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Ship Statistics:

 

John Brown Hull No. 367  

Lusitania-JKentLayton

Lusitania on her trials. (J. Kent Layton Collection. Not for re-use without written permission.)

Length Overall: 787 feet[*]
Length Between Perpendiculars (b.p.): 760 feet 0 inches
Width: 87 feet 6 inches
Draught: 33 feet 6 inches
Gross Tonnage: 31,550.47 registered
Displacement: 44,060 registered
Career: September 7, 1907-May 7, 1915
- Sunk by German submarine U-20

 

 

 

NOW AVAILABLE:

1/350-Scale General Arrangement Plans

 

Don't ever squint at the tiny Engineering plans again... These new plans were drawn by J. Kent Layton, author of Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography, specifically for that volume. Now they have been released for the first time at 1/350 scale.

Printed on a single 36" x 60" sheet of paper, and including technical information on the ship at the bottom of the page, these plans show great detail that could not be matched in a smaller format. Great for a reference, or quite suitable for framing. Click here for ordering information.

LucyPlans1-350

ALSO AVAILABLE:

For a complete history of the Lusitania, from her design and construction, through her 7 1/2-year career on the North Atlantic, to her terrifying sinking, make sure to pick up a copy of my 2010 volume, Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography (Amberley Books).

Cover2Cover1

Today the Lusitania is remembered mostly for her tragic sinking on May 7, 1915, and the political ramifications of that disaster. That sinking, however, was merely the startling and grim finale to an incredibly eventful life, the death of one legend and the beginning of another.

This volume relives the entire life of the Lusitania, from her beginnings to her demise; it is an unprecedented biography of the great ship and the people who sailed on her. From the ship’s technical design features to the greatest events in her career, her story is told in both words and pictures. Hundreds of photographs and illustrations, breathtaking new artwork, and all-new plans of the ship reveal the liner as never before...

 

The History of the R.M.S. Lusitania - A Brief Look:

The keel of the Lusitania was laid down on Wednesday, August 17, 1904, at the shipyards of John Brown & Co. on the River Clyde in Scotland. She was slated to be not only the world's largest largest, but also the world's fastest liner when she entered service, and because of this, the shipyard was truly working in uncharted territory. Many of the "firsts" incorporated into this liner - including a quadruple-screw layout, marine steam turbines, and a host of other features - would be seen again on later liners, including the Aquitania, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and many others.

Lusitania was launched on Thursday, June 7, 1906, in that moment becoming the largest moving object in the world. Her sister, Mauretania, would lay claim to that title when she was launched, because she was slightly longer and wider. (On the other hand, the Titanic did not have such a distinction when she was launched in 1911, as her older sister Olympic was of an identical length, width and weight [52,310 tons registered]) However, the Lusitania could still lay claim to the title of "world's largest liner" when she entered service in September of 1907, because the Mauretania did not enter service until November of that year.

Bow-JKL

LusitaniaOnWays-JKL

Above left: The bow of the Lusitania, nearly ready for launch, towers over the John Brown shipyards on the River Clyde. Above right: The ship sits on the ways, with her propellers in place, as the launch date of June 7, 1906 approaches. Below left: As the liner slides into the Clyde River, a worker on the bow waves to those on shore. Below right: A solitary figure watches from the shore line as tugs take the hull in tow for the short trip to the fitting out quay. (All J. Kent Layton Collection, not for reproduction without written permission.)

Launch1 Lusitania Launch-JKL
Lusitania Trials

Above: The Lusitania prior to her maiden voyage, with her prow still painted white. Below: The mighty liner departs on her trials. (J. Kent Layton Collection; not for reproduction without written permission.)

Under Way-JKL
LucyLiverpool-JKL Lucy-NY-JKL

Above left: The Lusitania in the River Mersy, Liverpool. Above right: A photograph of the Lusitania during one of her earliest stays in New York, at Manhattan's Pier 54 by West Fourteenth Street. The woefully inadequte pier facilities would soon be replaced by the new Chelsea Piers. (Both photos J. Kent Layton Collection, not for reproduction without written permission.) Below: A photograph of the Lusitania in Liverpool, England. (Photo Courtesy Richard Smye, not for reproduction without written permission.)

LucySmall

Lusitania served the Cunard Line with distinction between that summer and the spring of 1915. During that career, she accrued an exciting array of firsts, records, storm stories and other notable events. Although her younger sister Mauretania proved slightly longer, larger, faster (permanently taking all speed records from the Lusitania in 1909) and - contrary to popular opinion - more popular than the Lusitania, the older ship built a solid reputation for reliability and safety, and became a much-beloved fixture in both Liverpool and New York. (All of the aforementioned details are discussed, in great detail, in Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography.) Although the Olympic and Titanic eclipsed the Lusitania and Mauretania in size, the Cunarders still had a decided advantage of their competitors in terms of speed and reputation. Particularly after the sinking of the Titanic in April of 1912, the Lusitania and Mauretania seemed to have bright futures on the North Atlantic.

Beginning in June of 1912, the Lusitania began to suffer a protracted series of difficulties with her revolutionary turbine engines. In mid-October, she was removed from service for repairs, and did not re-enter service until December 13.

Lusitania December 1912

This marvelous photograph of the Lusitania was taken in New York during her single stay there between December 21 and 24 of 1912. This was after her two-month layup for turbine repairs, and just before her turbines suffered catastrophic failure. She would not return to New York again until August 30, 1913, over eight months from the time this photo was taken.

It is clear that snow had fallen after the ship's arrival, as it has accumulated on her upper decks. A crewman tends to one of the Bridge windows.

The picture shows that, since her entry into service, a number of changes had been carried out on the ship's ventilator system. Some of the original cannister-style vents had been replaced with Mauretania-esque cowl ventilators, which had proved sturdier.

Extra lifeboats, brought aboard after the sinking of the Titanic that previous spring, can be seen on the Boat Deck. Extra davits would be installed later in the ship's career. - (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Author's Collection [Restoration by J. Kent Layton])

On December 30, 1912, the Lusitania's turbine machinery experienced catastrophic failure after a near-collision in Fishguard, Wales. Extensive repairs were carried out in the Canada Dock in Liverpool, England, and the ship was laid up until late August of 1913. During the following year, she continued her service, but during the summer of 1914, the world changed forever.

After the outbreak of World War One, many of the Atlantic liners were either tapped for Government service or were laid up, and in short order, the Lusitania was the only crack liner left on the Liverpool-New York route. As demand for passenger traffic had fallen off significantly during the fall/winter of 1914/1915, her operation was economized. This was accomplished by closing one of her four Boiler Rooms down; this caused a reduction in her top speed from 25+ knots to 21, but at the time, this was not considered a threat to the ship's safety; all German naval forces and converted merchant marine auxiliaries had either been bottled up in German waters or had been removed from action by the Royal Navy in the early days of the conflict.

At the time, submarines had not really been proven as a strong force in naval warfare. However, with its primary force bottled up, the German Navy quickly learned how to use these vessels effectively. Following the old-fashioned "cruiser rules", the submarines commenced a "gentleman's" campaign against the British merchant shipping. A "War Zone" was declared in the waters surrounding the British Isles in early 1915, and British and neutral merchant vessels were warned against sailing into this "War Zone", but the traffic continued and ships like the Lusitania continued to ply the waters between England and America.

Lusitania Late

Above: The Lusitania is seen here departing New York during the cold winter months of 1914-1915. Her 'midship lifeboat davits are empty, and the gold band painted around the superstructure is barely visible. (J. Kent Layton Collection, not for reproduction without written permission)


As the number of merchant ships sunk by the U-boats began to rise sharply, concern grew for their safety among those in the Admiralty and Parliament. Anti-submarine tactics were in their infancy and were highly ineffective. The Admiralty began to issue a series of orders and advices to the Captains of British merchant vessels like the Lusitania in an effort to steer them clear of U-boats. Coded transmissions were also sent out via wireless with the latest updates to all ships inbound to the "War Zone". It was hoped that these measures, when combined with the good leadership of merchant skippers, would cut down on the losses. Tactics like steaming at full speed through the "War Zone", avoiding headlands - where U-boats lurked - and steering a zigzag course came into practice. (Indeed, in August of 1914, Captain Haddock of the Olympic implemented such tactics while she was inbound to Liverpool.)

On May 1, 1915, the R.M.S. Lusitania departed New York on her 202nd crossing of the Atlantic under the command of Captain William Turner. The crossing would end in disaster on May 7 off the south coast of Ireland ...


Right: This photograph, taken just after noon on May 1, 1915, shows the Lusitania departing Pier 54 for the last time. Here tugs push her stem toward the south, so that she can steam down the North (Hudson) River on her way to open water... for the last time. (J. Kent Layton Collection - Not for reproduction without written permission.)
Lusitania May 1 1915 - J Kent Layton Collection

The German submarine U-20 chanced across the Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale. The Lusitania was then steaming at reduced speed, and in setting up to take a protracted four-point bearing on the promontory, Captain Turner inadvertantly placed the ship in precisely the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lusitania OffIreland
Left: A photograph of the Lusitania steaming off the coast of Ireland, just a few miles from where she was eventually sunk. In this photograph, a relatively rare view held in my personal collection, the ship is steaming west-bound; the photo was taken around 1911-1912. (J. Kent Layton Collection - Not for reproduction without written permission.)

At 2:10 p.m., a single torpedo struck the liner's starboard bow. Because of certain deficiencies in the watertight subdivision of the liner in that area, this single blow was enough to sink the ship. A second - and highly controversial - explosion took place shortly thereafter. Eighteen minutes after the blow was struck, the mighty Lusitania slid beneath the waves. 1,198 innocent men, women and children lost their lives.


Lusitania Anniversaries...

 

September 7-13, 2007 marked the 100th anniversary of the Lusitania's maiden voyage. Those same dates in September of 2012 marked the 105th anniversary of the event, and the year after that will mark 106 years' passage from the time of her maiden voyage.

December 2012-August 2013 will mark a century since the liner was laid up for extensive turbine repairs.

May 7 of 2013 will mark the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. The event took place on Friday, May 7, 1915, at 2:10 p.m. according to the clocks on the liner, 3:10 p.m. Berlin time (as recorded in the U-20's war diary), or 9:10 a.m. New York time. The ship's clocks had been adjusted on the morning of May 7 to match London time. The clocks on the Lusitania were not set to Irish time, 25 minutes behind London time, as no call at Queenstown was scheduled or anticipated. As Daylight Savings Time was not in effect in 1915, another hour needs to be factored in to modern clocks.

The exact anniversary of the sinking will take place on May 7, 2013 at 8:10 a.m. New York Time, 1:10 p.m. GMT, and 2:10 p.m. Berlin Time.

 

 


Related Pages:


The Stokes Family - Aboard for the Last Crossing

Recently, Mr. & Mrs. Troy White contacted me with information regarding the Stokes family (Mr. George Edward "Ted" Stokes, Mrs. Mabel - nee Elliott - Stokes, and Master William "Billy" Stokes). First of all, my sincerest thanks to the Whites for forwarding this information and photograph. Second, I must apologize for the delay that it took for me to make the information public; a filing error led to its temporary misplacement.

Along with the photograph, reproduced at left, Mrs. White provided the following information:

"The stokes had planned to travel to England, to see Mr. Stokes' family. Their son was approximately 2 yrs. old and they were expecting another child. The family in Victoria cautioned them against the journey, but they young couple were fearless.

"Mabel Stokes wrote a series of letters to her family in Victoria, as they journeyed by train to New York. The letters, of course, arrived after the sinking of the Lusitania.

Sadly, the last words of the last letter were: 'Now I must say goodbye for a little while. With lots of love from us all. xxxx - From Billie: Take care of yourselves and don't worry about us. Goodbye again & God bless you all. From Mabel, Ted & Billie.'

The Daily Colonist of May 8, 1915, headlined the loss of the Lusitania on its front page with the headline: "Submarine Gets Over 1,400 Victims". Under the article, "Victorians Who Were Aboard," the following information is included: "Mr. George E. Stokes, who was a builder in a small way in the city, was accompanied by Mrs. Stokes and son, on a visit to their old home in England, having given up business here. They resided at 2846 Grahame Street."


Did you enjoy this account of passengers who were aboard the Lusitania during her fateful voyage? If so, then you will certainly want to read the two part series, "Lest We Forget," written by Jim Kalafus and Mike Poirier. Follow these hyperlinks to the two articles:

Lest We Forget - Part 1
Lest We Forget - Part 2


Above: The Lusitania (left) and Mauretania (right) pass each other in the Mersey in this pre-1912 photograph. Both ships are dressed out, saluting each other. They were the pride of the Cunard fleet, the two largest ships in the world (until the Olympic of 1911), as well as the two fastest. ~ Author's Collection.

 

"Out of the Storm."

The Lusitania was no stranger to rough weather; she even encountered at least two rogue waves and survived the incidents. (See pgs. 110-116, Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography for further details.) However, there was no more welcome sight to her officers -- and her seasick passengers -- than the first rays of sun bursting through as the clouds parted. This original artwork by J. Kent Layton shows the liner west-bound for New York in 1910, just emerging 'out of a storm,' with the morning sun at her stern. ~ Copyright 2007 by J. Kent Layton -- Click Thumbnail for Widescreen Desktop Image.. Not for re-use without written permission.

<Lusitania & Mauretania, by Lionel Codus>

"Lusitania & Mauretania"

This painting was done by Lusitania enthusiast Lionel Codus, and shows the two Cunarder speedsters passing at sea. ~ Copyright 2007. Not for re-use without written permission.

Table 1:
Senior Officers of the Lusitania, Crossing 202, May 1-7, 1915:

Table 2:
Souls on Board Lusitania, Crossing 202, May 1-7, 1915:

Captain William Thomas Turner, Commodore First Class: 290
Staff Captain James Clarke "Jock" Anderson Second Class: 600
Chief Officer John P. Piper Third Class: 367
Chief Officer (2nd) John Stevens Male Passengers: 688
First Officer Arthur Rowland Jones Female Passengers: 440
Second Officer Percy Hefford Children: 90
Senior Third Officer John Idwall Lewis Infants: 39
Junior Third Officer Albert R. Bestic Total Number of Passengers: 1,257
Chief Engineer Archibald Bryce Crew: 702
Total Souls on Board: 1,959

Lusitania FAQ:

Q: Wasn't the length of the Lusitania 785 feet?
A: No. Her length between perpendiculars was 760’ 0”; from the forward perpendicular to the furthest point forward of the stem was 2.2’; from the after perpendicular to the taff rail was 25’. 760’ + 25’ + 2.2’ = 787.2’. A direct measurement of the ship's original blueprints confirms the ship's overall length to be 787 feet.

The Mauretania shared the same length b.p., and the same 2.2 feet of length from the forward perpendicular to the tip of the stem; her overall length, however, was 790 feet, with the extra length being carried aft of her after perpendicular.

Over and over again, in newspapers and technical journals, the figure 787 feet was applied to the overall length of the Lusitania, or -- before the Mauretania's final dimensions were determined -- were applied to both vessels. This happened far too often to be easily dismissed. Interestingly, an early post card of the Mauretania, held in the author's collection, extrapolates the overall length of the Mauretania based on the overall length of her sister Lusitania. Although incorrect for the Mauretania, the figure lends weight to the concept that 787 feet was not an unknown figure, even in 1907, for the overall length of the Cunarders:

787 feet AC

So where did the 785' figure come from? Apparently, some prestigious journals of the time quoted the figure, and that figure was picked up and repeated many times thereafter from researchers who relied upon those journals.

Q: What was the actual date that the Lusitania was launched? I've read conflicting information on this.
A: The actual launch date of the Lusitania is confirmed as Thursday, June 7, 1906, not the frequently mentioned "June 6". The June 7 date is shown in numerous sources, including The New York Times of the following day. The June 6 error has been perpetuated from some books on the subject, and is repeated in various online encyclopedias like Wikipedia.

Q: What was the actual date that the Lusitania's keel was laid? I've read conflicting information on this.
A: The Lusitania's keel was laid on August 17, 1904. How do we know this? This information has been shrouded in mystery for decades, as there are any number of dates provided for the laying of the Lusitania's keel. These include: June 16, 1904, August 17, 1904, September 1904 and spring of 1905. It is remarkable that for so many years, such an important date in the ship's history has been the subject of such confusion, but considering the mistaken launch date provided in many sources, it was perhaps to be expected. Because the name "Lusitania" was not given to John Brown Yard No. 367 until 1906, it is very difficult to search through period journals for any mention of work commencing on her. However, a number of references to her construction having commenced appeared before the summer of 1904 was out. These references ruled out the spring of 1905 date, and cast a dim light, indeed, on the September of 1904 date. This left two remaining dates: June 16 and August 17, 1904.

In the 2007 volume, Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography of the Ship of Splendor, I recorded the keel-laying as having taken place on June 16, 1904. Since that publication went to print, archival evidence has come to my attention which supports the August 17, 1904 date. Interestingly, the keels for both the Lusitania and the Mauretania were laid before the formal contracts for their construction were signed; that event did not occur until May of 1905.

Q: Were the Lusitania and the Mauretania really sister ships?
A: The answer to this depends on how strictly you would define the term, “sister ships.” Some have tartly pointed out that because the two vessels were of differing lengths, were built in different yards, and had variations in their overall designs, they were in no way “sisters.” However, one is forced to wonder: if the two vessels were not sisters, what, indeed, were they?

The Olympic and Titanic, by comparison, are always called “sister ships,” even though they were non-identical in finished form. Even more interesting is the fact that the third of that trio, Britannic, is also included as a “sister” to the first two White Star giants, despite her enormous alterations from her predecessors.

Looking at the Cunard pair, although the Lusitania and Mauretania were built at separate shipyards, they were drawn up from one original concept, just like the Olympic and Titanic. They were also designed to complement each other in a sister-like service, running the Liverpool- New York run. Additionally, they were constructed nearly simultaneously, and entered service within months of each other. Period statements and writings about the two vessels also almost universally referred to them as "sisters."

So were the Lusitania and Mauretania sisters? Unless you are going to follow the most stringent of technical interpretations, the answer to this question seems logical enough to grasp. They would never, however, be called "twin" sisters, just as the Olympic and Titanic were not "twin" sisters.

Q: Was the Lusitania carrying contraband on her last crossing?
A: Yes. A cursory glance at her cargo manifest shows that almost everything in her cargo holds was absolute contraband under the British definition of such by the early spring of 1915. As a British merchant vessel, carrying contraband (including non-explosive munitions), through a formally declared War Zone, the Lusitania became a blockade-runner, a legitimate target of war for any prowling German U-boat.

Q: Did the Lusitania's contraband cargo cause the mysterious second explosion, which hastened the ship's demise?
A: No. The ammunition aboard almost certainly did not cause the blast, because it had been proven long before the sinking that this type of war material would not explode en masse even if exposed to an open fire for extended periods - about the worst that would happen is the individual shells might "cook off", but without even damaging the outer containers. There have been allegations about "secret" cargo 'disguised' as furs, but these allegations are baseless because furs washed up on the Irish coast after the sinking. Aluminum fine powder has also been pointed to as a possibility for this blast; however, the conditions needed to induce this powder to explode - even if it was aboard - simply were not present at the time. The cargo holds where these items were stored have been inspected by numerous impartial expeditions, and there is no evidence of large explosions having occurred within them. The theory of a coal-dust explosion is also an unlikely explanation, for similar reasons to those that weigh against the theory of aluminum fine powder.

There is another alternative, however: a catastrophic failure in the ship's steam-generating plant. Steam pressure from the three operating Boiler Rooms was recorded as dropping steadily and significantly in the first few minutes after the torpedo detonation. Although eyewitness testimony is admittedly thin about what was going on in the forward Boiler Room, simply because there were so few survivors, the survivors did say that there was no explosion of the boilers themselves. Far more likely is an explosive failure of the ship's inflexible high-pressure steam lines leading to the Engine Room.

Q: Did Captain Turner receive unfair blame for the sinking?
A: Many have sought to defend Captain Turner and make him out as some sort of scapegoat in the Lusitania affair. Captain Turner was, without question, a good seaman with a previously untarnished reputation. However, at sea one rule stands out above the rest: a Captain is responsible for the safety of his ship. At the time that the Lusitania was torpedoed, Captain Turner was in clear violation of numerous Admiralty directives that he is known to have had in hand. These included:

  1. To avoid headlands, where U-boats typically hunted
  2. To steer a mid-channel course
  3. To operate at full speed off harbors
  4. To preserve wireless silence within 100 miles of land, save for an emergency
  5. To post extra lookouts
  6. To maintain lifeboats ready for lowering and provisioned
  7. To keep on the move outside ports and harbors
  8. To steer a zigzag course

At the time of the sinking, Turner was following some of these - he was preserving wireless silence, he had posted extra lookouts, had swung out and prepared the lifeboats, and was continuing to move as he approached and passed the harbor of Queenstown. Any of the rest of these advices, if properly implemented, would most likely have spared the Lusitania her fateful encounter. The last item in this list, steering a zigzag course, was a directive that Captain Turner admitted to receiving (admissions he made at both the Mersey Inquiry and the New York Liability Hearings); although a relatively new practice, the Captain of the Olympic is known to have carried out the procedure the previous fall, so it was by no means an unknown tactic in May of 1915. More information on this was found and has been included in the upcoming book, Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography.

Despite these poor decisions, Captain Turner was cleared of all responsibility for the sinking at both the British Inquiry and the American Liability Hearings. He did not lose his Master’s License, and even though he was quite close to retirement age, Cunard kept him in their employ. Despite the shortage in crack merchant vessels to command during wartime, Turner even managed to take out two other ships, the Ultonia and Ivernia. In the former he had a narrow miss with a U-boat, and in the latter, he was again torpedoed, again his ship sank, and again he survived the disaster. Once he reached Cunard’s mandatory retirement age in November of 1919, he permanently tied up to shore. In reality the loss of the Lusitania had less effect on his career than is commonly supposed.

Q: Was the British Government, including First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, involved in a plot to have the Lusitania sunk in order to bring the United States into the war on their side?
A: No, this is an astoundingly unlikely scenario.

Much of this “conspiracy theory” is based on a letter that Churchill sent to Walter Runciman, the President of the British Board of Trade, some time before the sinking. Within this letter, speaking specifically of neutral shipping (which the Lusitania was not), Churchill told Runciman that they wanted to continue attracting neutral shipping to British waters, in the hopes of “embroiling” the United States with Germany; if some of this neutral traffic got into trouble, he offered, “better still.”

Taken in context, this letter is not evidence of a conspiracy to bring the United States into the war, nor is it evidence of a conspiracy to sink the Lusitania to bring about that result. At the time, the United States was not equipped to fight a war – this was well known by the British, the Germans, and the Americans. Instead, their munitions factories were then trying to keep up with British orders, since the British were running short of war supplies; in fact, the United States Government had approved a “bending of the rules” in order to allow the British to buy these munitions without paying cash, something that was also in short supply at the time. This, as well as other dealings with the Europeans, had left the United States Government in a pro-Ally status, something that sat well with the Allies and kept the munitions flowing in their direction. So naturally, Churchill would want to keep the neutral shipping coming their way – it was keeping them afloat in the war. And naturally if there were incidents of “trouble” with this neutral shipping, it would keep American sentiments in their corner, lest some more neutral politicians and citizens in the United States convince the Government to put a stop to their non-neutral behavior.

However, if the Americans had been provoked somehow to enter the war in 1915, then the results would have been catastrophic to the British, not to the Germans. This point can not be emphasized enough. If the U.S. had entered the conflict, the munitions that were equipping the British in the “here and now” would have been diverted to equip American Expeditionary Forces – which needed to be raised and trained before they could even be sent out. While all of this was going on, it would have been quite possible that the British could have been running out of ammunition.

Additionally, this letter did not even apply to the Lusitania , since she was a British (and hence belligerent) merchant vessel. She was carrying contraband through a declared War Zone. Even if American citizens were killed on the Lusitania – which is exactly what happened – there was no reason for Churchill to expect the Americans to declare war on the Germans over her loss, if that had indeed been, for some convoluted pro-German reason, his desire. Any such conspiracy would have been pointless and detrimental to the British, and hence there is no reason to believe one existed to begin with.

Stay tuned for updates and further information on the Lusitania here at Atlantic Liners.

 

 
     
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