LUSITANIA - A DAY IN MAY
The RMS Lusitania, a luxury Cunard liner, departed New York at noon on the 1st May 1915 on a routine trip to Liverpool, carrying 1,962 passengers and crew, under the command of Captain Turner. Although the ship had made the journey many times, this voyage set sail under the shadow of World War I. Germany had declared the seas around the British Isles a war zone in February 1915, and a notice issued by the German Embassy warning passengers of the risk of sailing into these waters had appeared in the newspapers in New York on the day of sailing.
On Friday, 7th May, as the RMS Lusitania sailed close to the south coast of Ireland on a calm, sunny day, it was torpedoed by a German submarine. The torpedo struck at 2.10pm. The rapid sinking of the ship, which listed to starboard, hampered the successful launch of the lifeboats and only 6 reached the water safely. A second explosion caused further chaos and within 18 minutes the great ship had sunk.
An SOS was sent to Queenstown from the ship before it sank, but many of the fishing boats, steamers and the two RNLI lifeboats in the area were small and it took them a long time to reach the scene of the disaster.
Survivors were taken on board the many small rescue vessels. Large numbers of people were transferred to the larger Admiralty tugs when they arrived and the smaller boats remained on the scene to help in the recovery of bodies. The first of the rescue ships arrived in Queenstown as dusk approached on 7th May.
The people of Queenstown did all they could to help the survivors and to cope with family members who flooded the town in the aftermath. 1,198 people died as a result of the disaster but most of the bodies were never recovered.
A wooden deckchair which was washed up on Garrettstown strand 3-4 days
after the Lusitania sank. It is possibly from the Lusitania.
James David Coulling, Skipper of the trawler Bradford, which took part in the search and rescue operation after the sinking of the Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale.
One of two pipes in the Museum's collection belonging to Captain Thomas Brierley from Cobh, the Captain of the Flying Fish Tug. The Flying Fish was an Admiralty Tug which brought many Lusitania survivors and victims back to Queenstown. Captain Brierley was awarded a medal for his bravery in carrying out many trips to the disaster area.
Hatband from Admiralty tug Stormcock, which together with tugs Warrior and Flying Fish were sent from Queenstown to recover bodies.
This unique, inscribed Hard Tack Biscuit was taken from a Lusitania Lifeboat by J.Law, Templebreedy. Now on display for the first time in Cobh Museum as part of the "Lusitania: A Day in May" exhibition it captures the reality of survival on that day.
Copyright Cobh Museum 2015