Lusitania FAQ

Welcome to the frequently asked questions part of this site.  Click here for a glossary of nautical terms. For any questions not answered here, please consult our discussion board.

Any feedback you may have is welcome.

General

Were Lusitania and Titanic sister ships?

A: No. This is a common misconception because Lusitania and Titanic are two of the most infamous maritime disasters in history, so they are often linked in people’s minds. The owners of Lusitania and Titanic were separate companies and rivals. Lusitania was operated by the Cunard Line, and Titanic was operated by the White Star Line. Lusitania‘s sister ship was Mauretania, and they had a “half sister” or “cousin” named Aquitania. Mauretania and Aquitania both had long, successful, and illustrious careers, with Aquitania serving in both world wars. Titanic‘s sisters were Olympic and Britannic, with only Olympic having survived into old age.

Which was larger, Lusitania or Titanic?

A: Titanic was larger. Titanic was 46,328 gross registered tons (GRT) while Lusitania was 31,550 GRT. Keep in mind that GRT is a measure of enclosed space and not weight. 1 GRT = 100 cubic feet.

How long / how wide / how large was Lusitania?

A: Please refer to Lusitania specifications

Who built Lusitania?

A: John Brown and Company, Shipbuilders, Clydebank, Scotland

Who designed Lusitania?

A: Leonard Peskett

Who owned Lusitania?

A: Cunard Line, Ltd. They are still in business today, carrying people across the ocean in style with their latest ocean liner, Queen Mary 2.

What were the differences between Lusitania and Mauretania?

A: Lusitania had flat topped ventilators. Mauretania had rounded top ventilators. Mauretania also has a noticeable overhang above the lower deck at the forward end of her superstructure, whereas the forward end of Lusitania’s superstructure looked more of a set of stairs. Mauretania was also a little longer, wider, and larger, and with an extra power stage fitted to her turbines.

How fast was Lusitania?

A: Lusitania reached 26.7 knots on her trials. Her fastest crossing was in 1909 with an average speed of 25.85 knots with a time of 4 days, 16 hours, and 40 minutes. Her speed continued to improve throughout her career as her propellers were upgraded and turbines broken in.

Why was it so important for Lusitania to be fast? I would be upset if my cruise were shorter than expected.

A: Lusitania and Mauretania were built so that the British Navy could use them in times of war. Speed is very important for a potential warship to prevent capture and destruction. Furthermore, back then, airplanes were new and small and did not carry large numbers of passengers. Ships such as Lusitania were the only way to travel across the ocean. As the only way to cross, shipping companies remained competitive as long as they offered the fastest and/or most comfortable means of transportation.

Where can I find Lusitania deck plans?

A: Lusitania deck plans

Where can I find a timeline of Lusitania events?

A: Lusitania timeline

What day did Lusitania sink?

A: 7 May 1915, a Friday

What time was Lusitania hit by the torpedo?

A: 2:10 p.m.

How long did Lusitania take to sink?

A: 18 minutes

Where is the wreck of the Lusitania? How deep is the Lusitania wreck?

A: Lusitania lies off the coast of Ireland near the Old Head of Kinsale at 51°25’N 8°33’W, 8 miles off the coast of Ireland. In peacetime, Lusitania often passed about 2 miles from the Old Head of Kinsale.

 

Getting more in-depth…

What was the name of the U-boat (or submarine) that sank Lusitania?

A: U-20

Who commanded the U-20 when she sank Lusitania?

A: Wather Schwieger, Captain-lieutenant of the Imperial German Navy.

Who was Lusitania‘s captain on her last voyage? Did he die?

A: Captain William Thomas Turner. He survived the sinking.

How many people died when the Lusitania sank?

A: See Passenger and Crew Statistics.

How many crossings did Lusitania make before she was sunk?

A: Lusitania completed 201 crossings (one-way), which is also 100 voyages (round-trip). She was on her 202nd crossing and return leg of her 101st voyage when she was sunk.

How much did a saloon (first-class) ticket cost on Lusitania?

A: It depends on the accommodation:
– Marie Depage paid $142.50 for her cabin E 61, low in the ship.
– John McConnel paid $185 for his cabin D 36.
– George Kessler’s cabin, A 23, cost $380.

The regal suites on B Deck, I’m sure, cost the most. While these prices seem to be “only” in the hundreds, keep inflation in mind, as during this time period, the average American only made $20 a week.

Did Lusitania ever go to Australia or New Zealand?

A: A Lusitania did, but not the famous Cunarder. The Orient Line had a ship named Lusitania that ran regularly between Britain and Australia from 1877 to 1898. There was also a Portuguese Lusitania shipwrecked off the South African coast. You can read more at Encyclopedia Titanica.

Family histories tell me that I had a relative aboard the Lusitania’s last voyage. Why can’t I find him/her on the passenger or crew lists?

A: See Unlisted and Research Help

I had a relative who crossed on one of the Lusitania‘s previous voyages. How do I find the passenger or crew manifest from that crossing?

A: You can try www.ellisisland.org (where you can search by your relative’s name) or www.immigrantships.net (search by ship). While I would love to eventually post every single one of Lusitania‘s passenger lists, I have a hard enough time maintaining the 1200 biographies of crossing #202. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to maintain the biographies of at least 242,200 persons who had sailed on Lusitania during her entire career!

Was anyone on board both Titanic and Lusitania when they sank?

A: A man by the Frank Toner (often misspelled ‘Tower’), a fireman on Lusitania, claimed to also have been a fireman on Titanic and Empress of Ireland, the latter of which sank in 1914; however, Toner’s name does not appear on the crew lists of either Titanic or Empress of Ireland. Albert Charles Dunn was also reported to be a triple survivor, and he was sunk twice by Walther Schwieger and the U-20. There were also a number of close calls and claimed close calls, such as the ticket cancellation of Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon, who survived Titanic in lifeboat 1 but was too ill to sail on Lusitania‘s last crossing. The “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, however, was definitely not on Lusitania‘s last crossing and did not plan to be on board.

How many Lusitania survivors are still alive today?

A: Sadly, none, Audrey Lawson-Johnston (nee Pearl), saloon class passenger, the last survivor, passed away in January 2011.Barbara McDermott (nee Anderson), second cabin passenger, passed away in 2008.

Who were the last Lusitania survivors?

A: – Mr. Desmond Francis Cox (second cabin), who passed away on 15 September 2000 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada at age 86.
Mr. Arthur Scott (third class), who passed away on 19 June 2001 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, at age 94.
Mrs. Yvonne “Eve” Pugh (nee Marichal) (second cabin), who passed away on 15 September 2001 in Worcester, England, at age 92.
Mrs. Barbara McDermott (nee Anderson) (second cabin), who passed away on 12 April 2008 in Wallingford, Connecticut, United States, at age 96.
Mrs. Audrey Lawson Johnston (nee Pearl) (saloon), who passed away on 11 January 2011 in Melchbourne, Bedfordshire, England, at age 95.

 

Hard questions

What warnings did Lusitania receive (or not receive) about submarines?

A:
– Thursday, 6 May, 7:52 p.m.: “SUBMARINES ACTIVE OFF SOUTH COAST OF IRELAND.”
– Thursday, 6 May, 8:30 p.m.: “TO ALL BRITISH SHIPS 0005: TAKE LIVERPOOL PILOT AT BAR AND AVOID HEADLANDS. PASS HARBOURS AT FULL SPEED. STEER MID-CHANNEL COURSE. SUBMARINES OFF FASTNET.”
– Friday, 7 May, 11:25 a.m.: “SUBMARINE ACTIVE IN SOUTHERN PART OF IRISH CHANNEL, LAST HEARD OF TWENTY MILES SOUTH OF CONINGBEG LIGHT VESSEL. MAKE CERTAIN LUSITANIA GETS THIS.”
– Friday, 7 May, 12:40 p.m.: “SUBMARINE FIVE MILES SOUTH OF CAPE CLEAR, PROCEEDING WEST WHEN SIGHTED AT 10:00 A.M.”

Worth noting is that all of these messages to Lusitania were general directives, and absolutely nothing about the sinkings of Earl of Lathom, sunk 5 May; Candidate, sunk 6 May, 7:40 a.m.; Centurion, sunk 6 May, 2:30 p.m.; or the attempt on the Cayo Romano, also on 6 May, all off the south coast of Ireland, were ever relayed to Lusitania. In total, 23 ships had been sunk off the Irish coast after Lusitania left New York on 1 May 1915, no news of any of these sinkings were ever relayed to Lusitania.

Was Lusitania badly designed?

A: In hindsight, it is easy for people to say that longitudinal bulkheads did more harm than good, but the failure of Lusitania‘s watertight integrity is more a fault of over-design than shoddy construction. This over-design was to limit flooding throughout the ship. The longitudinal bulkheads, once filled with water, would cause the ship to list severely to one side because these bulkheads would not allow the weight of the water to be distributed across the width of the ship. With enough of these longitudinal compartments breached, the ship would capsize.

Open portholes, doors, and open decks higher up the ship submerged as the ship listed, and as water poured through these perforations in the ship, Lusitania‘s fate was sealed. The use of the longitudinal bulkheads as coal bunkers was also problematic, as coal doors would have been difficult to close with scraps of coal in the way. Even if the rate of Lusitania‘s flooding was not fatal, coal absorbs water and therefore water weight. Therefore, even if flooding had been controlled, Lusitania would have continued to list. This is not to say that Leonard Peskett or the Admiralty were bad shipbuilders, rather, Lusitania‘s over-design is a classic case where more precautions is does not lead to greater safety.

Was Lusitania carrying munitions?

A: Yes, but small arms and supposedly empty shrapnel shells. See the cargo manifest and what would have been considered contraband, and see what role they might have played in the sinking.

Who is ultimately responsible for the sinking of Lusitania?

A: Without a doubt, the immediate guilty party is Captain-lieutenant Walther Schwieger of the U-20, who acted on orders of the Imperial German Navy or Government and fired the fatal torpedo. Radioed signals of congratulations to U-20 from the Commander-in-Chief of the Hochseefleet reveal with absolute clarity that Lusitania was indeed a prime target. Furthermore, the declaration of the war zone around the British Isles and rather ineffective submarine blockade was a pronounced breach of previously established International Law, a fact that the Germans admitted in 1917. Therefore, the brunt of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Imperial German Government.

Conversely, the reasonable expectation that Lusitania would have limped into port if the torpedo had hit elsewhere on the ship, also brings into question what role Britain’s shipping of munitions on express passenger ships like Lusitania played in the disaster. In addition, Captain Turner’s decision to steer in a straight line for 25 minutes up to the torpedoing, as well as the glaring inaction on behalf of the Admiralty to protect Lusitania, were definite contributors to the sinking.

Did the sinking of the Lusitania cause the United States to enter the First World War?

A: Indirectly. While Lusitania was sunk on 7 May 1915, the United States did not enter the war until 6 April 1917, and therefore, Lusitania was not the proximate cause of the US’s entry into the First World War. The sinking did serve to turn American public opinion against Germany and German Americans, who up to that time were trusted members of the American “melting pot.” Even though the United States was a neutral country, German sympathizers were as visible and socially acceptable in American society as British sympathizers. Germany’s invasion of neutral Belgium in 1914 had failed to capture American sympathies, and Germany’s submarine attacks without the Lusitania sinking did not have the number of American fatalities to horrify the American public into declaring war.

The Lusitania disaster, however, with almost 1,200 noncombatants, 124 Americans, and 94 children dead (31 of which were infants) had irreparably damaged American public opinion towards Germany. Before Lusitania, any submarine attack that resulted in the loss of American lives resulted in a German apology that the US promptly accepted. After Lusitania, German apologies were no longer sufficient. It was only a matter of time before the US would join the war on the Allied side.

Was Captain Turner at fault for the torpedoing of the Lusitania?

Was Lusitania a legitimate target of war?

Did exploding munitions sink Lusitania?  If not, what caused her to sink so quickly, especially if she was almost as big as Titanic?

What was the government cover-up over the Lusitania sinking?

Did Winston Churchill engineer a conspiracy to sink Lusitania and bring the United States into World War I?

Contributors:
Paul Latimer
J. Kent Layton
Jeff Newman
Michael Poirier

References:
Minutes of Evidence as given at the Mersey Inquiry.

Bailey, Thomas A. and Paul B. Ryan.  The Lusitania Disaster:  An Episode in Modern Warfare and Diplomacy.  The Free Press, 1975.

Beesly, Patrick.  Room 40.  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982.

Ballard, Robert D. and Spencer Dunmore.  Exploring the Lusitania.  Warner Books, 1995.

Collins, Max Allan.  The Lusitania Murders.  Berkley, 2002.

Hoehling, A. A.  Lost at Sea.  Stackpole Books, 1984.

Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956.

Layton, J. Kent.  “Lusitania” at Atlantic Liners.  Online.  <http://www.atlanticliners.com/lusitania_home.htm>

O’Sullivan, Patrick.  Lusitania:  Unravelling the Mysteries.  Collins Press, 1999.

Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002.

Simpson, Colin.  The Lusitania.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1972.

12 Responses

  1. Marian Kenny
    Marian Kenny 7 May 2011 at 22:28 · Reply

    My grandmother (who died in 1978, aged 88) always told me my grandfather (who died when my mother was a teenager) had been an engineer on the lucitania when it sank but that he survived. He is not on the crew list and my mother has been upset about this. I wonder if you could throw any light on this mystery. My mother is now 80 and I know she would like to clear this up in her head. Many thanks

  2. Barbara Moore Pugh
    Barbara Moore Pugh 5 September 2011 at 14:41 · Reply

    This is such a wonderful sit with a lot of information. I am the Great Granddaughter of Edwin Moore who was in the second cabin section. His body was never found. You show no age or whether he was married. He was 62 at the time of his death and was married to Elizabeth Ramsbottom (buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Pawtucket, RI.) both of England. He was on his way to Keighley England to visit family. He had 2 sons Henry and Miles, both were born in the USA. Miles was my Grandfather who took over Edwin’s job while he was gone. My father was born in Central falls< R.I.

  3. lawrence g moore
    lawrence g moore 19 September 2011 at 12:21 · Reply

    my granfather made two trips before the ship sank. can i get dates of trips? he was born in duram county england 1884? thats where he lived at the time. john e moore . he moved to batavia new york usa.

  4. Philip Dawes
    Philip Dawes 26 December 2011 at 09:44 · Reply

    The Mixed Claims Commission – United States and Germany is recorded: http://www.rmslusitania.info/primary-docs/mcc/. But I have so far been unable to find The Mixed Claims Commission – Great Britain and Germany. Was there one, and if so, can you please provide the link?
    Thanks for your great work in this very involved and complex field.

  5. Jenna Holmer
    Jenna Holmer 28 March 2012 at 01:31 · Reply

    was the Lusitania related to the Titanic?

  6. Frazer
    Frazer 4 August 2012 at 23:58 · Reply

    Hi! I am very interested in the Lusitania, I look at many photographs and deck plans of her however I would like to know where did the 3rd Class passengers have access to an open deck? On the Titanic and the Olympic they seem to of have more deck space than on Lusitania and Mauretania however Lusitania was really generous to second class and gave far more deck space and open areas than in Titanic’s 2nd class.

  7. Chloe
    Chloe 19 February 2013 at 16:46 · Reply

    Hiya!! i am very intrested in the Lusitania, but I can’t find out how much everything cost. I would just love to find it out before tomorrow because I am doing a project for secondry school about it. Thanks.

Leave a Reply