Construction began on the RMS Lusitania on August 17th 1904. Cunard was experiencing some financial difficulty and approached the British Admiralty for a loan of £20,000 to be paid back during a twenty year period.
In the event of a war the entire class of new superliners would be available as Auxiliary cruisers and would be outfitted to meet specifications, including 6 inch guns. The first Vessel’s name would be the Lusitania, named after an ancient Roman province on the west of the Iberian Peninsula Extremadura in Spain.
Lusitania would be build out of high-tensile steel with longitude transverse bulkheads. The engines were designed by Charles Parsons whose company, Parsons Marine, would produce the turbine engines. He designed engines for the new vessels capable of maintaining 25 knots, requiring 68,000 shaft horsepower (51,000 kW). The architect in charge of building the liners was Leonard Pesket and the builder in Cyldebank, Scotland by the name of John Brown and Company.
Lusitania was launched on June 7th 1906, christened by Mary Lady Inverclyde, and would continue on to many sea trials and admiralty tests in July and August 1907. Aside from a few vibrations in the sterns area the trials went well and the River Clyde was widened and deepened accordingly to accommodate the massive ship.
September 7th 1907 Lusitania departs from Liverpool, England with 2,300 passengers and crew on board.
The vessel would continue on to Queenstown, Ireland (Cobh) for more passengers and mail before heading west across the North Atlantic for New York. She would reach her destination in five days and 54 minutes, arriving at Cunard’s Pier 54. This would quickly become a major event, with families gathered around the pier and reporters waiting to get their shot of the brand new ship, hailed as the finest in the world.
Celebrated author Mark Twain would be included in the throngs of people who would visit her in the coming days, famously commenting “I’ll have to tell Noah all about this when I meet him.”
Lusitania departs from New York New York on her 101st voyage, 1960 passengers and crew on board on May 1st, 1915. There is a huge media interest due to various warnings from Germany.
The first World War had begun a year earlier and with Germany at war with Britain the British Isles and Ireland were declared a war zone. The German Embassy went as far as to post a warning in the New York times that passengers sailing on the Lusitania, or any British ship, would be attacked.
May 7th, 1915 U-20, under the command of Kapitanleutant Walther Schwieger fired a torpedo at the Lusitania. At approximately 2:10pm the torpedo struck the starboard side of the Lusitania, causing the vessel to develop a severe list. Approximately 30 seconds later a second explosion would take place.
The severe list limited the capacity of the crew to safetly launch the lifeboats. Many would simply fall off the decks and in some cases tip their occupants into the freezing Atlantic. A mere 18 minutes after being struck the Lusitania sank, taking with it 1198 of the 1960 passengers.
Out of the 124 children on board almost all of them, a whopping 94, would perish. After the sinking of the Lusitania there would be massive political outcry that would change the face of the war.