This year is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Cunard’s magnificent floating palace, the R.M.S. Lusitania. Questions are still swirling around her sunken sodden bows about how and why this grand old lady of the waves was decimated, and for what reason. It’s rather like a creeping sea mist. What happened that day of 7th May 1915 was a planned and prepared murder on the high seas that almost succeeded.
The unusual name Lusitania is apparently derived from a former Roman province located on the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal. Cunard, it seems, were very fond of these outlandish names for their famous fleet of funnelled ships.
Historically, of course, the ship was tragically torpedoed by a nemesis-prepared German submarine of the U-20 class of sea warfare, and it seems with devastating results, all from a single 20-foot torpedo that found its target.
I suspect that the ill-fated Lusitania will always be compared with that other sea-maiden of that golden era, that being the Titanic of course. Coincidently, Lusitania’s Captain Turner had previously served as captain of the R.M.S. Carpathia that eventually responded to the sinking ship’s S.O.S, then finally arriving and catching up many survivors of that maritime misfortune of the high seas to safety.
That May morning was the day of the disappeared and the desperate when death – unannounced, of course – claimed many from the wounded Lusitania by drowning. Yet even in her trumpeted departure from New York’s pier 54, accompanied by rousing band edition of “Auld Lang Syne” as she prepared to sail the 3,000-mile journey to Liverpool, there had been a serious warning from the German high command. They advised that Lusitania passengers should be aware of possible attack because, according to the Germans, the designated seaways patrolled by their subs were classed by the Germans as a “war zone.”
For obvious reasons, Cunard failed to heed or inform their passengers of this danger. Many onboard were oblivious to the warnings of coming danger and life proceeded on this floating palace as normal, despite the war. It should not be overlooked that the day before the ship’s departure from New York, a German Unterseeboot of the swift U-20 class departed silently from Emden in Germany, heading towards the North Sea with a crew of 40, under 30-year-old Captain Lieutenant Walter Schwieger’s ambitious command.
Interestingly, the submarine had a pet dog on board, can you believe? However, before the Lusitania cast off from New York, the ship’s pet cat “Dowdie” quickly jumped ship herself, sadly never to return again for some strange reason. Perhaps she found a safer berth for herself on some other ship. Not surprisingly, many of the stokers in the cavernous boiler rooms saw this as an “unlucky omen” for the crew and the ship’s future, but then animals do seem to be oddly “prescient” in some strange way, don’t they?
At this crucial time in history, it must be remembered the U.S. government was still pursuing a safe neutrality political course, this being very much supported by the austere President Wilson and aided by his openly pacifist Secretary of State and the American public of course; much to the annoyance and anger of the British government.
Soon after its exciting departure from New York, three suspected stowaways/saboteurs were discovered to be somehow hiding on board, and with cameras, it seems. They were quickly arrested and placed in the custody of the ship’s appointed detective, a Mr. Pierrepoint, not to be confused with Albert Pierrepoint who hanged Ruth Ellis in 1955. Years afterwards, unconfirmed rumours also circulated that the glamorous spy Mata Harri may have been on the liner returning to Europe, and survived the sinking as well; after all, she was a seasoned traveller, it seems, when not steaming open secret documents or arranging dead letter drops for the highest payer during her legendary espionage career.
It really should have been a safe voyage from New York to Liverpool for the ship. However, Cunard had been warned previously in no uncertain terms about the likely danger to their ship and their passengers and crews, but now all blissfully unaware of this terrible threat just waiting to happen to this 787-foot proud sea lion of the waves.
The ship was under the skilful command of Captain William Turner, who incidentally (and incredibly for a man of his professional class) believed that no German enemy submarines would never dare to attack the Lusitania under his command.
The assorted published passenger list included millionaires (a Vanderbilt no less), silent movie stars, mediums, and industrial magnets as well as other privileged passengers on their way to a war-torn Britain, many hoping to be reunited with waiting families; in most cases, this did not happen.
In guarded secret rooms in the British Admiralty and working under the code of “Room 40,” the admiralty’s code breakers and others were watching the progress of the German fleet and had succeeded in harming the enemy’s routine sea patrols above and below the waves (very dramatic of course). But what made this case unique in the allies’ war preparations and planning was that their intelligence planners had successfully cracked most German radio traffic codes: in other words, they knew of the U-20 and more importantly where she would be located at all hours. Of course, the Kaiser and his high command were never to know about this slice of intelligence, so now Britain had the advantage.
After an uneventful sea voyage, on the day of the impending disaster, the ship was brought by destiny and destruction – under God’s eternal timeline as always – to Southern Ireland, now close to the old head of Kinsale in County Cork and dangerously into the U-20s raised periscope. It seemed to the captain that the liner was just sitting and waiting, although she would be moving during the lunchtime period in the sumptuous dining room, having just emerged from a gloomy fog.
After a shouted order to “fire” from Schwieger, a 20-foot loaded torpedo quickly erupted from the sub and then smashed into the ship’s starboard with deadly accuracy, followed within minutes by a mighty second explosion that ripped through the ship’s hull. The ship was now fatally wounded and began to falter as the cruel sea reached out to claim her terrified passengers. The date of Friday, 7th May 1915 will forever be inscribed in maritime history as a day never to be forgotten by the survivors and their families.
Interestingly, in his sub logbook, the captain recorded that there was a second explosion, much to his surprise. Then, seeing the floundering passengers, he wrote: “I couldn’t find it in my heart to fire a second torpedo.” A generous gesture, I suggest, from this German officer for the lost now littering the landscape, many about to perish forever in the icy Atlantic graveyard. The submarine then turned and quickly departed from the hostilities, heading for home and family.
At 2.28 pm the shattered ship finally keeled over and vanished, taking many of her petrified passengers down with her into a vortex of panic and pain. I’m not sure the prescribed 70 lifeboats would have been enough to save most, much less all, of the doomed ship’s passengers.
The sudden sinking of this dame of the high seas had been observed with alarm from coast guards and others, and within minutes small crafts of all kinds were rowing towards the wake that now scarred the sea. Many were hastily snatched from the waves’ cold grip, but many were sadly never to be found or claimed by families or friends.
The so-called blame game began within days, if not hours. In the British Admiralty’s firing sights was, of course, the hapless Captain Turner who, unfortunately for him, did survive (it always suits everyone in an inquiry if the captain goes down with the ship).
However, it soon began to be circulated in London that two shells had been fired at the defenceless ship. This naturally caused a wave of the anti-German outbreak with small shops being attacked, with second- and third-generation German citizens being assaulted in the streets of Britain. The public had been fired up by exaggerated horror reports in the press and naturally wanted blood, and Churchill naturally wanted a hesitant American President to quickly declare war – now! It was pitiful how the propaganda was prepared and orchestrated by the media, thus causing so much pain and heartache to those innocent German citizens of the country who had lived here most, if not all, of their lives.
I have lived long enough to know that when an official inquiry is set up by those who arrange it – the British establishment – they know exactly what planned outcome they want and expect to get in its final conclusion. When the proceedings are completed (costing taxpayers millions of pounds, of course), the outcome of it all can take years to be prepared and published to let all of us know what it was set up for in the first place; if we haven’t forgotten already (we probably have anyway). In fact, in the UK we are still waiting for the results of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the 2003 Iraqi war, and the results of that inquiry may not be published for another two years, can you believe? And remember, this was initially announced in 2009!
Time marches on, but apparently not in the ivory higher courts of the justice buildings in London.
The official UK government inquiry into the sinking of the ill-fated Lusitania commenced rather quickly, it seems, in London in June 1915, under a maritime expert, a certain Lord Mersey, who incidentally had directed the then-official inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, three years earlier. (Much of the Lusitania paperwork and evidence was to be held in camera it was decided because of wartime restrictions that may aid the enemy.)
In his book Exploring the Lusitania, Robert D. Ballard writes, “But it soon became apparent that neither Cunard nor the Admiralty needed to fear the finding of this inquiry any more than those in Kinsale (Ireland). Lord Mersey had received his instructions. He knew precisely what his investigation had to accomplish.” In other words, just an orchestrated planned whitewash by the government into the whole matter concerning this tragedy, then hopefully to be quickly forgotten.
Rumours had quickly begun to circulate, probably from government sources and their controlled news agencies, that the U-20 had fired two torpedoes and not one, it seems, with deadly accuracy at a defenceless civilian ship. Many now argued desperately for America to please declare war against the Kaiser, but there would be no hostilities from her, not for that year anyway.
Once completed, the inquiry stated formally that: “The Inquiry placed the entire burden of guilt on Germany [naturally] while absolving Cunard and the Royal Navy of any blame [naturally].” The British government and Churchill had been offered the outcome they wanted and on a plate. But more importantly, it should never be forgotten that 1,959 defenceless lives were lost with the sinking of the ship, and many bodies were never to be recovered or later identified. Even more importantly, the Admiralty in London never warned the doomed ship of the terrible danger they were sailing into during that awful day in May, but only dispatched to the captain a feeble suggestion to be aware of the enemy and its possible location. In other words, nothing to alarm yourself with.
If Captain Turner was to be selected as the chosen scapegoat, then he could have no worse a foe to battle with against his honour and reputation than Churchill. Even before the tribunal had commenced, Winston Churchill had written rather spitefully that: “We should pursue Captain Turner without check.” But then Churchill always seemed unforgiving to others, even when he was wrong in his own personal judgment of others and their weaknesses. And of the hapless Captain Turner, it was said of him: “That he was probably guilty of ignorance and lack of flexibility than anything else,” according to Robert D. Ballard, and he’s probably correct in this personal appraisal.
Incidentally, the faithful Cunard’s Captain Turner died in 1933, at age 76, apparently not too embittered about the way he had been treated by the establishment. Strangely enough in 1941, the British ship “The Jedmoor” was sunk in the Outer Hebrides waters by a patrolling German submarine. One of the lost sailors at sea that day was a Percy Turner, the late Captain Turner’s youngest son. But the German high command, it seems, considered the “Lusitania a naval reserve and an armed auxiliary reserve ship,” and fair game for attacking and sinking, and in a war zone at that. Unfortunately, the uninformed passengers were never made aware of this critical status as they should have been. Would the U-20 have attacked the ship if she had been escorted by a naval vessel? We will never know, but probably not.
So, what was the plan supposedly hatched in the admiralty rooms of the first sea lord? Sadly and frustratingly, after one hundred years, all of the principal players are long dead, and much of the evidence has been shredded or deleted from this strange saga of the seas.
It’s rather like the Marie Celesta or the Flying Dutchman. You can see them in your mind but you can’t see past them; it’s all a blur in the mists of time, never to be fully revealed as fact or fiction. But more importantly, the fact is that in 1915 Britain was near to surrender, if you can believe, owing to massive losses of her merchant fleet.
Churchill was obviously desperate to involve American troops in the ongoing war in Europe, so somewhere the plan was constructed to load the Lusitania with illegal munitions, it is claimed, and by sinking her, bring a hostile America kicking into that European nightmare conflict. At the time, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy was a young and ambitious Franklin D. Roosevelt, and conventionally Churchill’s opposite number. Roosevelt had not yet contracted polio, a disease that would later debilitate him in 1921 at age 39. I suspect both he and Churchill (a druid and freemason) were both able to finalise this audacious act of murder. Yet the surprise scenario that they and others of the cabal hoped for was doomed to fail. Surprisingly, President Wilson did not declare war on Germany for another two years (April 1917). I do wonder why he took his time; maybe it was because of his new wife and her counsel and influence over him. It should also be remembered that Lusitania was not registered with the U.S. Navy but rather with the British. However, many of the paid passengers were American, 128 in fact. When Woodrow Wilson eventually landed at Dover Harbour in 1918 he was the first American President to set foot on UK soil; a historical event as the new world entered the old world. Nothing in politics would ever be the same again for the two nations.
I must mention the distinguished author and naval historian, Patrick Beesly, whose family incidentally had themselves lost a cousin on the Lusitania. Mr. Beesly examined much of the published evidence available in the 1970s concerning the lost liner, and he observed rather cautiously that: “The most likely explanation is that there was indeed a plot, however imperfect, to endanger the Lusitania in order to involve the United States in the war…will someone tell me another explanation to these very curious circumstances.” I further suggest Mr. Beesly understood a lot more about this matter but chose instead to be cautious in his views, perhaps for personal and family reasons.
In a letter to the U.S. ambassador, Churchill wrote rather revealingly at the time that the British government “made the Lusitania go slowly in English waters so that the Germans could torpedo it and so bring on trouble.” Was this controversial letter a terrible fact or was it a fake? I’m still not sure, but it sounds ominous to me even today in 2015. But I do propose that this was a well-thought-out plot masterminded by the afore-mentioned perpetrators, with a dangerous agenda laid out by themselves that resulted in the drowning of innocent men, women, and children. Churchill incidentally or conveniently was in Paris on the day of the sinking and was absent from his admiralty desk. However, another dubious character now enters the plot: this being “Colonel” Edward M. House, Woodrow Wilson’s point man and close friend. He has since been perhaps credited by many with the formation of the League of Nations, this of course leading to the United Nations, and the gestation of the controversial New World Order of which we now live under.
Edward House was also in London at the time of the Lusitania sinking as a house guest of the U.S. ambassador, where he stayed for three long months. This seems a rather long time for such a busy man as House to have spent in the UK. (House even appointed U.S. ambassadors). In a whispered conversation with House at the time, King George apparently spoke about the likelihood of a possible sinking of the ship. So did the King know something of what was about to occur, and were these influential lodge men all part of the prepared plot of what was about to brutally happen in the choppy waters off the coast of Ireland.
The prepared plan nearly worked, but Wilson hesitated for another agonizing two years before finally leading the U.S. into the war as an allied partner of Britain. Fast forward, if you will, to 1941 when the U.S. again quickly brought a neutral U.S. government and public into the Second World War, this time under Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I believe Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt dusted down their old plans of 1915, and used them in a covert manner that resulted in the terrible sinking of the American fleet at Pearl Harbour of that year, followed by a declaration of war a day later, on December 8th, against Japan and her Nazi ally led by a now “upbeat” American president. He was to call the “surprise” attack on the fleet: “A day of infamy” as he announced to a silent congress, resulting in the terrible loss of over 2,500 U.S. service personnel killed, many unprepared, and unaware of what was happening.
As Bible believers, we must always be ready to meet the Lord at whatever time we are called, and for the born-again Christian, we know and understand that life is short and sometimes painful, but the glory of the Lord outshines all of this when one day we stand in His presence.
It has been said of Churchill: “That he was a determined man who was quite capable of taking ruthless actions to protect the nation’s interests in times of war.” In other words, the end justifies the means.
In a letter to the Minister of the Board of Trade concerning ships at sea during the First World War, he remarked rather callously that: “For our part, we want the traffic, the more the better; and if some of it gets into trouble, better still.”
It will never be clear to me what did happen to cause the sinking of this doomed ship that resulted in the death of so many who embarked on that final and fateful voyage from New York, only to die by drowning in the freezing cold sea near the old head of Kinsale in the picturesque County Cork.
So, I offer an alternative scenario, for what is worth.
The ship’s hold or unused boiler room perhaps concealed vast amounts of guns, rifles, pistols, explosives/TNT, British army mines, Gatling guns and old reliable Springfield rifles. (Before the ship sailed, 250 barrels of oysters were mysteriously delivered on board, can you believe to be shipped to Liverpool. This is suspicious because England had her own well-stocked oyster beds in Whitstable and elsewhere and no need to import them, so I do wonder what was in those heavy barrels, if not oysters, then weapons of some description to be used by the Catholic Irish in their battle against British rule).
In a recently aired National Geographic television documentary on the Lusitania, underwater film footage of the wreck clearly shows broken and opened wooden boxes with scattered unused spilt ammunition shells lying in the debris. This suspiciously like a hidden weaponry cargo had been secreted in the ship’s deep hold before she embarked for a war-torn Europe.
The purpose I suggest was to have these weapons delivered to Ireland by whatever means (maybe those stowaways discovered after leaving port were intending to seize control of the ship close to the Irish coast, with outside help from Ireland to collect the weapons). These would perhaps be later used in aiding the Fenians in their armed struggle against the “so-called” occupying British Army. The uprising was supported by many simpatico organizations erupting in 1916 near the general post office in Dublin and elsewhere. Today visitors can still view the many bullet hole scars in the grim granite facade that have left a lasting memorial to that historical insurrection so enshrined in Irish history books. Incidentally, I myself have visited Dublin in the 1960s and saw them myself, and still remember it well. But historically and tactically, the British Army was then stretched to the legal limit with large numbers of troops being deployed back to the slaughterhouse of the Western Front, and away from this troublesome colony. And hadn’t certain Catholic parts of Ireland always longed for self-independence and sought to achieve the outcome of freedom, often through by blood and bullets rather than the ballot box.
The powerful American Catholic church, especially in New York, was encouraging this emerging dream from across the waters and perhaps even bank-rolling it. After all, hadn’t the American revolutionary militia booted the British out of America long ago: why not aid these “loyal religious sons and daughters of the church,” argued the Catholic clergy. In their own personal quest for freedom, many church prelates argued from the pulpits to enthusiastic Irish congregations “help must be offered now.” These self-appointed clerical “cheerleaders” for Ireland in her struggle against the British Army included assorted New York archbishops, all of them with an Irish background and all, I suggest, with many anti-British memories of the forced famine evictions of 1845, and the degradation that affected so many from the Emerald Isle. Many of those penniless emigrants had fled to America in steerage in the hope of a new life, naturally taking with them a deep hatred for Britain and all it stood for. And the flames of revenge were only further stoked by the Catholic church and what it stood for in America. Some of these prelates need to be examined as regards what they expected to gain from the troubles in Ireland: naturally, they wished for their church to become the official state church after independence, with or without the say of the average man or woman in the street.
In declaring his church’s mission for the future, Cardinal Hughes (1797-1864) remarked almost as a threat that his aim was: “To convert all pagan nations and all Protestant nations…our mission is to convert the world, including the inhabitants of the United States, the people of the cities, and the people of the country, the legislatures…the Senate, cabinet…the President, and all!”
From these hostile words thrown out, there’s no lack of transparency about where Rome stands! The present-day ecumenical and interfaith movements certainly seem to be going Rome’s way under their Jesuit Pope. The Catholic church also had a loathing for the British Government and its Protestant faith and a deep and unhealthy hatred for the King James Holy Bible. In fact, Cardinal Hughes formulated bitterly against the use of it in the parochial schools of his New York archdiocese. One of his successors, Cardinal Hayes (1867-1938), donated $1,000 to the “Irish cause.” This was big money then, of course.
Not so long ago, the current president of Sinn Fein (whom I shall not name) met the welcoming U.S President some years ago, whilst he was on a lucrative American tour to raise money through the offices of NORAID (possibly $12 million since the 1970s) to help the ongoing bloody struggle in Ireland to eventually usher in a United Catholic Ireland, under Dublin of course, which would please the Irish hierarchy in promoting their agenda. To date this has not happened but who knows what the future might bring for Ireland? It seems to me that her problems are not over yet, though, in spite of the so-called peace accord signed by the Blair government.
Back to 1915… I suggest that because the war was going badly and there were complications against the British Government, the Vatican/Jesuit/political conspirators eagerly supported a possible future arms drop in or near Ireland, and then let the “revolution” commence. Perhaps the three saboteurs arrested in New York were collaborators with Sinn Fein’s political connections, with their skills to be later used to hijack the Lusitania and divert it to friendly waters in or near Southern Ireland, but it was not to be.
Sadly over 1,195 men, women, and children died in this horrendous act of murder. And in fact, the Irish coroner, at the hastily prepared inquest that was conducted days after the sinking, remarked truthfully that: “This was willful and wholesale murder.” I wonder if he knew more than he let on. Later there would naturally be a British Board of Trade inquiry held in London. Tragically, over 600 passengers were never recovered, with many being unsaved, I suggest.
Today the recovered bodies lie interred in a mass grave in the quiet Queenstown/Cobh cemetery.
Interestingly, Churchill’s crude remarks when the U.S. through Congress finally declared war against Germany are interesting to think about, for he would write rather prophetically that: “What he [Wilson] did in April in 1917 could have been done in May 1915.”
It seems to me that Churchill rather regretted that President Wilson had delayed so long in commencing hostilities against the Kaiser for whatever reason. Was this ambition or arrogance on his part, or simply the old sins of the flesh that he could not let go of or ever pander to? Ambition is a terrible thing in any man, but especially in unsaved politicians and priests.
Today the rotting remains of the ill-fated liner lie at rest some 300-feet below the waters of the Cork coast. The Irish government has now placed a preservation order to protect its status as a graveyard. Yet rumours still persist that there are assorted concealed and unopened heavy lead boxes containing gold, silver and other precious stones, as well as sealed oil paintings by Rubens and others of that art period in circular lead containers. Is all of this just part of the Lusitania myth that still lingers on today through the media and elsewhere? I’m not sure.
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works,” thus John records of events that he witnessed in his terrible vision of the future. This is certainly an amazing image to try and understand, yet not easily comprehended, regarding what will occur at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:13).
The wheels of history roll on until that day soon when the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings returns in all His welcome glory, proclaiming: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Revelation 22:13).
On 7th May 2015, a white rose plaque and a list of the deceased names were laid on the sunken wreck by a diver at 2:15 pm, the exact time the luxury cruise liner was shelled and then sunk in 1915.
The final word on the mystery, I suggest, must be offered by the present owner of the wreck, a Mr. Gregg Bemis, an 87-year-old American businessman who purchased the wreck sometime in 1982 (maybe as salvage rights?). He says rather accusingly about the matter that: “To my mind, this has been a huge cover-up of the actual cause of the fast sinking. I think that’s abysmal.” And so do I, Mr. Bemis. But it seems there will always be a lingering mystery of the lost secrets and lasting legends of the Lusitania luxury cruise liner. It somehow offers its legacy and refuses to slip away even today, thus still intriguing many of us with unanswered questions of why and what happened in the final 18 minutes of the late, lamented R.M.S. Lusitania.
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
1 May 2015
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