May 7 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania, which was torpedoed by a German submarine as it made its travel off the coast of Kinsale Head in the south of Ireland with 2,000 passengers and crew. The ship had been heading from New York to Liverpool and more than 1,200 people lost their lives in this tragic wartime act.
Some believe that the ship was set up to be a victim to get the US into World War I, but even though it is known that the ship’s cargo carried war munitions and supplies for the war, the British authorities say that the Lusitania was not armed and was not a warship.
Sinking of the Lusitania Occurred in War Zone
The Lusitania was known to be on travel in a war zone and there is evidence that Winston Churchill, then Minister of the Admiralty, desired a type of incident like the sinking of the Lusitania to happen to try to get the then neutral US into the war. The area the ship was to travel in had been declared as a war zone after the British blockaded some of the German ports, so the Germans responded by saying that the North Sea region around Britain was a war zone.
Apparently it was common practice for the Royal Navy to camouflage warships as civilian ships like Lusitania and use them to destroy German subs. These were known as auxiliary cruisers and considered by the Germans to be warships. So, any such ship that was seen to travel fitting those characteristics, such as the Lusitania, would have been thought as a legitimate target by the Germans.
Lusitania Captain, Others Knew of Possible Danger
The Lusitania had left New York on May 1, 1915 headed to Liverpool. The ship’s captain was said to know he would be heading into waters with the possibility of enemy subs being there. He was also said to know that the German government had printed a warning in the New York newspapers telling civilians they should not travel in that area.
However, the passengers on the Lusitania consisted of both the famous and the unknown, and none knew of the large stash of war munitions in the cargo that traveled with them intended for the British army. The cargo made the sinking of the Lusitania a legitimate war target.
No one really knows to this day if Churchill actually meant for the sinking of the Lusitania to occur, but he allegedly knew of the possibility on that fateful day of travel. All that is known on this 100th anniversary of the tragedy is that the ship was not escorted, it was in a known war zone, and it carried wartime supplies, thus it is likely that the sinking of the Lusitania was something doomed to occur. There were many other instances where merchant and pleasure ships were sunk by German submarines, however, the Lusitania was the largest loss of civilian life.