here comes the Lusitania, with 20 miles speed closing Fastnet. The position of the U-20 was known, if she remained on that position she would meet at dawn the cruiser Juno who would depart to meet and protect Lusitania in proceeding to the harbour. These are al known facts, not denied by anybody and confirmed by the British admiralty.

Now, admiral Oliver drew to Churchill's attention (who, as you know, held the highest naval post) to the fact that Juno, in his opinion, was not suitable for exposure to submarine attack without escort and suggested elements of the destroyer flottila should be sent forthwith to her assistance. So, Churchill was aware of all these facts and he himself comfirmes this in his memoirs.. Well, and then , at this juncture the Admiralty War Diary stops short. However,

The Jono got orders to abondon her escort mission and return to Queenstown. The Lusitania was not informed that she was now alone and closing every minute to the U-20.. There was a meeting between Churchill , adm Fisher and commander Kenworthy. in which the situation was discussed. Kenworthy wrote later a book, The freedom of the Seas" in which he a.o wrote : THE LUSITANIA WAS DELIBERATELY SENT AT CONSIDERABLE REDUCED SPEED INTO AN AREA WHERE A U-BOAT WAS KNOWN TO BE WAITING AND WITH HER ESCORTS WITHDRAWN ".

So, you may understand why I do not see your point. I was not even questioning the procedure you mentioned. Your post missed, in my opinion the point and that's why I consider it myself as very important to have read Simpson's book and not only rely on my knowledge of radio-intelligence alone.

Well, as you see, I have anwered your remark about direction finding procedures in the affirmative. Yes, one have to take at least 2, preferrable more bearing in order to get a postion. I did it myself many many times. But as you see, that was excactly what the Britsh did too And Yes, the very low band in use in those days made detection on long distances more difficult but at short distances one had to close his ears in order to prevent to become deaf.

And YES, the British admiralty had a very fair oversight of the positions of all hostile submarines in their area. I think you under estimated their capabilities in this respect.

And yes, the morse procedures and decoding took some time indeed but that was in this particular case not relevant. The position and course of U-20 was fairly known, the speed of Lusitania was reduced, sight was clear and the ship was torpedoed within view of the harbour.

I do hope this is sufficient, still interested to learn your reactions

Date: Mon, 07 Dec 1998 11:50:50 -0500
From: "Neal D. O'Brien" (nealobrien@bicnet.net)

Sorry to butt in, but I can't believe some of the things I've seen posted about the Lusitania.

Was it carrying munitions? It was if you believe German propaganda. Has anyone ever seen a bill of lading showing munitions being loaded on the Lusitania? Did the paperwork ever pass through anyone's hands? Did anyone ever testify to having seen the munitions loaded? Were any longshoremen interrogated? Were the munitions shipped openly or secretly, and if secretly, who was involved in the conspiracy and what was their motive? What evidence did the Germans have to back up their claim?

In 1915 the United States was neutral, and getting rich on the European war by shipping over an endless flow of munitions. As a neutral it was well within its rights to do so and didn't have to resort to secrecy or subterfuge. It used a large fleet of ordinary merchant ships for this lucrative trade. Using a passenger liner presented several problems:

1). Limited space - after accounting for passengers, baggage, and ships' stores, how much space was left over for carrying freight of any type? Very little - Lusitania came off the drawing board as a liner, not as a freighter.

2). Double docking - Lusitania would have had to have been berthed at one place to take on these alleged munitions, and at another place to take on its passengers. Would Cunard have been willing to shell out the money for this, when neutral American ships were bringing in tons of munitions on ordinary merchant ships every day?

3.) Legal liability - even if, in 1915, individuals didn't sue as frequently as they're said to do now, companies and corporations are another matter. And, too, loading explosives on a common carrier may have violated American law and Port of New York regulations.

As to being deliberately sent into the path of a German submarine - that's too ridiculous to merit a response; and it's all of a piece with attempting to force American intervention. Whoever came up with the "American intervention" theory doesn't know anything about Americans. Out of the 1,152 passengers lost, 114 were Americans. Americans don't jump into the middle of a European war because 114 of their fellow countrymen are killed. In all probability, in 1915, more Americans were hit and killed by streetcars than died on the Lusitania. President Wilson knew this, and his was the cooler head that prevailed in the crisis. Whatever war fever existed quickly died out. If Americans had been serious about going to war in 1915, then nothing anyone said could have stopped them. On the contrary, Wilson was re-elected in 1916 with the slogan, "He Kept Up Out of War." America entered the war in 1917 when, using our own cables, the Germans betrayed their plans to resume unrestricted submarine warfare, tried to entice Mexico to invade the United States, promising German assistance, and suggesting that the Japanese be asked to lend a hand.

Incidentally, I'd like to know how Churchill divined, in advance of sailing, that enough Americans would be on board the Lusitania to provoke American intervention. What was the magic number that would bring about this result, and how did Churchill arrive at it?

Now tell me why American intervention was being sought by anyone in 1915. When the United States finally did enter the war, two years later, its principal contribution to the Allied cause was supposed to be naval, not military. The U.S. Navy was supposed to help in keeping the North Atlantic shipping lanes open. There was no thought, at first, of sending over an American army as large as the one that was eventually sent.

As to a fair warning about unrestricted submarine warfare, saying that the Allies had no grounds for complaint because the Germans gave prior warning of their submarine campaign is exactly the same as saying that Belgium had no grounds for complaint because it was forewarned before being invaded by the German army.

Until these questions are answered then I accept the traditional view of the sinking of the Lusitania. Some trigger-happy proto-Nazi saw a fat liner in his cross-hairs and he was just itchin' to bag it. He knew it was carrying passengers. He didn't know what else it was carrying, and he didn't care. He was under orders to sink everything in sight, and that was just fine with him.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 10:06:01 -0700
From: Mike Ley (leym@HUACHUCA-EMH1.ARMY.MIL)

Neal: I believe divers have recovered / photographed quite a bit of ordnance/explosives ... I believe this was shown on the Discovery channel.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 12:19:45 -0500 (EST)
From: William Schleihauf (william@cae.ca)
On Sun, 6 Dec 1998, j.andriessen wrote: "coming back at this topic, the Simpson book was well received . However, the second explosion has been explained by the authorities as caused by a mass of coal dust ignited by the explosion of the torpedo. Experts confirmed me that this might be a possibility although there are other reasons possible."

Ahh... this again!! The Simpson book is old (my copy is copyright 1972), and many observations have been proved *false*: based on brief glimpses in crappy visibility by divers probably narc'd out of their trees! Probably the very best book to consult is the one by Dr. Robert Ballard- the illustration of the wreck are superb, and there is a great deal of evidence presented on the coal dust explosion.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 19:17:56 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)
Dear Lannie,

The German ambassy in the USA published a warning to all important newspapers in the USA. Only one , the "Des Moines Register" published same april 23. It said: " NOTICE. TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies.: that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles: that in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the falg of Great Britain, or of any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk - Imperial German Embassy Washington D.C.April 22 1915.

Date: Mon, 07 Dec 1998 12:38:57 -0500
From: Hubert van Tuyll (hishpv@aug.edu)
Dear. M. Andriessen -

Well, I defer to the other listmembers on details, but I read an entire book which debunked in detail the whole story (author/title given in an earlier message today), including falsifying what Schwiegert (sp.?) said; but perhaps more significantly, the ship's *route* and *failure to zigzag* both occurred because the captain, presumably trying to focus on *speed*, violated Admiralty instructions; the Admiralty had ordered the Lusitania to zigzag, and also to follow a particular route. The Lusitania's *failure* to do so placed the ship right in line for Schwiegert's (sp.?) shot.

To refer back to my original post, I'm sure it's not the only "great story" I've fallen for, but it is the only one I'm prepared to admit to in front of the entire list.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 17:19:20 EST
From: "Lannie" (GaGin1@aol.com)
If we are talking conspiracy, who arranged it?

Some have suggested it was "cooked" by FDR and Churchill, who "cooked " again in WWII and brought us Pearl Harbor. Any opinions?

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 17:36:57 EST
From: "Lannie" (GaGin1@aol.com)

As I E mailed earlier, there were two cargo manifests. The real one was found later and now resides in Hyde Park, and , no, alas, I have not had the time and opportunity yet to check it out, but I DO have a researcher's card for the archive!

Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 01:32:15 +0100
From: "j.andriessen" (j.n.e.andriessen@worldonline.nl)

I have maybe another explanation for the fast sinking of the Lusitania. As in an earlier post I described what happened during the inquiry in London. But there is another source, maybe more reliable than Simpson. It fis Colonel House, personal assistent to president Wilson. On his way to London on board Lusitania he wrote: This afternoon, as we aproached the Irish coast. THE AMERICAN FLAG WAS RAISED.It created much excitement and comment. I learned from mr.Beresford that captain Dow (Lusitania) had asked him to remain on the bridge all night. He expected to be torpedoed and that was the reason for raising the American flag. I can see many possible complications arising from this incident. CAPTAIN DOW TOLD BERESFORD THAT THE SHIP COULD REMAIN AFLOAT FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR".

So, Simpson's suggestions about a possible unseaworthy of Lusitania are fhere confirmed through an entire different source, the personal assistent of president Wilson.. Funny eh?

Another intersting note in colonel House diary I cannot withold you:


Again , an comfirmation by a different source of what Simpson described in his book.

source: The intimate papers of colonel House arranged as a narrative by Charles Seymour Prof of History Yale University Houghton Mifflin Comp New York,Boston 1926.

Date: Tue, 08 Dec 1998 17:17:31 +1000
From: Geoffrey Miller (gmiller@ozemail.com.au)

The thread on the Lusitania was discussed in detail in February this year. The conspiracy theory was given its airing then but I could not then, and cannot now agree that her sinking was anything other than fortuitous.

RMS Lusitania was sunk by the U-20 on May 7th 1915 when the Lusitania was off the Old Head of Kinsale, which was in sight to port. According to Corbett, (Naval Operation Vol 2, pp. 391 to 394,) the Lusitania was warned on two occasions by the Admiralty that there was submarine activity along the south coast of Ireland, she was warned on May 5th and again on May 7th at 11.25 AM. A sailing vessel was lost on the 5th, the SS. Candidate was sunk off Waterford on the 6th. and this was followed within a few hours by the loss of the SS. Centurion close to the same area. Corbett says that these vessels appear to have been sunk by the U-20. All ships, including the Lusitania, were then warned to _avoid headlands and to steer a mid channel course_. There were ten available antisubmarine trawlers based on Queenstown and they were all patrolling, including an extra motor boat which was actually off the Old Head of Kinsale.

The Lusitania was given her second specific warning just as she entered the danger zone, she had then reduced speed because of fog, but just before noon she ran into clear weather and increased speed to 18 knots. Although Brow Head was to port, the captain was unsure of his position and altered course to port to close the land in order to fix his position. This was at 12.40 PM and he did so despite the warnings to avoid the land. Corbett states that the submarine had been reported 20 miles astern and that the captain thought he was safe.

At 2.15 the only vessel in sight was the motorboat on patrol and it was then that she was sunk. Corbett, (who is not impartial). stated that she was carrying only 173 tons of small arms and shrapnel in 5000 cases, stowed right forward.

U-20 was under orders for the Liverpool area, had sunk a sailing vessel on the 5th, May 1915, SS. Candidate was sunk by her off Waterford on the 6th. and this was followed within a few hours by SS. Centurion close to the same area.

Turning NE into the St George's Channel, her captain, Schweiger found his way barred by numerous patrols, the weather was foggy and he had only three torpedoes left, two of which he wished to keep for his passage home. He decided to ignore his orders and turned back SW. During the morning of May 7th he unsuccessfully stalked a cruiser and then, shortly after 1.0 pm a huge four funnel ship appeared over the horizon. This was, of course, the Lusitania and at 1.35 pm Schweiger had decided that she would pass too far off to attack. At 1.30 she suddenly turned towards him and came into range. He fired one torpedo. (see Jameson, "The Most Formidable Thing", Rupert Hart-Davis, 1965.)

RMS Lusitania was sunk by Schweiger as a large passenger ship, just as the sailing ship, the "Candidate" and the "Centurion" were sunk. It is ludicrous to state that she was directed into the area by Churchill in order to be sunk; on the contrary there were three warnings sent out about submarine activity, two specifically to her, and there was a small vessel on submarine patrol actually in sight when she was sunk.

RMS Lusitania was not escorted, therefore her escorts could not be withdrawn. She altered speed because of fog and then altered her course (unwisely) in order to check her position. She was a Cunard ship and -not- under Admiralty control. The Admiralty could only advise, not order her to go anywhere; certainly they could not have ordered her to be anywhere at any particular time because only the exigencies of her passage dictated that she be off the Old Head of Kinsale when she was.

The blame for the sinking must be laid primarily on Schweiger (who was subsequently lost on September 17th 1917 when his ship was sunk by a Q-Boat) and secondarily on the Captain of the Lusitania who misjudged the U-boat danger and closed the shore despite advice against this by the Admiralty. Despite other posts to the contrary, it must be accepted that the Lusitania appeared fortuitously in front of the U-20, nobody could possibly have forecast that she would have to slow down because of fog or that she would ignore Admiralty advice and close land to check her position.

Date: Tue, 08 Dec 1998 18:49:52 +1000
From: Geoffrey Miller (gmiller@ozemail.com.au)

As a PS to my earlier post, I must address those who believe that the malevolent Churchill deliberately engineered the loss of RMS Lusitania in order to precipitate America into war. If he did, he must have been sasly disapointed...

America did -not- declare war as a result of the loss of the US citizens who were travelling on the British ship on May 7th 1915.

America did not even declare war after three -American- ships were sunk by U-boats without warning on March 18th 1917. America declared war on April 21st, 1917, after the news of the Zimmerman Telegram was confirmed.

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 09:29:46 -0000
From: Geoffrey Mille" (manorhouse@clara.co.uk)

On the subject of Admiralty Intelligence, Michael Occleshaw in his "Armour Against Fate : British Military Intelligence in the First World War" (Columbus Books, 1989, ISBN 0-86287-407-6) claims on pages 116-7 that the Admiralty, having broken the German naval codes, had then:

"... sent Admiral von Spee's German East Asia Squadron at Valparaiso a message ordering them to attack the Falkland Islands, whereupon the Germans sailed into the waiting guns of Admiral Sturdee's battlecruisers."

In all the accounts I have read of Coronel and the Falklands I have never seen this mentioned before and, unfortunately, Occleshaw gives no reference for the information. The Admiralty certainly was able, by November 1914, to read the German naval code following the 'Magdeburg' incident, but would they really have risked alerting the Germans to this by sending a fake message?

Occleshaw's book (or should I say 'books', for it seems to be two separate stories, one on intelligence and one on the Romanovs) is a curious production. Does any list member have an opinion on it?

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 06:28:12 -0500
From: Andrew Bamji (Andrew_Bamji@compuserve.com)

Given that all transatlantic traffic had potentially to cross the path of= a U-Boat it was all at risk. Geoffrey's summary accords with all the known facts; the rest is hearsay and supposition. As for conversations relating to the possibility of ships being sunk having any effect on the war, and in particular America's part in or out, it would be fair to counter-argue that, far from mention of the Lusitania being an indication that they "knew" something would happen, it was mentioned only as the likely "big hit" of the day. In the same way, current speculation of Chinese ability to knock out satellites would be exemplified by reference to the new space station. All manner of smaller ships were at risk; it would be the big ships that would be remembered or discussed.

Let's revert to common sense; cock-up outnumbers conspiracy by a hundred to one and to argue that a politician would deliberately arrange the sacrifice of such a size, without being exactly aware of the actual likely gain,stretches credibility beyond even the cynical...

Fine last words from Andrew Bamji!

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