Lusitania Sinking – 1915

Read about the sinking of the ocean liner, the Lusitania, as read by the people of the day in the newspapers. You can also listen to a period recording that explains why we are at war and references the sinking of the Lusitania. The article that follows was reported in the Washington Times in 1915.

The Sinking Of The Cunard Liner Lusitania As It Appeared In The Headlines Of The Day


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Liner Lusitania sunk by German submarine fleet rushes to aid passengers saved early cables say –

Reports Received From Liverpool Are AH Fragmentary, But All Agree Steamer Began Calling For Help at 2:33 – Was Said to Be Listing Badly – Fishing Fleet Rushed to Her Aid.

LIVERPOOL, May 7. The Cunard line manager says the Lusitania was sunk by a submarine. He received the following wireless from Old Head of Kinsale, at 5:49: “The Lusitania was sunk by a submarine at 2:33 this afternoon, eight miles south by west of Old Head of Kinsale.” The authorities declared it was not known how many had been saved.

LONDON, May 7. The steamer Lusitania, filled with passengers, many of whom were Americans, was either torpedoed or blown up by an internal machine while off Old Head of Kinsale, at 2:33 this afternoon. The latest reports received here say that all of the passengers were saved.

lusitania-1915Sinking of the Lusitania was the hardest blow of the war to date so far as neutral commerce was concerned. The reports received here are fragmentary, but all agree that the big liner began calling for help by her wireless at 2:33. The first to pick her up was the wireless station at Landsend. The appeal was urgent. “We have a big list,; rush help,” flashed through the air, and immediately orders were sent to the nearest points to get every available craft to the scene. The German submarine which sunk the Lusitania is believed here to be the same which yesterday sunk the two 5,000-ton freighters Centurian and Candidate, and on Wednesday sunk the sailing ship Earl of Latham. The admiralty has sent a flotilla of fast destroyers to search for the under-sea boat.

The fishing fleet from Kinsale was early on the scene and immediately began the work of taking on board the passengers from the big liner. It is understood that the Lusitania’s own boats were used to care for her passengers.

The first word reaching London of the plight of the Lusitania was an unconfirmed rumor received at the general offices of the Cunard line. It said that the big steamer was in trouble. The line officials made it public and promised to keep the public informed of everything that happened.

There was much excitement. There had been grave doubt that the Germans were in earnest when they threatened to attack the passenger-carrying liners. The sinking of the Falaba had been considered the final act of this kind, and when it was realized that the biggest passenger liner in commission had fallen victim to the war London was aghast.

Buy the entire front page, beautifully restores as a collectable print –

The interesting thing about the first reports in the newspapers of the day indicate that it was believed all passengers to have been saved. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The following headline appeared in the Philadelphia Public ledger one day later.


Then, one day later on the 9th, this headline appeared in the Washington times. Some text from that headline follows the image.

lusitania bodies at sea


Thousand victims still to be found victims of German submarine attack

LONDON, May 9. Stimulated by the offer of thousands of dollars in rewards for the recovery of the bodies of prominent Americans, scores of Irish fisherboats are today scouring the waters off Old Head of Kinsale where the Lusitania was sunk by the German submarine U-39.

Latest estimates today indicate that 1,000 bodies are still in the sea and that hundreds may never be recovered. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Charles Klein, Elbert Hubbard, and Justis Miles Forman are still missing and absolutely no hope is entertained that they will be found among those who were rescued. Riots in Liverpool early today expressed the feeling of indignation against Ger many aroused by the death of non-combatants in the sinking of the queen of the British merchant marine.

Reports from that city say that infuriated mobs formed at an early hour and raided German-owned shops and battled with the police who were called to quell the disturbances. Several shops were literally torn to pieces by the raiders. Twenty prisoners were taken. An attempt at rescue was made and the police were forced to use their clubs to clear the streets. Indignation runs high throughout the United Kingdom and the municipal authorities are on the alert to prevent similar demonstrations. Ambassador Page, accompanied by Secretary of the Embassy Laughlin, met the first train load of survivors at Euston station where an anxious crowd of relatives and friends were gathered.

Under the direction of Ambassador Page, the refugees were sent to hotels and boarding houses and every effort made to care for the unfortunate, many of whom are penniless and suffering from exposure.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt’s gallantry may have cost him his life in the Lusitania disaster, according to Thomas Slidell, of New York. Slidell said that he saw Vanderbilt on the deck of the ship a few minutes before it went down. He declared Vanderbilt was wearing a life-belt, but when he saw a young woman without one he took it off and gave it to her. Slidell says he then saw Vanderbilt go in search of another life-belt and that was the last he saw of him.

At the line offices the information received today indicates that only 658 had been saved, while the British admiralty figures place the number at 703. It is said that there may be a duplication of names that causes the variance in the figures. Officials of the Cunard line place the dead at 1,273, of whom 118 are citizens of the United States. The line records indicate that there were 188 Americans on the ill-fated liner. Taking these figures as accurate, they would show that only seventy Americans were saved. Not one of the prominent Americans, as well known in London as New York, have been rescued.

Advices from Munich declare that the U-39, the most powerful of the German undersea boats, was the vessel that sank the Lusitania.


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